What Critical Role teaches us about being Dungeons and Dragons players
What exactly is a good player?
In my very humble opinion, a good player is at the table for only two reasons. Too have fun and play with their friends. This answer is very vague on purpose because every game is different and group of players is different. Some players take their game nights very seriously while others just want attention and other players just want to see how much they can get away with. All of this is fine if it fits in with the group dynamics and the culture in that specific game.
So what makes a good player? Someone who can work well with their group to increase the amount of fun for everyone at the table. The whole point of playing in a group is to enjoy being together and creating something fun that you wouldn't be able to create by yourself.
The World is your Classroom
If you are here you probably already know what all this is. so I'll get on with it!
Watching others play role playing games such as Critical Role or Adventure Zone can help you learn how to be a better role player and actor. We always want to learn from the best! Here are some excellent takeaways that I got from the players of Critical Role.
Good palyers are attentive and prepared
During a battle, the players are always ready for their turns and they know what they want to do. Making a choice on their turn is always better than stalling. You'll never see the CR cast wasting time by not making a decision. If they don't know what to do, they ask for help, in character, and the group role plays to get to a solution.
Act like you are reading from a script. Your character is not in every scene and they shouldn't be, in order to make a good story. Your character is not talking in every conversation. Good players know that some scenes are not all about them, other players need their own screen time too. Caleb doesn't interrupt when Fjord and Beau are having a conversation, unless it adds to the interaction.
Wait for your turn before your characters speaks. Wait until a scene is over before you try to start a new one or try to change the subject. Wait for a conversation to be over before starting a new one.
Good players Don't interrupt
The players in Critical Role never interrupt the DM. They always wait for Matt Mercer to finish his story or describe what is going on before they do any talking. They show the ultimate respect for their DM and other players.
The players never argue with the DM, whatever he says goes. The only thing that arguing accomplishes is wasting your play time.
Don't be the player who is always interrupting. The players need to hear the DM so they know what is going on. You should be listening too. A good DM will give you a chance to role play or make decisions, you'll just have to wait for it. It's okay to ask questions and offer suggestions. But never interrupt the DM or the players who are trying to role play. Role playing is a collaborative experience, and it only works when you let other people have a turn to talk.
Another player interrupting or trying to change the subject will always destroy the flow of a conversation and therefore the flow of the game. Wait for the scene to play out before you take your turn. You will never see players on Critical Role interrupting or trying to take up all the attention.
An intersting story can only develop when a scene comes to its conclusion.
Allow yourself as a player to sit back and watch the game unfold. Take your time with the game and let the story develop naturally, one scene at a time.
Don't try to advance a scene until the previous one is over. This is especially important for DM's who ignore or dismiss a player trying to role play. Matt Mercer never interrupts his players when they are role playing. Matt is usually in character as an NPC, role playing along with them.
When the other players are done talking, that is your cue to either react and say something in character. Do not interrupt or change the subject until that story beat or plot point is concluded.
The Role-play Is Only as Good as it's players
The players rarely bring up side conversations, and if it happens, they are still very quiet and focused on the story. There is no talk that is completely out of game. Save it for the commercial break. If a pop culture reference is mentioned, they still keep it within the confines of the story. The players never go off on tangents and talk about a subject that isn't part of the game. Good players stay focused because they know that the show must go on.
Everyone in Critical Role acts like respectful adults who go with the flow of the game and they are mature enough to listen and wait patiently for their turns. When Nott and Jester are playing cards, the other 5 players listen patiently and let the scene play out to it's conclusion. Only one conversation should be happening at a time, no matter who is talking.
Role play doesn't work unless at least two characters are involved and interacting with each other. The cast is constantly reacting and asking questions in character to keep the energy and role play alive. If you want more role play in your group, you need to react in character to whatever is going on. When you react to another player, who is role playing, it gets you into the scene and lets the other characters role play with you.
If a character says something and no one else reacts or get involved, then the role play dies. Role won't ever happen if other players are dismissive or don't engage in the conversation. A lot of lines that are spoken in character fall flat simply because other players never respond to them.
The cast of critical role are always engaged and always ready to react. Their performances are fun and entertaining because of how much energy they put into staying in the action and paying attention.
The CR Players are confident in their characters, choices and actions. They think before they speak. Having confidence means knowing you can handle whatever comes up. A good player learns and grows along with their character throughout the course of the game.
Support your game to make endure
Why does critical role work so well? Why do they have a game full of energy and continues to work for multiple seasons?
Aside from them being professional actors, they do whatever they can to support the game and the story.
Critical Role avoids all the pitfalls of game ending behaviors. There isn't a player who is constantly trying to get all the attention. They always share the scenes with other players. There is no interruptive player who messes things up for other players. They are all great listeners and they know how to react and engage in the story without upstaging others.
The PC's are always supporting each other to keep the story moving forward. Make sure your character is supporting the other characters with their goals or plans. The more effort you put into the characters friendship, the more you will get out of it. You won't get a Beau and Jester without that conscious effort. Your characters are always playing and fighting together they should become friends pretty quickly.
If you want your game to last 6 seasons and a movie, then give the DM and PC's all of your attention and support.
The DM is a great listener too, he doesn't rush a scene forward, he takes the time to listen to his players role play.
But the most important reason that this show has gone on so long is that everyone continually supports each other. The players take the time to make sure their characters genuinely care for and support the other characters during the game. Supporting other characters goals and plans, creates a lasting bond you will never see in other games.
You will never see a lone wolf edge lord character who is only out for himself in Critical Role. Because it is a group game. A game where supportive characters make a better story. The loner has no place in a group game and Critical Role knows it.
Show kindness and Respect
If you want a good story and you want to put on a good show, remember to always be attentive, always be ready for your turn. Do not interrupt or try to change focus when a scene is already in play. Do not hog the spotlight. Be active in the story by reacting and engaging, in character, with what is going on. Go with the flow.
Be supportive of all the players and make an effort to include them all. This applies to players and game masters alike. If you aren't including others, no one will want to play with you.
And most importantly be a good listener. The best way to get support from other players is to support them first. Listen to other ideas and work with each other. The player who listens is the player that will be included.