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One of the most poisonous memes to raise its pestilent head in recent years is the idea that all players, or for that matter, all GMs, are equal. It’s cool, and it’s inclusive, to note that there is not One True Way, but this doesn’t mean that All Ways Are Equal.
I know – and if you’ve been doing this for any length of time, I would hazard that you know – that there are some players who make the game a joy to run. There are some players who make the game better for everyone else at the table. There are some really excellent players out there.
And there are players who peek behind your screen when you go to the bathroom, buy and read the module you are running, question every decision you make, and complain if anything doesn’t go their way. There are players who want to be in the spotlight every moment of the game session, there are players who want to “get” the other players (not just their characters), and there are players who want to bring a Teletubby Space Ranger into a carefully crafted 17th Century game setting and seem unable to understand why you are saying no.
Most players fall between those extremes, of course. As do most GMs. That’s cool. But, just as the GM should try to improve herself – to be more than “just good enough”, so should each player. When you sit down at the table, no matter what you sit as, player or GM, you need to ask yourself, “Am I making the game better for everyone?”
If the answer is “No”, then you had better ask yourself “Why not?”
If you’re running the game, the odds are good that you are making the game better just by running it. If you are not making the game better for everyone at the table, the odds are good that it is because one or more players at your table don’t belong there. If you want a nice garden, sometimes you have to get down on your hands and knees and pull out the weeds.
If you are a player, not only should you strive to make the game a better experience for everyone, but you should also strive to make it more fun to run. Why? Because if it is more fun to run, your GM will keep coming back. Or keep inviting you back.
Don’t be a weed.
You will hear a certain segment of the player population claim that their fun is more important than the GM’s, or the other players’. You will hear a certain segment of the player population claim that the game should revolve around them, or that the GM is simply not being “creative enough” if he says No to a Teletubby Space Ranger in a 17th Century European game. There is, in fact, a certain segment of the player population that will claim that the GM should always say Yes to player propositions.
Pay attention to who says that. They are letting you know that they are weeds. And, yes, a weed might be cultivated into a worthwhile addition to your garden. And some weeds have other good qualities that make them more like wildflowers.
But at least you’ll know what you’re letting yourself in for when you invite them to the table.
And if, as a player, you discover that your GM is a weed? Quietly and calmly excuse yourself from the table and find a new GM - or better yet, run your own game. The world can always use new GMs.