I’m pretty new to this forum, and just finding some wonderful threads like this one. Great to see so much top-notch discussion of practical gaming concerns!
This thread has covered a lot of ground, but I’ll add one player skill (or attitude) that I find really important:
When you start playing a game, you examine and then learn to embody the particular stance and approach needed to play that game. (You do not simply attempt to play it the way you played some other game you have experience with in the past, in other words.)
This might be a question of knowing how to interface with the game’s mechanics. It might be a question of seeing how the group handles in-character conversations, or how players face challenges.
Take a look at the rules, the structure, the relationships of the people involved, and the creative goals of the whole enterprise, and then play to that.
Sometimes it means understanding whether the game is about honest competition, screwing over your friends in order to win by any means necessary (cutthroat competition), or supporting everyone at all times. Sometimes it means mastering the rules and being able to make the right mechanical choices when your turn comes up. Sometimes it means noticing the attention to detail and doing your homework; at other times it’s noticing who looseness and creativity are valued here and letting go of your own attention to detail. Sometimes it means noticing that there’s one player at the table who always gets overlooked, and doing something about it.
But, in short, a good player takes in a new game and a new group and, first, observes and reads the vibe and the way it works. They do not assume that it’s just like something they played before.
They recognize that every combination of game-and-group takes its own form or its own ‘culture of play’, and, therefore should be played as its own particular, unique “instrument”. It may need a different “touch”, a different attitude, or a different perspective.
The player who recognizes the uniqueness of each game and each gaming situation and plays to its strengths is someone I am much more likely to enjoy playing with.