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A group of us just recently started playing Pathfinder because a common friend really likes RP-type games. He asked us if would we wanted to join his campaign. We all agreed. I figure that RP-type games is a give and take for the GM and the player.

My question is how can I become a better Pathfinder player so that it is enjoyable for the GM and not just for me? I wanna know what I can do to make this enjoyable for our GM since he's putting so much work and effort into the campaign. What do GMs expect out of their players, and how do I (as a new player without loads of experience or system mastery) help them have fun in-game?

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2 Answers 2

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"Better" may mean different things to different groups, so it depends somewhat on the play style of the GM and other players.

If you have a group that is heavy on the role-playing side, don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. It is sometimes a challenge for new players to speak "in character" because it feels a little embarrassing when you are new to the game or group, but getting comfortable with that aspect of role-playing can lead to some of the best in-game moments. Don't worry so much about trying to do an accent, or speak with some other affectation; just use your own voice but try to think about how your character would react in the given situation. Instead of speaking in 3rd person like "My character says...," just speak in the first person, "I am honored by your presence, Duke NPC". Check out role-playing podcasts that discuss 1st person vs 3rd person. Google "Fear the Boot" and peruse their role-playing show topics.

If you have a a group that really enjoys tactical combat, it's important to understand how your character's feats/spells/maneuvers can aid the other characters on the grid. You might want to do some Google search on class optimizations / builds. Read through the combat section carefully. Understand how flanking, feints, aid another and other in-combat maneuvers can give you or you allies bonuses. If you are a spell-caster, research the use of buff and de-buff spells beyond just damage dealing spells. As an example, "Grease" is one of the most powerful utility spells in the game.

In terms of helping the GM, listen to the descriptions given as the GM narrates a scene. Ask questions about the details of the objects and surroundings of the scene. Ask about your other senses (smells, sounds) as the GM may sometimes to forget these details and the interactive give and take of noting these small details can really help a GM's creative juices as well. Honestly, as a GM, I am brought up to another level when the players ask leading questions. Sometimes I don't have all the answers, but other times it suddenly occurs to me that I can add a clue that I might not have otherwise thought to include or gives me inspiration on how to to build more atmosphere.

Don't be afraid to ask questions of the more experience players, but remember that it is your character, so have him or her act as you wish. You don't always have to act in accordance to their advice or desire.

Lastly, thank the GM for their game. It takes a lot of prep work and it is often thankless. At the end of the night, note something in the session that you thought was really cool, or particularly fun about the session. If you are really comfortable and friendly with the GM, you can sometimes offer positively framed constructive critique, but this is a very tricky path to tread and you really need to have a strong trust relationship with that person.

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+1, Thank you very much for your answer. It's definitely helped. –  Pedro Estrada Feb 25 at 22:42

A few thoughts in no particular order:

  • Learn the rules. The first step is to read the core rulebook and understand how the rules work. Don't worry if you don't understand every single rule that is written, at this stage, get the gist and move on. I would suggest creating a character while you read the book so the concepts are a bit more concrete. Got your character finished? Great, feed it to the shredder and start over. I find that my first character in any system is terrible, but my second one is much better.
  • Make a good character. By character, I don't mean the numbers on the page, I mean the personality that is fueled BY the numbers on the page. Some folks start with an idea "I want to run a character like [character from TV show/movie]" and then build stats to be a wizard like Gandalf, others start a filled out character sheet and then try to make a personality based on what they chose. Either way, have someone that is memorable and a 3D person, not just "str 18, dex 12, con 16..."
  • Think of fantastic things to do. Fantastic as in fantasy. Think outside of the box. In long combats there is some degree of "I stab him with my sword" when it comes time to declare actions, but the more you can say things like "I parry his attack and riposte into a weak spot in his armor" the better for the general interest. Don't think in terms of the rules, think in terms of doing cool stuff, and if your DM is good, s/he will go with your ideas and figure out how to make it work with the system.
  • Help others around the table have fun. You all like long and talky scenes, but Bob just HATES that and wants to smash stuff. Maybe instead of having long dialogs to get rumors, if it's not that important, ask the DM to just do a quick roll and let the party move forward into the fight that everyone knows (or suspects) is right around the corner.
  • Social Contract. There is the concept of a social contract that some groups will talk over. Although it is a very boring conversation talking about why you want to try to game and what you won't play, it is very important to know that George hates plotlines involving torture (his buddy was waterboarded so he feels uncomfortable to have to "play" a being tortured), and will likely leave the group, never to return if the main plotline requires the PCs to torture someone. As for why people play, some like to be thespians adn have long and talky-scenes of political intrigue dialog, others like to rack up kills on their character sheet. Others like the idea of going down in some unexplored dungeon and being like Indiana Jones. Still others are friends of people who game so they show up for social interaction, not the game per se. They would be just as happy playing cards or watching movies as playing RPGs. There is no "right" or "wroong" answer when it comes to the social contract. Some tables have rules about quoting Monty Python (or more specifically to NOT quote Monty Python).
  • DBAJ (Don't be a jerk). This means to not do somethign consciously that would make other people not have fun. If Sally is hosting the game, don't expect to eat her out of house and home. Bring your own snacks, or pay for the pizza. Some groups have this stuff spelled out in the social contract, others it's more of a "Dude, don't be such a mooch" arrangement. I enjoy baking desserts so I'll bring them over to share, or a sixer of beers. If everyone looks to be going left, and the DM has prepared for going left, don't walk in and immediately decide that instead of going right/left, your PCs are going to go to Wisconsin.
  • Have Fun. Remember, this is a game and you are among friends, so things should generally be fun
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