How to be a Good Player
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by Michael Bielski

What makes a good player? Knowledge of the rules? Good strategy? When it comes to Role Playing Games (RPGs) these are only two of a bevy of skills that you must have in order to be a good player. In this article, we'll take a look at most of the skills and why they are important. I won't, however, try to tell you just HOW you should go about getting these skills. Everyone is different and acquires skills differently, but the roots of those skills are what we are interested in.

Skill: Imagination
While this seems like an obvious skill, it is actually the one that is most taken for granted. You need to have an active imagination because it contributes not only to the progress of the game, but to the overall gaming experience. Imagination helps you to envision the surroundings your character is in, allowing you to enhance your gaming experience and that of the other players too. Imagination makes the game more than just a bunch of people sitting around talking, rolling dice, and writing down things. If you don't have an imagination, you should not be an RPGer.

Skill: Role Playing
This also seems like an obvious skill, but so many people just don't get it. Role playing is not "acting" but more of a state of mind. You have to thoroughly immerse yourself in the character. Speak as they would speak, act as they would act (to a point, mind you... see the section on LARPing) and in general BE that character. Use your notes (or character sheet) as a guide and work from that. If it helps, write down the history of your character and keep adding to it as you play. Role playing makes a game richer and fuller, and the richer your character is, the richer the game will be.

Skill: Knowing the Rules, But Not Telling Everyone How to Play the Game
Unless you are very new to the game, you should have a pretty good idea of how the game works. If it helps you to buy the basic players guide to the game, then do it and make sure that you bring your copy to the game session. Asking to borrow a book belonging to another player or the host/GM is also fine, but if you are doing it every session, you really should buy one for yourself. If you are an experienced gamer, you very likely know most of the rules of the game without having to look anything up. Great, glad to see that you know them, but don't be a "Rules Lawyer" about it. The label "Rules Lawyer" is usually applied to a person that thinks they know all of the rules, has a copy of every book that is applicable to the game to back them up, brings those books to every session, and frequently quotes from the book without being asked. While such a person can come in handy once in a great while, in general nobody likes a "Rules Lawyer" and you should not go down this path. Questions about how the rules are to be interpreted should be answered by the GM, not by you! The only possible exception to this is if the GM defers to you about it, which really should never happen. If it does, your GM has lost control of the game, which is a bad sign.

Skill: Individualty
The ability to be and to act as an individual is often crucial to a game. It's always good (in fact, required) to be able to go with the group, but often you have to strike out on your own. This is when you need to be able to think and act for yourself. If the group is depending on you, you don't want to let them down.

Skill: Cooperation
RPGs are almost always done with a group of people, whether they are online or all at one location. Your ability to be an active and contributing part of the group is crucial to the game session. Being an individual but part of a group is sometimes difficult, but it is the blend that you must have in order to maximize the game experience for you and the others that are playing.

Skill: Be a Good Winner or Loser
This seems simple enough, but you might be surprised at how often something happens and this skill goes by the wayside. When you win, whether you beat the monster or open the lock or whatever, don't gloat or brag about it (too much.) This is especially true in group activities. Nobody likes a braggart, and they face the very real possibility of being targeted by the other players or even asked not to return. The same goes for losing. If your character dies or loses a key piece of equipment, don't yell, scream, throw a fit, cumple the sheet and throw it across the room, or storm off in a huff. Accept the loss. Remember that it is only a game. Sore losers are more apt to be the target of the same repurcussions as a braggart, and usually quicker.

Skill: Be a Gracious Guest
This is mainly for groups that meet at someone's home, but it applies in other locations as well. When you are not at home, have some courtesy and respect for your host and the others around you. Thirsty? Ask your host for something, and do it politely. Host giving you free access? Don't make a pig of yourself. Going for a drink? Ask if you can get something for the others. Is food being talked about, perhaps a delivery? Don't order anything that you can't pay for, and don't ask to borrow money. Someone offering to cover you? Be sure to thank them and tell them a firm date when you will pay them back, then DO IT! Food all done? Clean up after yourself, and offer to take others' plates with you. Not having a good time? Try getting into the game more, or ask to talk to the GM privately and explain things to them. Need a smoke? Go outside and do it, and remember to walk around for a moment to avoid walking back in surrounded by a cloud of somke. Have a call coming in on your cell that you HAVE to take? Politely excuse yourself and go outside with it. Really excited about something? That's great, but remember to keep your volume under control... yelling hurts the ears, especially inside. Jokes or conversation going in a way that you don't like? Get the GMs attention and work with that person to get the gang back into the game. Also, if you are new to a group or have a new member in your group that only knows a couple of people, don't tell any jokes or stories that even have the slightest chance of offending, and keep that language out of your game as well. You know what kind of things I mean, so don't even try to play dumb.

These are the basic skills you need to be a good player. If you can do these things, you'll have a good time and so will everyone around you. If you can't manage one or two of them, you should still be OK, but you really should try to cover them all.

Live Action Role Playing (LARPing) is a special case. LARPing pretty much requires every skill listed here in order for you to be successful. That being said, LARPing is not something for everyone. When you get into demonstrating the movements that your character would be making, especially as they would be happening, you are crossing over from simply playing an RPG into LARPing. LARPers tend to stick together, and non-LARPers tend to not like LARPers, and vice-versa. If you are a someone that plays in serveral groups, and even one of them is a LARP group, you MUST remember to keep your groups and actions separate. There is no greater way to cause confusion or dissention than to mix up groups or compare one group to another. You'll likely be told to keep your mind focused on the current game, and could even be asked to leave if you keep doing it.

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