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Player Characters

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 56
Chapter 3

Starting Characters

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 58
While the Game Master takes on numerous responsibilities vital to the smooth running and group enjoyment of a roleplaying game, his efforts focus on only half of a game’s aspects. The other half—the creation of characters, the narrative drive of the campaign, and a thousand other major decisions—rest to a large extent on the shoulders of the players.

If the game were a movie and the GM its director, then the players would be both starring actors and audience. All the fearsome monsters, nasty traps, elaborate dungeons, and sinister plots in the world are wasted without a dynamic band of players to confront them and aid in developing an exciting story. By sharing a measure of responsibility with the GM for a game’s story and the group’s greater enjoyment, players go beyond the role of mere bystanders, and become both the stars and the coauthors of their heroic epic.

This chapter details the part of a Pathfinder game the Game Master does not directly control, discussing the elements of an adventuring party, players’ rights and responsibilities, ways to involve newcomers and reengage veterans, and suggestions for how to work with gamers of all types toward the creation of more exciting stories and more enjoyable games.

New Players

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 63
Even a group that’s been playing together for years occasionally finds itself in need of new players. Teaching newcomers, rather than finding established players, brings several challenges but also has the potential for great rewards. This can be particularly challenging when an individual has never played a tabletop roleplaying game before and therefore has no point of reference for such an experience. Whether you find yourself looking for new members, trying to introduce a friend to roleplaying games, or teaching someone who has just become interested, consider the following topics.

Meeting New Players: New players come most readily from your group’s extended circle of friends, where potential newcomers’ interest and compatibility with the rest of the group is already known or can be reasonably estimated. Beyond existing circles of friends, game stores, gaming conventions, and organized play programs (like Paizo’s Pathfinder Society) make great places to meet new players. Many gaming related websites, college campuses, libraries, and coffee houses also host forums where local gamers might network. While all of these options can help bring together fantastic groups, you should always remain aware of the potential dangers of meeting strangers. Always arrange to meet in a public space (such as a local game store, mall, or coffee shop), let loved ones know where you are going, share your contact’s information, and never go alone.

Introducing Players: If your group is interested in introducing someone to roleplaying for the first time, the best way to start is by inviting that person to a session. What the new player does at this first session is up to her. If she’s most comfortable watching and asking questions, she should do so. If she prefers to learn by doing, playing existing sidecharacters like allied NPCs, familiars, or animal companions allows her to jump in on the side of the PCs; alternatively, the GM might hand over control of a monster to teach her the basics. And of course, there’s no better way for her to start than jumping in with a new character, created with the GM’s help. If this first session goes well and the new player seems interested in learning more, perhaps it’s time to formally invite her to join the group.

Teaching New Players: Learning a roleplaying game’s rules is the greatest challenge facing any new gamer, especially when contending with an entire group spouting lingo like a second language. Experienced gamers can do a lot to make the learning process easier. First and foremost, make the new player feel welcome. As GM, you already have a lot on your plate in a given session, and it’s often helpful to ask a willing, experienced player to act as a “buddy” for the new player, explaining game terms and suggesting actions. Encouragement is especially important during this learning period, and it’s crucial that you ask the new player for input in party decisions, as it’s easy for newcomers to be overwhelmed by a party already used to working together. Keep in mind that it’s not important for the new player to know every rule or option from the start. New players should be made aware of the basics, which can later be added to once they’re more comfortable with the game. Other players should also avoid jumping in, as having suggestions offered from multiple directions can prove confusing and frustrating. Providing the player with a cheat sheet of common terms and rules also helps her learn the game. And as helpful as it is for a new player to receive advice and support, it’s important to step back periodically and give her a chance to demonstrate what she’s learned. With each passing session, she’ll need less help, and in time she’ll be playing like a veteran.

A Basic Rules Cheat Sheet is included in the back of this book. Feel free to photocopy it and give it to your new players to assist them in learning the rules and terminology of the game.

Beginner’s Game: If you’re trying to find a number of new players, or if you know multiple people interested in roleplaying but don’t want to interrupt the momentum of an ongoing campaign by bringing inexperienced players up to speed, you might consider running a game just for beginners. Such a game allows all the new players to start at the same point and with about the same base of knowledge. New players don’t have to worry about learning both the Pathfinder RPG rules and the details of a long-running campaign at once, as optimally the game starts a new story. They also don’t have to feel inexperienced or like a drag on the more adept members of the group—with a beginner’s game, new players can take their time with the rules, ask questions, and learn from questions asked by others.

GMs who choose to run a game for beginners should decide whether they want to make it open to the public or restricted to a select group of friends. While inviting a few interested potential players is usually the easiest course, many game stores and conventions welcome GMs willing to teach new roleplayers. As with any new game or topic, the GM should be patient with beginners, receptive to their questions, and interested in making sure everyone understands what’s going on. Not every rule and option needs to be presented from the start; ensuring that everyone is comfortable with the basics before gradually introducing new elements helps to avoid overwhelming anyone. Remember that, first and foremost, the Pathfinder RPG is a game and is most fun when played, so demonstrations, simple combats, and keeping an open forum for questions can not only make for a fun adventure, but can also quickly expand a GM’s pool of potential players.

The Life of a Party

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 64
Once a group has its players, the elements of the game are decided upon, and characters are made, it’s time for adventure! The importance of the players doesn’t end when the GM’s story begins. The ways players cooperate, characters play off of each other, and an adventuring party functions together can determine not just the success or failure of an adventure, but also the fortune of a gaming group as a whole. This section focuses on elements of the game GMs—and their players—should consider to improve the quality of their parties, make running the game easier, and generally spend more game time roleplaying and less time squabbling. Keeping in mind some of the issues and sticking points most commonly faced during roleplaying games can help you steer your party away from problems, frustrations, and wasted time.

Player Interactions

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 70
One of the great things about roleplaying games is that they tend to bring together a wide variety of players, each with his or her own unique passions, play style, and traits. This witch’s brew of personalities can create some truly memorable game experiences, with each player adding her own flavor to the game. Like a world-class chef, it’s the GM’s job to manage these game elements—stirring one pot while another simmers—to create a game experience that leaves all players breathless in anticipation of the next session.

It’s important for GMs to accept that all of these different personalities make a campaign better. While some types of players are more difficult to handle than others, each has his own role to play on the grand stage that is the campaign, and working with each can help you improve as a GM.

This section details 14 different and archetypal player personalities, along with the challenges and preferences they might exhibit. While this list does not cover every type of player, it gives enough of an overview for GMs to recognize these stereotypes as they manifest during the game and have a good idea how to interact with them. Don’t be surprised if the same player exhibits multiple traits; gamer psychology is just as complex as any other, and people are frequently a dash of this and a pinch of that. Though it’s important not to pigeonhole your players, many people will tend to have certain specific habits that cast them more into a particular category than another. This section is intended to help you interact with potentially frustrating player types in a manner that is fun and productive for you and them.

Recognize that labels can be a negative, and that you shouldn’t casually assign one of these personality types to a player, nor even mention your mental designations unless you’re sure the player will take it with grace and not see it as dismissal or name-calling. You may find that some players freely embrace their type (“I strictly adhere to the rules; I guess that makes me a rules lawyer”), while others have a different conception of their behavior, or believe they are much too psychologically complex to ever fall into a particular category (“I am not a diva! I’m just keeping the game interesting!”). Use your best judgment when discussing these archetypes with your group.

The GM’s role is to ensure fun for all, not to force everyone to march in lockstep toward the next page of the adventure. The quote by the Greek playwright Aristophanes that begins this section alludes to the challenges that await you as you lead your group toward its next great adventure. Just as the crab eventually finds its way back to sea, so too will players embark on fun-filled evenings of epic quests and daring-do. The GM should allow them to zigzag their way from one encounter to the next by playing the way they like to play, even if their course seems surprising or inefficient compared to the one you expected.

Player motivations can be a tricky thing to manage. In order to keep things running smoothly, you may need to embrace some of your “problem player’s” desires, which can mean extra work coming up with new rules systems for economics or extra sessions to make the needy player feel like he has a chance to shine. Whenever possible, work with your players and embrace their quirks as what they likely are—enthusiasm for the game you both enjoy. Your experience will be the better for it.

Dangerous Combos: As you assess the composition of your gaming group, take special note of potentially explosive combinations. The GM serves as referee between players, especially when their motivations place them in diametrically opposed roles, so if you see trouble brewing, try discussing with your players how they would like to handle the situation ahead of time, before people have gotten heated. (Some of these potentially problematic combinations are mentioned on the following pages.) Also, if you have particular pet peeves or anticipate issues before a game begins, you may want to talk with your group ahead of time, so they can be mindful of their own tendencies and take care to sidestep potential issues.

Know Your Group: There’s a difference between being a Game Master and mastering the role of the GM. The more experienced you are and the better you know your players, the less apt you are to need the advice on the following pages. Remember that this advice doesn’t take the individual quirks and preferences of actual players or groups into account, so you should always feel free to make any adjustments and changes that are best for the game. It’s your campaign and world, and you’re the one to judge what works and what doesn’t. And of course it’s possible that you might even fall into one of these categories yourself, in which case dealing with a particular archetype might not seem like a problem.

Respect: Although the GM controls many aspects of the game, one thing she can’t control—and shouldn’t attempt to—is the players. Tailoring the game to better suit the players shouldn’t feel subversive or manipulative. Ideally, everyone at the game table is there to have a good time and a GM should make clear her attempts to minimize conflicts and improve the game for everyone. Players should also take responsibility—the more they respect and understand each other, the less the GM needs these suggestions.