Thursday, December 5, 2013

Player Improvement ... Not on the Web

Now I know that I'm not a fantastic player. I sure do have my problems. Unfortunately, while I can get advice on the web for how to DM a game there's paltry advice on how to deal with problems as a player. Look up DM burnout. Look up how a player can help a DM with burnout. You'll see a similar set of articles by DMs for DMs.

But why is that?

For every DM dealing with the pain of burnout, there's generally around four players itching to get their fix and knowing it's about to get cut off.

What is it about being a player that encourages passivity and prevents players from getting and giving tips on how to keep their DMs in the game? I say this also as a player who has felt that passivity and sat there, brooding, unaware of what to do or where to go.

I mean, there are advice columns to DMs on how to re-educate, re-form, re-sculpt and re-design their players. Sure most of them won't ever work because, y'know, changing another person is really, really hard. If DMs suddenly found the magic cure-all for controlling misbehaviour, we'd all be highly desired in managerial positions and putting DM on your resume with three player references would make you a shoe-in at a job interview.

So it's not that we're magically better equipped to cope with it as DMs than as players.

But why are there so few articles out there to help players figure out what they can do?

I mean, players are in a really good position to help their DMs stay motivated. They can help mitigate player and gameplay issues. They can increase tension in a horror game and mysticism in a fantasy game. In fact, they have as much control over out of character issues as the DM does. Sure, perhaps a bit less 'official power', but they're at least one-fifth of the group and therefore can bring in all of their own conflict resolution skills or at least not contribute to whatever problem is affecting the game.

Why are all the articles on creating characters more suited to their genre directed to DMs and not the players who are making them?

Why aren't there reams of articles from players wondering how to play a better horror character (or be a better player in a horror game)?

There are DM articles on how to get players to take notes. Where are the articles for players on how to best take their own notes or cope with note-taking when they really don't want to but know another player won't do it?

I get that there's not much a player can do between sessions to prep for a game and generally there should be no need to do so but there are other areas where the greater numbers of players and their greater involvement in the area (i.e. concept creation) should lead to more articles on the subject.

But I would have thought that there'd be at least as many players crying out for help or wanting to help as DMs and yet the player base is silent on such meta-considerations and seems to instead focus primarily on stats, lurking on forums and participating in the occasional Funniest / Scariest / Deadliest Moment threads.

I just so rarely see pro-active articles from players saying such things as, "Hi, I'm a player, and I'm having trouble with my DM / Fellow Gamers / Own Habit / Gaming Needs.  How can I fix this?"

Though maybe I'm just looking in all of the right places.

If you know any good player-directed articles, please link them in the Comments section below. I know I'd be very interested as a player.


  1. I think a lot of it has to do with players not necessarily being inclined to be as "plugged in" as GMs. I'm sure there are players who never read a blog article, or read a forum, regarding their favorite games - and the ones that do are likely already proactive enough in dealing with problematic GMs or groups. Heck, I've been a player such a small percentage of my years of gaming that I wouldn't even know where to start giving advice, because I would likely handle any problems like a GM.

    1. True. Players need to handle things differently to an ST because the lines of authority are drawn differently so that can be tricky.

  2. As a hardly GM, long time player. Who does read a lot of blogs (ok, well quite a few) I completely get the GM vs Player difference. Most blogs, and that is a high majority most, are written by GM's for GM's. Which is great, for GM's.
    But where are the concerted efforts by players? Where are the long term, committed players? Honestly I think most of them eventually just become GM's. Now I'm off subject.
    One thing that I've found hard, in all my games. Is that, telling a GM game was great, and assuring them that they are making the right calls, even when things take a direction you're not personally keen on, they are still making great decisions... well that's about all it feels like you can do. Especially if it's a home brew. The amount of effort, the blood sweat and tears that go in to forming a fully functional campaign FAR out way the effort most players put in.
    It just feels like any hints/tips/advice you may be honestly giving, will just come of as criticism and not necessarily the good kind. Maybe that's an insecurity on my part but it does hold me back. (yes, even when dealing with long term friends TURN GM's)
    As far as helping other players stay on track/in character/resolve issues. Well, I'm not sure. I know that I've been both pro-active and at other times passively useless in these regards, but even when thinking long and hard about it (which I have been recently) I can't put my finger on why I personally have been unable to assist.
    I know I can't speak for other players, but it has seemed in my experience that there are a contingent that although they will be devastated that their game ends, they simply don't have the conviction to make a concerted effort in regards to fixing issues.
    Here's hoping I can pull my head out and make a continuing effort in the future.

    1. I totally get that. When I'm a player, I go from thoughtful and committed to lazy and confused in about .05 seconds. At best when my game is threatened I bleat louder like a sad little lamb whose mummy's walking away.

      I do notice when you guys try to do what you can, by the way. Maybe not always, but most of the time I see it.

      It's just always tricky, especially when there's not a lot of good advice out there. I mean, I do the odd Player Tip and Player Advice Column but that's always from the perspective of an ST.