A while ago I did a post about introducing new players to the game. It was written as part of the introduction for the RPG that I've been labouring over since July. My goal was to explain some general principles for better play. I felt that these ideas could give new players some guidance when gearing up for their first foray into the unknown world of tabletop RPG's.
I received some comments that I feel are worthwhile adding to the original post, and have decided to re-post the central "playing well" section of the article with these new additions (names are highlighted).
While it may be impossible to define “playing well” in a completely objective way, it is certainly possible to give general guidelines to aid new players participating in a role playing game for the first time. The following is a simple list of general principles that can help anyone play better.
General principles for better play:
- Your ingenuity as a player is far more important than what's written on your character sheet. Think about everything, be strategic and use your characters skills and abilities to your advantage.
- Always ask for details. This might be the single most important thing to do during play. A good gamemaster will only describe what is needed, it is up to you to ask for the details. If your character fails to spot a trap or is ambushed, it is most likely the result of failure to examine the details of a given situation. Always, always ask for details.
- Have the proper equipment. Adventurers need things to help them while adventuring. Never forget your torches, rope and handy 10' pole. Always be prepared, the proper equipment can save your characters life.
- Get out there and explore the world. Don't sit in the bar waiting for someone to come in and give you a quest, explore the world yourself. Role playing games are in essence games about exploration, the players use their characters to explore the campaign world, and adventure ensues.
- Be self motivated, but not self absorbed. Do not look to the gamemaster to find out what to do next, tell the gamemaster what you would like to do and see if it's at all possible. Don't be afraid to be aggressive, but be sensitive to the other players and don't steal the spotlight after you've had your say.
- Be decisive as a player, and as a party. If the game is slow it is likely the result of being indecisive. The best way to avoid indecisiveness slowing down the game is to assign a group leader. When things slow down for too long the group leader can step in and make the executive decisions for better or worse.
- Combat is not always the best alternative in every encounter. Bravery does not win wars, strategy does. Always rushing headlong into fights is the worst possible strategy, and will most definitely lower your characters chances for survival. And always remember that retreating and regrouping is the best method of survival in harrowing situations.
- Remember that the game is in no way balanced in your favour. A good gamemaster attempts to be as impartial to the players as possible, but the dice will fall where they may. And only your good or bad judgement will ultimately decide your characters fate.
- Everything you do in-game has consequences. Remember that guy you beat up in the tavern. Turns out he has a brother, and his brother is a local lord and you are on his shit list now. Think before you do things, and expect consequences for all your actions.
- The Gamemaster may be impartial, but they will be playing people who are your enemies in the game. This is an important point, that although the gamemaster doesn't hate your character, they will be playing those who do. And those enemies will do whatever it takes to survive, and succeed with their diabolical plans.
- To play a role playing game, you have to role play. While it may seem redundant to make this statement, it is a point worth remembering. You will be expected to act, react, and speak for your character. The more you are immersed in the character and the world they inhabit, the more enjoyable your experience will be. This doesn't mean that you need a degree in theatre in order to play the game well. Just do your best to imagine what your character's feeling and thinking, and use that when it comes your turn to take action in the game.
- You have to earn awesome stuff (Carpe Gultarrem). You don't start the game as an uber-awesome hero with magic items pouring from your backpack, and you certainly don't get cool stuff just for gaining levels. You have to earn these things. You have to prove that you're a hero (if that's what you want to be), and each and every magic item that you acquire will come with lots of sweat and blood.
- Knowledge is power (R.W. Chandler). This goes along with asking for details. Find out information in-game. Learn about your enemies weaknesses, consult sages, and research things before you trudge off to the dungeon. This is a great way to increase your characters chances of survival and might just give you the edge over a terrible foe.
- Gaming is about fun and spending time with your friends (Jason). This is what it's all about. You are playing a game, and games are supposed to be fun. Fun trumps everything, and is the whole point of this hobby in the first place. If the rules get in the way of your fun, change them, if the campaign isn't fun, drop it and start another one, and if you're just not feeling it at all anymore, find a new hobby.