How Can Players Make The GM’s Game Better (and More Fun)?

I was writing an article recently when I discovered my musings had wandered off on an intriguing tangent. I felt compelled to turn it into a freestanding post.


The tangent I found myself exploring is something I’ve never pondered before, and it’s not a subject I’ve seen previously discussed. Lots of books and articles talk about a GM’s “duty” toward the players and their fun. However, no one seems to think about the players’ “duty” toward a GM’s fun (beyond bringing snacks, which is always welcome).

That seems rather odd. The GM—after all—puts the most work into the game. The GM is probably just as busy with real life as the players. The GM has just as much of a right to enjoy the game as anyone else, but I would submit that very few players actively consider the GM’s enjoyment and how they can increase it.

Perhaps you think this is fair enough; after all, the GM is essentially providing a service to the players. I, however, believe that view to be somewhat short-sighted (and selfish). If the GM is working hard to run a fun game for the players, it behoves them to return the favour and to be mindful of his enjoyment. That way everyone wins and everyone has more fun, which last time I checked is the point of the game in the first place.

The Final Word

I’m finishing this article with a question for all the GMs out there:

What could (or do) your players do to increase your enjoyment of the game?


Please leave your answer, in the comments below.


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Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

22 thoughts on “How Can Players Make The GM’s Game Better (and More Fun)?”

  1. If it seems like the GM put a lot of work into a prop, pay attention to it! I love creating interesting and relevant props (such as pamphlets and books – usually hand-stitched with the key info underlined and the pages dog-eared). It’s frustrating when players say, “wow, cool!” but don’t spend any time determining how it’s useful. I have to remind them that the characters would be incredibly interested in information that could help them complete their quest and would discuss important loot.

  2. If you have an idea for your player (a home, a strong point, an organization, whatever) then flesh it out. In a recent campaign my character led a ranger group. I rolled up every member of the group and designed a hidden hideout which the GM tben rolled into the game. It also gave me valuable GM experience to help me be ready to run the next campaign.
    Positive feedback is good too. Thanking the GM and helping them focus on the game (grab them a slice of pizza, etc.) goes a long way.

  3. Excellent article!

    I’ma big fan of habit building (good… and bad!) and these are keys for a mutually enjoyable session, and I believe that players trying to get a cooperative & cordial mindset is only a better way to enjoy themselves even moreso.

    Thanks for the effort & sharing!

  4. The occasional compliment can go a long way.
    Even something as simple as a thank you for running makes my day.

  5. I’m not sure how much fun it provides but do the initiative so the dm can focus more on monster actions in combat.

  6. 1. Show up 2. on time.
    If you have to cancel, cancel at least 24 hours ahead. Having half the players show up can ruin a DMs plans for the session, especially if your character has the spotlight on the day you duck out.

  7. Stay in character. Pay attention. Get off your phone if you’re in a scene. Think about your character outside of the game.

  8. Remember that the game isn’t about you. You don’t get to define everyone else’s fun, whether that’s deciding to go off on your own, or PvPing “because that’s what my character would do.”

    Don’t be a problem player; be a mature player, willing to accept others’ ideas and bend your will to the group’s. That doesn’t mean you won’t get to do stuff that you want to do; it means that everyone gets to have a turn in the spotlight.

  9. Come to the table with some basic questions answered. Why am I sticking with this group? Why am I braving these dangers? Why am I invested in the overarching story if there is one, and why am I willing to putter around and find adventure if it’s a sandbox campaign? Too many times I’ve found players sitting there waiting for me to tell them why their character would want to delve a dungeon, or attack a thieves guild, or negotiate the release of the hostages. I don’t know, Wraithwind Grimdark. Why did you travel months with this group of heroes who are all wanting to do those things? Shouldn’t you have thought about that before we got here?

  10. In no particular order, some things I think players can do (love the ‘play the character’ comment so haven’t included it).

    1. Enjoy yourself but not at another player/the DM’s expense.
    2. Contribute and let others do likewise.
    3. Be a good house-mate to the person hosting the session.
    4. Smile and have fun, EVEN if the dice go against you.
    5. Good time-keeping (not just turning up on time, try and enable the game to go smoothly by having your decisions ready when it is your turn).
    6. Be as prepared as you can be.
    7. Be creative and respond to creativity.

  11. I think the main thing that players and hence their characters need to do is be prepared to play and know what the spells they have do and know what spell or weapon does what. I have become so sick of several of my players not knowing what to do next and as I’m heading for seventy I assume I have a limited amount of time for running and playing D&D left.

  12. My players put effort into their character backgrounds, develop their characters, give vivid and interesting descriptions of their characters, use their flaws to trigger interesting scenarios, take risky heroic actions.
    What I would also like them to do is:
    – formulate interesting plans to overcome challenges;
    – investigate more carefully;
    – make a greater effort to know my fantasy world and include it in their roleplaying.

    What I do not allow is for players to take actions against each other, eg fight – it just breaks down group harmony and hardly ever enhances the player experience.

    What I discourage is the party splitting up. It makes my life hell and means some of the party have to sit around waiting for the other party members to carry out actions.

    I give my players story points, that they can use to enhance the adventure which they can use to introduce new NPC’s or a detail in the game world (such as a wagon of hey passing under the window just when they want to jump). I wish they would use these more often and more creatively.

  13. The Glass Cannon Podcast had a really good talk on this subject.

    One of the things they said was that a lot of players will sit down and simply react to whatever the DM throws at them. A good idea is for the players to give their character a GOAL and when they sit down to play, they should keep in mind this long-term goal. Likewise, their character should be working toward this goal at all times.

    I think that kind of approach to roleplaying could really improve a game.

  14. Actively listen.
    To the DM. To the other players. Be engaged especially when it is not your turn. This means no distracting mobile devices at the table. If you use an app to track your character sheet, cool.

    Describe your actions to evoke your character.
    Your character is not just what she says, she’s also what she does, and for a bonus point, how she does it. “I saunter casually up to the barkeep, finger hooked in my belt, and wryly say,” compared to “I stride in forcefully, pushing aside anyone foolish enough to get in my away, and announce,” compared to, “I go up to the barkeep and say.” Yawn.

    Stay in character.
    Try to keep the dialogue coming from your character’s perspective. Which in turn means…

    Don’t be a meta gamer.
    Sure, you the player might know something, but that doesn’t automatically mean your character does. Character knowledge vs Player knowledge. It’s more fun to pretend not to know something, than to know everything. Also keep the rules lingo out of your characters mouths; they do not know what a hit point is, or even how to armour class.

    Play your character, not someone else’s character.
    If you want to be bossy and tell other people what to do on their turn, then role-play as that bossy persona in character, and then don’t be surprised when the other players snub you (in character of course) when they actively ignore you, or flip you the bird. There’s being helpful with system newcomers, and there is just being a controlling bore.

    Mix things up.
    Not all players are created equal. Some are born to the stage and demand attention, whilst others are more reserved. Your DM should be trying to fairly share “screen time” for each of you, but sometimes it is the group that routinely leans on the same player for a specific action type. “Oh we’re speaking to the store owner, that’s the bard’s role as he’s got points in persuasion.” This is meta, reductive, kinda boring, and if the bard has been doing a lot recently just more screen time for him. If you’re that bard, you can find any number of other things to involve yourself with (ooh a pretty elf, bye!) to not be available for that encounter, just so you can provide your less eloquent barbarian friend to negotiate a good price on live chickens.

    Optimal play vs character driven.
    Some players cannot understand not playing optimally, at all times. “Why would anyone choose not to select the best and obviously only option when doing X?” Well, the answer is character. I wouldn’t suggest doing the absolutely worst tactical thing when it really truly deeply matters, endangering the entire party, because that might cost friendships, but occasionally deciding to follow “what your character would do” even if that isn’t the most tactically efficient thing you can do – that’s stuff is pure gold. Example: You want to play a cowardly wizard, who at some point in the future conquers his fears (when the pyromaniac learns fireball). You show his cowardly nature by choosing to run away in a few combats the rest of the party can mop up. You might even run away from harmless things because your character is a scaredy-cat all the time. And then just when it really matters, in the final confrontation with the party super stretched, instead of running away, your little wizard takes a step on the road to bravery by sticking around to help – he may not be charging into the melee, but at least he’s not hiding in a barrel in the street.

    Share the spotlight.
    It’s not just the DMs responsibility to make sure every gets ample screen time. If you see a player being too quiet at the table, involve him in your screen time.

    Openly plan.
    Openly discuss plans so that the DM can mentally prepare, thwart and improve their encounters. If he knows you’re planning on sneaking into the castle barracks at night, he can mentally prep some rooftop rolls, strength check on the iron gate, and think about how many guards in a night patrol. And even if she uses this information against you (aha! they were waiting atop the battlements in ambush) trust that it’s to improve upon the story.

    System mastery.
    Not everyone knows, or even likes to know, the mechanical rules. Some players prefer to be amateur dramatists and rely on others to help with the crunch as it occurs.. If the group is okay with this, then cool – probably efficient to assign a neighbour to be their game assistant. That said, it would be incredibly helpful to everyone at the table that you know what your character can mechanical do.

    Combat readiness.
    Combat in D&D is where the game can slow to a crawl. It is not uncommon to need the whole session to run just the combat of the BBEG at the end of an adventure arc. If there are 5 other players’ turns between your own and the bad guys, it’s easy for the players to lose interest, as they wait upwards of 20 minutes for their turn to come around again. You can help speed this up by: 1) listening or watching so you know the status of the combat field 2) knowing ahead of time what you want your character to do, 3) getting your dice sectioned off and ready (d20 to hit + 1d6 base damage + 2d6 sneak damage, so 1d20 & 3d6), 3) and rolling all the dice simultaneously.
    What you don’t want to be doing is asking where are you, where are the bad guys, is that bad guy not dead yet, who is injured, okay i’m attacking with my sword what do I roll, I got a 17 a hit let me just find my damage dice one second everyone, okay cool, a 4… and a 2… and let me just pick this one die up again and reroll… a 1, so that’s a 4, 6… 7! Ok…. 7 damage. Right now for my second attack.
    By all means ask questions you’re not sure even though you’ve been listening (where is the nearest injured guy), but don’t ask 50 questions because now it is your turn and only now do you care to listen.

    Keep the out-of-character jokes infrequent.
    Sometimes somebody says something and you just have to make a joke about it. Everyone laughs, including the DM, and you’re having a good time. However if everyone has a funny comment that cracks up the group every 5 minutes, pretty soon your DM will not be laughing with you. He’s got a story to get everyone through, and your laugh-riot just isn’t getting y’all any closer to your goals. So, just be aware of the mood of the group, the tenor the DM is trying to achieve, and when last the whole group erupted into gales of laughter. This is especially disruptive with horror themes when the DM is being deliberate to try and instil unease and fear, and one player is cracking wise all the time. If you are naturally the funny guy in the group, try and channel that wit through your character. If your character says the funny thing that has your party fall about laughing, that’s totally cool and actually encouraged.

    Give feedback to your GM.
    Tell her how much fun you had. What you liked. Shower them with effusive praise if they spent hours building a 3D battle map. They’re doing it for you. Being a DM doesn’t have to be a thankless job. Tell them where you want to take your character – what sort of character arc you got figured out (cowardly wizard to brave arcanist) so that they can plot to have events occur that make your character arc make sense. And if you have a bone to pick, do it one on one – never in front of the whole group – and be gentle.

    Their mission is to provide everyone at the table an amazing roleplaying game experience, and they need your help.

  15. Play along, Even if the story hook doesn’t resonate with your character try to find a reason why you would be interested, instead of giving me 3 reasons why you wouldn’t.
    I discuss before hand the basic type of game options treasure hunt, dungeon crawl, rescue etc. So once I put all the time and effort into starting the game try to play along.

    I love to get a in-depth back story from each player, it gives me an overview of their character and Ali’s a few adventure hook opportunities.

  16. Take notes or have a note taker in the group that can share the notes with the DM between sessions. It helps the DM remember where they were going and what they were doing sometimes.
    Minimize your distractions. I have ADD so for me, it means I need to have a paper character sheet and physical dice and no phone. It also means the DMs scheduled breaks are the time to take care of whatever outside business you need to instead of making the group wait for you to bring back that Mt Dew you forgot to get at the beginning of the game while it is your turn.
    Have a general idea about your character. I was in a group where all of one player’s characters behaved the same, spoke the same… It was like they took a character template and just changed the names on it. I have played Deaf mages, mute clerics, illiterate merchants and flat out crazy characters. One of my favorites was addicted to sugar and ran through town naked while having a sugar high. Other characters have been somber and even militaristic in nature. Point is, characters NEED character or else they become flat.
    Throw the DM something unexpected sometimes. It breaks the tedium and makes the game a bit more fun. That said, don’t be such a clown that you risk the lives of your fellow players either.
    Come prepared and on time. Think about the situation your character was left in and start brainstorming their creative solution to the problem based on their personality and their overarching goals. Have your dice, rulebooks, pencils and extra paper (and of course, your character sheet) with you when you arrive.
    Contribute. Offer $10 to the pizza fund; bring chips or sodas or pretzels; help clean if needed. While in game, offer up ideas to others and make sure you are actively involved in the game. Big pet peeve of mine was a player who was always trying to keep the spotlight off them only to complain after session they didn’t feel they got a fair share of screentime.
    Biggest way to help the DM?? HAVE FUN!!

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