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For the first time in a long time, I have been playing instead of running RPGs. I hate the term forever GM, but it has been the case for me for a very long time. It is mostly my own doing. I am running my own games, and Adventurer’s League, and at the school club, and for whoever wanted to play. But that has taken the back burner a little in the last few months as work and life consumed a lot of my time.
However, in the last few weeks, I have been able to play games. Make characters and play the game. Not run it.
During these sessions, I couldn’t help but make some notes on the things I liked, and sometimes disliked, about how the other players, and me, engaged with the game. I guess you could call this my primer for players.
When you get to the table. Have your stuff ready. Have your character sheet and your dice and a notepad and pencil. Did the GM send you something to read? Did you read it? You should have. The GM had that written up before you arrived. They’ve also got an adventure ready to go too, so you best had read the little primer. These little things will all help to make the game start sooner and smoother.
You are not the main character.
There are more than just you in this group of adventurers or space cowboys or mutants. Your character does not need to be involved in every interaction. Let the others think, breathe, and choose what actions they will take. Thinking time is not wasted time. If you have led every encounter or interaction in the last 20 minutes it’s time to ease up. Yes, even if ‘it’s what your character would do.’ Each person at the table has a voice and they have the right to use it. You are just one cog in the machine so slow down. The spotlight does not need to be on you all the time, but definitely can sometimes and relish it when it is.
You will get distracted by your phone. You will get distracted by having a TV on in the background. You will, probably, get distracted by your laptop. I know there are exceptions to all this, that’s cool. But for the most part, only have in front of you what you need to play. It can be very easy to miss important details and when you do that can lead a game to grind to a halt. Note-taking is an excellent way to ensure you’re paying attention to details and getting the information needed for the session. When the story is not focused on you, this is a perfect time to focus your attention on what the others are doing. It will help you understand the other characters and the players controlling them.
This probably should have been first. But something I have noticed missing from quite a few games are safety tools. If you don’t know what they are you can read about them here. Too often it is assumed that everyone will be fine with whatever content comes up at the table. The GM should be giving a bit of a, hopefully spoiler-free, content warning and it would excellent if they presented everyone with some safety options. If they don’t, you should bring it up. ‘Hey, are we using Lines & Veils? Cause there’s some time I want to avoid.’ Perhaps it’s your first time playing with the group and speaking up like that is a little too daunting. Write a small note and pass it to the GM. It might encourage them to go through some safety tools with everyone or at the very least they’ll know what you’re comfortable with. You know what’s good for you, set those boundaries, and if they aren’t respected then that table’s not for you.
These we just a few thoughts I had tonight. My tired teacher brain sometimes kicks into overdrive and I wrote an ad hoc little article.
Stay tuned. Next month is going to be a big one. Some cool announcements coming!
Long days and pleasant nights.