What is the best piece of advice you were ever given for your game of choice?
I don’t really remember what gaming advice I’ve been given, what advice I’ve adapted to gaming from other sources, and what I’ve determined on my own. I can remember several “aha” moments in my gaming career, like when I first realized DMing was something I could do or when I learned about player agency, but most of those qualify more as events than advice. A lot of the guidance I can quote is something I already knew but phrased in a way I hadn’t considered. For example, “retreat to the intellectual safety of combat” is an idiosyncratic shorthand for “fights, with their clear goals and limited tactical options, provide a spike in session pacing to soothe players stressing over the ambiguity of navigating diplomacy, mysteries, or other freeform encounters”. It’s good advice, but it’s not superlative and it’s most notable for its pith.
I think the best advice I’ve ever gotten for gaming is the best advice I’ve ever gotten in general: communicate. If you want to know what your players think of something, ask them. If you want your DM to give you something, tell her. If you want the rest of the party to treat your character a certain way, say so. Nobody knows what anybody else is thinking; we’re all going on our best guesses based on observation and reasoning, and sometimes those guesses are wrong. You need to say what’s on your mind if you want other people to know it, and if you have to ask what somebody else thinks if they’re not going to tell you on their own. Communication is the principle behind cooperative design, session zero, this blog itself, and the very concept of cooperative tabletop play. If players and DMs don’t talk to each other, you don’t have a game at all.