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How to Have More Fun at the Game Table

This is shamelessly pirated, intact, from the Treasure Tables forums.  If you're not reading Treasure Tables (and the forums), you probably should be.  There's less noise and a whole lot more signal than most venues.

Treasure Tables Forums

Game Mastering Discussion => Open RPG Discussion => Topic started by: Discordian on December 07, 2006, 08:16:34 AM

Title: Discordians collection of questionable tips about having fun playing rpgs.
Post by: Discordian on December 07, 2006, 08:16:34 AM
In my earlier post I asked what is fun in D&D. In this post I try to gather here some tips people gave me (here or elsewhere). With short section on specifically D&D. Premise is: There will be uberpowergamers. There will be GMs who just can't and there will be bad campaigns. And from time to time we get stuck with them.  Instead of waiting for fun, try to do something about it besides complaining.

Most of these are obvious. They are mostly are what people suggested to me here and elsewhere (esp. my group). And quite handful are things that just didn't occur to me in midst of the frustrating game. These tips pay no heed to social issues. I'm sure people are smart enough to talk to each other and know when to give up if things really go sour.

This is written in ranty tone, but that tone is directed to me. Not the reader. Within I also make my favourite assumption: trouble => game => fun.

Tips on having fun

Get into Trouble. For some mysterious reason players often try to avoid trouble at all costs. Now what is more boring than playing a character that is powerful and devoid of all troubles? Piss of npcs, make relationships for the gm to endanger and if you're offered some twist where acting naturally will make things all so much worse, don't even consider not doing it. If GM offers plot hooks to you, shouldn't you offer some back?

Avoid killing the trouble dead. When I GM I've run into difficulties when player states something to the effect of ".. And by doing this, we off the main adversary and by X, Y and Z we make it absolutely impossible for our characters to get compromised in any way".  If you don't want a GM to challange you on particular front, just say so, but be prepared to offer something in return if the campaign is to go on.

Don't slay characters on whim. This doesn't necessarily mean avoiding all casualties in GM:s camp, but when (esp. player) character goes over the line consider occasionally not shooting him dead. Instead lock him into an open airlock of ascending spaceship while you give your talk. And be sure to let him out before the air runs out. Of course he will cause trouble later, but that's what we want!

Play for others. Other people have characters that are great source of fun: atleast as much as your own. Help the other players so that their character rocks! Think what people are stating with their characters - what is the thing they want to happen? And then make it happen: If Sir Knight is a romantic shiny armour type, and there is maiden to be rescued, make sure the Knight gets to do it.  This does not equate playing nice - if you can provide antagonism the other character is built to have,  say, betraying them at critical moment: I say go for it. More trouble for all!

Think like a GM. When you go against another players character imagine for a moment that you are the GM and your character is an NPC. Would you still do it to the other player character? If not, it is not okay to do so as a player. This applies even if the other guy was the aggressor.

Play for the GM. Think what the GM wants you to do and then do it. It certainly won't make the game better if you try to avoid playing how the GM wants. If there is a big scary monster with drool dripping from its fangs.. Run! If there is an insulting NPC, get insulted. If there is an old wizard in the tavern offering a job, remind the GM of the cliche and take the job. Reel in the plot aggressively. This makes GMs life so much easier. If you are on tracks make Choo Choo! noise while your at it.

Have a Goal. Sometimes there is a game where character wander aimlessly and without motivation. Pick something you're character would like to do and then start doing it. This has usually two failing points: A) The Silly GM lets you do it without getting into trouble. Wrong answer that. Try something more outrageous next time.  B) The Brickwall GM says no. If you're not being an ass with that goal then that means that he is probably determined to have a bad game. (Or you just haven't found out what the game is supposed to be..)

Take Action. If you can't figure out who murdered X in GM:s latest murder theater, perhaps your character can find someone who can or bait a trap or chat with that comely wench. Just do something. Anything. If no one does, it is sure sign that game is stalling.

Make it a Conflict. If you fail to get game moving try this: pick a small step that obviously leads to towards your goal. Then bluntly state  "I want to make this happen. What do I need to roll?" (also try to slip in some trouble for your character if he fails). Make an agreement and roll for it.

Don't plan. Planning is dull after first fifteen minutes. If it is stupid and dangerous you'll probably have fun doing it.

Forcefully insert your character to the plot. Instead of playing the hero in the usual "undead hordes are coming and 4 heroes.." plot,  play the hero who accidentally helped the evil overlord to power, his sister.. Or the Evil Overlord himself. The point is not to have a backstory. Point is having something happen to your character any minute now. Refuse to be a nobody even if the nobody could, just in short span of 16 levels and 20 sessions, grow to be a great hero.

The End Exists! When you pick a goal to achieve in the game world, make sure it can be had with less than 6 sessions. And once you have it: retire the character. You get to try out more characters and tailor each of them precisely for what you're playing. And it makes me stop worrying about level progression or get too annoyed when the characters story gets accidentally cut short.

Don't be a comedian. Any game I've played has had points that nearly drop people with laughter. Even the serious ones. So stop trying to make a comedy out of every second of it. That will feel artificial. Save it for the true and obvious gems.

On having fun with D&D

D&D is crunchy and gamey game where people beat up large numbers of monsters. This is the assumption for the following:

  • Don't make it a homework. If you don't feel like reading through every book to make a powerful character and plan your level progression to level 20, then don't. Duh.  Making characters that are in the game for limited period of time works for me (see above). Or getting the dude who does love the optimization make stats for your concept.
  • Make a Character instead Stats. This is advice from many. With D&D I'd add: don't characterize your character as powerful. He won't be in comparison if there is anyone in the group who really plays the rules and you don't.
  • If you're not strong be Important. I don't really think any amount of background and persona is going to make an enjoyable game if the character cannot answer to challenges arising in play.  Except for one very important point: If you tie the character to the plot (with help from the GM) in such way that game happens to him wether he is up to it or not. For example, let the character be the son of the prominent plot figure. Don't stop there. Make him Important son of prominent plot figure, someone who will be kidnapped, guarded, assassinated and used in the plays of power.
  • Rules are there for reason - it pays a little to learn them and use them to your advantage. And Some of them are Fun to play with.
  • Make sure everybody knows to warn before having a player versus player battle. D&D rules are intended to killing monsters and other obstacles. They are pretty darn lethal when used against other characters. (See Think like a GM).
  • It is not that uncommon to lose a character in D&D by accident. And sometimes you've played same one for months and start getting really careful. Well don't. The character is lost anyhow. I did and it made the whole campaign suck. The poor dwarf locked himself inside his mountain with his piles of gold and artefacts and never more adventured. Have henchmen. They're fresh and innocent and can die horribly so your character doesn't have to.
  • Don't yawn. Seriously. When there is a combat around and it is your turn, the good response is not to yawn and have five seconds of silence, few hmms and then ten second search for your character sheet, fifteen seconds for calculating to hit and then ten for finding proper dice. Combats are lot better when they happen fast. I have even rolled the hits and damage ready for my turn so I can just describe what my character does. Fun.
  • Offer to handle initiative in combats. Why you, not the GM? Because you're controlling one character. GM does a dozen so he'll have less time. And besides, in the worst case it gives you something to do instead of getting bored.
  • Persuade the GM to give out monster AC and HP because this makes the battle more fluid. No one needs to ask "Does 18 hit?". Not like they can be kept secret anyhow..

Read it for yourself here.

And while I'm sharing links, I use Google Reader as a blog aggregator, and you can see what I'm reading here.


Jan. 30th, 2007 02:18 pm (UTC)
Great advice! A couple of points aren't to my taste (eg I like to take more than six sessions to develop a character), but overall this is just the type of game that I like to play.

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