James Introcaso asked a simple question.
What is the kindest thing a player can do for a GM? #DnD #RPG
The answers are well worth reading.
A few things spring to mind here, many of which are doubtless repeated in the thread.
Show up on time
If you’re not going to show or are going to be late, let folks know ahead of time. As far ahead of time as possible. A decent GM can plan for almost anything. “The Key Guy” didn’t show up? Not so much.
Play the game, not the rules
Metagame rules discussions are a hoot, and I enjoy talking game mechanics. Everyone that has ever heard me on a podcast or been part of a discussion with me on a forum like Tenkar’s Wedneday night Tavern Chats knows I loves me some game mechanics.
But the rules aren’t the game, any more than a skeleton is the person, or the riverbed the totality of the river. They support the game, give structure and guidance to it. Provide the framework in which amazing journeys can be taken. All that stuff. But the game’s the thing.
The rules set expectations and give the players and the GM guidance to what the result might be when “anything can be attempted.” Depending on genre, some things are sensible (“Wonder Woman lifts the tank over her head!”) where in other genres, that same thing is not just implausible, but stupid (“You give yourself a hernia trying to lift the tank over your head. Seriously, what are you thinking?”).
This can get dicey when you’re playing games with a strong tactical or wargamey feel, such as DnD, GURPS, and many others. Still, by and large, save or table detailed discussion for after the moment.
Know the rules (or rather, know your rules)
What? Didn’t you just say “don’t play the rules?”
Yeah, but if you know the rules, and specifically the rules that pertain to your own actions and character, then you won’t strain disbelief for the genre or sideline the other players while you and the GM hash out some weirdness.
Peter just did a bit of a drive-by on some of his expectations for this, and I think it’s fair. He had a more lengthy post back in August. If you’re going to play a spellcaster, you’d best know the rules for casting. If you’re going to invoke a set of martial arts techniques, know what conditions are going to be important (attacks, defenses, contests, advantage/disadvantage, number of limbs, restrictions on actions, etc) ahead of time. If it’s an exploit you like (I don’t mean that in a pejorative way) then write it up as a standard thing and share it with the GM so that preparation can be made. If doing parkour tic-tacs is a thing, share that you’ll be wanting to do it ahead of time.
That doesn’t mean that there’s no room to improvise. Anything may be attempted. But mostly one can find a few common threads, and be prepared for them.
It also doesn’t mean that you need to read, memorize, and know every rule written for a game. With GURPS and Pathfinder, for example, that’s likely to be flatly impossible for one, and likely undesirable for the other. But the basics of how to play your paper man and interact with the game world? I think yes, you need to know that, and it’s kind when you do.
Be Willing to Let Go, Luke
There will come a time when the GM rules against you. You wanted to try something, she said no. You did try something, and it didn’t work, and you really wanted it to work. You felt it should have worked . . . for Reasons, dammit.
Just let it go. At least let it go at the table. Especially if it’s a rules dispute (arguing about ass-hattery or quashing folks ruining others fun is different than meta-discussion over rules that most games these days say are optional anyway).
Send ONE Private Message, or make a single argument. If the referee says otherwise, the most you should do is say “I’d like to revisit this after the game.”
Stay on Target
I love me some table-stories as much as the next guy. And my daily real-life conversations are shot through with fun asides and tangents at times. But while there is time for that, there’s also a time NOT for that.
The middle of a combat or any other fast-paced dramatic scene? Not the time.
I think, due to microphone, latency, and “who’s got the ball” issues, this goes double for internet/VTT gaming.
Stay Current; Take and Share Good Notes
It’s modern day, and reality can come home to roost. You missed a session. Maybe several. Your company sent you off to Thailand for a month, so you missed three or four of them.
But you’re returning to the table – which naturally means that you’ve read the blogs, or the transcripts, or the session notes to understand what’s going on, right?
Oh, you do have and share notes, yah? By the player, to the GM too? Because the GM has quite enough to be going on with?
No? Fooey on you.
It really helps for each player (ideally), or at least one person (if you must) to have notes of the session, and then those notes are compliled into a session report. Something digestible.
I tend to mostly do big session transcripts, and they seem to be appreciated (and the GM gives me extra points for ’em, so at least that’s something, as Jayne would say). But I don’t catch everything, and if I’m typing up a transcript my ability to immerse and react is less. I don’t get to play my character as well or deeply.
But not having the recaps is a big loss; again, the GM was noting the frustrated state of his other game because the session reports were all over the map.
Actually and rather, communicate. Something particularly good? Say it. Not feeling engaged? Say that too, privately. And say it before you get so frustrated that you need to leave the game, either by your own hook or by getting your butt thrown out because you’re not grooving with the group gestalt.
This also means establishing what you hope to get out of the game. If you just want to show up and kill orcs, you need to say that. If you expect to do nothing but show up and kill orcs, you need to say that too. If you will start randomly attacking peaceful NPCs because you want more fighting . . . see above about getting booted.
The group I’m in now seems to have self-established a pattern, and it seems to go well when we fulfill it. We plan and heavily roleplay/investigate for a session. Then we act, and engage in exploits, combat, and action in the following session. I seem to recall we even had that conversation explicitly in between Aeon and Ceteri.
Is there more? Hell, yeah. Gaming is social, and a big part of it is to uphold your end of the social contract, so to speak. Show up. Play the game you’ve agreed to play. If things veer off course, say something in a way that’s adult, mature, and doesn’t disrupt the game.
Hopefully the GM will respond in kind, but it’s worth the effort to make the attempt.
Every person has a different playstyle, and playstyle and GM-style might not even be the same when the same person GMs versus plays. And every group established their own dynamic.
Still . . . I think that there are basics, and these are probably mine.
What are yours?