If you are interested in becoming a better roleplayer, here are some basic tips to help you get the most out of your gaming experience. I call these basic because, in my opinion, these are things that any player (regardless of experience) can do and should be doing.
Come To Have Fun – We game to have fun. Do your best to come to the table with a mindset of you and your fellow gamers are there to have fun. Leave your problems and your drama at home if you can. If you’ve had a bad day and gaming will cheer you up, then get over there and game. If you know you’re going to bring bad mojo to the table, do yourself and the others a favor and take this game off.
Bring What You Need To Play The Game – Bring all the things you’re going to need to play the game. This may include, but is not limited to: your character sheet, player’s handbook, dice, food, drinks, notebook, writing utensils, miniatures, additional gaming books, backup game materials, etc. It sucks when someone has to leave to go pickup food or because they forgot their character sheet at their house.
Show Up On Time, Or A Little Early! – From a practical stand point, it’s nice to have everyone show up fifteen to thirty minutes before the actual game is planned to begin. It gives everyone time to chat, see what has happened to each other since the last session, eat, drink, and do all the catching up they need to do. Then when it is time to game, it’s game on!
Be Open To What Game The Group Wants To Play That Session – Sometimes things happen. Maybe the gamemaster doesn’t have time to prep for the next adventure in the campaign. Maybe a key player couldn’t make it for some reason and the group doesn’t want to play this session without them. Maybe someone just got a new game they are dying to try and everyone wants to give it a shot. Be flexible to what the group wants to play that session, even if it wasn’t what you thought you were showing up to play.
Focus On The Game – I think everyone is guilty of this gaming sin in some capacity (I know I am). Nothing is more disrespectful to a gamemaster or other players than someone who is at the table and clearly not focused on the game. Whether they’re using an app on their smart phone, or talking to another player about something not related to the game, it’s disrespectful and distracting to the game. If you have something come up that you legitimately need to attend to, like a phone call, politely excuse yourself from the game and come back when you’re ready to focus your full attention back on the game.
Pick Up What Your Gamemaster Puts Down – If you have a great gamemaster and they leave things fairly open and sand-box style, it helps when players react to the elements that they are presented. Try not to go too far off the map, so to say. If you’re wandering through the forest and you stumble across a mysterious cottage with arcane symbols of ‘Warning’ on the front doorway… man… check that sucker out!
Do Stuff (Also Known As – Add To The Game) – If players had a job, it would be to help the game go. Help the game master and other players in building the story. Take action and talk to the other players. Care about and be interested in the game and the people you are playing with or there probably isn’t really a reason for you to be there.
Allow Yourself To Fail And Make The Best Of It – So many players get caught up in adding modifiers to the point that they can’t fail actions. Embrace failure. It happens. It’s part of the game and it can make the game incredibly enjoyable. One of my best memories was creating a Wizard for a new fantasy campaign we had. He took an acid blast to the face in our first combat and died. We all laughed, I cried a little. I made another character quickly to get back into the game. It was a Human Barbarian I modeled after Conan named Gorm the Glorious. It was one of the most memorable characters I’ve ever played to this day.
Keep Your Turns Short – Know your character’s abilities and think about what you will do before your turn comes around. It helps keep things flowing and keeps up the interest in the game. Someone else said it better than I ever could: “Nothing is worse than waiting five minutes for someone to decide whether they will zig or zag.”
Know The System Rules As Best As You Can – Games work best when everyone at the table has a good grasp on what the rules are. Sometimes it just isn’t possible for everyone at the table to know every rule. At minimum, do your best to know the rules that apply specifically to your character. If you’re new to the game, take notes and try to learn as quick as you can. Borrow someone else’s player handbook in between sessions if you don’t have one.
The Golden Rule: Don’t Be A Dick – Realize we’re all human beings who should be able to deal with one another like human beings. At least, that’s the way it should be. Quite frankly if you can’t do that, get out of our hobby or go find other mean and spiteful people to play with. You’ve got no place at the table with fun-loving gamers that make this awesome hobby what it is.
The Other Golden Rule: Make It Fun – If what you’re doing is making the game more fun for everyone at the table, then you’re doing it right. If people are having less fun because of what you’re doing, then you should probably try something different. It seems pretty obvious, but sometimes it can help to pause at the table and consider the rule. It’s never too late to fix things if you’ve gone astray and are willing to fix it.
Thank you to all the gamers at the RPG.net Forums and Dungeons & Dragons Forums for helping me brainstorm for this article. You guys and gals gave fantastic advice that will help make me a better gamer!