For the past 5 years or so, I've been a DM/GM across a couple of different systems for a few different groups of friends. Now, I've taken a step back and gone back to being a player. How do I deal with the difference in hard experience and book knowledge between myself and the new DM, and constraints that I am given as a player ( e.g. certain books, no X, everyone has Y)?

Additionally - I want to make it a point that there is no friction, this question isn't meant as a 'My DM is being dumb and I don't like it.' question, it is a 'I'm used to all of this power and responsibility, how can I go back to having fun as a player?' question. I would rather have answers of fellow long time DMs that dropped back into the playerdom on their personal experience as opposed to general 'Well he's the DM now, respect it' sort of answers - though they are still valid.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Are you actually not having fun as a player? If so, why not? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 16, 2014 at 22:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JonathanHobbs This question is not spawned from me not having fun. I am enjoying myself thoroughly, and it is a nice break. \$\endgroup\$
    – Phill.Zitt
    Jan 16, 2014 at 22:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ This question is fine as system-agnostic. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Jan 17, 2014 at 12:44

2 Answers 2


Enjoy the Mystery

Ruddy Mysterious

While you were a DM you crafted worlds, made them react to the actions of your players in the best manner you could all the while crafting villains and plots out of frame for the heroes to discover and tangle with. This type of world building and plot knowledge has a very particular flavor of enjoyment, but losing it does not mean its not replaced by a different, but equally valid type of enjoyment: Exploration of the unknown. As a player you won't know whats behind that door. Whether or not the town guard captain is susceptible to bribes or that the wizened wizards who's been helping you along has actually been using you to accomplish his own nefarious ends. Revel in the unknown and the promise of adventure it holds.

Become the Protagonist


You'll no doubt be playing with party members, but as a player the ball is now in your court to influence how events play out. As the DM your primary responsibility was to create scenarios, possibilities, and adjudicate actions as they occurred. You had to weigh different player goals, abilities, and balance them against the campaign and the monsters and traps you filled it wit, NO MORE! Now you can focus on saying what your character would say, doing what your character would do, and shaping the world as your character would wish it to be.

Be a Part of the Team

If it bleeds we can kill it!

Before you were on your own as DM, there may have been helpful rules lawyers to help you with tricky rules situations or help maintain rules balance at the table, but regardless of your DM style you were making a world and controlling the aspects of it that were directly antagonistic to the players. As such you were on the other side of the DM screen, a powerful but lonely place to be. Rather than focusing on the loss of complete control of one side of the game, focus on how you can work together with your team to overcome a milieu of obstacles, probably in ways the current GM never expected. Play up and indulge in in-character interactions with the other players at the table and really put the roleplay back in roleplaying game.

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    \$\begingroup\$ As someone who spent years almost exclusively GMing then found himself as a player 2/3 of the time, this answer really rings true. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 16, 2014 at 22:27

The most important thing is to communicate with your GM and find out for what and how you may act as an advisor. Mainly: are you allowed to help ingame with rules, knowledge of the world or other information your character does not have.

As a GM, I usually like it, if others keep trac of weapon-specifications and such, so that I can concentrate on choreography and atmosphere. As a player I am glad if I may help other players with bookkeeping, so that the GM can concentrate on something more important.

When creating your character, be as specific as possible on his knowledge. This helps when trying to keep player and character knowledge apart. Also, try to observe yourself when playing and keep questioning wether your character is acting self-consistent. It should not take long to be able to drop the overly conscious approach and enjoy playing intuitively. Also, think carefully wether you would better play a character with a lot of knowledge or as few as possible. For me, that choice highly depends on the game/system/setting in question.

Try not to analyse your GM. The more you think about the rules that are being applied, the more you slip back into GM-mode. The same goes for accessing memory on Backgroundinformation exceeding your characters knowledge or information given by the GM.

If your GM does not want you to correct him on certain things during the game, always assume that there is a reason he is deviating from the books and only interfere if what he is doing is utterly wrong. Else, use the next possible break (maybe even ask for one) and talk to him in private, if it is bothering you. But usually the easiest way is to force yourself to stop thinking about it and to work with what you are given to play your character as best as possible.

Focus on interacting with the group and try staying in character. This usually augments the experience of your fellow players as well.

With games like “Call of Cthulhu” it can add to the atmosphere if the GM does not neet to spell out everything for you. Given a hint on what monster your character saw and the mental stability lost, you can play his reaction accordingly.

As a GM, I appreciate it, if the group splits up, that I can go out with one of the players to give him certain instructions for a scene, and let him master that for some of the players while I take care of the others without one group knowing what is happening to the other. Done right, this can be a lot more intense than just sending some players out.

Edit: Forgot to mention that as a player, you can try to actively influence the group to avoid situations or discussions (out of character ones) that are painful for a GM (not because he was badly prepared) or the whole group.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The first sentence put me off a bit, but actually this is golden advice, if heavily focussed on "here's how to use your years of experience as DM to enhance the next game". I'd probably apply most of this advice very lightweight and incrementally to avoid coming across as refusing to let go. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 17, 2014 at 9:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ My experience is, that it is very hard to let go and being able to contribute and knowing the rules to do so, makes it easier to integrate as a player. Especially if one has doubts. \$\endgroup\$
    – Valryne
    Jan 17, 2014 at 10:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ One thing in my experience worth adding: As DM I put in creative effort making maps, drawing pictures etc. These are transferrable skills in the same vein as your answer - as a player I often sketch/doodle during the game - character portraits and the like. I'm not a skilled artist, they are just mediocre, but that's not the point. I like to think it helps the game along, it doesn't step on the current DM's toes, and it doesn't involve me taking a leading role. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 17, 2014 at 10:32

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