Player Advice: The Players' Ten Commandments

Lo, my children. The Dice Gods have given unto me ten commandments for every Player to live by!

I. Thou Shalt Be Prepared When Thou Approacheth The Table: When you take your seat at the table, and you're about to get ready to roll, make sure that you have the “player essentials”...
  • dice 
  • pencil
  • character sheet 
  • scrap paper
  • notebook
  • tasty beverage
  • food
These things are vital to an enjoyable and comfortable session. If you are up every five minutes, searching the kitchen for food like some nomadic scavenger, making inquiries about the location of citrus flavored soft drinks, it is going to become a bit distracting for the person attempting to almost murder your friends with a cadre of harpies.

If you are a spellcaster, be sure to have your spells prepared, or at hand. There are a few handy apps out there you can utilize for your phone for quick reference, or if you want to go all old school, keep a copy of a Player's Handbook right handy.

If you are a smoker... oh, if you are a smoker. Smoke what you need to smoke before the session starts. Smoke again when you guys take a break, and follow it out with a rousing smoke after the game ends. Do not get up a bunch of time during the game, especially right after initiative has been rolled. Combat is a dynamic thing, built on pacing and tension. Please, have a little consideration for the non-smokers at your table.
The game has a flow, a pace, and unprepared players bring that all to a screeching halt. Know your spells, know your abilities, know that smoking isn't good for you and know that knowing is half the battle.

"Pork chop sandwiches!"

II. Thou Shalt Not Stare At Thine Phone All Night: Unless you have an incredibly useful app, like a digital character sheet or spell cards, put your phone away. You have come to this table to play a game. You aren't playing that game if you are checking your facebook, tweeting, and texting people who aren't at the game that you are at.. Your Game Master has planned out an evening which is designed to entertain you. When you start messing with your phone, you are basically telling them, and your fellow players, “I do not care enough about what is going on to give you my undivided attention.”
Which brings us to...

III. Thou Shalt Pay Attentions To Thine Game Master: During a game, there is a lot going on. Monsters are ambushing your character, plans are being formed or foiled, and plots are... plotting... plottingly. If your head is not in the game, than you are going to ask that question that Game Master and Players alike dread to hear, “Wait, what's happening?”
It happens a lot. A concerning amount, and nine times out of ten, it is the same player asking it. More often than not, it happens on another players turn, which is-for lack of a better term-rude as shit.
If you are sitting within five feet of your Game Master and/or fellow players, and you aren't hearing impaired, than you should have at least some semblance of half a clue of what is happening. To ask that question because you were busy stacking dice, talking with someone about the most recent episode of Archer, or breaking Commandment II is to tell everyone at the table, “Stop what you are doing, and repeat the last five minutes to me. Slowly. The time is right and this will appease me.”
Don't be that guy/gal/thing. If you don't know what is going on, then you can't prepare for what is coming when initiative circles back around to you. Suddenly it is your turn, half the party is dead, and you have the only spell that can stop the rampaging earth elemental, and for whatever reason you cast magic missile because you don't know that the frig you are fighting because you were too busy tweeting a selfie, or whatever the kids do these days!.
You may only have a couple copper to your name, but that is still enough to pay attention.

IV. Trust In Thine Game Master's Word: The Game Master is a wily, deceptive bloke who speaks in half-truths, and omits more than they are telling you. It seems a bit of a stretch to trust them enough to take their word. Their rulings may seem strange to you, perhaps even alien (for they are unknowable), and particularly unfair, but when they make a call, accept it. Don't argue, don't rules-lawyer, don't deny them three times. Enjoy the game and trust that your GM has your best interests at heart, even if that means drugging your character and replacing their heart with a troll's.

"Takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'"

V. Thou Shalt Challenge Thine Game Master: See that box over there? Think outside that shit. This ain't no video game. The only limits set before you is your imagination. It is a game OF imagination, so use it. Do you see a uniquer way out of a situation? Try it! Do you have a strange use for a spell? Try it! Do you want to do an insane stunt? Follow Mr. LaBeouf and...

Your GM will set the difficulty, but if they are worth their salt, they will at least let you try, especially if it is cool. This kind of engagement keeps your Game Master on their toes, and that makes for more exciting and unpredictable sessions.

VI. Thou Shalt Engage Thine Game Master: “I hit it with my sword”, “I cast ray of frost”, “I need help hiding this body”, these sayings are all pretty common, and pretty boring (maybe not that last one). Your Game Master is there to hear you out, and to make things entertaining. Don't drop the ball and put everything on them. You're one of the main characters of this story. Revel in it! Talk to your GM. Describe things to them (Yes, you can do this too, like a boss). Make them excited for your next turn, because let me tell you, that shit is contagious. If you get psyched, then your friends get psyched, and before you know it, you are all out of your seat, standing and pacing about the room, cheering every natural 20, and screaming a heartbreaking lament for every 1 your that rears it's ugly head.
More than that, the Game Master is there to hear your concerns. Is there friction with another player? Are you bored with your character? Do you have a problem with your GM? Talk to them. Let them know what you are thinking. Communication makes better games, and better gamers. Despite their nearly omnipotent guise, they are not mind readers... Well, not all of them.
Most importantly though, Game Masters like feedback. Tell them how the campaign is going. Let them know what worked in tonight's session, and what didn't. Just be gentle. We are a fragile bunch.

VII. Thou Shalt Take Notes: Did you get any treasure tonight? Write it down. Meet an interesting NPC? Jot down their name. Hear the mention of a mysterious figure that lead to a sudden tone shift in the story? You may want to put that name on paper, it will be useful later. A lot happens in a session, and our fleshy brain mounds can only retain so much. Having at least one dedicated “scribe” in the party is immensely useful. Keeping records of your doings, dealings, and dangers will help you immerse yourself in the world you play in. Also it is nice to know who has the carpet of flying in their bag of holding... you know, in case of potential TPK.
What?! I don't want to roll a new character!

VIII. Allow Thine Game Master To Tell A Story: This is your story. You are one of only a handful of main characters. You are driving force behind events and responsible for you own tale, but there is another tale that draws you and your companions together; an overarching narrative. Game Masters are story tellers, and you are a character in that story. Don't be afraid to go and have the adventure your GM has planned. I cannot tell you how many players I have seen roll up amazing characters, but their biggest ambition is to stop in the nearest town an open an inn or a shop, and then retire. Nothing else after. No grand adventure with dungeons and-dare I say it-dragons. And for the most part, they do it because the Game Master wants to tell a story. Some players can be downright obstinate, doing things just to take away from the game master's tale.
A friend I once knew told me that he had played in a Star Wars game. He was a force sensitive on a freighter. One of the NPCs made a joke at his character's expense, so he decided to toss a little force push the NPC's way. He scored a natural 20, but his Game Master said that the man felt a small nudge on his shoulder, looked around for a minute, and went along his way. My friend, not impressed by this ruling, went to the cockpit, locked himself inside, took the controls and crashed the freighter into a space station, killing everyone aboard. Five months this Game Master tirelessly slaved prepping this game, thinking up an intense and epic story, and it ended within the first 20 minutes of session one, because one player decided they wanted to be “That Guy”.
Don't be “That Guy”. (Not to be confused with GM That Guy, former Iron GM World Champion and true life murder hobo)

"Regal as hell."

IX. Remember Thine Game Master Is Not Thine Foe: The above cautionary tale is a prime example of this commandment. Though your Game Master runs all the antagonists you face, they are not your antagonist. There is a large “Player vs. GM/GM vs. Player” mentality out there, and often it comes from bad experiences on both sides of the screen (and you best believe this is a blog for later). Trust that your Game Master isn't trying to screw you over, and do your best to try not to do the same. Roleplaying is a collaborative storytelling experience, so collaborate. Be a uniter, not a divider (It wasn't a word in 2000, and it's not a word now).

X. Thou Shalt Have Fun: Rule 0, kids. It doesn't get any easier. Have fun. Use silly voices, bust up a tavern or two, get eaten by something, just so you can burst your way out like the xenomorph from Alien. It is a game, and fun is to be had, if you will have it. Enjoy this time with your friends, because at this point, if you are pretending to be an elf named Saffron Lillymedow, you really want the person next to you to be a friend.

Remember the commandments, bring them to your table, and live the life of a righteous Player. Go forth my child, and the blessings of the dice be upon thee. And fear not, for I have not let thine Game Master off the hook that easily. They too have a set of commandments to enrich their lives.

Roll well,
+Ed The Bard 

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