12 Quick Tips for a Better Game (or at least better table etiquette)

I realized today that I had spent the last couple of months roleplaying with a rule book open in front of me. Why was that an unpleasant realisation? Well it because as a GM it bugs me when players sit there with a book open in front of them. Why suddenly had a started doing it myself? Not sure but I certainly plan to stop. It reminded me that it is always worth reminding yourself of the basic stuff, the simple rules that keeps gaming enjoyable. So here is a quick revision list for players and GMs. Nothing earth shattering in here but worth remembering.

  1. Keep rulebooks off the table (players). Try and keep focused on what is happening.
  2. Keep the dull stuff outside of game sessions. This includes anything that doesn’t involve roleplaying or multiple characters such as shopping, levelling up etc. Its not always possible but it is always worth trying.
  3. Refer to characters by character names rather than player names (GM and Players). This will aid immersion and helps to keep focus. It also stops that annoying event where you play in a game for ages but don’t know any of the characters names other than your own.
  4. GM don’t ask the group ‘what will you do’ rather ask individual players (GM). This helps prevent a single persuasive player controlling the group and also encourages everyone to get involved.
  5. Trim the top and bottoms of scenes as much as you can (GM). i.e. start as far into the scene as possible and cut out as quickly as possible. This keeps the pace up and stops you wasting time on the mundane.
  6. No planning or discussion within scenes unless it is actually feasible for this to take place (players). Discussions of tactics should not happen in a fight, nor should the group stop to discuss what they want from an NPC in the middle of the scene when they are talking to them. Saying “could we cast a charm spell on him?” when the party is talking to the king rather suggests you are saying this in front of him. Acting players should state their action without discussion.
  7. Don’t hide the plot (GM). Sessions should be fun and experiencing the plot develop is one part of that. However, for a plot to develop the players have to find it. This should not be difficult but, for some reason, many GMs insist on making it so (particularly if the game is an investigative one). If you get to the end of a session and you are like “if you had cast true seeing in room 23 whilst looking at the painting and singing the national anthem of Taldor then you would have found the plot” then you are doing it wrong! Note that a plot that is simple to find doesn’t need to be a simple plot. More information and clue can change the players understanding of the plot and what started out simple can become surprising.
  8. Don’t dodge the plot (Players). This is particularly true if you are playing with an inexperienced GM or a GM that has trouble improvising. It may seem fun to avoid the obvious plot but if you do you there is a good chance you will end up with no plot at all. And that is no fun for anybody.
  9. Roll with GM decisions (Players). In game is not the time to debate the GM’s decisions or rules interpretations. Bite your tongue and, if necessary, do it between sessions. This is especially true if the GM in inexperienced or running a new system. They will make mistakes; there is no need to beat them over the head with it.
  10. Remember that the story belongs to the players (GM). OK, so you made up lots of cool stuff but once it comes into contact with the players it is no longer your story. Relax and roll with what they do. If it doesn’t come out the way you hope then you can always try running the same story again at another time. In most cases your ideas plus the players actions end up with a better story than you had planned anyway.
  11. Write out of list of names and places in advance of the game so when make stuff up it can remain constant (GM). You will need to make stuff up as that is what being a GM is. If you have a list of names available this means you don’t have to make one up on the spot and it become easier to track which NPC’s you have created in case you need to use them again.
  12. Remember everyone, including the GM, has gathered around the table to have fun (All). Should this be tip No.1?

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