Society for Interactive Literature West

Tips for Playing with Style and Success
(graciously provided by our experienced players)

What are we here for?

Fun. Roleplaying is fun. Being someone else for a while, with other people who are doing it too, is fun. Being a little silly is fun. Being dramatic and intense is fun. Have fun!


It's easy to feel overwhelmed. There's lots of people here, they all seem to know each other, there's so much to know and it feels like you don't know any of it and everyone else does, people are roleplaying much more flamboyantly than you think you can, etc. Relax. Almost everyone is just as nervous and confused as you are. They're just bluffing.

Yes, GMs are busy. However, you have just as much claim on our time as everyone else -- wave at one of us and we'll put you on the queue.
GMs aren't psychic, nor are we cruel. If you're lost or confused or upset or frustrated, we probably don't know yet, or we may think you don't want us to interfere. We certainly don't want you to be bummed out. There's no shame in asking a GM to help you organize your thoughts and find ways to solve your problems.
Focus less on what your problems are and more on how you can succeed. Feeling sorry for yourself or being angry at something you think is designed to hurt you doesn't help get you past the obstacles.
Remember that everyone else is roleplaying too -- someone who seems like a jerk may be pretty cool in real life. Get to know people out of character, and you'll all feel more comfortable even when things turn ugly.
If you're tired, frustrated, or angry, you may just need to take a break. Go eat something, relax, read a real-world newspaper, or anything else to get away for a little while. You'll come back with a fresh perspective and new ideas.

Learn to laugh at yourself, both in and out of character. As Mrs. Which says, the only way to deal with something deadly serious is to try to treat it a little lightly. Besides helping you calm down, finding the humour in a tough situation can help you find an unexpected way out of it.

Working with the rules and the GMs

Know the rules well. Ask a GM about anything you're not sure of, especially if you're planning something clever, so you don't get surprised.

Ask other players to run mock combats (or other unfriendly interactions) with you on Friday night, so you can get used to how the rules work.
Remember, most rules are applied during in-character stressful times. There's no reason to add the out-of character stress of figuring out the rules on top of it, so be prepared.
If you do get stuck in an unpleasant situation, you are entitled to have a GM present to look out for your interests, to make sure no one misunderstands or shortcuts the rules to your disadvantage.
GMs are not allowed to answer hypothetical questions like, "What would this new machine I've designed do?" If you want to know, you'll have to try it.
Don't be a rules lawyer. The GMs are the only ones who have the right to make rules in this game, and they are allowed to contradict anything they feel like. If you honestly think that the GM didn't understand what you were asking or didn't take something important into account, explain yourself calmly, rationally, and politely -- and only once.
Recognize that the GMs are responsible to everyone, and they know much more about the game than you do. They may deny your request because it may screw over other characters unfairly, or it may set a precedent that will give an unfair advantage to someone else down the line.
Whining and yelling and complaining and telling the GMs how they should have designed the game doesn't help, and it can hurt. We're human, remember?

GMs reward imagination -- clever and creative ideas often work very well.

Roleplaying with Style

Take the time to get to know your character well.

Try this: after you read your background information, think about how you might react in-character to various situations, from the everyday (a slow supermarket clerk) to the unusual (being kidnapped).
Get used to roleplaying exclusively in first person instead of third ("I can't stand foo" instead of "My character really doesn't like foo.").
Once you know who you are, think about how you'd like to present yourself to other characters and how you'd like to proceed during the game.
Reread things once in a while -- you'll often pick up more hints about what's going on after you know more.
Feel free to make up small details about yourself if you're curious (they often help you get a clearer sense of who you are) or if they come up in conversation. If the GMs didn't spell it out for you, it's probably just fine to make it up out of whole cloth.
Don't just play the most advantageous combination of you and your character -- for instance, if your character is noble, don't backstab lightly just because it's to your apparent advantage.
Beware the Armageddon syndrome -- don't throw everything away because you know the game ends Sunday afternoon. Your character will still probably be around on Tuesday.
Every character and group starts off with a very limited perspective on the world, and may not know the significance of much of what they do know. You need to talk to everyone else in the game, and share what information you have, in order to get enough tidbits to piece together the big picture.
Your character sheet and bluesheets are only a starting point. There's a whole web of plots out there, and you are hereby encouraged to become a crucial part of every single one.
Find out what other people are trying to accomplish and decide whether you want to help or hinder them. If you're ever thinking, "Gee, I don't know what to do now," because you think you're finished or permanently thwarted in your own goals, look around you, see what is not right with the world (Something's not right, guaranteed), and decide how you're going to change things.
When in doubt, act it out. If your character is angry, depressed, confused, self-satisfied, in love, or whatever, express it so that other people can see. Tell people, even those you don't yet trust, let yourself be overheard grumbling or sighing or laughing or trying to figure something out aloud. If no one knows what you're thinking, they can't react to it. Often, other characters' reactions will help you figure out what they're thinking.
Go ahead, overact. Be a ham. It's fun, and will win you a surprising amount of respect from the other players, and often a surprising amount of aid. Anything worth doing is worth overdoing. Don't just go over the top. Go over the top, down the other side, and up the next top over!
If things aren't going your way, don't suffer in silence. Tell others about your misfortunes, darkly hint at extreme measures, publicly curse your enemies, cause a scene, do something instead of simply getting frustrated and moping. Remember, this is fiction! Often the best scenes are those of personal defeat. Share the tragedy! If you have to go down, do it with a bang!

Getting Involved

Be socially aggressive -- don't let people leave you out. If you make eye contact with someone and don't talk, they generally figure you have nothing to say or even that you don't want to talk with them. Don't wait for an invitation, just walk right up to people and start talking.

Tell people things that you know or suspect, ask them questions about things you don't. It's amazing how much you can learn just by asking. Use the information you get to fuel other conversations.
Talk to everyone -- the links in your character are just to get you started with a little information about some other people, but are by no means intended to limit who you work with.
Make people include you in their plans. If you see a group talking, go up to them, listen politely for a while, and then start offering your own information or suggestions. If people are heading off to a private location for a meeting, go with them. If they don't want you around, they'll tell you to leave, and if they do, do it with a smile, so they realize that you're just curious and eager, not intrusive and annoying. But if they let you in and you help them come up with ideas and carry out plans, they'll forget that you put yourself in the group and accept you as one of them.
And why limit yourself to being a follower? Organize people yourself. Call the meetings yourself. Tell other people what your agenda is, and get them to help you achieve it.
Don't wait for interesting things to happen to you. They won't. Or at least not the kind you want. You have to make them happen.
Don't play halfway to see if you like it, taking long breaks when nothing exciting seems to be happening. When you're only kind of playing, people tend to forget you or assume you don't have anything to offer or you don't want to be deeply involved. Play all the time as hard as you can. The more energy you put in, the more you'll get out of it.
Think about what you can offer to other characters: items, knowledge, abilities, etc. Something other people need over the long term is more useful than something they'll only need for a few minutes. Look for synergies among your skills, and between yours and other people's.

Even if you came here with friends, try to get involved with people you haven't worked with before. It's more fun, it will help you meet new friends, and not limiting yourself to a single clique will help you be more effective.


If someone gets the better of you, think about how you could prevent it from happening again, or how you could turn it to your advantage. Even better, learn from other people's misfortunes before they happen to you.

Don't go around doing stuff randomly because you're not sure what to do. All it does is annoy people, who will avoid you, and might even lynch you. Instead of being a pest, look for something useful to do.
If you don't know what you should be doing, what you should be doing is learning more about what's going so you can figure out what you should be doing.
Pick a direction and stick with it. Don't just wander around changing your focus every few minutes.
On the other hand, if you run into a dead end, don't beat your head against it for too long. There are probably other ways to do what you want.
Information is the most valuable commodity in the game. What's more, you can give it away without losing it. Knowing what you need, who has access to it, and how to get it from them, is pretty close to having it already.
Learn where your strengths and weaknesses are, including hidden ones.
Being unwilling to make any enemies can be as much a hindrance as being unwilling to make any friends. Don't give in to intimidation.
Attack people only when you are sure of it. Random violence will most probably hurt the perpetrator.
There are no guarantees that you can trust anyone, but since cooperation is the key to getting things done, you will have to trust people anyway. There are ways of proving loyalties, but doing so may change those loyalties ( la Heisenberg). The most trustworthy people are those who need you.

Have Fun!

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