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I have never played an RPG and I'm not sure if I'm supposed to do anything special or not when playing.

This post tells me what I should bring but what on earth do I do when I get there? I'm that before I start any game, or campaign I'll know what books I need that is not my question.

What is expected of a player besides the obvious be polite, respectful, and a good sport...etc. Is there anything that experience players hate seeing in new players at the table, if so what and how can I keep from aggravating the group/GM?

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This is a nice question which is likely to attract a lot of answers. I would hold fire on accepting one for the next few days. –  Sardathrion May 1 at 11:38
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Not substantial enough for an answer by itself, but I highly recommend bringing snacks on the first day, even if it's a as small as a bag of chips (note, check to be sure your group doesn't have a no-snacks policy). It makes a good impression. –  Sean Duggan May 1 at 12:39
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@Doc please don't answer in comments. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton May 1 at 22:16

4 Answers 4

up vote 29 down vote accepted

As a GM, there is one thing I hate that new players do above all other things:

Don't Be Afraid To Ask Questions Or Speak Up

One of the things that new players do a lot is... nothing. They don't feel comfortable yet, so they don't say a lot. That's to be expected, and it's okay.

But then you get the ones who won't ask questions when they're confused, won't speak up when they have an idea, and won't let anyone know that they're bored and not having fun.

Don't do that. If you're confused by a rule, how a spell works, or if you can use an ability to spy on an NPC, ask. Ask every question you can think of. I'll happily spend half the night answering questions that help you get into the game. I want you to be able to do things, and am much happier answering questions that help you do that than I am if you just sit quietly because you're confused or unsure what to do.

If you have an idea for the party, speak up. Maybe it's not a good idea. Maybe it's an obviously genius idea that they never thought of because they've been in the game too long. Who knows until you voice it? The entire point of the game is to interact with the other players, so please do it when you have something to say.

And of course, if you don't feel like you can do anything and aren't enjoying yourself, I want to know that! There's lots of things the GM can do to help you out, if you tell us. But we're not mind readers, and we really don't like finding out later that you're unhappy when we could have done something about it had you said so earlier. (This can be done by passing a note or asking to talk in private, if it's something you don't want to voice in front of the group.)

Group Specific Stuff

Beyond that, it's a hard question to answer. Group dynamics and expectations vary wildly between groups. In some groups, you should wait your turn to speak and do things politely. In other groups, you're just expected to interrupt when you have something to say, and not doing so is treated as quiet agreement.

Some groups are quiet, others get very animated. Some expect people to only talk in character, others are assumed out of character. Some groups will do a lot of talking and try to solve mysteries or deal with things peacefully, and others shoot first and maybe ask questions after the loot is counted.

There's numerous examples of things like that, and as I know nothing about your group, I can't really say what they expect you to do. Except that they want you to ask questions and get involved. :)

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I can not emphasize the first part of this answer enough. You are Jon Snow, period. That's okay, IF (and only if) you are willing to learn. If you can read the core rules before play, very good, if not, it doesn't actually matter. –  MrLemon May 1 at 11:42

First and foremost be polite but that goes without say, right? Everyone is there to have fun, and role play. The latter has no real definition and can change between games! Which is why we speak of social contracts. Those define what kind of game the game will be, what is acceptable or not, and most importantly what constitute fun for every one. So, ask your fellow players what they expect of you for this game.

However, there are a few things that will hold more often than not:

  • You are playing a character, not yourself. So, make sure your character acts as they should act and not like what you would do. For example, do not bring modern ideas about politics into a mediaeval setting.
  • Act. You are here to role play (aka play a role) so do it! Speak as your character would instead of using the third person. So "I punch the troll in the face!" is good whereas "bob (my character) punches the troll in the face." is bad. better yet: "With great anger and loathing, I take a swing at the troll's face aiming for his nose! I shout: Take that you aberration! beer is clearly superior to cider!!!"...
  • Ask questions. No one expects you to know it all but curiosity is a good thing. Also, you might not be familiar with the world (or rules) so questions are a good thing.
  • Do not hog the spot light. This is really the only do not: everyone needs to have the spot light on them from time to time. Respect your fellow players and let them enjoy the spot light. They will return the favour!
  • Ask for feedback. And try your hardest to not take it personally! What did you go right? What did you do wrong? Do more of the first, and less of the second.
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Some tables are OK with speaking in the third person, especially for logistics-type discussions. Defaulting to first person is good advice to start with; from there, see what everyone else does. –  SevenSidedDie May 1 at 17:45

The first thing, the most important thing, is to have fun. More than any other thing I will say, even more than being polite and such, is that you should come to have fun, and actually have it. If you don't come to a game with this mindset, all other advice is of no use.

In addition to having fun, ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask. Anything that you don't understand, anything that you want an explanation for, even if it is for the 100th time and counting, just ask for an explanation or clarification. It will be better for everyone, you included, if you properly understand what's happening in the game.

More than that, don't be afraid to suggest things, to speak up and say what's on your mind. You have an idea that you think might be helpful? Just say it, suggest it to the group, and see what happens. RPGs are social activities, where the fun comes from the interactions within the group. Joining those interactions is the ideal, and by suggesting things you achieve it. You make them think about what you suggested, and if they ask you about it, or applaud it, or even just explain why it won't work, you're part of the group now. And believe me, most ideas will be rejected—brainstorming ideas is half of the fun, because in the end, all the ideas are in there, affecting the grand solution that you've arrived at as a group.

Anything else is pretty much group-specific. Some groups expect you to be in character all of the time—which means acting as your character and not as yourself throughout the entire session—or they might play the opposite way. They might go straight to shooting and killing things, or may strive and long for the interrogation scenes, the mystery investigations, or whatever.

But at the end of the day, everyone there plays to have fun, and don't ever forget that. You come to the game to have fun, and it's just gonna be how it is.

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I agree with the other answers but would also say to read any official beginner's guide (like the one for D&D 4e which outlines the basics of the gameplay. If you cannot find one of them, I would say: "Ask the Gm" as they should be approachable and should happily spend some time explaining some of the rules. If your Gm cannot explain the rules, ask somebody else in your campaign / or that you know to explain it to you.
I hope this helps

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