Gary Gygax once wrote “…Role-playing games, by their nature, call upon the participants to develop a deeper involvement in the activity than another type of game might require.” Role-Playing Mastery, pg 21.
It is from these words that the traits of being a Great Role Player have emerged. I wrote this some time during my stint in college pursuing the great diploma of the liberal arts as a way to by-pass the time in one of my more boring sociology classes.
Of course, I have added on to it since then. I hope that the article helps players and GM’s achieve a certain greatness in their own role-playing.
There is one thing that is perhaps the most important thing to any game, whether it be a board game or the RPG of the moment. Players. They are, without a doubt, the single most important aspect of any game. Without players the dice do not get rolled, the pieces become dusty and there is no game.
The traits of being a great role player not only include the Players of the game, but to the Game Master as well. Becoming a great role player is not something that is ever achieved over night or even a few game sessions. It is an art, an art that is practiced every time that players and Game Masters gather around the gaming table to pursue their hobby.
To be a great role player there needs to be a single core value that is shared among the players, including the Game Master. Respect. There must be first and foremost a respect for yourself as a player. Then respect for other players in the group. And finally, respect for the Game Master. Respect is essential to the success of the group, but also essential to the success of your fun.
With this in mind I give you the traits that should make up a great role player.
1.) A great role player becomes actively involved in the game. They arrive with the idea that they are there to drive the campaign as well as the Game Master is. They work to find ways to get their characters deeply involved in the game. They seek out answers to their questions, they actively help others get involved into the game. They demand from themselves, as well as others, a suspense of disbelieve as often as possible.
2.) A great role player works to maintain the game realism. They eagerly bite at adventure hooks, work to maintain party cohesiveness, avoid actions that will cause the party to suffer unnecessarily, unless of course it is a part of the game realism.
3.) Great role-players do not view the scene from their Meta-point of view. Rather, the player looks at things as their character would view things. They setup and pursue goals that their character would likely chose. These include actions and goals that would be considered foolish in the eyes of the real-world, would likely get the whole party into some sort of bind or even get the characters killed.
4.) A great role player is always prepared. This often means that they work to be ready. They look up rules, spell effects, ability effects and so forth before their turn. They prepare what they want to do before they need to do it and will always have a ‘Plan B’ in the wings just in case ‘Plan A’ falls through.
5.) In the spirit of respect, a great role player is honest. They are honest even if the rules, rolls or situations go against the character. They keep track of their Health, Fatigue, Philosophy points accurately.
6.) A great role player shares the spot light and will even hold back with the ‘killing blow’ for others to have a turn to be the hero.
7.) A great role player takes defeat as well as he take success. The hardest thing for anyone to do is to swallow their pride and allow negative consequences to happen to their character with a sense of maturity. They also accept that the GM is the final arbitrator of a rule, even after they have talked with the GM about the rule.
8.) A great role player communicates. They keep their fellow players informed about how their character is doing, and do so in non-meta game talk. They do this so that something can be done about the situation that the character is in.
9.) A great role player understands the rules. They do not necessarily know the rules by heart but understand what the rule is meant to do. They accept the final rulings of the GM even if they disagree with him.
Ultimately, 10.) A great player creates characters that are not defined by their attributes, skills or abilities. They create a living breathing individual and multifaceted character so that when they are hit with irreversible effects that the core of the character still remains strong and viable and ultimately enjoyable to play.
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