Players and GMs work together to play any RPG. No matter what RPG you’re playing this is a universal and inescapable truth. Now I know that kind of sentiment can be lost for certain GM and player relationships where these two forces are mercilessly trying to kill each other but even that is a group effort. Simply put, it takes two to tango.
Let’ talk a little bit about the need for a GM of some type in a game. The GM in a game is your setting. Even for GMless systems there is an element of world building or at least running that is unavoidable. Bad guys have to have voices and someone has to roll (or at least provide the stats) for an enemy. Shops have to be kept up, towns plotted, governments constructed, names randomly generated, and so much more. This requires a certain amount of work and time, although that can vary from system to system, the fact still remains that there is a reserved amount of a game designed around making that game possible. This means that no matter what we have a GM of some type that referees the game and makes sure that the game is fun.
Now we can focus on the players in a game. Without the players a GM is basically just writing a book. While writing is not a bad thing at all, these systems are all about games. So players fill a world and interact with it in interesting and fun ways. Now when they say “there’s more than one way to skin a cat” they had no idea when it comes to RPGs. There are so many player mentalities and dynamics that it’s easy to feel like your game is completely unique to almost every other gaming experience. Adding in all the wonderful RPGs that exist in this nerdy renaissance that we live in makes the possibilities endless. This makes hundred of different things for me, an ADD blog writer, to be distracted by so after many attempts and edits I will cut the role of a player to the bare bones so that it can be applied to any game.
The players are the living element to a world. They are the only existing variable in a game independent of the GM and their machinations. Because of this the universe they exist in gravitates around them naturally and centers them in any kind of narrative created, either in a dungeon grind or a political space trade negotiation the players the players are the living element and everything around them is made for them to interact with in some way, even if it’s just indirect observation.
The players obviously hold a lot of importance in a game then and there are a lot of opinions about how the GM should treat them including my own. Honestly though as long as your players are having fun a GM is doing his job. Players also have a responsibility to make sure that a GM is enjoying himself too.
I won’t presume to know what every GM wants from their players because again that is magnitudes more complicated than can be explained in a single post. The basic thing that a player can show a GM is engagement in a system. There’s a lot of ways that you can do this and all of them are pretty easy.
- Be engaged in your story. You don’t have to be that super roleplaying guy to be engaged in a story. Just think about your character, ask questions, and pay attention to the surroundings. Every game has a level of goofing off but interrupting the GM for unrelated jokes, leaving the table, or not interacting with the game can be really disrespectful to a GM
- Support the narrative. There is a wide range of play types for any given RPG party so again it’s hard to make sweeping gestures but there is a single rule of thumb to use. Find your parties style and help with that. If you are dungeon crawlers then crawl and if you’re all politicians then negotiate. Most parties are in between that somewhere but the point is to not be afraid, find the role you want in the party, and play that role and have fun with it.
- Think critically. This one I can not stress enough. It’s a very easy thing to do and engages the GM in a game more then some players will realize but thinking critically and creatively makes a GM think about his environment in a new light. Players being the only living element to a setting have the ability to throw a GM off balance in a constructive (or destructive) way and when done correctly makes a game more engaging while also making a GM feel better about your game. It’s a sure sign that you’re playing the game and not just going through motions.
- Only use your living element status constructively. Don’t troll a GM by slapping a king in the face just because you can and while you certainly have the ability to do so try not to derail a campaign just because you can. On that note as well try to share the spotlight and let EVERYONE play the game.
There is one problem with all of these rules though. If a player follows these rules and they cause said player to not have fun than who gets priority? Well the answer is neither. If a party has to choose between players having fun and a GM having fun then you need to seriously reconsider your play style on both ends. Every day I read about GMs or players who run into these problems and most of the time it seems like they are more willing to leave a party and find a new one rather than face the issue they are having. The reason for that is social interactions person to person can get pretty sticky. Be sure to use the Empathy Hammer to help defeat your social problems.
Never lose focus that these games are designed, tested, funded, and sold all for people to have fun. That objective can get lost sometimes so it’s important to keep in mind that these games were made to be enjoyed in whatever way it is that you enjoy them.
Be ready for our third and final post about the empathy hammer coming this Monday! We also update posts weekly so be sure to sign up with your email below or follow us on Twitter and Facebook @nblogcollective. Have anything that you want us to write about or questions about the empathy hammer? Leave a comment in our comment section or Contact Us. And as always