It can be easy to spend inordinate amounts of time talking about the characteristics of disruptive or difficult players. Because of this most folks can tell you what makes a “bad” player. But what makes a good player? I firmly believe we should model the behaviours we want to see in others, so what does that mean for TTRPG players? Let’s look at what our Good Player gets up to as they prepare for an evening of gaming. For our purposes they’re playing D&D, but you could adjust these behaviours for any TTRPG.
Our Good Player’s habits begin at home, before they even leave for the game. They’ve checked their bag and made sure they have everything they need for an evening of gaming: any required books, their character sheet (properly leveled, of course), pens, pencils, dice. Does the group chip in for snacks or dinner? The Good Player makes sure to bring their share, whether that’s cash or potluck. The Good Player has also checked for dietary restrictions or allergies, so everyone can enjoy what they bring to the game. Having made sure they have everything, they head out.
The Good Player leaves to arrive on time, which means early. If your group aims to start playing at 6:30pm, for instance, the Good Player is there by 6:15-6:20, so they have time to settle and socialize before gaming begins. Nothing sucks the energy out of the start of a game like the DM having to backtrack for players walking through the door after the game has started, or having to wait for players before starting. Good Players have the courtesy not to do that.
If the Good Player is joining a table for the first time, they take the time to talk to their fellow players and the DM, and find out what the table norms are. Are there safety devices (the X-card, Lines & Veils, etc) in use, and what are the boundaries for those? Are there accommodations being made for players with disabilities, and if so, how can the Good Player support those? Are there any house rules particular to this group? These are all things a Good Player should find out as they settle in to play with a new group.
The game has started. Huzzah! The Good Player is excited to contribute to what is going on, and listens to the DM and the other players. If they bring a new character to the table, the Good Player has made sure to create something of interest to them, but which also fits in with the campaign and compliments the other party members. Their character has a reason to be working with the party, no tired out Lone Wolf tropes here. The Good Player makes sure not to speak over or overshadow other players, trusting that the DM will provide them with their own moments to shine. In the meantime the Good Player enjoys the successes (and sometimes the spectacular failures) of their fellow players.
When combat begins, the Good Player is ready! They’ve noted their spot in the initiative order, and are keeping an eye on who is immediately before and after them. They pay attention to the action, even while they prepare for their turn, so when their turn comes they understand the situation enough to act. While they may still ask a few pertinent questions of the DM, the Good Player has some ideas of what they can do. The Good Players understands that there is no such thing as the Perfect Action, just the Best Action Now, and so doesn’t succumb to analysis paralysis. Having tabbed their PHB, they can reference any special abilities quickly and easily, and they carry out their actions decisively. Good Players take steps to keep their turn as brief as necessary, doing things like rolling their attack and damage dice at the same time to save time. Good Players accept that their dice rolls are random, and don’t get angry when the dice don’t seem to be rolling their way; eventually those rolls will turn around.
The combat is over, and now the session is wrapping up. The Good Player pays attention when the DM hands out XP rewards, making a note on their character sheet. If the DM says they will hand it out at the start of next session, the Good Player makes note of that so they can politely remind the DM next game. The Good Player also makes note of any spells cast, damage taken, and so on, so they can start the next session right where they’ve left off. If the DM indicates a long or short rest will happen between sessions, the Good Player makes sure to update their sheet accordingly.
As they pack up, the Good Player makes sure they clean up any mess they’ve made at the table, clearing any garbage, dishes, or bottles/cans to the appropriate places. Out of respect for the DM providing a place to game, the Good Player makes sure to leave it as clean (or cleaner) as when they arrived. After confirming the date and time of the next game, and socialising for a bit, the Good Player heads home, thinking over the cool moments from the night’s game.
So obviously everything here is the ideal, and it isn’t going to fall into place every session. You’ll leave early, only to get a flat on the way and arrive late. A new player will announce their horrible nut allergy only after you bust out your bag of homemade peanut brittle. Through bad luck or judgement you’ll find yourself stepping all over someone else’s moment. These things can happen, and I doubt we’ll ever have a table where one or more doesn’t happen. But the goal, as we strive to be Good Players, is to be conscious of positive behaviours and model them as much as possible. Not only does this create good habits for us, but it gives other players something to emulate. And a gaming table filled with folks trying to be Good Players is a goodness.
What other behaviours do you think a Good Player should exhibit? Drop your ideas in the comments.