The first requirement to roleplay successfully is for the participants to want to make the game work and to have fun with it.
Like watching any science-fiction or (medieval) Swords & Sorcery movie, or reading any books of the same genre, the players must ALL willingly suspend their disbelief and try to get into the game, its spirit of adventure, danger, mystery, the characters’ pains and pleasures, joys and sorrows, as the GM establishes for them in the background briefing he provides for each to show them where they fit in the gameworld and with one another.
It is generally assumed that the players who make up characters and show up to play are all willing to do so, otherwise, why would they have wasted their time making the characters in the first place?
Before the players gather for a game, they must each make sure that they have read the rules with enough depth and attention that they are at least familiar with them and where the ones they may need can be found so they may reference them during play – OR that they have their characters ready in hand, if the GM intends to teach rules as he goes in order to speed things along. Sometimes it is easier to learn while playing than from reading cold text. Applications of the rules to situations the players care about during play generally make the knowledge of the rules stick better in their memories. Diving into a new game on the spur of the moment is not an uncommon occurrence among adventure gamers but, whenever possible, being familiar with the major points of the rules and the general manner in which they are set up from the start will always make things go that much more smoothly and easily.
Once the GM is ready to go, the players’ characters are all in order, and the players have all gathered together to play, how is it done?
Essentially it is one big, meandering, extended conversation, as mentioned previously. BUT that statement doesn’t really do anyone much good, no matter how true it may be – too vague. Just saying it is a long series of statements like “This is the situation …”, “Well, I do …”, “Then this happens in response …”, “Then we do …”, “And so-and-so does thus n such back …”, and so on and so forth, doesn’t mean a whole lot, either, although it is just as true and provides a little more detail. To give a more meaningful definition of roleplay, one of the audio-tapes of the author’s own play-testing game has been rendered into the form of a script so the player can read exactly what the flow of play in a roleplaying session is like, and imagine what it must sound like.
An Example of Roleplay
The evening (or afternoon) is young, the soda-pop is cold, the chips are crispy, the pizza is hot, and the paper and pencils are plentiful, as the players all gather around the table to roleplay.
As stated, what follows is an excerpt from an actual game, but first some background to put the story elements in context.
The example comes from a marathon roleplay session in the middle of an epic series of adventures (a campaign) also created by the author and called “Legacy of the Demon Princess” by the players. Yes, she (or rather IT) was most certainly one of the Bad Guys. The name for the campaign arose both from the fact that the story hinged upon an ancient demon who possessed the princess of a great and powerful kingdom once upon a time and from the fact that the demon’s target at the time of the game being played was a PC named Cebra who was a princess herself. Cebra is a Wizard primarily a Namer Magister with a degree in natural Philosophy (Master Namer by formal university study), with a definitely leaning to Virtue, and thus one of the Good Guys.
Her travelling companions are Prince Aslan Silvermane V, a snowy-furred pumatharan Huntsman and his identical twin, the dangerous and unpredictable gladiator Warrior-Prince, Milan who seek together to wrest the Eye of Targos (the centerpiece of their birthright) from the demon who had stolen it generations ago; the mysterious ebon-furred pumathar Nigramous (He Who Does the Running Through) who is a Sacred Knight of the Black Orders (unbeknownst to the rest of the party), a conflicted soul who has some difficulty living up to the evil standards of his diabolical order; and the fragile and lovely young irdan Wizard Crystal who leans heavily towards Divination, primarily a Sybil sent by the master Seers of the school to which she is still beholden, who have an axe to grind for the particular demon on which the campaign hinges, having destroyed a citadel and sacked one of their libraries of it’s secrets.
Up to the point where the text begins, the demon’s trail has led the party on a merry chase through flood (a watery death-trap) and fire (the wrath of a powerful djinn efreet) in trying to find her … his … ITs whereabouts and the Eye of Targos, stolen from the Clan Sword of the ruling house of the Isle of Targos some 400 years ago, when the demon broke the sword with a curse. The party has spent many months in research through the ancient scrolls and tomes of the princes of the desert and the city-states that ring the sprawling sands, putting together a list of the demon’s most likely incarnations and an account of the exploits wrought over the course of those incarnations, trying to trace the reasons behind his last chronicled actions and also to find the location of the final resting place of his last victim, which they suspect will also be the last repository for the demon’s essence, a clever trap for some worthy adventurous tomb-robber to allow the demon a new lease on mortal life.
The PC researches have revealed that the demon lived beyond “the edge of the world”, on the Isle of the Endless Sky. They have discovered that “the edge of the world” is, in fact, the edge of a wide plain or “sea” of glass, perfectly smooth, fused sand many feet deep going on for miles in all directions. Of the island they seek, on which a deserted city is rumored to have stood, they have not been able to deduce even a general location to fill in on the map they have slowly been working on rendering over the course of their months of research and travel.
The following text begins the adventure in which they find their target, the Isle of the Endless Sky, after which came the final adventure in which they finally faced the demon and did battle with it.
Because the characters’ and players’ names are swapped back and forth interchangeably to indicate the subtle shifts into and out of character during play, as the players pause to interact with the GM to exercise their skills and clarify details, the following cast list is provided for the reader’s reference.
|The Players||The Characters||Their Trades||Their Races|
|Bryan||Sir Nigramous||Sacred Knight||Pumathar|
GM : You arrive at the edge of the glass. It looks like a sea, reflecting the sky like a mirror. It is like standing on the edge of the world. Do you want to halt, or do you want to keep on going?
Eileen : What time of day is it?
Eric : This is a very good question. Before we get to the edge of it, as a matter of fact, looking out over a few dunes …
GM : What time of day did you leave Jaf’nabad?
Rick : Morning?
Bryan : Morning, I think.
Rick : Oh, I would assume that we would probably have rested. It took us a total of 24 hours to get here.
Bryan : Yeah, 12 hours to get to the temple …
Rick : 12 hours to get to the tomb, so I’m sure we would have rested …
Eric : Let’s try to pace ourselves so we get there at sunset, at the Sea of Glass.
GM : No problem. You already knew about how far it is. That means you ride all day, about 10 hours the first day, stop and rest, stop in the middle of the next day at the tomb, and at sunset you set out again.
You get to the Sea of Glass and it is just dark. The first stars are coming out and you see the heat rolling off in waves…
Aslan : ‘Zounds …
GM : … as if it truly were a sea.
Eileen : Sounds like … we should take a nap until midnight.
GM : A wind coming at you …
Milan : Yeah …
GM : … a hot scorching sirocco.
Cebra : Stay away from here …
Milan : Its really hot.
the GM : I [Aslan] back away from the edge, too.
GM : It’s like standing in front of a blacksmith’s forge.
Aslan : I am uncomfortable with this.
Cebra : Move back about 15 miles …?
The party does not respond to her.
GM : You noticed that for the past 40 miles, the terrain slowly went from cacti to nothing, from scattered tufts of arid grasses, yucca plants, cacti, sagebrush, and tumbleweed to nothing. It takes about an hour, maybe 2, for the temperature to become bearable at close quarters.
Rick : Okay.
GM : You notice by now that the sands are cooling faster than the glass, and the swiftly rising hot air off the glass is pulling a constant breeze of somewhat cooler air off the desert behind you.
the party : I tell ye what, what say we cross here now and get to the island, then we will have need of rest.
Cebra : Yea, but we are in need of rest before we away.
Milan: Let us rest now.
Aslan : Rest now?
Milan : Aye, wait till the glass cools down some more before we make the crossing.
Aslan : We cannot abide here too long. We have yet to find the island.
Milan : If we assay the glass now … it be an oven.
GM : By Aslan’s reckoning, it’s nine o’clock at night, It’s been 2 hours. The glass is cool enough to stand on with heavy soled boots or shoes, maybe 120° and the air is very, very dry.
Aslan : Let’s rest until about midnight.
Cebra : Midnight.
the GM : You said it’s cooled down now?
Eileen : Its 120°, you have …
Aslan : Well, I say we shall have to sleep at some point, or we will be so fatigued we will start reeling like drunkards.
Milan : Would ye rather just rest until midnight, sleep ‘til midnight? From the time we arrived here until midnight?
Aslan : Aye, that would give us about 6 hours.
GM : Okay, that’s that.
Nigramous : So, do we assay to ride across to the island, or whatsoever?
Aslan : Certes!
GM : How do you plan on finding it?
Eric : We’re going to look, first of all.
GM : Okay. You can’t see it.
Eric : Okay.
Rick : Its dark now.
GM : Not only is it dark, but the island is a long way away.
Bryan : Oh, wow! We’ll be able to see the stars and sky in the glass!
Aslan : The island looks just like its floating in the cosmos.
Nigramous : If we sack the stronghold, we can make it our quarters!
The GM pulls out a map.
GM : Did you stop at the nearest shore of the glass sea? I mean, it goes like this (gesturing). Did you go all the way up?
Eric : I assume we went straight from Akhmûn-Ra’s tomb, in a line.
GM : Straight north?
Rick : Well, it wouldn’t be straight north, it would have been straight in the line on which we were headed.
He indicates a straight line from Jaf’nabad to the tomb and beyond.
GM : No problem, no problem …
Eileen : Now we do have a map!
GM : Yes, you do have map. Now it’s a matter of orienting yourselves on it. The cardinal directions aren’t marked.
Aslan : Well, our direction sense might be …
Aslan : … might be a wise maneuver.
Milan : … handy.
Aslan : Will ye seek it out or shall I?
Cebra : Akhmûn-Ra’s tomb isn’t on the map. Palm Shadar is.
Milan : We could both assay it.
Eric : Okay, I attempt to sense direction and orient myself, AV6.
He rolls d100.
GM : What did you roll?
Eric : 47.
GM : Yup, you succeed.
The GM takes the map and marks the party’s location and the cardinal compass points.
GM : There, look along the southeast shore.
Eric : That little circle?
GM : Yes.
the party : We are here. Gee, that’s funny – the island doesn’t seem to be marked on this map.
GM : It wasn’t.
Aslan : It wasn’t? Sadness.
Cebra : But Cruellonchi knows where it is.
Milan : It almost seemed larger.
Aslan : … Okay.
then to Crystal,
Well, would ye mind overmuch taking a brief flight above to gain a better vantage point and see if the island might be sighted from here?
Crystal : Of course!
to the GM : I [Crystal] take off and circle around to see what I can …
GM : How high? Aslan, it doesn’t look like she is climbing very high.
Crystal : Higher, if thou would, Lady Crystal – ascend to 400 or 500 hundred feet!
Crystal : That high? Wherefore?
Aslan : So ye can sight the island.
Cebra : The higher up ye climb, the farther out ye can see!
Crystal : Oh! Surely!
to the GM : I climb higher, about 450 feet.
GM : You look long and hard with your extraordinary sight, but you see no trace of the island. However, in the distance, you do see small, slim shapes that could be ships etched in silver moonlight moving across the surface of the glass.
Cheryl : I [Crystal] slowly spiral back down to the party.
the party : I saw nothing that looked like the island, but I thought I caught a glimpse of some small shapes that could have been ships, moving upon the glass.
Aslan : ‘Zounds!
Milan : We could search out the ships. They might know whither lies the island. If they sail the glass, they should know how best to navigate it.
Aslan : Yea, verily. I know not if we truly want to find the ships, though. They might not be kindly disposed towards us.
Milan : BUT we have one of their men with us.
Aslan : Oh that’s right, I keep forgetting he is with us. He doesn’t say much, does he?
Eric gives the GM a meaningful look.
Cebra : You don’t ask him much, do you?
Milan : He’s a man of few words.
to the bedraggled, sun burnt
Sailor [GM] : Do ye have any idea where the island might be? Or where ye have sailed from – or landed?
The GM shrugs on the Sailor’s behalf, then gestures towards one side of the shore on the map.
Sailor [GM] : This area looks familiar, belike, but it has been a long time. I think I came down t’other side of the glass sea.
Milan : What time do the ships usually make port?
Sailor : Just before dawn.
Milan : Just before dawn?
The GM nods on the sailor’s behalf.
Sailor : Some of them run the day, betimes.
Having had a small dose of the heat from off the glass at sunset, and the desert, the party is appropriately boggled.
Aslan : ‘Zounds!
Cebra : How?!
with a smile : With great care.
Milan : They have ways and ways of doing. They’re protected with magick, belike. He said there were runes and symbols and the like carved into the hulls of the ships. They have magickal protections of some sort. The people that lived on the island had to have some sort of mystical protection, withal.
Aslan : Well, if we go to the island at night, we’ll be …
Milan : I wonder if the protection still stands guard …
Aslan couldn’t resist a chance to needle his sister to repay the interruption,
Aslan : Maybe it wore off and they were all reduced to a vapor.
The whole party looks at Aslan askance while he snickers. Eric shrugs.
Aslan : Could be.
the Sailor : Did ye not say that there were slits cut in the glass from the runners on the ships?
Sailor : Nay, and not slits so much as long shallow scratches.
Milan : Mmmm … but I don’t want to have to follow anything out there.
Nigramous : Let us simply ride out there.
impatiently : Why do we not just ride our steeds over?
Cebra : They are working to decide which direction to proceed.
Aslan : Aye, t’is a big sea and only one island in it somewheres, and we know not where it lies.
patronizing : So let us simply ride out to the middle-most part!
Eric and Rick turn back to the map.
Milan : This be the largest portion of the sea.
Aslan : Yea.
Milan : So, I say we ride the shore up here.
Rick points at the map.
Milan : Well … it could be down there, but …
Aslan : You just want to ride the shore up to the middle or thereabouts and have a look?
Milan : Verily. Yea, ride the shore up there and see if we can sight anything from there.
Aslan : Indeed.
Rick points to the map and looks at Eric.
Milan : See you, if we stand down here, we shan’t be able to see anything over here.
Aslan : Sooth. As you say, then, let us do that.
Eric brings the map up to the GM.
Eric : So, we want to ride up to about here.
GM : That’s about 40 or 50 miles, at what – about 25 miles per hour?
Eric : 2 hours later …
GM : 2 hours later …
Eric : … we are here.
GM : Okay.
Rick : We are keeping track of the time of night.
GM : It is about 2am, according to the stars in the sky, then. mark down another SP for each of you. The moon is partially out, and all of you can see the glass is a medium to light gray in the moon glare for the 3 miles or so you can see across this level plain.
Aslan : Sounds like we are in need of another aerial scouting trip. Lady Crystal, may we impose upon ye?
Crystal : Certes!
to the GM : I take a quick run up the nearest dune to get a little height and take off, going up until I see something or I get to about the same height I did before, about 450 feet.
GM : I need you to roll d100 for me, Cheryl.
Cheryl grabs her dice and throws them,
Cheryl : 19!
GM : Alright, when you get to about 300 feet
The GM gestures towards the map,
Somewhere out that way there’s a darker blotch out towards the middle of the sea on the horizon.
Cheryl : Bingo! Which way is that from where we are? North, south, east, or west? This way?
Cheryl points to the map.
GM : No, more north. It looks like north-northwest.
Cheryl : Does it appear to be moving or is it stationary? I’ll watch it for a moment.
GM : Stationary. Don’t forget to mark the Skill Point down for your Sentry Perception skill.
Cheryl : I don’t have that …
GM : It is an Open Skill, you will earn it eventually by actively using your AWA score this way.
Cheryl : I [Crystal] will spiral down and let the party know what I found.
the party : Ride we out there?
Milan : Can you estimate how far away it is?
Aslan : From her altitude and the fact that it still appeared on the horizon, indeed, I believ so.
the GM : My AV is 8, guess-timating how far away it is.
The GM, deciding on a fairly high DV for attempting such a task at night over a 20-mile + distance by only partial moonlight decides on a DV of 30, which yields a 28% chance of success.
Eric rolls the dice.
Eric : 22!
GM : It is roughly 20 miles, or so. Don’t forget to mark down your Skill Point.
Aslan : It should be but a score of miles away.
Milan : So it’s …
Nigramous : … a little less than an hour’s ride.
Milan : … roughly about 2am. The sun doesn’t come up until …
Aslan : We’ll get there about 3am.
Milan : Well, the sun comes up until about … when?
Milan : In case we have erred! In case this is not what we seek!!
Cebra : 5am.
Aslan : 5am. The sun comes up about 5am.
Cebra : So we shall have enough time to get back … very nearly.
Milan : At 3am …
Aslan : So, what do we want to do, just ride out, get a sense of the place and return here?
Milan : Well, should we arrive there about 3am., and it be not our goal, we shall have an hour to scout the place out from then and another hour in which to return here. If that IS what we seek, we will have no worry.
Aslan : Then we must away with us, and hope by the gods we are inside when the sun comes up.
Milan : Verily.
Nigramous : Well, it is like be about an hour after sunrise before the sun gets hot.
Aslan : What about the reflection, though?
Milan : Indeed. The question is, how long will it take to heat up?
Sailor : Beggin’ yer pardons, the heat really begins to build within the half-hour, and it is completely unbearable within the hour.
Milan : So we will have maybe a half-hour after the sun comes up.
Aslan : Yea. Do ye want to simply go forth there tonight and have a look around the island, then come back to wait until tomorrow night?
Milan : It depends on the lay of the island and any buildings standing thereon. If there be walls around it, there is a very good chance that we will be protected through the day. There’ll probably be no air at all out on the glass for a man to breathe.
Cebra : Breathing would seem to be extremely difficult.
Sailor : Take a deep breath and feel your lungs sear.
Aslan : We’ll have to just go and reconnoiter tonight and go back tomorrow night.
Cebra : Locate it and not assay to do anything?
Aslan : Just determine if it has any defenses, fortifications, if there is anybody there.
Milan : Yea, we shall have near a half-hour to map the lay of the place.
Aslan : We should be able to ride around it.
GM : Well, I guess you are going to ride out there?
GM : You see no one. You ride out there …
The GM holds up an illustration of the approach to the location.
… and this is what you see. An enormous citadel towering far above you with a city of broken buildings sprawling at its feet.
Eric : There does appear to be a wall about the city, though. And a gate.
GM : Yes.
Eric : Oh! While we’re here do I see any signs of … boat traffic?
GM : Cast about and see.
Eric : How long does it take to track?
GM : For something like this, three or four minutes – no more than 5 minutes.
Eric : Excellent! AV6.
Eric rolls d100.
GM : No problem. Yes, you do, but its very, very scant. If there has been traffic through here it hasn’t been much and it hasn’t been very recent. Don’t forget to mark down your Skill Point.
the party : Good. The ships do not come here, or haven’t come here for quite some time. Good. I was hoping they would not. The last thing we need is to get into some battle and have these vartlets come up from behind and hack us to pieces.
Nigramous : So, shall we return?
Crystal : Hmmm … Would ye be amenable to swooping over the city and scouting it from above, Lady Crystal? Ye can see if there are any other buildings also intact.
Crystal : Sure!
Cebra : How about, while she is up doing that, we take one good hard look at the city through the Stone of Truth …
delighted : Yea! Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!! Huzzah!!
Cebra : … see what is really here, what it really looks like.
Eileen : You pull the stone out of its pouch and look through it, and all is exactly as it appears to be.
Cebra : Hmmm … All is exactly as it appears.
the GM : How far are we from the city?
GM : You’re there, at the shore. The expanse of sand and dried, burnt grass is only a narrow margin. The desolate expanse of black, tumble-down ruins start immediately at your feet. The only sound you hear is the wind sighing through the towers. You see the ancient, sun-scorched glass and hear the sound of the wind. All is just as it appears.
Eileen : I guess the question I am asking is, are we on the glass or on the sand?
Eric : We are on the glass, still.
Eileen : We are still on the glass.
grinning : I am.
Eileen : Okay.
Knowing full well Crystal would scout the location by air either on her own initiative or on request by the party, the GM hands Cheryl a “bird’s eye” illustration of the island.
Cheryl : This is a picture of what you see.
The GM takes a moment to relate the points of reference between the aerial view and the ground view already passed around until he is sure she understands what she is looking at.
the GM : Can I reveal magick?
smiling : Your character can do anything you like, but where? The AoE your magick can cover will have limits.
Eileen : Well, that’s at least a ‘maybe’.
Eileen rolls d100,
42, AV4. I don’t know what I’m supposed to roll, but I don’t think that’s it.
GM : We’ll see – how big an AoE do you want to affect, what is the Potence, and is that High Magick or Common?
Eileen : Oh, dear. Let’s see … I want the AoE centered on the gate in the wall there, and about 100 yards across, we are not in battle so I don’t need to push myself with High magick, so Common will work fine, and the effective Potence of the Reveal I want to be 10.
GM : Alright. The GM takes a moment to consider.
A radius of 50 yards and a minimum of 1 point of POT per 4 perches (40 feet) at 50 yards comes to 3.75, or 4, points of POT to yield a POT of 1 in the dweomer when loosed, plus 9 more to make a POT of 10 when manifest, comes to 14. That lies within the POT of the Ambience in the area, so no additional time will be needed to gather the mana for the spell.
You aren’t using any particular forms of mortal mana, your birthsign will have no effect for another few weeks, and no Resonances are involved, and you have not taken the time to research Correspondences, so we will waive those both for and against this time. You really should take a look at those later, they can really help.
The base DV for Minor Sphere Common Divination magick is 1/4th the 14 POT, which comes to 3.5, or 4.
The AV and DV are equal, which always yields a 50-50 chance of success – so, yes, that 42 does grant you a successful casting. The AoE of the spell reaches from your feet to the gate and 150 feet beyond that, and stretches for 150 feet to either side of the gate, and within that area you sense no magick at all. Don’t forget to mark down your Skill Point.
Cheryl : I’m just going to describe what I have seen to the party when I land again anyway, so you can just go ahead and speak for me. I [Crystal] will make a wide spiral down and rejoin them on the ground.
the party : About three-fourth’s of the buildings have fallen in. All the wood you can see is completely desiccated and sand-blasted, and most of the walls collapsed. Where all the buildings were located and their general shapes and ground floor plans are still visible. Some corners, arches and doorways, even a column or two still stand, here and there. However, the entire citadel is built of such massive pieces of stone that the whole thing seems to be still intact.
It is all as still as a tomb. Eerie. Not one living thing moves here, to my [Crystal’s] eye.
Otherwise, the only real point of interest I saw was a courtyard enclosed in high walls. In the center is a triangular dais with three steps up to each side. On each corner of the dais stands a statue of solid carven crystal four times the height of a man, maybe taller. Set flush into the center of the dais is a circle of pure white marble.
Aslan : Bastet’s Tail! Welladay, now that is where we will want to go.
Belay that, wait a moment, was not the demon’s tomb on top of a hill?
Milan : Nay. Up on top of the city.
Cebra : High above the city
Aslan Up above the city. As you say.
Crystal : I thought it lay upon a hill, as well.
Cebra : Nay, Lady.
Milan : It be in the top, the highest tower of the citadel.
Crystal : If’n those crystal statues mark it, it be upon the tallest tower, on the right.
And on it goes.
The dice, also mentioned in the Introduction, are one of the “mechanical” conventions of roleplaying and are described in detail under the heading “The Dice”, in the beginning of Chapter 1. of Part III. The Rules of the Game.
This example was chosen to illustrate character interaction, not as an example of stealthy breaking and entering, or escapes from dread perils, or hacking and slaying the monsters or Bad Guys, although that occurred in the same game soon after the example, when it was discovered not ALL of the city’s denizens were gone, even though none were still among the living. All of which will normally punctuate the storylines of the games, spicing up the plot and increasing the intensity of roleplay.
The gaming group was a little over-anxious to get their two-cents’ in and stepped on one another in trying to talk all at once now and then, went in for a few too many side comments and occasionally got a little off-track, BUT they are a good group in general. In the end, when edited down to just the gaming, some pretty nice roleplaying was revealed.
Because one of the Wizard players got carried away with the moment and didn’t bother with determining the parameters for her spell, a brief diversion into mechanics was required. This is unfortunate, but sometimes unavoidable. The players of such characters must understand their magickal actions require more consideration to implement that grabbing a sword and rushing at a foe, however. The GM should NOT have to go through that process every time the player wants to cast a magick just because it is “too much work”. There are plenty of other types of characters to be played if the player is not willing to do the work that magick requires. It is structured the way it is so the player has maximum control over the effects of his magicks in the game.
Playing a roleplaying game is much like living a favorite fantasy novel and writing it at the same time, with the GM providing all the scene and mood descriptions and the actions and reactions for all the characters not taken by the other players (like the sailor prisoner in the passage above). It is the PC’s themselves who are the main characters involved, the heroes. The players are the ones who decide how the take will unfold and how it will be resolved (to a great extent), as they deal with the twists and turns of the plot, writing the take as they move through it. Indeed, there doesn’t have to be an end at all to the greater storylines, the campaigns. When there is, the players can always do their best to make it the ending that they would like best.
At the very least, each player will get out of a roleplaying game what he puts into it. At best, he gets what everyone else puts into it, too.
In truth, with a character in hand, a player should be able to mix into any roleplaying game and have a great time knowing no more of the rules than he could glean from reading the Introduction and the example of play above, whether the player has created his own character or it was taken from the sample characters in the back of the book, or made up for him by someone else. The GM is always there to help the player, direct him to the information he needs on the Character record Sheets when he needs it (if he doesn’t have a copy of his own to consult), to call for dice rolls when necessary and teach his preferred method for rolling dice and reading them, and the other players as well to direct him to the passages in the rule book he may need to consult from time to time, at least until the player has gotten some experience under his belt.
Some Ground Rules for Roleplay
A couple of points concerning the actual process of roleplaying that might not be very obvious to the reader from the example provided above should be addressed before proceeding to the in’s and out’s of roleplaying and the specifics of things like background and characterization.
Players should always refer to the characters they are playing in the first person, as “I”, when actively roleplaying, often described as “speaking ‘in character’”. When actively roleplaying his character, whether speaking for him or describing his actions, the player should never refer to him in the third-person, as if he were someone besides himself. That isn’t really roleplaying, nor even expressing a personal interest in the character persona, breathing life into him not only for his own enjoyment but that of the other players. Such phrases as “My character says …” or “My Knave tries to pick the lock …” or “Elissa uses her Courtesan skills to approach the official …”, or otherwise referring to the player’s own character in the third-person when actively playing him should be avoided, as shown in the previous example of play. Third-person references prevents the fantasy from achieving the air of urgency and vibrancy, of believability and immediacy, that it can have and for which most gamers come to roleplaying in the first place. Saying “I pull out my lock picks and kneel down to see if I can pick this lock …” and I’m going to sashay over to the official and bat my lashes at him and see if I can’t get a little cooperation out of him …” or such like creates a stronger bond and sense of identification with the character.
It is also important during play that the player provide a detailed description of the manner in which objects, creatures, beings, or locations are approached by his character. Sometimes the particular route a character takes across a room can make a difference, and the speed at which he approaches any thing, place or one will determine how much time he has to make observations during the approach that could be crucial on arrival. How a character goes about getting from point A to point B, or retrieving item X or Y, or any other action can sometimes be more important than the act itself. Perhaps on one approach a trap may be triggered, or on the other an ambush may spring out on the character. If a character reaches for his dagger in a very direct and matter-of-fact manner, the way he would at any other time (such as when drawing on a foe), while standing at sword point being ordered to surrender, he is likely to be impaled in short order. So, it becomes very important that the player describe the character’s approach to the dagger as being executed slowly, carefully and deliberately with the stated intent to comply, and the dagger then perhaps being gingerly handed over, perhaps only being held with thumb and forefinger.
The player should always speak up and speak clearly.
Do not mutter. Do not mumble.
If a player is tapped by the GM to state his character’s course of action when he isn’t ready and there are other players waiting who are, he should ask the GM to go on to the others and come back to him.
The player should always be prepared.
One good general rule to follow during play is “If you don’t know what it is or does, look it up before you use it”. This is a corollary of the “be prepared” principle. This includes character skills, trade abilities, equipment, dweomers, etc. Everything that can be used as a tool or means of influencing a situation whose effect is NOT necessarily obvious. Especially magicks!! This principle is VERY important to the smooth flow of play, as well as being another aspect of the common courtesy ground rules. The player should never wait until the GM asks what the skill, ability or object does specifically or the exact manner in which the character intends to employ it, the player should know already when he states the action employing it or, at the very least, he should state the intended action and tell the GM to go on while he looks up the object, skill or ability to determine its specific application, so the game can keep on going.
Everyone will benefit from this practice in the end.
When the player has a question, is confused, or some point of a description of setting or action remains unclear to him, he should ask the GM for clarification, ONLY.
IF someone else tries to answer a question directed to the GM, either the GM or the player with the question (or both!) should ask that person to settle down and allow the GM to provide the answer.
It is HIS story.
It is HIS gameworld.
The GM is the ONLY one with the correct answers.
Regardless of whether another player might have accurate information, he got it from the GM, and others should be allowed to do the same if they did not get it the first time around.
This way, when a PC acts on a piece of information and suddenly finds his character Mortally Wounded when no such danger was supposed to have been evident, the player can right to the source and say “I thought you said …” to the GM, who may merely have made a mistake. If a player accepts mis-information from another player when the GM wasn’t paying attention close enough to correct it, all the player can do is offer is some “who struck John” story, and the GM will deny having provided that information. This is definitely NOT the GM’s fault OR problem, but the player’s for not having gone directly to the source for his information. When receiving vital information from another player, a player should always take the time to verify it with the GM.
These are some of the more obvious ground rules of courtesy : the player should NOT talk over others and should NOT interrupt. The other players no doubt want to play just as much, and have just as much right to do so.
The player should NOT just ignore suggestions he does not care for or make snide comments or otherwise tear down the idea or the player providing it, he should at least thank the other for the suggestion and offer his own alternatives, and/or see if any other ideas are offered by the rest of the players.
The player should NOT take pot-shots at or antagonize other players or characters – except in certain special instances when the sniping between characters is understood on both sides to be light-hearted in nature and not hostile, done for amusement, in which case the characters had best be ready to get as good in return as they dish out.
In addition, carping at or about the GM’s spouse or significant other when they are in the environment or actually part of the game isn’t terribly wise. The GM is far more likely to jettison a player before his mate or date when they do not get along and cannot remain civil.
The player should always be aware of the quality of language and the other players’ tender sensibilities. Most people are offended by rough and explicit language in social settings and gatherings such as these, whether they say anything about it to the offender(s) or not. The “its just us guys” attitude and the resulting displays of ego, bad taste and pure testosterone are some of the more prominent reasons why more women don’t enjoy roleplaying games with men, and why they don’t see much value in roleplaying games in general.
Abide by the host’s house rules. This is especially true of the younger crowd meeting to play at the other kids’ homes. Offend the parents and start looking for another place to game, and perhaps for a new player, too.
In short :
The players are responsible for helping the GM make the most of the gaming session. That means cooperating with his attempts to cut down on distractions in the room. Televisions and videos running during the game are the worst, even when the volume is turned down. Any player with headphones on listening to their own music during the game should stop. ANY other form of entertainment going on in the same room at the same time as the roleplaying game is going grab at the players’ attention, spoil the atmosphere and the story, and draw the players away from the game. The GM needs to be able to command the attention of the group as needed to further the story or allow the PC’s to interact with the NPC’s, and the players MUST be able to concentrate on the events of the game in order to engage their imaginations and participate fully. Any music being played should be subject to the GM, considered appropriate to the evenings events. Environmental sounds, like rain, wind, or ocean could be used as appropriate and they are calming and soothing and feed into the game’s atmosphere. Recordings of actual medieval music could be a great accompaniment to a game, especially if there is a Minstrel, Troubador, Bard and/or Fili in the party. If the GM went to all the trouble to put the game together, design the adventure, the NPC’s, etc., the least the players can do is pay attention, whether their characters are actively present and engaged in the scene at hand or not.
The player should always be attentive.
If the GM is speaking at all, the player should probably be listening, unless the GM is specifically addressing another player on matters that specifically do NOT concern his own character. This is a good way to avoid the need to ask questions. If the player is still unsure about some point and not sure whether the GM is done speaking, it is better to wait for a lull in the speech or monologue to ask questions or wait for the GM to prompt the group with a “Well …?” or “What is your reaction – what do you do?” than to interrupt his creative flow. This is an ideal situation, of course. Most people have a hard time containing their curiosity in practice, or are afraid NOT to ask their questions when they occur for fear of forgetting them. But the player should be able to figure out when he can work in a question here or there while the GM is speaking without being rude or derailing his train of thought.
As mentioned, the GM will have spent a good deal of time and energy creating the game environment or world and the adventure at hand, as well. Those being disruptive or even simply not paying attention, just aren’t being fair to the rest of the players, and especially to the GM himself. If it should happen with any frequency, the GM is likely to take his pound of flesh in return from each of the characters. If the player is a repeat offender, the GM is likely to begin refusing to repeat himself to bring those who didn’t care enough to pay attention, busy goofing-off or distracting the others, back up to speed. This is a perfectly reasonable response to such behavior.
When a character is not actively involved in the scene being played through by the GM and the other PC’s, that player should still make the effort to follow the action going on, as one would in watching any Swords and Sorcery movie, or reading such a book. Of course, he must then refrain from making comments and especially from making suggestions or trying to otherwise help the other players’ characters in the absence of his own.
The GM is likely to rule out or disallow any action that is suggested by a player whose character is not present, simply on the strength of the fact that his character is not present in the situation to offer such advice or inspiration – regardless of whether the other PC’s would have come up with the idea themselves or not, even if it had just been on the tips of their tongues before it was blurted out.
To writhe quietly in anticipation on the sidelines waiting to see if the other players involved in a situation come up with the same plan of action as the player whose character is absent can actually be an excruciating bit of fun.
Sharing, consideration, and cooperation are just the basic ground rules, whether applied to opportunities to use character knowledge, skills and/or abilities or to making everyone feel comfortable and seeing that they have a good time. When a player comes up with an idea for something to do in pursuit of the adventure at hand, he should let others with similar or complimentary skills tag along OR, better still, ask around and see if any of the other characters in the party can help! When more than one character has the same skill(s), the characters should take turns. That way, the character who needs the work on his skill more won’t mind so much stepping aside and letting the character with the greater skill take the first crack when the chips are down.
Each character should be designed to fill a particular niche in the party, an area of expertise. If more than one character occupies the same niche, even partially, they need to learn to work together and share opportunities. If one is greater in skill (SL) than the other, those with lesser SL’s shouldn’t hesitate to acknowledge their peer’s skill and ask for help and/or guidance. Watching a colleague of greater skill work is a learning experience from which a character can learn just as surely as a hands-on exercise of skill. This fact should eliminate what would otherwise be an occasion for competition between characters, over which back-biting and in-fighting might otherwise develop. But, when one has greater skill than another and the occasion is used for a demonstration, both characters are allowed the same benefit (skill points), so there is no need to compete. Indeed, if the margin by which the other character’s skill is greater is a multiple of the lesser SL, the character taking the lesson could gain more than just the single SP earned by the character providing the demonstration. This is explained in detail in Part III. The Rules of the Game.
Pencils and erasers are essential to gaming, and the host may or may not have extras to share. Constantly imposing on the other players to borrow their pencils, paper, erasers, dice, etc. when they may well need those things themselves just isn’t very considerate, and consistently doing so may put something of a strain on the gaming atmosphere after a while – it shows lack of regard and respect. If this Player’s Guide belongs to a friend and the player ends up playing with any frequency or regularity at all, obtaining a personal copy of the Player’s Guide will be as having the gaming materials mentioned above, and for the same reasons. Even if a player only asks for something once or twice in an evening, if he is doing so in every gaming session the other players are going to get tired of it rather rapidly, whether they say anything about it or not. When those who have been imposed upon finally get around to voicing their displeasure about being so used, they aren’t likely to be terribly pleasant about it. Most people will just wait to see if the problem goes away on its own first and get even more upset when it doesn’t.
Paper is an absolute must during a roleplaying game, even if it only a sheet or two. A notebook, a pad of stickies, a steno pad, a piece of scrap paper, it doesn’t matter what, the player should have paper on hand to take notes on important points, information regarding the current plots, gameworld history, important NPC names and descriptions and encounter summaries, or the like that may come up during play. The player will need paper to keep track of current FTG and WND totals, for sending private notes to the GM, changes in character status, location or equipment, stun effects in battle, particulars on dweomers the character has cast which remain in force, including the characters on whom he has cast them or bestowed them (as applicable), and so on.
How can the player tell what it is he should write down, what he will need to know later on in the game? basically, such items as names or recurring or particularly important characters (NPC’s), events that move the plot(s) forward, dates and locations of meetings and events, gameworld background and background concerning characters involved in the character’s adventures (one way or another), and such-like will form the bulk of the information the player should keep track of. Just about any thing, person, or physical detail that catches the player’s attention should be jotted down by someone in the party (if not everyone), along with any theories concerning its probable importance – whether because it seems odd in and of itself or because the GM seems to have taken the trouble to point it out.
Taking notes during play can be VERY important. in effect, the character’s written notes are a journal and reminder of his experiences – they constitute a written record of his memory which the player is free to consult at any time to refresh his own memory on the character’s behalf during play. It is all too easy to forget things from one game to the next, especially the details, and especially if the game is only held bi-weekly or monthly. Indeed, the player may well find the GM’s attitude to be “The character’s memory is only as good as the player’s notes”. It is difficult to debate a point of information with the GM without any written record of it. GM’s in general will be much more likely to clarify or discuss a character note to jog the player’s memory than to simply dispense information a second time to a player who obviously didn’t think the point was important enough to write down, or didn’t care enough about it to do so in the first place. If it seems that some thing or point might come up again later in play, it is certainly important enough to make a note of.
As important as staying in character is, the player must keep separate in his mind those things that he witnesses as a player when his character is absent from a scene being conducted for the balance of the PC’s, and the knowledge the character has of those scenes in which he was actually present. This will inevitably happen at some point. Parties tend to fracture from time to time to pursue different avenues or leads in the process of tackling an adventure. If the other characters take the time to brief the character who was absent on his return, after the fact, the character who was absent should make a note of the fact, the game day and approximate time when this was done so he can show the GM if questioned in that regard later. The player can expect to be questioned if the GM suspects the character is acting on information he should not have unless some opportunity was taken by others to give it to him.
Players should compare notes on occasion, as well, to review and fill in holes, copying down things they may have missed. When doing so, the GM will should be informed, especially when sharing notes concerning events for which a character was not present or NPC’s he has not met, so the GM will not later think the player is using information his character should not have to the character’s advantage. A player’s notes are his character’s memory, but only his own. This process represents time the characters will have had to sit down, maybe over a mug of ale in the local house of call or a cup of tisane in the solar, and talk about things, however, which will take up gametime the GM will have to account for. Any time the player wants to swap information with another character he should make sure there is a sufficient lull in the action to allow the characters to do so, and then inform the GM of the time spent so doing. It may be that the characters left off at the end of a battle and just as they finish tending to their wounded and get on their way get blindsided or accosted by someone who demands their attention and cannot be put-off, in which case the GM will postpone allowing the character the benefit of any transcribed notes until the characters actually have a sufficient time to themselves to exchange that information.
These notes make for great fun in reminiscing over character adventures after the fact, too!
As important as paper, dice, and writing implements are, playing a character without the Character Record Sheet is virtually impossible. If the character has been left at home, the player should fully expect to have to go back home to retrieve it. If the character sheet has actually been somehow lost or destroyed, the players is simply going to have to sit down with the PG and start into recreating the character as closely as he can remember. For the player’s own benefit, he should make a couple photocopies of his Character Record Sheet, front and back, one to store as a back-up and one for the GM’s use. A new set of copies should be made after each Progression Check conducted by the GM so that the latest SL’s and AV’s and skills and abilities will all be represented and none of the hard work that has gone into the character is lost. Any old copies can be filed or discarded, as the player’s discretion. Any notes kept that represent the character’s experiences and record of memory might also be backed-up in the same manner, but the GM will not likely have any need for a copy of those. Lamination can protect a character sheet from spills, tears, and general wear, as well, although every new copy of the sheet will need to be similarly treated.
Just a thought.
The most important aspect of roleplaying that the player should remember is that fact that gaming is a social activity, similar to going to a party or a picnic, or out to the movies. All the social niceties and ‘catching-up’ with the other players need to be accomplished before the game starts – carrying on a private, NON-game-oriented conversation in the background throughout a gaming session is as annoying to the other players as those who continue to talk all the way through a movie at the theater. All normal rules of proper conduct in a social setting apply to a gaming session in addition to the game’s written rules. A 10 to 15 minute period of time might be allowed for the players to get the social niceties and catching-up taken care of before each game session to eliminate the need for such conversations during the game. The players may not even need this time before every game.
On the other hand, when the players enjoy socializing together as well as gaming together, the game session might be timed so as to break up early enough to enable the group to repair to the nearest or favorite coffee house or watering hole to unwind, swap gaming tales, reminisce, and theorize about the current game, talk about movies and books in the genre, or just to generally socialize as they please. Alternately, the game could be broken up and the gaming things put away so the host can break out the coffee, tea or whathaveyou and the dessert du jour.
Having this kind of down-time together, specifically right after a game or on other occasions than gaming days, makes for a tighter party of PC’s. Getting the gaming group together to go see the latest medieval or sword and Sorcery genre movie can also help draw the gaming group closer together. At the same time, it also cuts down on the amount of time needed to ‘catch-up’ with the other players when the business at hand is roleplaying.
The player should always find out what the arrangements for refreshments are before the day of the game, whether Bring-Your-Own, or a collection to be taken up for ordering out family-style, or if everyone is to bring something to share with the group like a pot-luck supper – if there are any such arrangements made at all.
This is only mentioned because roleplaying sessions often take on a party-like atmosphere. Because they generally tend to last for several hours, usually encompassing one or more traditional mealtimes, refreshments do periodically become an issue, and it is just rude for the host to get up and get himself a bag of chips and a tall glass of something icy and refreshing because it is his house and not offer anything to everyone else. Of course, it certainly isn’t fair to expect the same person to always host the game and expect them to provide refreshments week after week, either. that is tantamount to throwing a small party every week and could run into some serious money in short order, especially if any of the gamers are heavy eaters or snackers, which they do sometimes tend to be. So, the player should be sure to discuss this with the rest of the players before the session meets. It is rather unfair to expect everyone to bring something, even money to throw into the common pot, without prior notice. If the group is set up like a club, with the equivalent of “dues”, this becomes less of a problem, as a fund already exists which can be used to provide refreshments for the members.
Some of the above guidelines or advice may well seem self-evident to many, some may even consider those passages to be presumptuous or even insulting, but it is amazing how many people forget these things once they sit down to play, and how many hard feelings can result. Strong friendships of long duration have been wrecked by less.
When all is said and done, a roleplaying game is just that – a game, to be played for fun. How can a bunch of people really have fun together without cooperating? What fun is playing with a bunch of strangers when they won’t get into the spirit of adventure and can’t really trust one another? Roleplaying such attitudes can bleed into Real Life and cool friendships a great deal. Roleplay can be taken very personally by some, regardless of assurances to the contrary by fellow players, and any cautions in this book that these are just make-believe roles put on like masks for an evening for the purposes of playing a game. They may only be fictional roles, but people are playing them.
This advice should be taken in the spirit in which it is intended. People who get their feelings hurt or their sensibilities offended in a roleplaying game don’t often continue to play or bother seeking out others with whom to game, and that hurts the whole hobby. The more people in the hobby, the stronger the group, the hobby, and the businesses that supply and support them.
Now, I stumbled across this article on becoming a better player. This is the best article of its kind I have ever read. It is solid gold in my humble opinion … okay, so my opinion isn’t so humble … read it anyway.