The above is a quote from a combat in a Warhammer Fantasy one-shot, in which my entirely randomly generated character only had two advantages to work with: an ‘Outrageous Hat’ in her starting equipment and off-the-charts Fellowship stats. Most GMs would discourage this kind of behaviour in all but the sillest one-shots. As a player, I felt I did my best with what I had.
To make up for the occasional past misdemenour on my part, here are ten things you can do to befriend your GM, role play a bit better and become your party’s Favourite Person. This is purely based on my own experience, so feel free to publicly comment, agree or disagree with me, or to politely excuse yourself from any interaction whatsoever.
1. Play as a team
While the best players are attached to their own character and story arc, they recognise that they aren’t the only protagonist. You are co-staring in the story with all the other PCs (player characters). Be as willing to explore other party members’ story arcs as your own and try to champion the interests of the whole party. The vast majority of table-top RPGs are designed to be co-operative, and you will generally get the most out of them if you work together and share the limelight.
2. Make an effort to bring in other characters
If someone has been a bit quiet for a while or if they’re character isn’t really involved in the plot arc, find a reason to engage them. Ask them a question in character, whether that’s ‘Skull-crusher, what do you think we should do?’ or ‘Clarence, pray examine this magical item and relay to me your ponderings’. Some players might find it difficult to shoe-horn themselves into a scene and just need a bit of encouragement to get involved. As above, you’re all co-starring in the story, so if one or two characters are making all the decisions or driving the plot on their own, it’s going wrong.
3. Work with the GM, not against him
The GM’s only ulterior motive (if he is a good GM – I may do another post about this!) is that everyone is having fun, himself included. Try to engage with the plot, the hooks and the leads that the GM provides and make his job easier, not harder. This doesn’t mean you can’t be creative. In fact, being creative often means that the GM has less work to do, because you’re giving him more to work with. Add your own flavour and try to solve the GM’s problems imaginatively, so that you’re all working together move things forward, rather than deliberately sabotaging the story or passively listening to a pre-written plot.
4. Be patient with new or unconfident players
Not everyone will get it right away and that’s fine. Some of these players will be great additions to the party further down the line. This is a niche hobby and we really can’t afford to turn people off by intimidating them! Keep explaining the rules and help new players by explicitly laying out their in-game options – this was really helpful to me when I started. It sometimes takes a while to click that in a table-top RPG, you really can do anything. If they are a little shy about role-playing their character, try to bring them out of their shell by asking questions and always address their character, rather than the player. If you make an effort to immerse them in the story, chance are they’ll follow suit and pick it up.
5.Recognise the pace of the story
Sometimes PCs will get caught up having an interesting and engaging discussion about something minor – that’s fine and all part of the fun. Just as in creative writing, sometimes it’s important to slow the pace and focus on an entertaining moment that might really aid character development, even if it doesn’t advance the plot. Equally, notice when nothing has happened for a while and you need to pick up the pace and keep things moving, even if it means curtailing an in-character interaction you find really entertaining, but the other PCs are losing interest.
6. Pay attention to the tone
Listen to the GM when he talks about tone. I think if I had tried to seduce a ghoul in a different kind of game, for example if it weren’t a one-shot where the other PCs included a tax collector and a halfling bear trainer, I would have been rightly repudiated. If you, the GM and the other players agree to run a serious grimdark campaign, work with it. Play a sinister wizard with a dark past, given to brooding and pessimism, rather than a drunken dwarf who always carries around a ten-foot pole and tries to seduce every NPC you encounter. Likewise, if you are playing in a jolly fantasy romp where everyone else is playing a pirate gnome with a comedy accent, don’t get upset when no one is taking your tragic rogue’s propensity for dark murmurings as seriously as you would like. If when you start a campaign, the GM hasn’t mentioned tone, bring it up and discuss it with the other players to make sure you’re all on the same page and have the same expectations.
7. Create relationships with the other PCs
In my experience, parties work really well when each character has a personal relationship with every other PC, whether its negative or positive. If two characters are left alone together, they should always have something to talk about and you should have a clear idea what your character thinks of the other party members. If there is a character you rarely seem to interact with, make an excuse to talk to them in character. Don’t allow your relationship to remain neutral, as it makes for the least interesting story.
8. Do a voice
If you can. The most obvious way to do this is an accent, but if you don’t think you can maintain an accent for a whole campaign, and most of us won’t, try to differentiate your character’s voice from your own voice in some other way. If you don’t ‘do voices’ this could be a simple as the kind of language they use or the tone of their voice. This makes it a lot easier for everyone else to follow when your character is speaking,stay immersed in the story and respond to you appropriately in character or out of character.
9. Stay in character
Try not to have out of character discussions when you’re role-playing (or keep checking your phone). I find that this really breaks immersion and can make it harder for the GM to keep the plot moving.
10. Do what your character would do
When faced with a decision, don’t do what you yourself would do or what is clearly the most sensible option. Do what your character would do. If your character is stupid and loves hitting stuff, solve things by hitting stuff rather than by coming up with a clever solution she never would have thought of. If you’ve written a character who has low charisma and is creepy and weird, don’t try to seduce all the NPCs you come across (unless this is part of the character you’ve created, in which case, touché). Role-playing isn’t about ‘solving’ or ‘completing’ the quest or making the biggest and best character who is brilliant at everything; it’s about creating a story. Characters can and should make mistakes sometimes, if it is in character, even if it costs them their success or their lives. Stories where everyone only makes intelligent, sensible choices all the time are dull.
If you’re wondering, I successfully seduced the ghoul, but since the condition for not attacking me was that I stay in the dungeon with him forever, it didn’t actually benefit me much in the long run. GM: 1, Player: 0.