Assorted Geekery

5 (Forgotten) Golden Rules of Tabletop Roleplay

I have been playing and running games for over fifteen years, and in that time I have introduced many people to the world of roleplaying, but also, rewardingly to me, I have also helped others enhance their enjoyment of the game by mentoring them as players, storytellers and even helping those write their own games.

The intent of this document is to provide a few ideas to help other aspiring players, storytellers and newbies improve their fun and experience around the gaming table. (Hopefully more such documents will follow).

To get this started, let’s start with some golden rules that everyone at a gaming table should know, but are often forgotten about or just plain ignored (by myself included).

1: Know when to Quit.

This seems a weird first rule, but it’s actually number one for a reason. It is the most important rule. If you are not having fun at a game, quit. I don’t mean the second you lose a fight, flip the table, swear at the storyteller and sucker punch his cat on the way out of the door, but the fact is Roleplaying is a hobby; it is supposed to be fun. If you are turning up session after session and wishing you were reading a book instead, then do the decent thing, quit.

Now, remembering all of that, always give a game a few sessions to get going. First sessions are tough, even with an experienced storyteller and so they might be moving slow to start with. If there is a specific issue that is prohibiting the enjoyment of your game, tell your storyteller. Give him a chance to work it out, before you leave. Oh, and a final note, if you are going to leave, tell your storyteller at the end of a session, or even a session before hand if you can. Do Not tell just as the session starts, and only an asshole makes others wait for him to turn up to a session, expecting him to be there as a player, to either call at the end, or not call at all to say ‘I’m quitting’.

2: Know when to Shut Up.

Experienced players, me included often fall foul of forgetting this rule. Some players can be naturally loud, and yell over other players, others have plans for everyone, can see the story so clearly that they end up telling all the other players what powers to use, who to hit, who they should talk to next and so on.

Getting caught up in a game is great, it shows you’re having fun and you’re interested. Taking over other players turns by either deliberately shouting them down, or marking out their every cool idea and path just takes away from their enjoyment of the game. Sit down, shut the hell up, concentrate on your character, and let the quiet guy have his shot at the limelight sometime. He’ll have more fun, and believe me, he’ll be asking for help from you, and the other players from time to time, so hey, you can get your kicks that way instead.

Storytellers, if you find you have players that shout over others, or are always putting plans to the rest of the group, be fair, and tell them to shut up, they’ll have their chance.

3: Know when to Get Real.

We have a simple saying in my group; ‘Real Life before Roleplay’. Okay, it might suck that your mate’s got a family birthday he has to attend to so he can’t game, or that your mate has a date on the night your taking on the lich king, but it’s a game. A session or two missed, postponed or even skipped will not end the world. On the other hand if you as a player can only show up one session in twenty, let your storyteller know before they agree to allow you in the campaign, and if they say no, well do games when you’re not so busy or look for one off game nights.

4: Know when to Pay Attention.

I game with a laptop. It’s great; it has my books, notes, scratchpad and everything else all in one. I do not allow others laptops at the gaming table. Mobiles away (they can be on, just in your pocket), no books not related to the game,,, and so on. One of the groups I play in is the opposite of this. Everyone’s playing games on mobiles, tapping on netbooks or even reading novels. When a player finishes his go, the storyteller turns to the next player who invariably goes ‘oh, what’s going on?’

Keep your distractions to a minimum, and keep focused on the game, It’s what your there for, shows far more respect and actually makes the game a lot more fun.

Storytellers can do a lot here to help. Make sure the players can all see and hear you. A crowded gaming hall can be awful on the acoustics, so be prepared to raise your voice a little. Secondly, keep scenes with players short. One storyteller I know sometimes does two hour long sessions with each player in turn, with the result that the other players take a nap. Keep everyone doing something and involved. If their characters are not around, have them take over NPC’s or someone else. If someone is not participating they are getting bored, and bored people will leave your game quickly.

5: Know why it’s considered ‘Social’ Gaming.

Some players I know will turn up for a game, sit down, eat and drink the food provided, play the game and then go home, no thought of contributing beyond that. While it may be true that the game is the focus, the social aspect of it demands a little more contribution. Don’t be messy, offer to tidy up or bring the some of the food and drink once in a while. Also don’t be ashamed of your gamer buddies outside of the gaming environment, it only makes you look small and petty to all your friends, gamers and non-gamers alike.

(Copyright Claimed 2012: Anthony Ockendon: Posted 29.01.12)