Staying Present as a Tabletop RPG Player

Being present when playing a story is a lot like having a great conversation. The flow is natural, the topics engaging, the details enlightening, and atmosphere fun.

Today’s #newbieTuesday post offers advice to new players on how to stay present in the flow of playing stories so you can reap the rewards of doing so!

  1. Character Mindset

For new players, the concept of “playing” a character can be somewhat intimidating. In reality though, it’s simply the act of projecting your empathy onto a fictional character whose actions you happen to control. Most folks are used to this process without the control part through movies, books, plays, and video games: you latch onto a character and see the world through their eyes. In tabletop role playing games you simply take that a step further and make decisions as that character as well.

And being aware of your character’s perspectives – regardless of whether they deviate from your own – is a key to staying present in played stories. It may not come naturally to you, but the more you practice, the easier it becomes like most things in life. You’ll find that in tabletop role playing games having that awareness is often a key to solid decision-making, teamwork, and generally positive results for you and your group.

  1. Setting

Like all other stories, tabletop role playing game stories – played stories – the setting and its corresponding context is hugely important to be aware of during play. For new players, it can sometimes be difficult to “follow all the action” or know exactly what is happening and when. And it’s those times that serve as this aspect of today’s advice: if you’re not sure, ask. Experienced players know what this process is like and should be more than willing to help fill in any gaps you have in understanding the setting and its context at that moment.

Don’t be embarrassed – it’s all love at the table – ask when you need to!

  1. Who’s Up to Bat?

An important factor to keep in mind is, in many TTRPG systems, the aspect of turn order. Combat, for example, is a point in the story where time is not longer “in real time” per se but rather more methodical, turn-based activity among the players and non-player characters (NPCs). During such times, just be aware of who is “up to bat” so to speak. That way, armed with #1 and #2 on this list, you’ll be ready to act when it comes your turn. Most systems have a way of identifying turn order so just pay attention to both where you fall and who is ahead of you – that way, you’ll be able to stay within the flow of things better in the long run.

And new players: just remember, there is no “perfect” player or play style. Just you is always good enough! Welcome to the table…

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