Last week I read two articles that gave me the urge to write this. Because I do think that the question of how to play is almost as dramatically unexplored in game books as the directions about how to run a game. I’m not going to say that I am the greatest role player in the game. But I have been at it long enough that I think I can help people get better at it. In other words, I think I am capable of being the players response to the AngryGM.
By way of introduction, I will talk briefly about those two articles from last week. And my thoughts on them. Then as the week progresses I will dig deeper into these and other topics. Because I think that this is worthy topic for continued discussion.
The first article was on Geek & Sundry. And it was short enough that I can quote most of it. It lays out some very good rules for being a good role player. I liked it enough to send the link to the boys to read. Here are the simple rules for role playing:
Be a good person.Wheaton’s Law: “Don’t be a dick.”
Make friends with your gaming buddies.
Make your DM’s life easier.
Learn the rules.
Build characters that play well with others.
I think those are self-explanatory. These are the things you need to learn before joining a game. And be prepared to follow when you play. I am working to instill these in the boys heads, but it is not always easy when working with 13 through 16 year old boys (especially Wheaton’s Law.) Then there are in game rules:
Find the fun.
Don’t build dice towers.
Help speed up the game
Know how you want to act.
These are really almost, if not more, important as the first set of rules. And I fight this battle every time I run or play. It is not just the teenagers who build dice towers, or have to ask “what is going on?” I have seen (and regularly do see) adults, veteran gamers fall victim to this problem. This is a joint problem if anyone is zoning out it is their issue, and also the fault of the person who is acting and the GM who is setting the scene. For role playing to work everyone needs to be involved, at least listening in.
And now to deal with Angry. He wrote the first of what he says will be a multiple part series on how to improvise in D&D. The thing is, like most of his advice, he was talking about what a GM should do. And his advice is sound. I agree that as a GM you cannot just make it all up on the fly.
But I think that his advice can apply to the players too on some level. Before you try to come up with too creative a solution to a problem, you should be prepared to handle the consequences. Angry mentions a group charming a group of Goblins instead of fighting and killing them as a situation that would force the GM to improvise. That is true, but, as a player, you also would need to be ready to deal with the results of that choice. Let’s say you successfully charm those goblins, now what do you do with them? If the players expect the GM to always say yes to their ideas and attempts to do oddball things they need to be prepared for the consequences. And that is where being involved and invested in the game comes up. Let’s say you are the barbarian fighter with a grudge against goblins. And you are not really paying attention until it is your turn to roll some dice and crush your enemies. The GM says it is your turn, you just say that you’re going to crush that goblin in front of you, without realizing that the goblins have all been charmed into being your friends. You just blew that.
So if you are going to improvise as a player, be sure everyone in the party is on board with what you are doing, and that you are prepared for the consequences. I’m not saying don’t be creative, or meet every problem with sword and fire. But if you try something creative be cognizant of not just the consequences of failure but also of success. Like all great improvisational acting, it pays to be aware of why you are doing this, and what it means.
These are really interesting subjects and I plan to discuss them up in more long form posts so I can develop my ideas better. So look to this space for just that.