Trust that the game will be played fairly and to the best of everyone’s ability. Characters are puppets of the players. Their words and actions don’t have to parallel the spirit of cooperation needed to play the game. Ranting and raving should be left to the characters. Leave the puppets attached to their strings and not personal feelings. When you become part of the troupe the goal is the story and in turn a developed character. Over the course of a campaign, game dynamics will increase in relation to character development.
Gaming works in cycles. The nature of that cycle is worked out within the troupe and will affect the quality of cooperation. The GM doles out enough knowledge to propel the story and each player supports the plot by molding it with their characters. All pertinent information is exchanged at an accelerated rate of interchange that can take time for a player to get used to. Since all game descriptions and variables exist literally in the moment, players must constantly adjust and adapt their perception of the what the game setting is; what the background looks like, where each of the characters are located in that background, what the characters are doing - - all the details that form the image of the scene’s story board. Each player absorbs sensory input and perspective at their own rate against an unyielding tide of "succumb or submit". By the time you get a handle on what’s happening in the story line, everybody has added to plot momentum and it’s time to go around the table again. This cognitive motion is easily disrupted, causing perception of the plot and setting to become disjointed.
Rife with conflict and challenge, gaming always pushes the limits of social interaction and people can get touchy. Improve the quality of the game with good communication. All the details outlined up through presentation formulate a base for communication. RPG’s have a supreme dependence on verbal interaction and understanding. Using our buccaneer as an example, there is probably some assumption that the character is male. It is not. If you glance at the through the example, gender was never mentioned. This detail was deliberately downplayed to demonstrate the need for good communication. The instant a GM or player misinterprets a game detail and continues along the same path with the wrong data, an inevitable conflict of factual recall will occur. Keep conflict to the game character and work through the problem with an open mind. In a worst case scenario, the GM will have to back up to the beginning of a scene and start over.
Two Way Street
The structure of gaming often puts GM and players in opposing situations. Gamemasters run the antagonistic characters and account for every conflicting encounter the character will face. While gamemastering has it’s inherent difficulties, players can do their part to make things work. Communication and teamwork is the heart of role playing games, and without out it the pulse of the game will fade into confusion. By using a few basic communication techniques, players can improve their presentation and interface with the game as a whole:
Attention: If the game is moving too slow, discretely tell the GM. He has a great many chores running the game and it’s easy to let some of them slip. Larger groups (over 4 or 5) tend to run a little slower because of the increased workload on the GM. Help by paying attention and lay off the magazines and smartphones. The game is for everyone. Blatant inattention slows everything down in general. If the GM needs player to occupy themselves for a short while, they’ll say so.
Attitude: A is for attitude. It all starts here; if you show up with a bad attitude, you are going to have a bad time. Being creative and dramatic on the spur of the moment is hard enough. If you try to do it in a cranky mood it just won’t happen at all and a bad game will make it worse. A good mood, on the other hand, will do wonders for your involvement in the game. Cooperation with other players is done with respect and fun. Performances will come easier, interaction will move smoother, and your thinking will be clearer.
Character Knowledgeability: A player’s source of information for game communication is the character. The more complex the game plot is, the more complex the character needs to be in order for everything to fit stylistically. If you don’t know anything about your character, it doesn’t matter how complex the story is. Anytime a player comes to the table, it is a responsibility to have adequate character knowledge. Without it, there is no source for contribution.
Delivery: Aside from character presentation, a player must contend with delivery. The mechanics of speech that assist a clear understanding by all. Try not to mumble, and speak strongly. Try to project your voice for everyone to hear; an even understanding of what you are trying to communicate is important for everyone to maintain their interpretation of the campaign characters and setting.
Habit: People are creatures of habit, and the best way to get comfortable with getting involved is by getting into the habit. Good presentation and delivery, supported by good character knowledge and enthusiasm will create a consistent level of interaction. The more often a player achieves this level of play, the easier it is to maintain the interaction by forming a habit - - a good habit.
Importance: Once a player joins a game troupe, he/she becomes part of the troupe, and is no more and no less than any other player in the group. Do your part to keep game play at a premium, and maintain that level of importance. Constantly missing game sessions (without informing the GM), being argumentative, and not contributing to game flow will diminish that importance and create a bad cycle. Don’t get wrapped up in suspicion, innuendo, or any other negative emotion that will detract from that status, and deny anybody else the satisfaction of dragging you down. Just as characters deal with honor and integrity, so should the players.
Motivation: Don’t get involved in gaming unless you are genuinely interested. If you are dragged to a game by someone else, don’t join. Gaming is an exciting, but demanding hobby. Be a part of the team for the purpose of the game, not to please one individual. RPG's aren't the place to work out aggressions. Clergy, therapists, and gyms do that much better.
Quality: Players get out of the game exactly what was put into it. The more developed your character is, the more the GM can orient the story to the character. The more details you can supply, the more choices and directions your character will have to explore.
Teamwork: Develop a relationship of trust with the GM and the rest of the troupe built upon respect and fair play. Keep the intrigue and subterfuge to the characters by honoring players with the respect they are due as friends. By making the necessary distinction between character conflict and player cooperation, scenes can get much more impassioned with the express knowledge that it’s all in character. As an air of true teamwork develops from running characters objectively, dialogues can become more adversarial without the threat of player-personal assault. When the game is over, everyone takes off their mask and goes home friends.
These techniques are only the starting point. Strive to create an open, creative atmosphere in the troupe. Make sure to keep troupe relationships separate from character relationships. Remember that it’s a story and not written in stone. Role play characters the way they were built to be played, and carry the story to its climax. When it’s done, talk about it with the rest of the troupe. Polish your presentation by discussing motivations and actions with the other players - - and then laugh about them.
Up to the Challenge
RPG’s are a hobby, but they genuinely offer a challenging experience. Good gaming commands whole brained thinking; math and vocabulary skills are improved, imaginations are stretched and the forum of game discussion hones interpersonal skills. The connection of expression between player and character constantly thrusts problem solving of all types to a personal level. As the game challenge increases, players must not only solve the story question, but attempt to do it with a bit of theatrical presentation. Get involved and role play your character with both thought and spontaneity. Fictional personalities come into conflict and sometimes, something that is not personal is taken that way as a result of gaming interaction. Good gamemasters will try to defuse the situation, but players have an equally important role in maintain a friendly game atmosphere.
Part of character presentation goes beyond the individual player. When you sit down at the game table, you become a member of a player’s troupe. Even in a solo campaign, a player cooperates with a GM to build a story. In either event, a player joins a larger unit - - the more cohesive the unit, the better the story.
A troupe is separate and distinct from the adventure party. A troupe cooperates and has fun; the adventure party is the group of characters functioning as the main characters in the story/campaign. When joining a troupe, probably composed of close friends and acquaintances, always try do you best for the sake of the game. A troupe is built on trust.
A Character is Worth 1000 Words
Revolving around on a kaleidoscope stage of changing audience perspectives, personal expressions, and infinite progressions, is a character built from psychological abstractions and mathematical representations. Using these daydream calculations at the moment of interaction, characters are player’s ideas and strategies funneled through a template. A custom tool designed to deal with situational challenges as an eventuality of spoken thoughts. Swirling in the mix of game flow and story evolution, any character is only as good as the player wants it to be. Contingent on that attitudinal projection is all the paperwork a player brings to the table and how he pulls it out. Characters are part of the campaign illusion, designating player input as a resource of valuable campaign support material that greatly enhances the overall game. After all, they are the main characters.
Form and Substance
Once a troupe gets settled in and the games begins to take shape, players get in the habit of letting the game master do all the paperwork. After all, the choice to be a player is not to design and track, but to play. The problem arises when a campaign starts increasing in complexity; even character details begin to accumulate past the point of running a character off "top of mind". To make things worse, if a game master is left to keep total track of all the characters and their records, the game is going to slow down to a crawl while the GM fishes through records for lazy players. Don’t be the cause of a slow game. Get in the habit of taking care of your own character. Character records represent the sum total of what a character is and what it’s capable of. Without it, there is no mechanical or fictional connection to the story environment. Part of player style depends on the amount of optional paperwork used to define a character, but never overlook required paperwork. Character sheets should be completed (with a copy for the game master) within the first couple of game sessions, a character bio should be fleshed out, and any equipment and/or resources should be part of the package. The success of a game session depends on the efficiency of cooperation, and the more time you spend on the care and feeding of your character means less time being bogged down with red tape.
Bring substance to character presentation by developing as many character details as possible. Page through a system and find all the player forms. Review them and find out why the designers thought the included information was relevant to character construction and use it as a basis when absorbing the game system rules and support material. After you feel comfortable with the rules and the presentation of the game environment (that players have access to; whenever players see “GM material: don’t read this, it’s for the excitement of the game. If you aren’t capable of separating player/character knowledge, then don’t ruin the game by peeking at the secrets!), build the character and develop all of the included player forms. Once you fill out the forms, think about how you want to catalogue your character.
Although not as large, players should put together and maintain a notebook of some sort as a basic gaming responsibility. Any time a player stops a game to dig for information, or worse, does not have the material anymore, the game is interrupted, and the player is out some quality air-time. Some basic character survival tools include a character catalogue, player forms, a pad for calculations and/or notes, and for the veteran player, a character journal to compliment interpretation and presentation.
First, decide how you want to organize your character information. Most players have more than one character, so select a system of storage appropriate to the volume of material for each character. Pocket folders and file folders are good for single characters and are easy to file for long term storage. For more detailed characters, three ring binders and spiral notebooks with pockets both hold a lot of character information with space for notes. Bringing along a clipboard won’t hurt either. Overall, try to select a system adequate to your needs and one that is really durable.
Second, read though the player Campaign Organization Forms and get together with the GM regarding which items will help and which will not. Fill out bios and backgrounds to give your paper creations the basic fictional depth needed to engage the game. Use each form to bring substance to any aspect of the character that will become part of the challenge. Use tools and resources, but back them up with enough support data to make them presentable. Give yourself enough material to work with - - think of each completed piece of information as a dot on the character’s image. The more dots everyone has to connect, the better everyone can visualize your character concept. Aside form everybody else’s point of view, each dot is a mental cue for your use when the GM puts the spotlight on you.
Lastly, expand your interpretive and presentation skills. Keep a player journal of adventures and lengthy character details. Write short stories about your characters and give them more fictional life. Entrench their substance in your mind by knowing the character inside and out. Challenge the GM with that information by experimenting with different interpretive and presentation techniques - - force the issue and infuse game sessions with the potency of a well built character. Deliver various accents and attitudes as part of interesting new presentations. Learn the game mechanics and engage the strategies. Explore your role not only as a character puppeteer, but as a player.
Start exploring the player experience by mulling over the various player forms in the pages that follow. Each one was included because it represents an important campaign interface. Develop player strategies based on the intent of each form. Take the game challenge into the gamemaster’s court and make him or her work. Do not be a passive player. Be an active part of the troupe; initiate fictional relationships with each character. Make a stance and define your character’s role within the party and the game setting. Then back it up with the corresponding paperwork. Gather no moss and enjoy the experience. If all this pleasant pontification doesn't answer your questions, use the following tips to get you through your first game session:
Combat Readiness: Let your character's personality and mechanics show through during combat. Take time to consider your characters entrances and exits. Role play your involvement with detail and expression. Use your characters mechanics to identify opponents and game hazards, innocent bystanders in need and know when to retreat. Take the time to learn the basics of tactics and create personalized tactics for your character. Develop a way to deploy your resources and counter-attacks. When combat comes your character's way, be combat ready!
Home Turf: Take the time to establish a "home turf" for your character. Establish the basics of your characters needs by visiting the general store to find a familiar face who can provide your character with food and gadgets from time to time. Explore the general area your character exists in to make friends and allies. Find out what kind of people live in your character's neighborhood.
Look B4U Leap: Look before you leap! There are many passive elements in a game setting that can drastically affect your character. If you spit into the wind, expect to have to wipe off your face or duck. Gamemasters become adept at handling reactive story environments. One of the most difficult idea new players have to internalize is perceiving their character as part of a functioning, imaginary environment that sometimes bites back. Character actions in a game world have consequences. Use the specific character mechanics to look before you leap so your character doesn't end up at the bottom of a spiked pit.
Methods Acting: Take the time to role play your character. Learn new ways to present your character and tell its story. Become part of the game with skill and earnest involvement. Develop methods of role acting; you are part of an event. Every person that adds to that event contributes to the overall quality of the whole experience. Take the time to learn the rules, the roles, and how to play.
Role Assessment: Take the time to develop character motivations and disadvantages. If a game system uses archetypes, then study the rules and play your role accordingly.
Tactical Retreat: Expect the unexpected and don't expect "script protection" to pull your main character out of tough plot situations. Don't assume that the status of "protagonist" will help in competitive situations. Role play your character with some realistic reasoning so you don't have to do the math of a new character so soon after starting a game.
Maintain perspective. When the GM puts a character in conflict, she’s trying to deliver the best game possible. If the GM feels your character can handle the situation, roll with the scene and do your best. If not, just say so. Understand where the focus of the game lies and where your character’s drive stems from. Identify if the game more role playing oriented or more strategically inclined, and prepare your character accordingly. Applying any character’s functional ability to come out on top is as easy as asking, “Am I up to the challenge?”