I love reading the “10 ways to be a better roleplayer” or “10 ways to be a better GM”. I mean that, no sarcasm meant. They can be very enlightening. With that in mind, here are my top 5 tips for players and top 5 tips for DM/GMs:
- Describe, describe, describe: Never go for the typical “I swing my sword, the monster takes [insert damage]”. Spice it up. Don’t go overboard though, as it can get tedious if you do that as well. Describe stabbing at the joints in the armor, targeting the unarmored head with the arrow, ect. It makes the game all that much better.
- Know your PC: I know this sounds basic, but it is vital. Know what you can do, and when you can do it. There is nothing worse than sitting around waiting for a player to figure out what he is going to do. There is nothing wrong with getting caught off guard (hell, happens to all of us). The trick is to pre-plan, and then react if you need to.
- Don’t powergame!: This is such a terrible one, because it sounds like a scolding. Powergaming (and I mean real powergaming) just sucks. The powergamer tends to do one of two things in the games I run: take over or become a drama queen. Play a character you enjoy instead of a character that is optimized to be a badass. There is nothing wrong with having a jack-of-all-trades who you love. Just don’t make a habit out of breaking the game.
- Play to your strengths: Don’t try to do things that you don’t feel comfortable with. This can be a game type, a character type or even just an action. Play to what you love. If you love mystery and intrigue maybe CoC is your game. Maybe you should look into Planescape for D&D. If you want to hack-and-slash your heart out, maybe 4e or Hackmaster is a good fit. Stick to what you love!
- Keep your head: Don’t lose your head at the table. I have been guilty of violating this one, and am speaking from experience. You can ruin an entire night’s fun by losing your cool with another player or the GM.
- Grow as you go: Don’t ever stop learning your art. You can always learn something from every game you run or even by reading blogs (such as this one or Gnome Stew, to name a few). Never assume you know everything about GMing, otherwise you will wind up looking stupid.
- Tell a strong story: Another braindead thing, right? Not really. You would be amazed at the GMs who feel that they aren’t telling a good story. If your story feels right, then run with it. If any part of it feels off or wrong, change it. Players won’t stick around a table with a bad DM/GM.
- Let it ride: Don’t let players keep making the same skill roll over and over again. My general rule is if no circumstances change, then no new roll (thank you to Luke Crane of Burning Wheel for this revelation). There should also be consequences for failure.
- Know your players: Know who you are playing with. It helps to avoid sensitive issues, know what kind of game to run or even (if you’re my players) how to interact with the GM.
- Know when to cut ties: Know when a good player is there, but also when a bad player is. Keep in mind that this is the hardest part of DMing. Cutting ties sucks, but you have to have a good sense of when to do it.
So, what would you add or subtract? As always, don’t be a dick.