It’s no secret that players get attached to their characters in a big way. Moreover, players love when their characters get their moment, or several moments, in the sun. The feeling of giving the inspiring speech or slaying the monster can be intoxicating and, therefore, quite addictive. However, it’s important to remember that all players feel this way, at least occasionally. The act of sharing the table is a mark of a great table-top gamer, and what follows is a list of four aspects that can help you (or someone you know) become a better team player.
1 . Listen
The most basic principles of teamwork which we must remember is one we learned as children. We should listen for certain tonal cues and keep an ear out for indications that one of our table mates is looking for an opening. If they start formulating a plan, go with it. Even if it isn’t the best idea in the world, you’re bound to make that player feel more accomplished by letting them take the lead. If another player seems anxious, take that cue and rope them into your next plan. Try teaming up with shy gamers to get them out of their comfort zone (as comfortably as possible, of course). Oh, and listen to your GMs, too. When they speak up, they most likely have something important or interesting to say.
2 . Share the Spotlight
If you find yourself at the helm of an adventure more often than not, you may want to take a step back and let others take the wheel for a while. Not every campaign needs a de facto leader. In fact, most modules aren’t written with a head honcho in mind. Cooperation between individuals and the sharing of leadership responsibilities makes for a well-oiled team. When another player’s character seems more suited for a job, let them take care of it. You can help, of course, but sometimes it’s best just to let another player accomplish the thing they’re good at without any assistance. In combat, coordinate your efforts as best you can. Let the big guy run up and take a few licks while the sneaky character gets into position for a surprise attack. Such cooperation will build your group’s combat efficiency and make for some awesome and memorable sessions.
3 . Take the Bullet
A character’s life is fleeting, and this fact is even more true in certain games such as Call of Cthulhu. While everyone should wish for and work towards their character’s continued existence, sometimes, somebody has to bite the dust. Sacrificing your character’s life for another’s is not only good team play, it’s a chance for your character to have a powerful dramatic moment as well. This piece of advice is most effective when dealing with another player’s first or favorite character. Show them that you value their character just as much as they do. This simple act will have new players coming back for more and veterans thanking you for weeks to come. And even though it’s cliché, everyone likes a good bodyguard-style sacrifice.
4 . Distinguish Player and Character
When in the heat of a dramatic moment, it’s often difficult to differentiate between the person you’re staring at in the real world and the fictional character inhabiting the shared creative space that is the gaming table. Tensions can run high and emotions hot, but never forget that each player is an actor. Anger you feel towards your buddy sitting next to you is probably being misdirected, instead intended for his or her character. The failure to make this distinction proves to be the great enemy of any good table-top team. As long as everyone remembers who they’re talking to (that is to say, the character and not the player), not even hot-blooded player-versus-player combat can threaten friendships. Don’t forget to share a post-game chat with your in-game enemy to make sure that tensions cool down.
These aspects of good teamwork help us to tell the great stories we want to experience. Some of my favorite gaming memories come from moments of pure synergy, and others by watching my friends accomplish awesome feats while I was there to support them. What are some of the keys to great teamwork that you’ve experienced? Let me know, and keep up the great teamwork!
David Horwitz is a gamer and freelance writer with an obsession for exploring new forms of leisure. If you’re looking for an inquisitive mind and a deft hand, or just want to chat about gaming and share your favorite moments, contact him at www.davidhorwitzwrites.com/contact .
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.