How to be a Player

Oh God, no I mean like in role playing games. If you’re reading this you probably don’t have to worry about being a Player. Ooo burnnn, nerds. Anyways, being a RPG player is a sacred duty. Your job is to enjoy yourself and boost the self-esteem of your game master by pretending their plot twist is both original and not something stolen from The Avengers.

Contrary to popular belief, it can be hard to be a player. Not really the playing part, that’s easy. But being a GOOD player? That’s hard. Here’s some tips to help you stay in your GM’s good graces.

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The Importance of Atmosphere

Okay, so now you’ve gotten a game off the ground. While your storytelling abilities are still going to be evolving, there is one thing you can handle right off the bat that will drastically change the experience for your players.

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Atmosphere.

Atmosphere is essential for role playing games. Since RPGs exist only in the mind’s eye of the players and the game master, anything that can add to that experience helps the immersion and ability to stay in character. Here’s five things that can help add a little something to your gaming session.

Basic things to help atmosphere

Music and Sound Effects

The right music can be something that is easily incorporated into the game without being distracting. With YouTube having 10 hr video’s of instrumental music, you should be able to find any type of backing track from Celtic themes, 1920’s jazz, or futuristic space-beats.

Any GM with access to a laptop, PC, or IPod should be able to work out some kind of music to play. For when I run Dragon Age for instance, I use a mixture of the Dragon Age soundtrack, and Skyrim’s soundtrack. Listen to some of the songs and find those that are mellow and perfect to play when the characters are in their downtime, or chaotic ones for hectic battles.

Ambient noise that can be tailored to your session is also a nice touch. One website I’d recommend checking out is tabletopaudio.com. They offer free ambient and music tracks for all sorts of genre’s, from dungeon crawlers to monster attacks to daily life on a space station. Just having the humming of starship engines in the background over a quiet music track can help more than any description of the engines rumbling underneath the player’s feet.

Finally, sound effects. If you want to get very theatrical, start using sound effects to punctuate things like a scream or bolt of lightning. If going for a horror game, realistic sound effects can help bridge the gap between cheesiness and horror.

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Lighting

Your light situation can also influence the feel of a game. For instance, in college I would run Call of Cthulhu
strictly by the light of tea candles. Just get a dozen or more and keep them on a non-flammable surface (careful of wax too!) and make sure the table can read their character sheets. This is going to sound horrible of me, but I made my future wife cry after blowing out the lights at the end of the game.

If you have access to a fireplace, the crackling fire can be the perfect atmosphere adjuster for a dungeoneering adventurer’s inn or campsite.  Or, a barely screwed-in, flickering bulb among other harsh lighting can suggest a spacecraft with failing systems.

Tips on starting RPGs

So you finally decided that you want to try role playing games for yourself. Good! We are a very welcoming bunch and are hardly known to turn down players! I love RPGs because they encourage thinking on the fly, storytelling, and having fun.

I’d recommend joining an established RPG group to learn the ropes. They can be found among friends, local game shops, etc. However, if you want to be the pioneer among your friends you can be the one to pick it up. Here’s some tips.

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Storytelling and RPGs

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a huge nerd. I absolutely love role playing games; both running them and playing in them.  I run into one problem though: I get sidetracked by other games.

The games I play in I have a blast with, so that’s not the problem. It’s when I run games that I get distracted. Lately I’ve been running Traveller. Traveller is a space opera, in which players generally find themselves moving across a subsector of space, scraping by and high-tailing it from one system to the next. In a word, it’s basically Firefly the RPG, more so than the original Firefly RPG.

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On Camping

So I’ve just returned from one of our trips to my friend Graham’s farm. Outside of spooky noises and finding bear droppings close to our camp (turns out we camped near a game trail) not too much spooky stuff happened.

I told stories of Skinwalkers, the Wendigo, and Black Eyed Children around the campfire as I’m expected at this point to do. We listened to some music and chatted, but we mainly relaxed.

It’s funny, but stomping through the woods with a full pack, or chopping wood for a fire, well it sucks, but it’s also so very relaxing. I was isolated from technology for two days and realize I needed the break.

However, that’s not what inspired me to write this post. What prompted it were some of my thoughts on camping and safety. It seems so strange to me that we think of tents and tarps as protection from the unknown. I know that I’m sitting in a room made of material thinner than my t-shirt, but for some reason I feel safer than exposed. Could be an ‘I can’t see you, you can’t see me,’ kind of thing, but it still interests me.

After talking about malevolent creatures that can only come in if you invite them, I questioned my friends as to whether or not tents counted as your property when set up. Does it count as a home, and would it keep out traditional vampires, or Skinwalkers?

The general consensus was yes.

Even in the deepest of the wild we still cling to notions of home and safety; that there are rules to be followed. It pops up in my stories, and in our interactions with nature.

One of the brighter spots of the trip was our hike into the woods themselves. We just followed a game trail and came upon what felt like abandoned hunting blinds every 500 feet. In one of them, a big fat porcupine had chewed out a corner to squeeze in and make a home. We were able to peek in and take a look without being in any danger, or endangering the animal. It was a neat little up close encounter with nature that wasn’t the normal deer or coyote we generally run into.

Unfortunately our hike was cut short by the sound of gunshots somewhere deeper into the forest, so we returned to our camp.

One interesting thing I noticed is that we all settled into roles. We had a guy who made fire, the guy who organized everyone, the guy who chopped firewood. I still don’t know what my role was, maybe the storyteller, maybe the comic relief, I have no clue.

So, even though we huddled in the firelight, and listened to voices in the forest from a cabin somewhere beyond our property, we had a great time. A lot of work, but a lot of relaxation.

Still, night-time brought that familiar feeling out in all of us. That fear of the unknown. The fear of what may be lurking in the dark. Of waking up the next morning and seeing how close deer had bedded to our camp, or how coyote droppings were only twenty feet away from the furthest tent.

That’s why we go though, to see things and experience what most people don’t care to, and for just a moment, be irrationally scared before we head back to civilization. Just for the relaxation, yet also the rush.

Stalled

Gary saw her first and yelled at Tom to stop the bulldozer. The dozer ground to a halt just before knocking into the first support column of the horse barn before us. It wasn’t like any kind of barn I had seen before at least. Owners said it was a breeding barn. 86 stalls where they would try and breed race horses. A lot different than the barns you see on TV. Not painted red wood or anything like that, but made of sheet metal.

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