It’s easy to go to cons and think that the GM is there to offer you a service and should be great at what he’s doing and deliver a fantastic game with control over all elements, including other players (who he doesn’t know). It’s also easy to forget that most people running games are doing it for the love of the hobby, that they’ve paid to be there and if they do get some kind of reward, a five pound gaming voucher doesn’t really cut it when compared to the normal out-of-hours rate they could be getting on a weekend… So what can we do to help?
As players there are lots of easy ones:
Realise that it’s hard to be stood all lonely behind that (sometimes metaphorical) screen and every decision is scrutinised. Suck it up a bit if you don’t get the decision you want, or at least be polite and reasonable if you’re going to question something.
Help out other players. If they’re struggling and the GM is busy, be approachable and offer up solutions or a gap in knowledge if you can. Don’t be mean to them or offish. The whole game with go better if the players get on, even if the characters don’t.
Be sure you can separate character from player. Often you’ll not know the guy sat opposite and could think his constant picking on your character is a personal problem – it might just be that his *character*has that as a background though – so don’t leap to the defensive and take a bit of time to gauge the lay of the land.
Fetching drinks. Might seem odd, but often the GM is under constant demand and something as small as getting him a coffee or beer (even if you don’t pay for it and just do the fetching and carrying) is often appreciated.
If there are mistakes or errors on the character sheet or in handouts or whatever, there’s ways and means of broaching. Saying “God! You’ve done this wrong” to someone who’s made a simple mathematical error on one of many exquisite character sheets that have taken hours of spare time to produce is not getting someone “on side” for later in the game when we work out who the Troll is going to hit first. Cosmetic errors or such can probably be left for the end if you want to let someone know where they could improve or correct things for next time they run the game. Just don’t be a wanker about it.
Help with the organisation, atmosphere and mood. If someone is spoiling the immersion, being argumentative, or otherwise not playing ball, you can always ask them to behave (in a nice way). If nothing else, this will let the GM know that he’s not on his own in thinking someone is being hard work and empower him to say something with GM authority to get things back on track.
Try to turn up on time, bring pencils, dice and that kind of thing, be nice, all the rest of it. Try to bear in mind that the GM is a paying delegate just like you, with the added pressure of performing for six strangers and having given up some free time in advance to try and make a good game for people to play. If it wasn’t for GM’s there wouldn’t be a con… so if you can do a little something to make their life easier – go for it! I’m sure it’ll be appreciated!