I’ve written plenty of articles for game masters (GMs) on getting along with their players and accommodating player preferences; it’s only fair that I eventually get to the subject of getting along with your GM and fellow players.
There are so many different ways to roleplay that friction in gaming groups is almost inevitable. Roleplaying is a complex thing, with many different shades of like and dislike. There are bound to be ways in which your preferences don’t exactly match those of your GM or fellow players. While it’s true that sometimes there really can be irreconcilable differences, more often you can do something to make the situation better. Here are a few suggestions to start with.
A Matter of Attitude
I’ve told GMs in the past that much of roleplaying is a matter of attitude. They have to understand that everyone in the room is there to have fun, and that the fun of everyone has to be taken into account. The same goes for you. Remember that the game isn’t all about you and your preferences. Remember that your GM deserves to have some fun too, as do the other players.
This seems obvious when it’s stated, but I think a lot of people forget it in the heat of trying to “win the game” or play their character. You’re concentrating on playing your character, after all, not everyone else’s, so it can be easy to forget the other players’ points of view.
One way to take the rest of the gaming group into account is to “slant” your character’s actions. I don’t mean breaking character, or doing something stupid that will get your character killed. I mean that where possible, you remember to take the game and players into account.
This is easier to explain with an example. Your character is about to go off and talk with a non-player character (NPC). The easiest thing to do is to go do it alone, but that leaves everyone else bored for a while. Instead of asking yourself, “would my character go talk to this NPC alone?” ask yourself, “does my character have a specific reason to go talk to this NPC alone?”
It seems like a small difference in point of view, but it can make a large difference in the way the game plays out for the other players. You can still go talk to the NPC alone if you have a good reason for doing so — you aren’t being asked to break character or do something stupid — but you’re more likely to involve the other characters. This results in less boredom all around, less frustration, and happier players.
Remember to talk to your GM. Is something bothering you? Try to explain it to him and ask how you both can work together to fix it. Is there something he’s done that you don’t understand? Try asking instead of assuming the worst.
Are the other players doing something that bothers you? Why not calmly bring the subject up? Either ask the GM first (in case he can do something to help), or bring it up with the group as a whole. Not everyone deals well with this approach, but it can help in some cases.
Some problems will be irreconcilable. If you love fantasy and hate science fiction and horror, one of the other players loves SF and hates the others, and a third loves horror but hates the other two, you have a problem. In cases like this, if there’s an overriding reason why you still want to play together, then try compromising.
You could alternate games. One month you play a fantasy game. The next, a science fiction game. The next, a horror game. Or you alternate weeks: you have an ongoing horror game one week, then fantasy, then SF, then horror, then fantasy, etc. Sure, it means you won’t be thrilled by every game you play. But it does mean that everyone gets a piece of the fun.
Remember to compromise with your GM as well. If he’s desperately been wanting to run a game that none of you players have an interest in, then consider giving him a break. Agree to play his game one weekend a month if he’ll play yours the rest of the time, or some similar agreement. Give his game a chance.
When there are problems, work with the GM and the other players to solve them. If you work together you’re more likely to come up with solutions that you’ll all be at least a little happy with. If your GM forbids or disallows something you want to play, ask him why and work with him to create something he will allow. The more you know about why your GM does that he does, the easier a time you’ll have coming up with something he’ll agree to. Similarly, the more he knows about what you want and why, the more likely it is that he’ll be able to help you put together something you’ll enjoy that he’s willing to allow in his game.
Don’t look at your GM as the enemy. See him as just another member of the group, albeit one whose actions have a particularly large effect on how things go. The more you try to work with him instead of against him, the easier things are likely to be. The better your relationship with your GM, the more likely he is to provide something you’ll enjoy.
Explain Your Preferences
If there’s a particular part of game-play or your character background that you like, be sure to talk to the GM about this ahead of time. If there’s a background plot you’re particularly enchanted by, make sure the GM knows this. If there’s a particular style of gaming that you loathe, tell the GM. He might not be able to entirely accommodate you if you tell him, but he certainly can’t if you don’t!
As a corollary to this, don’t expect the GM to tailor every last thing just to you. He has to take the other players and his own preferences into account as well. Compromise is bound to happen somewhere; you’re better off having a hand in deciding where.
It’s probably a good idea for you, the rest of your group, and your GM to have a talk before the game starts about the type of game you’re going to play. The GM will have some idea of what sorts of plots the players enjoy (hack-and-slash, politics, puzzle-solving, etc.), and each of you will have some idea of what the other players prefer. That way you’ll be prepared for the idea of letting someone else enjoy his political plot in between bouts of puzzle-solving.
Remember that a new player is unlikely to know what he likes. Also remember that just because you like one style of play doesn’t mean you won’t like another; consider giving new things a try.
Stick with the basics of polite society. You don’t have to be uptight, particularly if you all know each other well. Certainly some groups of friends know each other well enough that they can throw etiquette out the window and not take offense, but try not to cross any bad lines.
Remember that you are a gaming group. Try to take the other members of your party into account with your actions.
Take party play into account when you create your character:
- Make sure your character has some reason to work with the others.
- Make sure your character isn’t a total loner.
- Try to leave room for the other characters in any plots you work into your character’s background. Even better, make some suggestions to the GM about where he might work them in.
- If you can, give your character motivation to draw the other characters into his life and plots.
You might find the following two articles handy: Coherent Party Creation and