This is a fantastic question. Thanks for asking it. Advice and/or guidelines for players that work for us include:
–Think of yourselves as the writing room, the GM as the production team, and your whole game as a show. Yes, GM generates lots of plot spurs (I call these ‘requests from the studio’), but it’s the players that determine how the show actually plays. Their chief tool is their character, but that needn’t mean that they only pursue their own character’s interests, with the resulting game being the output of X voices competing for the steering wheel and spotlight. Rather, pursuing what makes for the best show–the funniest scene, the most moving moment, the richest twist–and serving that element the way their character would behave is what seems to make the most memorable, rewarding game. This often looks like characters doing suboptimal, foolish or even humiliating things. One of my all-time favourite game memories came from a very strong player deciding her statuesque character would crack and mutter and bend to the will of a much softer player and diffident character (that wasn’t even making much of a stand) because, well, the diffident one had a better storyline idea, and because watching pride shatter was riveting. (In a different campaign, she decided her science-y character would panic in a massive underground evil-lab gunfight and she just started taking samples and labeling them in the battlefield. Other characters continually had to drag her out of fire lanes. She won no glory, splattered no heads, but it’s the only thing about that scene anyone remembers.)
–Invest in the world’s stakes. GMs can stimulate terror, heartache, desperation–but only players can really generate it. If a house is supposed to be spooky, the GM isn’t going to make the player feel spooked out, but if a player plays spooked, everyone else will start to get spooked. If everyone is dragged before the emperor, it seems funny to be Rocket Raccoon and cop some insouciance, but the fact is that royal power that can execute you on a whim is f***ing scary and your plot armour bc your GM is your friend and isn’t actually going to execute you shouldn’t indemnify your character from half-pissing themselves. And civilians’ lives…I mean, watching those end would be pretty intense.
–Applaud each other. Often. Compliments are the fastest route, in my opinion, to players getting comfortable and taking bigger creative risks, really opening up to new ideas. When I see players throwing an idea into the pot for other players to react to, rather than just seeking endless punchlines for their own characters, I know we’ve really made each other feel valued.
Hope this isn’t pedantic! Cheers, everyone; really enjoying this unique little thread.