In Misty’s last post, she talked about making all-star player characters. I’m going to talk about being an all-star player. I know, a lot of bloggers have posted their opinions on this topic many times over, but I’m not talking about simply being a better player in the game; I’m talking about bringing your A-Game – I’m talking about being that one player that everyone wants to game with.
“There are players, there are great players, and then there are all-star players who bring their freakin’ A-Game.“
There are players, there are great players, and then there are all-star players who bring their freakin’ A-Game. I’m talking about those peeps who just make the game as awesome and fun as it can be.
I’ve been to a lot of conventions, and every once in a while I’ll walk into a room and see one of a few certain familiar players and just whisper to myself, “Yesss. This is gonna be fun.” Or perhaps at your table you have a player that you’ll follow, regardless of what game they play or group they go to. That guy or that gal… that’s who I’m talking about today.
In my opinion, there are 6 areas that a great gamer needs to master before they can be an all-star player:
Let me get the basics out of the way…
- Be punctual.
- Be organized.
- Know the rules.
- Know the setting.
- Know your stats and powers.
- Be ready on your turn.
- Know what’s happening on others’ turns.
- Don’t split the party (unless that’s how your group plays).
- Don’t be a rules lawyer (unless that’s how your group plays).
- And let me throw in, “no upper-decking the host’s toilet” while I’m at it.
Be the player who knows and practices the basics. Now, with those out of the way…
Dictate those actions
Take some time (but not too much time) to dictate your character’s actions (and his opponent’s!). This is so much better than “I hit, 15 damage. I parry. I miss. I hit…” Make it visual, and you’ll make it more fun for everyone. Just remember not to spend too much time on this, as others are waiting for their turn. Just a quick descriptor, and you’re golden.
- “The orc missed? That’s because I first spit in his face and called him a dandelion.”
- “The brigand missed? That’s because as he lunged at me, I sidestepped him – laughing in his face.”
- “It’s kind of hot. While we’re waiting in the courtyard, I sit in the shade and dump my waterskin all over my head.”
- “Bah! That was enough damage to take me down. As I hit the ground and watch my killer step over me to get to my friends, I try to trip him, but all of my blood on my hands makes it too hard to grab hold, so I then just pass out after yelling NOOO…!”
- “10 damage was enough to kill him? He’s dead? Ok, the ogre thought he was going to be flanked, so he quickly looked to his left. That’s when I dug my dagger into his neck, twisting it and pushing it out sideways.
- “In preparation for the duel that I’ll be taking part in tomorrow, I will make sure that all of my buckles and buttons are polished to a mirror-like sheen. Win or lose, I’ll need to look good.”
- “I failed my Notice check? That’s because I wasn’t really looking around for clues; I was looking to see if anyone had noticed that I had passed gas.”
Be the player who dictates those actions and you’ll automatically get others to do the same. Just remember to make it short and sweet, and you’ll hit that sweet spot every time.
Take the bait
Not sure what your characters should (or could) be doing right now? Listen to the GM and what they’re putting out there. Everything they say is a clue… it could be intentional or accidental, but regardless, every detail is bait for you to nibble at.
If the gamemaster says that…
- a chariot race is taking place tomorrow, ENTER IT!
- an argument erupts at the next table in the tavern, GET INVOLVED!
- some festival is happening in the town you’ve just arrived in, GO TO IT!
- a bar fight erupts, PICK A SIDE!
- a stranger walks into town with a blanket-wrapped body draped over his horse, INVESTIGATE!
- you see unusual tracks that lead off into the woods, FOLLOW THEM!
The bait could be a plot hook that the gamemaster has already thought up, or it could be a completely random spur-of-the-moment bit of fluff. Taking the bait might not lead to anything, but it also might lead to weeks or months of awesome adventuring. Be the player that takes the bait. Bonus points if you encourage other players to do the same.
Make something happen
The gamemaster should never have to say, “What are you doing?” You should already be doing it. If your character has some free time to do something, then MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN.
- “I interrupt the baroness’s speech by singing a song about lost loves. As I sing, I weave in and around the crowd, and I end up kneeling in front of the baroness just as my song ends, holding her hand in mine. Here’s my Performance check…”
- “While we’re in the pub, I’m asking around to see if anyone remembers a caravan with a one-armed merchant coming though.”
- “I don’t like dwarves, so I insult the dwarf… Hey! All you’re good for is tying other peoples’ boots! Also, your momma has the shortest beard I’ve ever seen!”
- “With the money that I got from our last run, I want go to buy the Stuffer Shack down the street. I want to find the owner and make him an offer that he can’t refuse, if you know what I’m saying. Hey, I like that place, and we can use it as our base of operations.”
- “Those ruffians at the table over there are just a little too loud for my tastes. I go over and tell them to shut the hell up.”
- “Now that we’re back in town, I spend the first day catching up with friends and relatives, and I’ll try my hardest to avoid the Sheriff.” Actually, that’s making something happen, and dangling bait for the gamemaster!
Be the player who makes things happen. Those players are vibrant and fun. Be one of them.
ADD to the game
When a group of people sit down at the table to play a roleplaying game, they are there to tell a story. It’s not the gamemaster’s story; it’s the group’s story. An all-star player doesn’t sit back and make the gamemaster do all the work… wait, that’s not right.. they won’t let the gamemaster do all the work. The all-star player does his or her part to help, and thus adds to the game.
- “Hey, I know this town… I went through here a couple of years ago. Yeah, the blacksmith here will give us a small discount on items if we agree to clean up his smithy…”
- “Actually, if we keep going down the river, we’re bound to find a watermill – they’re all over this region. Perhaps we could stay there for the night?”
- “No, wait! These goblins don’t like halflings because halflings are their better version, so they’ll get a +1 to hit me, or perhaps they’ll gang up on me…? That might get them off of poor Larry who’s down to only 2 hit points…”
- “Wait… did that Renraku guard just wink at Joe’s character? I think he just winked at Joe! Dude, maybe there IS a way for us to get into that party. Just wink back at him, what’s the worst that can happen?”
Of course, there is a fair bit of responsibility on the all-star player’s part (they can’t just willy-nilly make stuff up for the group’s benefit). When they add to the game, the all-star player makes sure it’s fair and fun. …And if denied by the gamemaster, they simply accept that and try again later.
Don’t forget, adding to the game requires finesse – it’s a give-and-take kind of thing between the player and the gamemaster, and it involves trust on both sides. When done correctly, it all simply makes for more and interesting plot hooks and avenues, which adds fun for everyone. Be the player who adds to the game.
Be the team captain
The team captain is the one player that binds the group together. Oftentimes, it is the gamemaster who fills this role, but it doesn’t have to be. Besides, they already have a lot of work to do.
Ultimately, being the team captain might be the number one thing that makes a great gamer into an all-star player. So, what makes a team captain?
A team captain…
- is always there to high-five a fellow player when that player does something awesome.
- is always there to high-five a fellow player when that player critically fails. Hey, failing is awesome in its own right.
- recognizes when a player is on full-tilt, and intervenes when necessary to ease tension at the table.
- does not play favorites.
- is a friend to all.
- can be trusted by other players.
- starts a Facebook or Google+ group for the gang.
- helps the gamemaster rally the other players, getting everyone in “game-mode.”
- knows the setting, and knows the rules. Everyone should already do this, but a team captain REALLY does this. They have a clear understanding of the game and will step in to help with character generation and backgrounds.
- knows when to sit back and offer the spotlight to other player characters. Not only when, but also how. If the team captain knows that a certain player character doesn’t like dwarves, they may step back and let that player deal with the dwarf NPC or enemy. Or, perhaps the BBEG has been tormenting one player character in particular – the team captain knows that that player might deserve the killing blow, should the time come.
All of these traits of a team captain have one thing in common: everyone else comes first. It’s about being there for the players (and gamemaster). If you can be that guy or gal, then you know that to maximize your fun, you must first make it as fun for others as possible. You are part of a team, and the team can only have as much fun as the person who is having the least.
Be the player who leads the team – be the team captain.
- Know the basics
- Dictate those actions
- Take the bait
- Make something happen
- Add to the game
- And be the team captain
Do this, and you will be an All-Star Player, guaranteed.
p.s.: I don’t claim to be an all-star player, but I sure strive to be…