The Makings of a good player
When a great DM sits down to run a gaming session, you have only half of the picture. I might even argue that you have less than half, but that is a point for debate rather than proof. What is the other half? The great players, of course!
A player has much less preparatory work to do than a DM, and they usually have more fun than the DM. But this doesn’t mean that running a character in a gaming session is a chance to slack off. Someone who cruises through the game session with their brains firmly in neutral does very little to make D&D fun. So, what does a good player “look” like? It is probably easier to start with what they *don’t* look like, so that’s the road I’ll follow.
First off, they don’t look like a rules lawyer, a military strategist/commander, or (shudder) a munchkin. Someone who comes to the game session intent on “winning” is probably a bigger threat to gaming goodness than the guy with his brain stuck in neutral. I have to say this because inevitably someone will get the wrong idea, so here goes: I *don’t* mean that a player should be ignorant of the contents of the rule books, or totally inept at planning an assault on a goblin lair, or be unwilling to take a leadership role in the party, or not care a fig for the success of their character. There must be some sort of a balance of characteristics. I would say, however, that the balance definitely favours something other than rules, tactics knowledge, or wringing every last benefit out of every possible rules combination.
Secondly, a gamer that comes to the session mainly to chat about the latest episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the quantum singularity in their bosses cranium, or their boyfriend/girlfriend/beer buddie’s latest exploits, might want to find a different venue. That doesn’t mean that gaming sessions aren’t social: quite the contrary, actually. It does mean, however, that a player who sucks all the energy in the room into off-topic discussions is doing a disservice to the game, and is ruining the fun. The same goes for DMs, by the way.
Thirdly, gamers who purposefully look for “the man behind the curtain” damage the fun for everyone. Sure, a DM’s interpretation of the rules can sometimes cause some goofiness. And, although as a DM I swore an oath not to admit it, DM’s sometimes make some pretty serious blunders recounting their world’s history or recalling physics, geophysics, or mathematics. Its okay for a good player to point these things out, but there is no need to go looking for them. And, if you do, you can count on the “suspension of disbelief” for everyone in the room to fail.
Given the “anti” descriptions above, I can start to paint a picture of a good player. The personal glory of their character is secondary to the world experience, both for themselves and for the other players. They are focussed on the experience of the game, not on what is happening outside the game. They are not intent on finding flaws, but rather on enhancing strengths.
A good player will:
|politely challenge a DM when he or she seems wrong, but remember that the DM always has the last word even if it is the wrong one
|talk to and interact with NPCs, and react to them appropriately based on their roles within the world in comparison to their character’s
|develop a real personality for their character, with at least one or two minor differences from their own personality
|find a way to make their anti-social, messed up, or downright evil character work with the party, or ditch that character for one that isn’t so divisive
|write a character history that leaves the DM plenty of “hooks” for new adventures in the future
|socialize with the other players, but recognize when it has gone too far and help get the game back on track when it wanders off
|care about, visualize, bring to life their character, the other PCs, and the world in which they “live”
|draw their own maps, write their own journals, and honestly keep track of their own characteristics and equipment
|understand that their character may die, and be ready to experience a new character
|enjoy the interesting goodies their character may find, but not expect “treats” in every game adventure
|help other players grow and become good players too
I am not going to bother with a “rating” system for players, but I will probably update the text here from time to time as new ideas occur.