How to be a better Player | STA Engage S1E14

Welcome to the show. I’m your host, Dr RPG, Jeff Harvey. Last episode we talked with STA Writer, Aaron “Paul-e-a” about Techno-babbling your way through the Tech of Star Trek. If you missed it, check it out, and don’t forget to like, subscribe so you don’t miss an episode!

In this episode, we are going to talk about how you can be a better player at your table. I want to give a warning here, this will not be a hand holding episode. Not every player belongs at every table… and sometimes, YOU are the problem. It’s ok… it happens, and you can get better.

Speaking of better; let me introduce my co host, from CONTINUING MISSION STA DOT COM, the ineffable Michael Dismuke!

The goal of this show is to help fans of Star Trek, and of role-playing, better engage with the Star Trek Franchise, and the Star Trek Adventures game.

This show is brought to you by the letter P, the Number 22, and the support of people like you. So, if you enjoy what we are doing here, please share this episode with just one other person, or consider supporting the show on patreon. Help keep this show going for the rest of season 1, and show your support so that we can make a season 2. You will get access to show archive, the uncut Star Trek: Europa episodes and behind the scenes stuff that I use to run that game, as well as automatic entry into giveaways, invites to Live Q&A’s, your name in the credits of, not only STA Engage, but Star Trek Eurpoa and other StudioTembo Projects… and we are adding more stuff all the time!

But… let’s get down to business shall we!

Michael, you have been a GM for a couple of RPG’s now. If you would sum up what makes a player “good”, in just one word, or maybe a sentence… what would you say?

Empathetic

For me, I would have to say, in one word what makes a “good player”, I think I would probably have to say pro-active… or more accurately, proactively collaborative.  I’ll get more into what I mean as we go on, but first, there are some general tips that EVERY PLAYER, even the good ones, need to keep in mind if they want to get BETTER.

  • First, and this cannot be stressed enough…. Be respectful of EVERYONE else at the table
    • The other players put a lot of work into their characters, and they want to have fun as much as you do.
    • The GM put a lot of work into the session, the game, the world, the story… 
  • Almost every other point we are going to make is meaningless if you break the first rule.
    • Do unto others
    • Be the change you wanna see
    • Man in the mirror
    • Whatever cliche gets you by… The TL;DR of this is really… don’t be “that guy”.
  • Next, as Michael said, be empathic:
    • Read the room…
    • Don’t ruin someone elses scene with ill times jokes. Not every scene needs to have a tension break… (I’m looking at you Guardians of the Galaxy 2)
    • Let others have their moment… you’ll get yours too
    • If you make someone uncomfortable… own it, apologize, and if needed, discuss it.
    • Don’t break the mood
  • Show, don’t tell
    • You may write a 20 page backstory… but if you don’t SHOW the other players what that backstory has made your character, then it’s about as meaningful as middle-school slam poetry.
    • We’ve said it before… your character needs to have motivations, personality, hopes, dreams, flaws… but if you never show them “on camera”, they don’t matter. 
    • Kristen Stewart gets screen time, but man… she would be hard to play off of.
  • Take agency of your character, not other peoples…
    • Don’t sit at the table and tell others how they should play… or what they should do on their turn
    • It’s great for you to make choices that affect your character, on your turn, but no matter what another player chooses to do, it isn’t “wrong”… even if it isn’t the most advantageous, or mechanically effective. 
    • In Star Trek Adventures, there is a command structure, and you can, and should give orders to subordinate characters, but keep them general. Rather than “Run one zone and Stun the Romulan on the left”, try something like “TAKE COVER!!! RETURN FIRE”
    • In the same vein, and starting to dip into the idea of ProActive Collaboration, players more than GM’s should ALWAYS be thinking “YES+”
      • Roll (role) with bad rolls. Failure is rarely the end, and conflict without risk of failure is boring.
      • Don’t stop other players from taking big risks or making big changes.
        • Most TV shows end with everything being reset to the “opening normal”. Nobody really ever grows. You know it’s all gonna work out…. It’s fine. It entertains, but is almost NEVER great storytelling.
        • The best shows are normally the ones where you really don’t know what’s gonna happen next. Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, DS9, Cobra Kai. Sure, you have a good idea of what’s coming because the cast is the cast… but major changes could be lurking around every corner.
    • Fully own your character and get into the story. If you Bilbo turned Galdolf down, the Hobbit would not have been a good story. If Picard had just turned around when Q told them to go home, TNG would have been a pretty lame show.
  • Know the system… but don’t be a dick about rules
    • This is an easy one. This really is just about not sitting at the table looking for the rules for your character while it’s your turn. Know your spells rules BEFORE it gets to you. Know what your talent does before the GM asks for a roll.
    • On the other hand, if the table ruling doesn’t go your way… it’s ok. Don’t stop the game to complain about. Sometimes the rules are just plain wrong, or would get in the way of good narrative. See Rule 1, be respectful of other people’s time. 
    • BE READY on your turn. Combat is slow in most games. Don’t make it worse. Think ahead one or two turns. Have a plan, and a back-up plan. Think about what is going on in the scene. Pay attention to what everyone is doing, and be ready to act. You’ll find that things move faster, and you’ll look smarter, and you’ll be more engaged with other players.
  • We touched on it a little earlier, but Embrace Failure.
    • It can be a bummer when you’ve been smack talking the baddy, you’ve got him right where you want him, and the dice let you down. But if you could kick Kylo Rens but in the first movie, why do people need to see the other 2?
    • Can’t pick the lock, even though that’s “your thing”.. Play around it. Don’t get mad and just try again. Don’t just play the odds, play the character. You ARE the best at picking locks, and if you can’t pick it, it can’t be picked!
      • This also calls back to taking agency for your character, being a “Yes+” player, and not poo-pooing a character by stealing their light. 
        • If Quark is the “locks guy” and he can’t pick the lock, Julian and Jake don’t know it’s because it was a bad roll, so why on earth would they think they can pick the lock?
        • This is also a part of being collaborative as a player. Find another way. Make suggestions.. Or just do something that might warrant the player getting another crack at the roll. Work with the other players and the GM to create a narrative moment out a failure if you can.
    • Fail forward whenever possible. Just because you failed a roll doesn’t mean you’re done. Indiana Jones fails his jump the pit roll, but catches the edge. He grabs the vine and tries to pull himself up, but the vine breaks loose… sure, he could fall to his death here, but how does that help the narrative. Hard failures should be used when dramatically appropriate. The rest of the time, if possible, failing forward is a better story.
  • Play the game… 
    • Some GM’s don’t mind table talk, or phones, books, laptops.. Whatever. Personally, I find it kind of rude. Again, see the rule about being respectful. I put a lot of work into games I run. For every hour my players have fun, I’ve probably got at least 3 hours invested. More for some games, and a less practiced GM, or those GM’s still working on their improved skills, or who build models, paint minis, use soundscapes… they might spend 6 or more hours PER hour of gameplay. You playing Pokemon Go at the table, or crushing candy between die rolls is, at least in my mind, disrespectful of not only the work I put in, but of the other people at the table who are trying to tell their best stories.
    • Every GM understands if you have family or kids or whatever… that’s not the sort of thing I’m talking about. And honestly, as long as you aren’t missing all of the other points we talked about, you are being empathetic, you are ready to go on your turn, you embrace your failures and build a story around them, you know the rules and are ready when it’s your turn, then it’s probably fine if you run a couple tombs on your phone from time to time. By I tell you this… if, at my table, you continually disrupt the flow of my game because you aren’t paying attention, you will be looking for a new table fairly quickly.
  • Be collaborative
    • You can avoid getting super distracted by being a collaborative part of the story going on around you.
    • Be attentive to the scene. Contribute to it. Don’t passively consume the story, actively engage in it.
    • Find your moment and get in there, mix things up. Build on everything. 

Walt Disney built an empire and the idea of “plus-ing” everything. He had an idea for Mickey Mouse Park, but he “plus-ed” it, and we got DisneyLand. He thought that was great, but wanted to “plus” that, and we got DisneyWorld and EPCOT.

Being a proactive, collaborative, “YES+” player means that you are invested in the game, the story, the characters around you. You are engaged, you are always thinking about how you can use what is going on in the scene to bring life to the story. Even if your character isn’t in the scene, you are watching, learning, adapting to the story you are seeing from other players. You are being a part of their story by experiencing it with them.

We are all storytellers when we sit down at the table. You NEED to think about the story you want to tell, how that story is evolving as things around you happen. Building your own scenes that you can use to PLUS that story, PLUS your character. PLUS the storytelling experience of your audience… which is all of the people at the table. The GM, the other players, and you.

And on that note, unless you have anything you wanna add Michael, I think we are gonna call it a wrap. 

Next time, on STA Enage, we are going to talk about writer’s block, how to get past it, and how to know when it’s time to put your story out to pasture.

So tune in next time for: You gotta Know when to hold’em; or You gotta know when to fold’em

Until next time, I was host, Dr RPG Jeff Harvey, and on behalf of myself, my co-host Michael Dismuke, and everybody that works behind the scenes, Live Long and Prosper. 

Support us on Patreon
https://www.patreon.com/StudioTembo

The Official Modiphius Entertainment Site
https://www.modiphius.net/
https://twitter.com/Modiphius
https://www.facebook.com/Modiphius

The Official STA Engage SIte:
http://staengage.com/

The Continuing Mission
https://continuingmissionsta.com/

Our Wonderful Sponsor!
https://adventureink.xyz/
https://www.facebook.com/adventureinkcomics

Our Production Team
https://studiotembo.com/
https://www.facebook.com/StudioTembo/
https://twitter.com/StudioTembo

Starfleet Command’s Discord
https://discord.gg/YaVEQyG

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.