The Art of being a Better RQ Player
Unlike most people who write about RPGs I would consider myself much more of player than a GM, and after nearly 40 years playing RPGs on and off I think I’m starting to get the hang of becoming a better player.
The majority of the following advice comes from me at my most reflective and self-critical, examining times when I could have been a better player, companion and friend. So if elements of this may make you feel a little uncomfortable, be assured than lots of this make me feel much more uncomfortable. The best advice comes from people who understand and can reflect on their own mistakes, plenty of mine can be found detailed below.
What makes a great RQ player?
Before we can progress we need to define what makes a great player.
Which, in my opinion, is someone who adds the maximum enjoyment to the gaming experience of everyone else at the table.
RPGs are not a solitary events, and are definitely not about self-gratification. However, they are about working with a group of people so together we have a deeper, richer, more enjoyable experience for all of the players.
So tips and thoughts that I think will help people add to whole groups overall gaming experience;
Be a team player
This starts with creating a character that complements the party. Don’t choose characters that will immediately fight and clash with the other players, but ones of similar beliefs, background and cultures. Be careful when choosing difficult characters which create conflict naturally such as thieves or tricksters.
Tie your character into with the party. Make your characters people’s brother, lover, wife, childhood friend or share debts of honour with others in the group.
Define a definitive role for your character, so you have any idea when they will step the front, and when they will allow others to hold the limelight. Also understand the role others will have in the party, being aware everyone needs a time to shine and be the centre of attention.
Even go as far as creating platforms for other players. Ask the trader to lead the negotiation, the warrior to fight the duel, the healer to heal the sick, rather than rushing forward to try to do everything yourself.
Cross party tension is something that can enliven and add levels of complexity to the game which should not be ignored, but limit conflict to tension, the odd witty one liner, the raised eye brow and the wry observation. Aim for a story which is about 2 characters overcoming differences to form a friendship, despite cultural or religious differences.
Show loyalty to other party members, and expect that loyalty to be returned. A story about a band of brothers (and sisters) is one long-remembered, that can form lifelong friendships.
Also help other players achieve their characters goals, It builds group cohesion and stories where characters are fulfilled are better than those where characters are perpetually frustrated.
Help the plot move on
Understanding the pace of the game you are playing in and the playing style of those around you is really helpful. Some games are action orientated and pacey others are full of character development, world exploration and research. Work out the style of the gaming group and going that way helps.
In convention and pickup games have a close eye on real world time limits, the plot which you have to get through, and number of people round the table, and react accordingly. Too many flourishes, character conflicts and individual pieces of characters development, can mean the group fail to get through the whole story.
Still in longer campaign games limit red herrings and self-tangents. Be free to develop different approaches and attack the plot by a different means, but make sure you involve as many players as possible when you do. A player that takes 50% of the gaming session on their personal plot is actually being selfish.
Characters who choose to obstruct progress towards the group’s goals will create frustration and conflict within the gaming group, whenever possible limit this kind of behaviour and as a player accept that there will be consequences.
Understanding the world
Understanding the world of Glorantha and knowing your characters culture and religion is key to developing a believable and ‘realistic’ character. However there is a great deal to be said for making an in game fudge to aid and improve everyones evening of gaming. Killing a character or in game bullying because of cult or cultural enmity is not quality play, and loses site of the overall focus of the sessions play. The ultimate goal of which is to have fun!
Now Glorantha is a world where racism and sexism are common place, and part of the world as described. But I suggest if it is unavoidable that your character has to be hurtful/abusive/a dick towards another player’s character. I suggest it is advisable to step into the third person. “My characters does or says this to your character”, is much less hurtful and offensive that doing so in the first person.
Adding in characters flourishes or touches of flair that reflect a deeper knowledge of Glorantha, can really enrich a game, but keep it to the occasional flourish. Constantly showing off your deeper knowledge of Glorantha at every opportunity can become tiresome, and can feel like showboating. I feel flair is best appreciated as a seasoning to game play.
Helping new or inexperienced players
I believe it’s the role of seasoned and experienced players to help new and inexperienced players into the game, but not tell them what to do so much that they end up playing the new players character by proxy.
Set examples of good play for them to copy and play off. Give advice in game and character to character, not out of character. Getting the party to plan ahead in game and having talked through how we will approach a fight or conflict can give structure which can be really helpful.
It can be more helpful with new players to step backwards and give them space to try things and even to fail. Cover them in game with your characters actions, rather than trying to stop them from making mistakes by controlling their decisions or giving too much out of character advice.
Stay engaged with the game
Staying in character whenever possible helps game focus, one liners and quips are even more enjoyable if made by characters and not players out of character.
Keeping out of character chat to before and after game time really helps, even in side conversations as it can distract from the mood and focus of the gaming session.
Make game planning and tactics an in character, not out of character activity. It can add substantially to immersion and creates a good sense of group dynamic.
Being content to be quiet when you’re not the focus of attention and involved helps everyone else sense of immersion, game pacing and probably means things will get back to you quicker.
Add subtlety and recognise it in others
I absolutely love subtle reactions in characters. The hate lunars passion shouldn’t mean that a character has to start stupid and pointless fights that endanger the party at every opportunity.
I suggest a character with those traits to be upset and surly with everyone for a while if he has had to crawl on hands and knees to a Lunar official earlier in the day.
An honourable character can make an expedient dishonourable action, but expect self-doubt and self-hatred to follow. This style of play ads subtlety, and allows a game not to get dragged down into pointless petty conflicts that can derail a game.
Traits and passions should be seen as roleplaying opportunities, not triggers for irrational, stupid and self-destructive actions that anyone in the real world with an understanding of action and consequence would never make.
Play passions with subtlety and enjoy it when other players do as well.
Don’t be a nob
This applies to life but some thoughts specifically for the gaming table, often the opposite of what I’ve detailed above;
- Don’t bring your issues to the table; – We all have faults quirks, idiosyncrasies which hopefully we are aware of and working on. The gaming table is not the place for you to indulge your control or anger issues.
- Don’t bully people; – It should be obvious but I’ve seen it at the gaming table more often. Lots of have been bullied in real life. Let’s make the gaming table a safe place to escape from it.
- Avoid power politics in the group; – If you catch yourself engaging in power politics or caring about power structures in a gaming group, shake your head, laugh at your stupid behaviour and take a step back.
- Don’t kill other people’s characters; – it’s a great way to ruin someone else’s evening, don’t do it.
- Don’t hog the game; – Create room for other people.
- Don’t control other players; – You have your character they have theirs, understand the difference
- Don’t use the game to settle scores;- Really obvious. If you have scores to settle, sort them out of game, or choose not to game with the person. Don’t inflict them on the rest of the gaming group.
- Don’t argue about rules;- OK a half understanding of the rules or an odd referring decision can be really frustrating, but chill sit back and trust the ref.
- Don’t let character conflict become personal;- OK some conflict happens. Understand it’s part of a story and walk away later.
Now I don’t claim to be the perfect player and many of the opinions above I’ve developed as I look back at times when I think I could have been a better player. I think if we are able to take on 2 or 3 of the points above which we find difficult of challenging, we will be able to improve each others gaming experiences considerably.