Carpe Blogiem: What I Look For In Players as a GM, Part I

Finding a player for a game you wish to run is hard – finding the right player is even harder. I’ve been pretty lucky for the most part and with my current player pool of 15 or so I’ve been even luckier. That said, I personally have a few criteria that I look for in players:

Storyteller: I love players who like to tell stories. I know that’s most gamers, but I’m talking about the sorts that get wrapped up in the campaign. That ask questions about this or that facet and how their character might fit in. Or that like to provide little snippets of fiction for things that happen outside of the game time.

Patient: Sometimes, games take time to mature. Things may take additional time depending on the genre, the system, and the players composition itself. A good portion of the time a campaign fails is because one or more of the players simply don’t have the patience to let things take their course.

Flexible: A flexible player is a godsend. Sometimes you need to improvise as a GM and having players who can do the same can take a game from “meh” to “awesome.”

“Go-Getter”: A player who is driven and active when it comes to playing their character can really change the dynamic of a game. Go-getter players can help a GM stay on their game and when the GM is feeling down or less than tip-top-shape active players can help blunt that impact.

Dependable: A dependable player is indispensable to me. I’ll take a player who is there every game over one who knows the rules of the game I’m running. Seriously. You can’t run a game if your players aren’t there.

Picking Over the Bones
Notice how I didn’t put system mastery up there? It’s because I don’t really care if a player knows the system as long as they are a good roleplayer. They can learn the game later on with enough play time. Learning how to be a good roleplayer? That’s harder and takes more time.

Stay tuned for the next part.

What do you look for in a player as a GM? Anything specific? Disagree with anything I’ve said here? If so, why?

Posted in Carpe Blogiem and tagged , .


  1. I love to play RPGs, but it takes me a while to warm to a new character or setting. I may seem passive at first but I am really just trying to absorb the parameters of the world and the kinds of actions it rewards (realistic or over-the-top? Dramatic role-play, or combat?) So what I want from a GM is first and foremost, patience, and secondly the ability to communicate what he wants from his players.

    Third, I want a GM who can help a player realize a character that is intrinsically different from the player himself. For example, if a player wants to play a highly outgoing, social mechanic style character, don’t force him to role-play every encounter in detail and reward or penalize the CHARACTER for how well the PLAYER did. Likewise, the player is running a character that is much more or less intelligent that the player, don’t let the player’s abilities influence the success or failure of the character.

  2. OK, rant over. 😉

    The other things I look for in a GM are:

    The ability to tell a story. This includes interesting plots and the ability to describe things in an engaging way, as well as reducing exposition to a minimum and letting the settings and characters pass information to the players.

    Encouraging roleplaying. Talking to the players in character. The GM does not have to do accents or real acting, but just consistently talk in character when portraying NPCs. This helps immerse me in the story.

    Knowledge of the system but with the ability to recognize when to just roll and shout. The system is actually somewhat important to me, because I judge what I can do based on those rules, and if the GM resolves a conflict in a different way, I may feel cheated. But at the same time, some details probably don’t matter, and it is not worth the time to look up in a book. For those situations, the ability to make a judgment call and throw the dice work.

  3. Rather than “system mastery” I would require “will to learn”. Unfortunately I’ve often heard stories of other GMs about players not learning the basic rules after a lot of game sessions, so that it is clear that there is no noticeable _will_ to learn , they do not make the effort, do not care much about these things.

  4. I’m fine as long as they learn the basics – everything else is optional. If they can roll 3d6 and figure margins and know the basic combat system I’m happy.

  5. Yes, same here, if the players are familiar with the basics (after some time), that’s enough for me, too… Personally I just would require to see some learning “progress” (up to the basics at least, as said), as I do not want to have players not knowing anything after several game sessions. “Mastery” is definitely not needed. Especially when it comes to beginners, I try to be very helpful, support/explain their choices etc.

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