These tips focus on out-of-character behaviours that can make the overall game a better experience for all involved. Naturally there are ways to improve your portrayal of character, ability to engage with plot and skill at creating captivating characters, but that’ll be the focus of future articles. For now let’s look at creating a great game environment for all involved.
And without further ado, here is the list of tips:
- If you have an intense roleplaying session with someone, you should approach them after game to talk it over. Even a brief “That was intense! Thanks for roleplaying with me. I hope you didn’t mind how yell-y my character got. I actually really enjoyed it!” can help ensure people know when an issue is IC or OOC.
- Encourage other players and their choices. While your character might not like gargoyles or merchants, it’s important to be fair and impartial when discussing them out-of-character and to avoid using derogative nicknames that might make a person feel judged and belittled. If a player’s choices are a problem for the game setting or genre, then only a real discussion will help with that.
- Never insult someone based on a real world trait such as gender, real world race, sexuality or physical appearance (not including makeup and prosthetics). If you do, you are actually insulting them whether you (the player) mean to or not and that’s just not fun for them.
- When discussing events that have occurred at the game as a player, always refer to character interactions using the third person and that character’s name. Only use a player’s name and the words “you” and “I” when you are talking about real world feelings and people. This is the best way to help ensure a distinction between in-game and real world feelings and reactions.
- Remember that each character has their own thoughts, desires and experiences and that what might seem silly to you could make a lot of sense to them. Since a character’s choices also typically reflects a player’s thoughts on what would be clever, tactical and enjoyable, it’s important to keep any insults based on character choices to in-game comments. No one enjoys hearing how stupid their character is outside of game.
- Be mindful of the nicknames you apply to other characters out-of-game. They can stick and what could be quite funny the first few times can quickly undermine their confidence and desire to play that character in the future. When in doubt, ask the player if that nickname or playful insult is wearing thin and listen to what the person tells you.
- Don’t boast about the terrible things you’re going to do to another character while out-of-game. No one wants to helplessly listen to someone joyfully describing some cruel fate for their character while knowing they can do nothing about it without cheating through meta-gaming. Leave such boasts to the in-game arenas so that the story can flow naturally.
- Ask out-of-game if a player is happy to be the target of your character’s romantic attentions. If you are playing a character who flirts with everyone, still ask out-of-game permission from all of those involved and have a handy list of reasons for why they might make an exception for a character that belongs to a player who wouldn’t like it.
- It means a lot to the other players when their character’s deaths are mourned, even if only briefly. Pausing a moment to raise a toast to a deceased ally, or even an important rival or defeated nemesis, can be really appreciated. Be respectful on an OOC level when discussing a now deceased character, even and especially if your own PC was their nemesis, as it’s very easy to accidentally hurt someone when you cut down their artistic endeavours (i.e. their character) shortly after their loss.
- Don’t gossip about people you think might be cheating or meta-gaming. They might have good reason to have ignored that hit or know that secret that you just don’t know about. False accusations just damage people’s reputation and encourage a negative atmosphere. If you have a concern, approach them directly or ideally speak with a Game Master who would have a broader understanding of the game and would know one way or another.
- Give people the personal space they need. Everyone has their own personal space bubble which is affected by a range of circumstances and experiences. If someone keeps backing away from you in an otherwise friendly conversation, you are probably standing too close. It’s always a good idea to check if you an uncertain.
- Establish a personal’s personal boundaries before touching them. You might do this by briefly dropping out-of-game or by pre-establishing those boundaries before the game begins. Please note that just because someone is happy for one person to touch them on the shoulder, doesn’t mean they’re happy for someone else to do. You need to gain consent for yourself. If they are happy for you to touch them on the shoulder, that doesn’t mean they have granted permission for you to hold their hands. You don’t need to ask someone for permission when offering or accepting a hand shake (since them reaching out is nonverbal permission) but do accept if someone drops out-of-game to tell you that their character would shake hands but they would prefer not to.
- If another player makes a concession to you to help you enjoy the game, it’s important you don’t use that as an excuse to make things harder for their character. In other words, if no one is inviting your character on adventures because they’re a known traitor or a thief, and you ask some players to help you out because you are bored, you shouldn’t then betray or steal from them. They have made an out-of-character concession to keep you involved (inviting you along when their characters wouldn’t) so you should make an out-of-character concession to keep things plausible and fair (sharing the loot equally). Therefore you should always keep all OOC deals and concessions separate from in-game deals and concessions so that players know where they stand.
I hope that helps!