Thursday, July 19, 2012

Be Proactive

Today I want to talk to the players more than the GMs. I understand that most people who read these types of blogs primarily GM, but a lot of us also play. I've also noticed in the comments for some of my posts to players that some of us - the primarily GM types - often have a bit less fun at the table than our player-only cohorts do and occasionally don't know why. The trick is in the topic of this post. We all know it, but doing it can be hard. So, let's talk about that today.

Act Don't React
The trick to having fun as a player in a lot of games is to be the one acting. As GMs we can be used to reacting, and we are definitely used to setting the scene and then asking the players what is up. We aren't really that practiced at answering those questions. Sure, maybe we know the answer, but knowing and expressing are two different things. The bottom line though is that for anyone, a regular player or usual GM, you'll have more fun at the table the more you act. You can still have fun while reacting, sure, but it just isn't quite as good. Why?

The GM Is Busy
GMing is work. Everyone knows this. Either from personal experience or just the inborn fear of not wanting to GM that some players have. The GM has to keep track of the world, the NPCs, and all the players at the table. Because of this, they don't have time to dedicate to your character that they very well may like. They have to give time to everyone, and they have to come up with stuff for everyone. You make this easier for the GM by acting rather than reacting. After all, they have a lot less to think about when you say "I'm going to go rob that bank!" than when you wait for them to posit a situation. If nothing else, when you act they can ask questions. "How are you going to rob that bank?" "What will you do about security?" and so on. With reacting, you - the player - are the one who asks the questions and that puts more work on the GM.

Greater Control
For you, the player, the best part about being proactive is that you have greater control of what is going on. After all, if you are the one setting things in motion then you get to choose what you set in motion. Because of this, you can exert your influence over the game, and help shape it into the game that you want it to be, by being more proactive. If you don't, the GM will try to come up with something - nothing wrong with this - but it may not match up with what you want to do as exactly as the things you would do. So, whenever you find yourself wondering why you have to deal with "yet another assassination plot" ask yourself what you could have done earlier to have the game go in a different direction. Don't miss your next opportunity either.

Remember: Moderation
Being pro-active is fun, and this tip is where a lot of primarily GM type players over-think things, but remember the other players in the game as well. Everyone at the table is there to have fun, and so while you should be going to do the things that you want to do, don't over-ride what other people want to do either. Give everyone a chance to have fun.

If you primarily GM (or tend to be a wall flower in game), remember that this goes for you as well. You are meant to be having fun, and you are allowed a moment to shine if you want it. Don't be afraid to step up and do things, take the center stage for a bit, and have fun as a player.

If you are primarily the center stage act for the show, try to remember to take a step back and let someone else have the spotlight. Or, better yet, pull someone into the spot light with you. Take your stuff, grab someone, and run with them with it. It gets more people involved, and really helps the game take on a life of its own.


  1. I'll throw an extra nugget of advice out there for the kind of players who have been doing this for a while and lack nothing in the way of confidence. Absolutely feel free to lead the party. Without a steady hand at the tiller the game can become a bit of a grind, and falls back into the purely re-active play described above. But remember the moderation, and especially remember delegation.

    leaders don't do everything, in fact they do very little; they have 'people' for that. If a less experienced/confident player is at the table, find out what the character can do, and send them off to do it. Knowing that someone has faith in them can up their confidence, and give them a chance to shine. This will be rewarded by a warm happy feeling (sometimes known as bonus XP) and will make them want to do it again, hopefully this time without the friendly nudge.

    1. Dang! That's fine advice for improving the actions of others. People often talk about hogging the spotlight, but never leap in there to steal the show, either.