Nobody is perfect. Sometimes we do things that bother other people. If we're malicious, we might do this intentionally, but many of us are not. But we can still upset people unintentionally. In tabletop roleplaying, there are quite a few ways we can do this. And since the GM has to do a lot of work to keep the game running, even a slight annoyance can be quite distressing. So here are the top 10 ways you might be upsetting your GM, probably without even realizing it.
1. Showing up late to session- Most gaming groups have regularly scheduled sessions. You should know when it starts. Occasionally life happens and something delays you. Most groups will be understanding of this occasionally. But if you're consistently late, it's because you aren't making the effort needed to be there at the time you know you're supposed to start. And that takes time away from everyone else at the table, and put the GM on a time crunch.
2. Not showing up to a session- As above, but you're even worse. Again, life happens. Sometimes there's an emergency, or you're on vacation, or something else. And again, people will understand if it's important. But if you just flake out on session, nobody can depend on you. And as a Gm, this is awful. Because now any plot points that involved your character have to be cut, encounters have to be rebalanced on the fly, a way has to be found to write you out of the story temporarily or somebody has to run your character on autopilot (spoiler alert: that somebody is usually the GM.) So don't be that person.
3. Not having what you need- Don't forget your character sheet or dice. You need those to play. If something can be replaced for you on the fly, it's usually inconvenient for everyone else to do so. and some things like character sheets might not be able to be reproduced. The other alternative would be showing up and then leaving to get your stuff, then coming back. Which wastes everybody's time.
4. Not knowing the rules- Unless you're a new player, you should really know the rules of the game. You don't need to know every little detail, but you should know what is relevant to you. If the GM has to constantly tell you which die to roll, which modifiers to add, what abilities you can use, or anything of that nature, they're going to get annoyed very quickly. They have enough to run on their side of things without guiding players through every little thing.
5. Metagaming- Yes, we're all aware on some level that we're sitting around a table pretending to be elves. But the point of a roleplaying game is to role play. If you actively drag people out of immersion in the narrative, then you're undoing the GM's hard work to entertain everyone.
6. Refusing plot hooks- Though you're encouraged to play your character, you should also try to play along with the story. Your character should be someone who will answer a call to adventure under the right circumstances. And a GM works very hard to create story hooks and flesh out ideas to make the adventure fun and interesting. If you look at them and say "No, I don't care about your hard work" then you're the problem.
7. Making a bad character- When you play a roleplaying game, you get to assume the role of whatever character you want. But sometimes this causes problems. Sometimes your character doesn't fit the theme of the game, or is too overpowered or too underpowered, or being played in such a way as to cause annoyance and distress to the GM. Figure out the type of game being played, and play in harmony with that. If the game is about a party on crusade for a holy quest, playing an atheist character might not be the smartest choice. And making your GM perform logical backflips to include your character in a story or to balance encounters to account for broken abilities is sure to wear on the nerves.
8. Not having an action ready- As mentioned earlier, when you do something that takes time away from everybody, you're screwing everybody else over. If the time comes for you to take an action in game, be ready. Don't sit and deliberate any more than you have to. Pay attention to the game and be ready to act. Otherwise the GM will want to hit you with a heavy object, because you've just brought the game to a halt.
9. Not paying attention- If you were paying attention to the last item on this list, you'd have noticed I talked about paying attention. If you weren't then you especially need this tip. Focus on the game. Don't get distracted with out of character discussion. Don't be watching TV or looking at your phone. Your GM works hard to run the game and entertain people. IF you're getting that entertainment from elsewhere, then just go off and do that thing and let those who actually want to enjoy the game do so.
10. Never GMing yourself- A lot of GMs do it because nobody else will. There are MANY reluctant GMs. Some do enjoy the role in itself, but even those that do would like a break every now and again. If you constantly play and never offer to run a game, even a one-shot, your GM might get burnt out. Or maybe just secretly hate or envy you. And being a GM even for just a little bit gives you a better appreciation of the effort that goes into it, and the role they play. You'll have more respect for it if you try on those shoes once in a while.
I hope you enjoyed this and the rest of the content by Digital & Dice. For more from me, feel free to check out my personal blog. Until next time…Game on Internets!
- Draconick, Digital and Dice Contributor
I, Nick “Draconick” Johnson, am a writer and roleplaying enthusiast with over ten years of experience in various tabletop roleplaying games both as a player and as a GM. I am also somewhat involved in other forms of tabletop gaming such as wargaming, board games, and card games. It is my hope that by creating and maintaining this website that I can share my unique take on all things within our hobby and to foster a community of like-minded individuals.