Tilting at Windmills – Good Gamers

Note: I expect this post to grow, but for now I want to get some thoughts out into the open air and see what comes of them.

If we have the luxury, I think we can all agree that handpicking a crew of gamers to share a roleplaying experience is the holy grail of satisfying gaming. If this is something we can do, and if it is something that we would do, how do we go about making the choice? What makes one gamer better than another? What is a good gamer?

It strikes me that a good gamer values the success of the game. It also strikes me that this is harder to do than it sounds and less common than most of us would like or believe. By this I mean that more is required than showing up, bringing your share of the snacks, and staying in character.

The Good Gamer (both player and GM) begins working toward the success of the game before the first stroke on a character sheet is ever recorded:

  1. They listen to the initial description of the setting carefully
  2. They ask questions about the GM’s intentions, themes, source material
  3. They ask questions about the GM’s concerns
  4. They ask questions about what new territory, techniques, or tactics the GM wishes to attempt (and wants to announce openly)
  5. They communicate with the other players in order to shape a group identity from the ground up – facilitating the sort of connections, interactions, and dynamics that will serve the style of play, the setting, and the themes et al that are being attempted
  6. They develop a solid character concept, based firmly in the initial concept of the story, with open-ended plot hooks, with character devices, strengths and weaknesses that can be used to enhance the roles of the other characters, with support for the desired themes and mood of the story, and of course – with room for the character to grow and change.
  7. They treat the game as what it really is: a long-term social commitment, no different from poker night, meatloaf night, gym night, movie night, or whatever other routine plans get put on the calendar in pen rather than pencil. It is one of the things which get cancelled for problems and surprises, not whims.
  8. They are prepared to “pass the ball” to other players
  9. They are prepared to share fond memories about someone else’s character, far more often than sharing tales of their own.

The Good GM begins working toward the success of the game before the first stroke on a plot outline is ever recorded:

  1. They listen to the interests of the players and develop themes and settings accordingly
  2. They ask questions about the players’ concerns
  3. They ask questions about what new territory, techniques, or tactics the players wish to attempt
  4. They communicate with the players in order to shape a group identity from the ground up – facilitating the sort of connections, interactions, and dynamics that will serve the style of play, the setting, and the themes et al that are being attempted
  5. They develop a solid plot, based firmly in the initial concepts gleaned from the players, with open-ended story hooks, opportunities for realistic losses and gains, impetus to grow, change and develop, and memorable settings and characters with which to interact.
  6. They make room for worthwhile story elements for all the players
  7. They treat the game as what it really is: a long-term social commitment, no different from poker night, meatloaf night, gym night, movie night, or whatever other routine plans get put on the calendar in pen rather than pencil. It is one of the things which get cancelled for problems and surprises, not whims.
  8. They are prepared to share fond memories of things that the characters did, far more often than sharing tales of their own ingenuity and creativity.
  9. They are determined to work in concert with the players to create and shape something memorable.

What this all boils down to is that good members of a gaming group put their energies into serving the good of the story and allow that story to entertain them.

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