Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Response: What I Look for in Players as a GM

Over at Ravens n’ Pennies, C.R. Rice wrote an interesting bit about what he looks for in players, and that got me to thinking about what I like to see in players. So blame him for this!

Where his list is a bit more general, mine tends to address issues I’ve personally seen. Some of these are symptomatic of things I did (and hopefully have learned not to do); others are inherent to the players. Either way, players who adhere to these and voice concerns as soon as they find themselves drifting from them are some of the most valuable commodities in gaming.

Dependable. Dependability in players is crucial. Nothing derails a game faster than not having everyone present. Peter Dell’Orto begins and ends his Felltower [] sessions in Town to blunt the impact of this. David Ripton tries to do this, too. Others run missing PCs as NPCs or put them “in the barrel” where they just don’t do anything and tag along; both of these can be jarring.

Punctual. Players can show up every session, but if they are always late, they delay the fun for everyone at the table. While this isn’t always the end of the world, being late to a game definitely cuts into game time, and if your game has requirements like Felltower, you are cutting into the party’s ability to achieve gaming goals. It’s not cool, so please be nice to everyone in your group and be on time!

Attentive. Know what’s going on. Really, this is related to begin punctual. If you’re more interested in your phone, the TV, a video game, etc., you really aren’t playing, and at best, you are causing delays. Everything I said above applies.

Prepared. Be prepared for the session. Again, this has to do with causing undue delays including having your PC sheet ready, tending to any inventory and load-out needs between sessions, knowing your turn in combat, knowing what you want to do on your turn, etc. applies. Basically, don’t be that guy on whom everyone has to wait. Please. Nothing kills the immersion faster than having to wait.

Creative. Don’t just play in the game; add to it! I love players who get into the setting and expand it in interesting ways. This means being heedful of any established cannon and working with the GM to grow the setting. It might not always be important for more beer-and-pretzels games, but generally, I prefer some substantive background for games (as evidenced by my work on Starfall).

Collaborative. There are lots of “right” ways to play a roleplaying game. This means not getting hung up on Rules As Written, your particular take on what you think should happen, etc. Instead, work with everyone at the table to create a gaming experience that everyone can enjoy. If you dispute something, voice your opinion, but accept the GM’s or group’s ruling.

Proactive. If you see something – rules, characters, NPCs, adventures, style, anything – that looks like it might cause issues down the road, say something right away. This isn’t about being a lousy, no-good, loathsome, execrable rules lawyer; it’s about spotting issues that might arise and addressing them with the GM and the group at earliest convenient time. That time is probably not amidst play, but it also isn’t after things have come to a head.

Note that the first four are all interrelated. They can all be summarized as “Get the game moving and keep it moving.” The GM can only do so much to control the pacing. If the players introduce delays, this can really hamper parts where things are meant to move quickly and make difficult to distinguish between those and the slower parts. The latter characteristics definitely speak to players’ ability to elevate the game from what, hopefully, is good to something that might be called great. This means building on what the GM does, on what other players do, and trying to troubleshoot possible issues ahead of time.

There are more qualities I look for, but these are the ones that come immediately to mind. I’d love to hear what other players and GMs seek in gamers, so please share your opinions!

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