|Not that I am a role play gaming expert, far from it. Though neither am I novice any longer.|
I was inspired to start this thread by IWillFearNoEvil's own thread of GMing how-to Creating a HWRP: How?. I figured, why not answer all of the six basic questions of life as they pertain to Heavy Weight Role Playing.
And I figured this would be a place where people could ask questions, not just the basic W-H questions, and get answers from those with experience points....er....experience. I want this to be a thread where those with wisdom can share it, those who have made mistakes can teach others not to make them and those who are learning can learn.
Not that I'm worried about any of you doing any of the following but--I don't want this to be a thread where we can make fun of people who don't know the answers, where we have arguments about who's answer is right. One of the things that I want to remind everyone is that the wisdom we all share is from our own experiences and also our own interperetations of those experiences. Also, this isn't a thread where we can make fun of people who have made mistakes. Surely laughter is a good thing, and laughing in good humor is nice, but only as long as no one gets hurt.
And anyone can come in here and answer any of the questions they don't feel are being asked or answered. Or just add to the answers someone else has given. Don't think that if one person has said something to answer a question that that's all there is to say, especially if you have more to add.
Number one rule: Don't be shy.
-ask your questions
-get your answers
-share your own experience.
That being said, and since no one has asked a question before me, I'll do my best to answer one of the six basic questions. Feel free, anyone, to add to the answer or whatever.
The short answer: You.
The long answer: From my own experience in my own campaigns, and I harbor a little resentment at some of them, I've gotten the feeling that the players think that to the GM falls the responsibility of the RP. And the bulk of that is true. The GM is responsible for much of the storyline, for introducing non-player characters, for creating interesting situations and puzzles for the characters to get themselves into. They are responsible to have a plot in their head, to get the story started in the first place.
But to the players, collectively, falls a very great responsibility as well. The players have a responsibility to each other and to the GM to help with the game. The creation of a role play is not just at the beginning but a continuous process, and creation cannot continue without the players' support.
More often than not, when an RP I am in has died, it died with phrases like, "The GM hasn't given me anything to do," or, "There's nothing for me to do," or even, "I can't think of anything to do." The player, in effect, shifts the blame from themselves to the GM, relying on the GM's responsibility for the story. But the player is almost equally responsible for the story as the GM. The good players I have had experience with will take their character's history and/or personality and make up something to do, even if it seems to go off of the main track of the story. What players who are afraid to do that don't realize is that the GM is more than likely prepared for whatever you want to do. Usually, you will have to try really hard to throw a GM off of his/her track. And when you do that, it can sometimes be fun. I know of some players whose goal it is to throw the GM off course without losing the situational reality of the game.
The only time I've ever known a GM to ever get mad at a player for doing something like that is when it happens to be situationally abhorrent or conflicts with the characters behavior patterns or personality. IE, Character A's best friend is dying, and Character A knows it and is by his side. But player of Character A can't quite think of the right thing to do, so they go to the corner coffee shop. It just doesn't make sense.
For a successful RP, it takes a devoted crew of a bright GM and a slew of ambitious players.
To the GM: If your players are seriously complaining for something to do however, perhaps it is time for you to create something or do something with the plot. If your characters are constantly losing the will to do something in the game, you will gain a reputation of a poor GM. I know it sounds like I put a lot of blame on the players for the continuation of the game, but it is also to the GMs, and I have been guilty of this before. It removes the enjoyment of the game for both players and the GM.
|The 10 Commandments Of The RPG Player|
1. Thou Shalt Create a Suitable Alter-Ego
In order to participate in an RPG you, as a player, must
give yourself a way of interacting with the imaginary world
that will be the boundary within which you play. Obvious
words, I know, but in order for the game to run along
smoothly, the vehicle that you create for interacting with
the game world must be suitable.
"Suitable?" I hear you scoff, "Whatever does he mean?"
Many RPGs have suffered because the players created
characters to play that didn't suit the game's setting, the
GM's scenarios, or the make-up of the party. Getting your
character right is essential for suspension of disbelief and
proper immersion in the roleplaying experience.
The solution to creating a suitable character is
* Talk to the GM about the sorts of races and societies in
the game area.
* Talk to the other players to see what sorts of characters
* Once the information is gathered, select a character that
could be in the game area and one that would feasibly be in
the company of the other characters in the party.
* Once the party of characters is created, get your heads
together and make up backgrounds for the characters and a
short history of their acquaintance.
* Add to the finished background a breakdown of the
character's personality and link that persona to events
within the background. Again, conversing with the GM about
societal views and conditions on the game world can help you
add a lot of believability to the character.
Doing this adds a lot to both continuity and depth of the game,
and will go a long way to helping everyone suspend disbelief
during scenarios and making the experience a lot of fun.
When creating characters there are a couple of tips that help
the process along:
* Don't exclude the GM from the creation process. The GM has
a much better idea about the game world than you do and will
always have a good idea or two about how you can get what
you want into your character without sacrificing
* Set aside a game session for character creation. Creating
a good, suitable character can take up a few hours
sometimes. Plan your time in advance.
* Create characters as a group. Get the other players
together to create characters. This way, ideas can be
bandied about between you all and the group background can
be that much more cohesive.
* Less can be more! Don't create a 12 page essay on your
character. Map out his main characteristics and leave the
rest for development during the game. There are two reasons
for this: one is to save yourself work (as characters can
die suddenly), and the other is to allow yourself room to
develop the character in the direction you want and have fun
2: Thou Shalt Be Prepared
When you go to a game you want to get straight into the
action, don't you? A lot of games are held up by poor
preparation of games materials beforehand by the GM but an
equal number of games are held up by poor preparation on the
part of the players.
Help get things going quickly and smoothly by preparing
yourself for the game. As a player, you have certain items
that you generally must have in order to play. Miniatures,
character sheets, dice, stationery, and snacks all figure
into this, so grab them all and make them available for use
beforehand so that retrieving them isn't going to eat into
game-time. Nobody likes to wait for Disorganized Dave as he
trawls through his car's glove box for his character sheet
so that he can find out what his climb walls skill score is,
least of all the other players.
As a player, you should have a credible character created
and ready for play before a new game begins. Prepare this
character before the real game is about to start, preferably
on a night prior to the date of the game (see Commandment 1).
As a player, you should prepare yourself mentally to be able
to 'get into character' easily. Review your character notes
and look forward to the game.
As a player, you should be able to play from game session to
game session as if your group hadn't stopped, or else clues,
actions, maps, and such are forgotten and lost. Prepare by
reviewing your notes and discussing past sessions, and any
continuing missions or tactics, with the other players
before the game.
These are just a few ways to prepare, but I think by now my
point is made. Player preparation is the key to quickly
3: Thou Shalt Be In-Character Whenever Possible
In case you hadn't noticed, the games you play are called
ROLEPLAYING games. By definition, that means that within the
game you have to PLAY a ROLE.
Roleplaying is a bit like acting. You act out your
character's reactions and decisions. A lot of games only
require the character acting bit during serious conversation
scenes when the GM is trying to gauge the attitudes of the
party (or when he's trying to have a bit of fun). This
shouldn't be the case. Act out your character whenever
possible, as this lends substance to the idea that your
character 'lives'. It helps the other players (and the GM)
suspend their disbelief and immerse themselves more in the
For an example:
Two PCs enter a tavern. A large burly orc bars their way to
their table. The first player says to the second, "Get ready
to attack him" and the second player says to the GM, "My
character asks the orc to move and attacks him if he
On the other hand:
Two PCs enter a tavern. A large burly orc bars their way to
their table. The first player says to the second, "Garak
nudges Calthanus and mutters 'Ready thy sword. There may be
trouble'". The second player says to the GM, "Orc! I ask
thee to move thyself from my path. You are blocking my way.
Or would you like to taste my steel?".
Which of these two versions of the encounter sounds more
like a role playing game? Play in character as much as you
can and the game will gain greater depth for you and those
participating with you.
4: Thou Shalt Not Rules-Lawyer
Rules-Lawyers. GMs hate them and players dread them slowing
down the game. Nobody really likes them so don't be one. In
order to avoid being one, I suppose I'd better explain what
one is. Okay, here we go.
A Rules-Lawyer is an individual player who likes to
challenge the GM on various rules calls and action
resolutions. The rules-lawyer usually knows (or believes he
knows) most, if not all, of the rules quite well and thinks
that by arguing with the GM over the correct application of
the rules he is making the game 'better'. Some rules-lawyers
simply try to nit-pick the GM's judgements in order to get
advantages for their character. Others believe their
interpretation of the rules is the 'right' one and the only
way the game should be played. While these arguments over
the rules are resolved, the game invariably has to be
It doesn't take a genius to see that a rules-lawyer can stop
a game often and easily with his arguments. This can have a
disastrous effect on the believability and survival of the
game itself, as players get bored and annoyed with the
stoppages. While it is OK to challenge the GM about his
rulings sometimes (see Commandment 7) it is not OK to spoil
the game for the other players and try to 'take over' the
game from the GM (see Commandments 5 and 8).
The message is clear. Don't be a rules-lawyer.
5: Thou Shalt Not Damage the Fun of Thy
Another easy one that is more common sense than anything
Everyone at the game table is there to have fun. Avoid doing
anything that takes fun away from your fellow players or
your entire presence at the game is pretty much pointless.
Commandment 4 details one way to ruin people's fun, but there
are other ways you should avoid:
* Don't make fun of players' characters and ideas - it isn't
funny to make others feel small (see Commandment 6).
* Don't throw dice at or be abusive to the other players.
* Don't continually stop the game by leaving the table,
rules-lawyering (see Commandment 4), telling jokes to the
players, or having a side conversation unrelated to the
* Pay attention to the GM's words and the other players'
actions so you don't have to get them to repeat themselves.
These are just a few things to think about, but as with
Commandment 4, the message in indeed clear. You are there to
have fun and so are the other players. Bear that in mind,
and if you doubt see Commandment 6.
6: Thou Shalt Be Courteous
This commandment is simple: be polite. Show common courtesy
to the other players in the group and your GM. You'd be
surprised how much of a difference such a thing makes.
There are a few courtesies common in RPG gaming that you can
observe to help make things run smoother:
* Don't speak over another player.
* Allow others their turn to speak.
* Don't get in another player's way.
* Ask before using an item that doesn't belong to you (be it
dice, pencil, or snack).
I could list about 30 others but they all just boil down to
common sense. The reasons for according other players with
courtesy and respect are obvious - if you don't,
frustrations will arise, tensions will build, arguments may
erupt, and the game will suffer. Always remember why you are
gaming (see Commandment 10) and observe the fact that the
other players are there for the same reason.
In short, show the other players and the GM some courtesy
and respect and everyone will be happier.
7: Thou Shalt Speak Thy Mind
Why must you speak your mind? There are several beneficial
reasons for you to speak up during game-time. The thing to
remember here is: Don't be shy. The other players and the GM
are not going to maul you for speaking, so don't worry.
The first thing you should speak up about is when you have
an idea during the game. Your characters are talking to a
merchant that you think is dodgy? Fine. Speak up. You think
that the back wall may hide a secret door? Fine. Mention it.
You really think that you should avoid the town of Blargle?
Fine. Tell the others. The GM will not act against you based
upon your comments (if he's doing his job properly!) and
your ideas may spur the party on to greater deeds. So speak
The second thing to speak up about is when you disagree with
the GM. There will be times when the GM says or does
something that isn't quite right, and it's fine to mention
it to him. A GM should always try to please his players and
isn't out to get you. He won't be offended by any complaint
you have to make and will try to amend the action, rule, or
game to suit the players. Mistakes can be made, since GMs,
too, are only human. Please bear in mind that when
mentioning faults to your GM, you should remember
Commandments 4 and 8.
The third thing you should speak up about is if one of the
other players is offending you, bugging you, or otherwise
spoiling your fun (point such individuals at Commandment 5).
Whether you mention this annoyance to the GM or the player
himself is up to you, but don't let it drop. Speak up and
allow the game and your fun to continue.
These three things, as always, are just examples of times
when speaking up is an advantage. The only thing to remember
when exercising your right of free speech is Commandment 6.
So go on. Speak your mind.
8: Thou Shalt Heed the Word of thy GM
The GM is there to arbitrate your game. GMs have to make all
the decisions that aren't made by your characters. They
control everything in the game world that isn't your
character. They also create and run the scenarios that your
characters find themselves in. With all that it's no wonder
that the words that issue from the GM's mouth are important.
There are two main reasons why should heed the GM's words:
1) The GM gives information about what's going on in the
game ALL of the time.
GMs will slip small clues into 'flavour text' and
characterizations into NPC dialogue. An attentive player can
use these tid-bits to solve puzzles, gain advantages and
otherwise get his character through the game more
successfully. Players that don't listen to what's going on
will find that they quickly lose grasp on what's going on,
miss clues, and struggle to keep up, thus slowing the game
down for all. Commandment 5 gives a reason as to why this is
2) The GM handles all of the 'behind the scenes'
calculations and rules.
If the GM says something, it goes. Players who do not accede
to the GM's rulings will cause arguments, slowdown, and a
loss of fun for all. Again, see Commandment 5.
It is worth noting that while it is perfectly okay to
challenge the GM over rulings (while heeding Commandments 4
and 7), it is not okay to continue to challenge him once he
has put his foot down. Just accept the GM's ruling and get
on with the game. Keep playing, life's too short.
9: Thou Shalt Involve Thyself Whenever Possible
This commandment may seem strange to you because, after all,
by playing the game you are involved with it.
Just sitting down and participating in a game isn't really
enough. To really enjoy yourself and make a real roleplaying
game of it you must actively try to involve yourself
whenever you can. Don't just sit there and wait for your GM
to wade through a page of text and then ask, "What do you
want to do?" Use your character whenever the opportunity
arises. After all, the emphasis is on ROLEPLAY, isn't it?
If you take charge of your character and use it whenever the
opportunity presents itself, it will set an example to the
other players. You will find that they, too, will start to
roleplay their characters more during the game, adding to
the feeling of immersion in the game world for all involved.
Actively involving yourself can be done outside your
character as well as in-character during a game. GMs have an
awful lot of work to do to make the game run smoothly, and
any help you can give your GM will be very much appreciated.
Offer to help with the bookkeeping, organization, map-making
and other game-related tasks whenever you feel you can help,
and always give your GM ideas for races, adventures,
character classes and types, professions, skills, spells and
anything else you think of (see Commandment 7).
Everything you involve yourself in and help with is
something less for the GM to do, and will help speed things
up. The less your GM has to concentrate on, the more time
he'll have for creating wonderful adventures for you to get
your teeth into.
10: Thou Shalt Have Fun And Avoid Burn-Out
The most obvious thing to say but also the most forgotten
sentence in the history of RPGing is: You play the game to
have fun. There, I've said it. Now I feel better.
With all the work that a GM puts into the game and all the
time and energy players expend to make characters, having
fun can sometimes be forgotten as the reason behind it all.
If for any reason you are not having fun playing, then you
should identify why and do something about it. If the reason
cannot be resolved, then you should stop playing. There is
no point in doing something you are not enjoying.
Player burn-out is something that can make the game stop
being fun. Burn-out is a term that is used to describe when
players have basically become sick of playing, either
through an intense gaming schedule or unusually long game
(the term is used in other ways, but this is the most common
usage of the phrase). Avoiding burn-out is the
responsibility of not just the GM but the players too. A few
quick tips to make sure burn-out doesn't hit you are:
* Insist to your GM that you take regular breaks during the
game and make sure he is aware of your preferred length of
game (see Commandment 7).
* Don't play too often. Once or twice a week is enough for
* Switch games systems once in a while, or change existing
characters for a new party in an ongoing campaign. A change
can be as good as a rest.
* Avoid playing when you're really stressed-out or angry
Player burn-out can also be caused by frustration with the
game in some way. To avoid causing others frustration,
always remember Commandment 6, and to avoid
misunderstandings always use Commandment 7. Make sure that
you are playing a game that suits you, look forward to
playing, and heed the commandments above. This will give you
a much better chance at having fun.
My final piece of advice is: Relax. As you are here to have
fun there is nothing to get stressed about. Is that game
ruling annoying you? Relax. It's only a game. Has the evil
overlord foiled your well-laid plans? Relax. It's supposed
to be a bit of fun. The moment you get stressed about
something is the moment the game stops being fun. Most RPG
gamers hate their hobby to be called 'just a game' but at
the end of it all, no matter which way you look at it, a
game is exactly what it is.