Player Tips: Help your GM help you

Player tips articles offer a short series of tips to help you brush up your skills in certain areas, the lists aren’t exhaustive but keeping them in mind should help you develop your playing style.

In this player tips article we give some advice on how you can help your GM to help you.

Please note: These tips are not intending to be exhaustive or provide a “one true way of roleplaying” (since TBH I don’t believe such things exist), they instead offer suggestions that have work for me and that you might like to try in your own games.

1. Create a character background

If a GM has an interesting character background from you that is easy to read then they can work out what sort of things you want to see in the game sessions and (most) GMs will make an effort to include them, considering the amount of work a GM normally has to put in before and during a campaign, asking the players to write a background for a single character is really so much to ask is it?

Your background doesn’t have to be a massive novel (in-fact the GM would probably prefer it wasn’t), however, even just a series of bullet points outlining interesting events in your character history can be very useful for the GM.

2. Work on making interesting relationships with other PCs

Now we know out of character that the reason your PCs tend to operate together is that the players are all involved in a group activity, however you can work in the game to create interesting relationships with other PCs. I’m not for one moment suggesting that all of the characters have to be bosom-buddies or agree about everything but event intra-party conflicts can be interesting as long as they are not interfering with or proving obstructive to the game.

I hate magic, but that damn elf wizard’s gone straight into the dungeon, without me in there’ll he’ll get himself killed – but we’re going to have words about this afterwards.

3. Be pro-active during and between game sessions

Occasionally there will be lulls during a game session, this may occur because the PCs have done something unexpected and the GM needs to consider his options, or perhaps the players have received some information and the GM is waiting for them to reach a conclusion, there are a number of different reasons. In some circumstances the GM may bring in an encounter to liven up these lulls, however, in some cases this isn’t really appropriate, they may not want to distract you from your investigation or they may have nothing appropriate prepared; if this is the case then you can be pro-active and move the game forwards yourselves.

There are a few ways you can do this:

  • Visit a friendly NPC and ask for help.
  • Change locations to somewhere else whilst you think about your options.
  • Look for some unrelated minor work to take on whilst you consider the facts.

However being pro-active shouldn’t just be reserved for during a session, a lot of GMs will provide additional material between sessions to help keep players interest up, even if they don’t then chance are they will have their heads down frantically planning for the next session. If you have a website, forum or whatever for the game try and make at least some use of it between sessions or perhaps ask the GM whether you can develop some minor NPCs, the tavern you randomly stopped in last session, etc this takes work of their shoulders and allows you to put your own stamp on the game world.

4. Don’t try to stop things try to build on them

This is a well known rule of improvisational theatre, never say “no” always try to build on an opportunity or situation. Whilst occasionally in an RPG you will have to say no, rather than just putting your foot down when a fellow players suggests something, have a think about it, and see if there’s anyway that you can adapt the core idea of their plan and either incorporate it into your own or adapt it to suit the circumstances.

Well if we just charge the walls of the city and attempt to fight our way in we’ll be killed by the guards on the gate, how about we sneak into the guard tower and cut off their communications? We can then take out the guards without warning the rest of the city.

5. If you know the rules don’t be a dick about it

There will be occasions where some of the players are more familiar with the rules of a particular system than the GM, if that’s you then don’t take every opportunity to point this out and/or belittle the GM, they are running a game for your benefit and probably don’t enjoy having their lack of knowledge pointed out. If your GM is smart though they will attempt to use rules-savvy players as a resource to check their ruling as they run the game.

For example: I have a couple of players in my D&D 5E campaign who are far more knowledgable about the rules of the game than myself (although I am learning), and they’ve been absolutely great, happy to go with rulings that I make and tolerant of any small mistakes. It’s also very useful for me if I’m unsure about things to be able to ask them rather than spending minutes flicking through the rulebooks.


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