Don’t Be a Dick!

During his keynote speech at PAX 2007, Wil Wheaton discussed sportsmanship while playing games. It has since become known as Wheaton’s Law, which states: “Don’t be a dick!”

Most of the time, a “problem player” is just someone who doesn’t realize there are other ways to look at how he—and his character—can interact with the game and its participants. A roleplaying game is a social activity: not only do you need the skills of a good roleplayer, but you also need to be a decent human being as well.

Be Reliable

Let’s face it: a game isn’t just something cobbled together by people with nothing going on who accidentally bumped into each other. People have lives, just like you do. While real life is more important than the game, it’s not an excuse to bail at the last minute or stay in the dark about whether you’re available to play next weekend. Remember the game is part of real life—it’s an event scheduled by your peers that you are supposed to attend. It’s understood that people can’t always make a regularly scheduled event and need to miss sessions for very important reasons from time to time. Just don’t treat the game like a suggestion thrown together by people you barely know. Stay communicative, whether by e-mail or telephone.

Be Considerate

The game you’re in is about everyone there. Just like in any story, not all of the chapters center around one character. Instead of thinking of the game as a first person narrative, try thinking of it like a soap opera: everyone will get screen time, but they may not always get equal amounts of it all the time. It’s also important to pay attention to what’s happening around you, even when the plot isn’t centered on what you’re doing. When other’s are roleplaying, that isn’t the time to stop paying attention and begin to disrupt the other players. What’s happening in the game is important to everyone, no matter who it’s happening to.

Be Easygoing

There are gamers who do absurd things, all under the guise of being in character. When someone brings it up, these gamers usually respond with, “What? It’s what my character would do!” No, it’s not; what you meant to say is, it’s something your character could do. There is no one thing that someone does when faced with a situation. The fact of the matter is, you might do anything when presented with stimulus; you have a lot of options available to you and the one you choose depends on a lot of factors. Your character is no different—and there are a lot of options in a roleplaying game. Don’t choose the one that is the least beneficial to the story, the other players, and the game.

Be Flexible

Getting a party together is hard. It’s even harder when you don’t want to start every campaign with “…and then the old man presents you with a map.” Sometimes DMs like to mix things up by putting the characters together in other ways. For example, you all might find yourself at the scene of a crime, in the middle of a burning building, or at the site of a catastrophe. Sure, when you and the rest of the characters get out of the situation at hand, you could go home and never speak to each other again. However, a few things were assumed when you came to play; namely, that you’d like to play. Since the DM didn’t make the characters, only the players can make the missing pieces fit. Everyone knew the session was going to end with the characters working together towards some common goal—help the DM achieve that.

Be Adventurous

When orcs come to raid your village, or when people in your monastery start going missing, or when a mad wizard straps you to a table in his laboratory, there are two kinds of characters: those who run away and hide, and those who go towards the danger, the mystery, and the glory. You should be playing the second kind of character. This is not metagaming! You are not going toward the orcs because you’re a PC; you are a PC because you are the sort of person who goes towards the orcs. People who want to sit at home and knit do not have stories told about them. This is not to say that characters must be railroaded; it’s assumed that the DM has some idea of what motivates your character, probably by having you fill out a questionnaire.

In Summary

Being a good player is about being a considerate, thoughtful, polite person. It’s about being positive and not negative; active and not passive.