There is a host of advice in regards to prepping a game or campaign for your players as a DM, GM, storyteller, Narrator, etc. However, I would like to look at it from the other side of the coin. When we get together to enjoy a role playing game, everyone involved is looking to have fun. I believe that it is part of the social contract that we all work together to insure everyone has a good time. We cannot just put all of that on the GM’s shoulders. So, what can we do, as players, to prep for an online game?
I think at least part of what we can is universal, whether we are playing online or around a table, and no matter which game we are playing. Some things are specific to the different environments and some are specific to different games.
For example, in the Pathfinder RPG I am playing, I am responsible for putting my character together, assigning gear, figuring out bonuses, etc. Now, I do not necessarily have to know all the rules upfront. The GM and other players will be able to help with that. It is best to have that information figured out and understood before the game, though. So, I should do some research. In reality, especially being new(ish) to the game, I am probably going to make up a cheat sheet or notecards as well, which cover any special abilities or feats for my character. I don’t need to copy everything down word for word, but get some quick notes on there and maybe a book and page number for easy reference. Those things are specific to my Pathfinder RPG prep work as a player.
For Fate Core, however, I don’t need any of this prep work that I would do for Pathfinder. In fact, it is “kind of” against the rules as written. Character creation is a group effort in Fate Core. There are no crazy feats and a much easier set of rules to familiarize yourself with. With Numenera, I would probably find myself somewhere between Pathfinder and Fate Core when it comes to player prep work.
But, that is only part of the story. With both types of games, I try to prep people I know I am going to be gaming. That includes my kids and my wife. Considering my wife often plays alongside me, that part is pretty easy. As a part of that, I try to ignore the phone and messaging programs, unless it is something important. I consider my gaming time, time off. Un fortunately, I am also perpetually on call, so it doesn’t work the way I mean for it to 100% of the time.
With online games, I try to give my computer a fresh reboot, closing down unnecessary applications, so I don’t have any excess drain on bandwidth or processor issues. I try to eat first, but it doesn’t always work, as my game times happen to revolve around the little bit of free time I have, so the two get mixed in. Take that bio break beforehand. Get an extra drink in the beginning and some snacks. Have the books I will be needing pulled up on the computer or nearby. I also take some time beforehand to make sure my mic, camera, and whatever applications I am going to be using work first. Recently, it came to me, that simply testing that I can get to a virtual table top such as Roll20 isn’t enough; I should also try and learn the features, as doing so during the game can be distracting and slow things down. My main goal with online games is t speed things along and cause as little distraction as possible.
With in-person games, there are a few things I do a little differently. Since I happen to be one of those pesky breeders (4 kids), I tend to host these. So, I try to get the house cleaned up and food and refreshments stocked up. My wife loves to cook, so she often makes snacks and meals for those gathered around the gaming table at my house. If I go to someone else’s place to game, I make sure I have any necessities such as my Dr. Pepper and I usually bring some snacks or prepare to chip in for pizza or something. Now, here is one that most people know, but it seems many forget at open game nights in a public setting or at conventions. It is very important for in-person gaming, though. Shower, brush your teeth, wear clean clothes. In other words, make yourself presentable. In fact, most people I game with do this for online games too.
In any event, one of the biggest parts of prep work we can do for any RPG experience is to be in the right mindset. Know what we are playing and be ready to play. Get into character. Know the rule—at least the basics. And, don’t let work or real life problems hamper your ability to have a good time. Chances are, if you do, it can have a negative impact on the game and other players. There have been days I have stepped away from games, because of real life events—not that I couldn’t make it, but that I wasn’t in the right mindset. It happens. However, if you’re ready to play and ready to have a good time, it can be a great way to get away from those real life issues for a little while at least.
What about you? Any special steps you take or would recommend for someone in prepping to play a role playing game?