This isn't for everyone. Some people see RPGs as just a fun thing they do on the weekend, or every other Wednesday, and that is perfectly fine. Some people enjoy the tactics, problem solving, or some other aspect of the game, and don't particularly care about story craft or being able to portray different types of people; and that is fine as well. However, for the rest of us, there comes a time when you want to try something new, and see if you can add a bit more versatility to your old skill box. This post, will have some ways to handle that.
Step 1: Gather Information
Whether you're looking to improve as a player or as a GM, you are going to follow the same steps, and the first one is to gather information. Before you can expand your horizons, you need to know where it is. You need to know where you are strong, where you are weak, and what areas you tend to avoid. This can be nerve wracking for some people, because you are essentially asking your friends to tell you where your play isn't all that strong. It can also be hard for your friends, as some people get upset when they receive honest critique, and sometimes you don't know just how far is too far. It can be a real blow to find that everyone thinks you're weak in an area where you thought you were strong.
Step 2: Take A Break
That's right, step 2 and we're already taking a break. The thing here is: you want time to let the initial intake of critique settle and for your jets to cool off. After a few days, maybe a week, you can go back over it and give it a read through. Things that stung before may read differently now because you already know they're there. This also frees you up to actually think logically and rationally about the items your friends have given you, and to think about ways that you want to address them.
Step 3: Pick A Focal Point
Trying to shore up all your weaknesses is the path to madness. As a player, you will end up making a character that feels awkward, clumsy, and is likely unfun for you to play. I mean, you are making a character out of all the traits that you don't portray well, which means that you've likely avoided them, and I'd be willing to bet you avoided them for a reason (hint: we tend to avoid things we don't like.)
Step 4: Set It Up
This is the obvious step, but you have to set up the character, game, or aspect for that focal point to happen. If you're weak at rogues, you need to make a rogue. If you don't do "gritty action" well, you need to set up a gritty action game. Along with the setup, you need to tell your group that you are trying something new. This is especially true as a GM, but as the player you can probably get away with just telling the GM if you're shy about it. The point to that though is so that people know you are deliberately trying to push in an area you are weak. This means that things will be rough, and it could mean that things will be a bit inconsistent at first. It also means that they can help you though, and point out where you are doing well and where you may need some more tuning.
Step 5: Have Fun With It
Do whatever you can to have fun with the character/game/world while pushing yourself. Like I said above, you probably avoided that trait for a reason, and the new focus on it could sap some of your fun. To counter that, you need to have fun in some other aspect of the game. Trick yourself into having whatever it is be a positive experience, and one that you want to explore. That way, while having fun, you're still working on pushing out that horizon. Before you know it, it may even be a new tool in your toolbox.
Did I miss anything? Is there any advice you folks have for people who are looking to expand their repertoire? Sound off in the comments.