What are things you see good players do?

Oh my gursh! So much good advice here. So yah, a lot of what’s said above. And to @jasoncordova’s point about ‘aggressively muting’, that practice online has made me much better about being cognizant of that at the meat-space table, and ensuring I leave space for others to inhabit!

I’m definitely 100% into players asking other players questions about their characters, especially if the player is new or shy or not engaged yet… little things like “oh, how does that look?” or “wow, how does that make you feel?” I mean, it’s sort of what the characters would try to notice about each other in the story, so it just feels on point, and makes me feel like the characters are really connected to each other as a “party” in the narrative.

I’ll add that I love adding a little bit of larping to the table. I don’t mean anything too flagrant or over-the-top (well, depending on the game; sometimes flagrant and over the top is exactly what’s needed)… but just simple things that come up in play that can be given a physical characteristic at the table, or even online. This could be mannerisms, or pretending to smoke a pipe or cigar if that’s in character, or reaching over and putting a jacket on another player because we are supporting the character in a similar manner in the narrative, and so on.


Freaked me out the first time it happened at my table, because I wasn’t prepared for such assistance. I wish I’d been able to use it more, and pick up hints, but I was reeling.


I love this thread! So much good food for thought!

Something I experienced lately, which I liked a lot:
I played Montster of the Week for the first time, and didn’t have the slightest clue about game mechanics. There was this other great player, who had my characters abilities in mind when engaging with my character to trigger a passive move. I found this very helpful, as i’d have completely missed it.

I find this also true for triggering other character flags out of the natural flow of the conversation. Framing scenes for flags is great, but managing to do this in the normal flow is next level for me.


This is one of reasons I think the online character keeper is so great. Since you can see each character’s stats and such it means you know how to play to them.

I am a fan of using Flags in lots of games…


this is basically what I came here to post

players who take responsibility for helping flesh out the world and each others’ characters make the game so much more fun- and an MC can only do so much, sometimes

ps: I’m going to start using the MC term cuz I love its parallel in throwing parties/conferences thanks!!


In our community, playing your character with your heart is highly valued. Emotionally identifying with the character and what happens in the game, but also playing them with an eye to human foibles big and small. (Sometimes called playing to lose.) When I think of who I want to play with, this is a very important consideration.


Everything here is great, the only thing I’d add is:

Take NPCs seriously. Try to understand their motives, work with them, against them, love them, hate them, whatever. The specifics depend largely on the tone of the game, just don’t be the player who’s yawning (or rolling their eyes) when the GM is bringing it with an NPC.


Jmstar already mentioned this in his excellent list, but I want to underline how much I appreciate it when players have clear in-character goals. Having a goal means you’ve taken the time to understand your character to at least a base level, and it gives the session propulsion from the get-go. And if you have a clear goal, it makes spotlighting you easier, both as a GM and as another player. Even if it’s something small, something that would be the C-plot on an hour long TV drama, I want to know what my fellow players want so I can think about how to help them get it or complicate their efforts.


This is so true. Some of the coolest moments in the games I’ve played have been seeing everyone’s expressions, applause, etc. when the onscreen player is doing cool stuff.


You people are plain amazing. There is so much brilliant advice in this thread.
I’d like to add another level to the “be bold/play interesting” dimension (excuse the profanity):

Embrace the suck!

It is allright to feel disapointet, frustrated and even angry - as long as it is feelings about your PC, that you’re sharing. It’s actually exciting and powerful, that RPGs enable us to feel this way. Embrace your failures, embrace the loss of narrative choice and embrace that your feelings might actually be inconvient.
Obviously this is not about feelings, that are actually hurting you as a person - the player. This is about emotions concerning solely the character and its role in the fiction.
Enjoy the drama unfolding, enjoy the tragedy you get to experience from within the safe space, we strive to create collaboratively. It is part of the amazing ride you’re in for. And it will lead you to new places, you’d never have gone, if you stayed in control all the time.
EDIT: So it is not just about playing bold and risky beforehand - but also about celebrating the negative consequences, that arise through this playing style.

My principle for this kind of emotional buy-in is: Identify with the character, don’t identify the character with you. (I’d be happy to have a native speaker rephrase this in a little more ‘poetic’ manner.)

EDIT: I also think GMing and playing in GMless games, teaches you a lot about the love for failure.


I love this thread. I have a question.

@whodo mentioned taking time between sessions to “learn what your character can do…how their character works mechanically”
@Jmstar listed “absorb the rules and use them vigorously.”

Is willingness to deeply grasp a game’s system/setting/genre a characteristic of a good player (especially when doing so means investing effort outside of a live game session)?

I’ve noticed that a number of systems or settings I’m interested in exploring aren’t really feasible these days (at least among my groups) because even great players are generally averse to demands that go beyond live session time. Is this just a difference between traditional and less traditional games’ expectations of player responsibility? Or is it really just a matter of age (as in, older players stereotypically have less time to spare on the hobby)?


I’m of the mind that you can’t play your character well if you don’t know the rules. Usually that just means the rules they’re likely to interact with directly (if I’m a playing a barbarian, I don’t need to know how the paladin’s lay on hands works, but if I don’t know how rage works then something’s wrong, etc).

That isn’t always necessarily the fault of the player though—plenty of people get sold on games without understanding the level of buy-in needed (great thread on addressing that here). Ideally though, the players will understand the amount of work needed to get up to speed, and then do it (or back out).


Is willingness to deeply grasp a game’s system/setting/genre a characteristic of a good player (especially when doing so means investing effort outside of a live game session)?

Personally, I think that yes, this is a characteristic of good players, but not a necessary one. Like, you can be a great player without doing this, but it’s helpful if you do do it. And a little bit goes a long way - even just daydreaming about your character and the world on the commute over to game night does wonders for getting you in the mood and sparking ideas.

But this is super group dependent. And game dependent. I really don’t want to have to sit around and wait for people to take their turn in 5e combat, but it’s a little easier if a player is skating by in a PBTA game.


Show up on time.
No phones or computers.
Be into it.
Take good notes.


So I feel like I might need to clarify on my original post a bit. That thought has mostly come from two aspects that I have experienced repeatedly. I mostly play trad games so it may be that the dynamics work differently with indie games where the balance of expectations/power dynamics are different.

The first aspect is the assertion that its ok for a player to not put in any time outside the session but that its expected from the GM. It just wouldn’t fly if a GM showed up with a rule book and they’d not read a single page of the rules. With trad games especially there is an unspoken expectation that the GM will, at a minimum, have spent the time to learn the game so I don’t feel it is unreasonable to expect the players to do the same. If they’re really adverse to doing it outside of the game then put some time aside during game time. Make it part of session 0 or set aside the first 15 minutes of a session to go over rules/make notes etc.

The second aspect is related to the actual play experience. I’ve run campaigns and listened to APs where even by the end of the campaign there was a player (sometimes more than 1) who still couldn’t follow even the base mechanics. So I could have been clearer in my original post - I wasn’t necessarily talking about complete system mastery but the core mechanics, such as how to make an attack roll in D&D or the specifics of the ability you use every session. Not knowing that 2 sessions in to a new campaign? Fine. Not knowing that 20 sessions in and having to get the GM to walk you through it again, not so fine (as you might be able to tell this is a personal bugbear of mine).

So directly responding to your question - Yes, I think a willingness to learn the system is a mark of a good player, especially in trad games where there is an assumption that the GM will be required to do a lot of work outside of sessions.

Is there a difference between traditional and indie expectations? Yes and no. I think indie games often do a better job of distributing responsibilities, which is helped by the fact that they also tend towards simpler rulesets. There is still an expectation though that the GM/facilitator/whoever brings the game to the group will know all the rules in advance and be able to teach them so you could run into the same issue of players not learning them over time.

Aside - I think it is also something where developers could do a lot to help by including core system reference/cheat sheets for the players - my experience with PbtA games is that while the playbook format can be overwhelming at first having a list of all the moves in front of each player is ultimately a massive help in grasping character intricacies.


I was just pushing for a +1 to my rolls, it’s all just powergaming :stuck_out_tongue:

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I think the idea behind “absorb the rules and use them vigorously” is that system matters and when you understand and engage fully with the rules piece, everyone is more likely to have interesting fun. I totally agree that this isn’t essential, and many rules sets (or no rules set at all) get out of the way gracefully, but if the game asks you to understand it, understanding it leads to better outcomes.


These may have been here already and I missed them, but things I love:

  • Address your character actions to everybody at the table, not just the GM / MC. (I like to visualize this as, “speaking to the center of the table.”)
  • Make sure every player gets a chance to have their character determine the main “approach” to a problem, and when they do, look for ways for your character to support that instead of undermining it. (Relevant mostly for party-based games.)
  • Once your character has gotten what they need in a scene, look for “resolving actions” that will set the scene up to be closed elegantly, or make room for other characters to move the scene in a new direction.

Beyond that, as everybody else says, supporting other characters (and their players!) is what’s all about. The MC has to be the fan of all the PCs, but the players should try to be fans of all the PCs too!


This is a very context-dependent principle, but I am always thankful when another player makes a decision when the party is stuck in prevarication. This can obviously be a bad thing if it removes agency or is rather arbitrary, but even beyond the meta level of keeping things moving it can be a great part of the narrative.

For example, it can be entirely character-driven for 2/3 of your group to be stuck in caution, weighing each possibility and not settling on a good choice - then the more impulsive character just cuts straight through to a resolution, for better or worse. To cite an example from the last 2 hours :slight_smile:


This is such a great thread. I’ve picked up a lot from reading it, especially the aggressive muting when someone else is speaking.

One thought about players picking up the rules - players may not have ready access whether due to money or another factor. I had to order Monsterhearts 2 from my FLGS and it took about two weeks to arrive and cost about $20 or so. $25? Something like that. I’m aware Avery is all about access and actually has lower prices for folks who are struggling with money, but that isn’t true for, just as an example, D&D.