Whilst James has been working on TBGTBAAG it got be thinking about how the player has as much to do with the roleplay experience as the GM. I wanted to give some tips about my experience of playing in various roleplays. Some of my favourite memories and some of my less enjoyable experiences to try and lend some insight to those who may be interested to find out…
Finding your ‘thing’: There are many different ‘kinds’ of roleplayers out there. The ones who love learning every aspect of the rules, background and setting and creating the perfect warrior. The power players who level up their characters as quickly as possible and enjoy dealing pointy death to the enemy. The ones who are all about the character development and couldn’t give two toffees about how good their character is in a fight. The ones who turn up to just have a laugh with their friends. The ones who love playing a battle of wits against the others players as well as the GM…. The list could go on and on.
Many of us are a combination of several of these and our roleplaying needs change and grow as we do as players. Most start out wanting an awesome character who is double hard and can kick several shades of pain out of any gribbly thing that comes their way. As they build on their experience they tend to expand to find their RP ‘niche’.
The first thing I would recommend an RP newbie needs to embrace is that you need to have a go at everything to find your thing that you enjoy. Don’t try and predict what it might be. Most players are often surprised as to where their passions and often, their characters end up. For example; you’re a maths whizz who loves cryptic clues. Yes, that puzzle in the dungeon might be right up your alley – but don’t sit quietly until that moment. Try bartering with the armour dealer in the square with some unplanned actual roleplaying with the GM. Try stealing that Melon that looks tasty at market with a once in a lifetime awesome diceroll and try to interact with the other players in character. It may seem odd at first – but you might find you like it, or maybe even love it!
You may also find things you don’t enjoy: maybe magic just isn’t your thing. Maybe you can’t stand gnomes or maybe you find talking in that ridiculous voice (you thought was hilarious when you first thought it up) for the whole session tiring and annoying. These things are just as important to find out as all the awesome bits. If you don’t road-test all those ideas, you’ll never quite find one the ‘suits’.
So. You have expanded to find your thing that you love. You have a group of friends who are all discovering their loves too… what next?
Group harmony: Now I’m not going to go on about tree hugging or loving thine RP buddies. I’m not even saying you have to like your fellow characters and the occasional infighting, scrapping, backstabbing and fleecing is fun, expansive for your character and often hilarious.
What I am saying is when you having fun is stopping someone else enjoying their little slice of the RP – then you need to tone it down. If one character has had a massive story arc where they have been searching for the sword of their fathers and just as they get it you steal it and destroy it – how will that make your fellow character, and your friend feel? If the answer is ‘not good’ – do you really have to do that ‘because my character is like that’ or could you show the sneaky and vindictive nature of your character in a different way – preferably one that doesn’t crush your friends dreams?
This may be an extreme example, but it can be evident in many different aspects – delaying the group from getting somewhere or constantly picking on one character. Maybe always stepping in to take on the fight even though everyone else is capable of doing it? These aren’t necessarily malicious, but it’s actually about how it makes your fellow RPers FEEL, not about the act it’s self. If your friend is laughing and encouraging you, then great! You beat up the barman who just squared up to the elf assassin for criticising the quality of the beer. But if that player was really excited about showing off his new ability he just got – why take away from their enjoyment?
This is after all a game – and people play games to have fun. Different people have fun in different ways. If you are playing in an RP session and all your thinking about is YOUR fun, then you won’t get the most out of it. Unless you’re all like that. Then you may all have equal amounts of fun.
The most amusing moments of my roleplaying career is when the entire room is waiting on bated breath (including the GM) no one dice roll or when similarly the entire room is laughing so hard they’re crying and the whole thing has to have a 20 min break for people to catch their breath.
So. You have a developed idea of what you enjoy, you also have a good idea about what your RP group enjoys… your all growing in awesome ways and getting a bit good at this RP lark – what next?
Embrace the GM: if you feel the inclination, by all means give the GM a big hug. That wasn’t what I meant, but it’s still a nice thing to do!
What I mean is embrace their stories, their characters and their world. Every GM has an understanding (or learns very quickly) that any plan does not survive contact with a group of players. The village where the story begins will be the very same village the players will decide to carry on riding though, ransack, burn down or possibly even ally with the evil forces assailing the place. It’s just the way things go.
But if the players are willfully destroying every one of the GM’s carefully laid stories, they will never get a decent one for their group. Every session will be a random hack and slash through improvised characters. Although satisfying occasionally, this can become very tiresome – especially if 1 or 2 characters are constantly instigating the aforementioned hack and slash (please see the above point).
The GM is not there to beat – you cannot win at roleplay. The purpose is that you have fun with your friends. Firstly, if your friend the GM is not having fun, then that’s just as bad as your fellow roleplayers not having fun. Secondly, my experience of roleplay at it’s at it’s very best when the entire group is entirely focused in achieving a mission. Maybe not always in the same way, but the group is swept up in the story, the depth of the world and the immediate peril in front of them. This just can’t happen if every time you meet a NPC, you stab them.
So be open to the GM’s attempts to coerce you into a plot – if you’re not that interested right then, fine – but give them a chance to show you the awesome adventure you could have.