One fine day (about this time last week) my friend, the resemblance of Jove himself, strolls up and promptly asks weather I'd like to play in his Exalted campaign.
By the good grace of a merciful heaven I was indoctrinated into the world of RPG during the indie boom and had never played such hilariously out-moded relics from the ancient past when grognards ruled the earth; I'm a latter-day gamer. In fact, I had never done much actual playing of games at all, really; I've always been the GM to my slightly mollycoddled play-group.
So, I think to myself, why not? Everyone talks about Exalted like resplendent light shines from its multiform backside so I might as well step into the booth and get a tan, right? There was a faint sucking noise as I removed my horned GM's helm and ensconced myself in one of the less-comfortable chairs down (I admit a shudder) the side of the table. I've seen this done before, what could go amiss?
Now, I wasn't playing with my usual group, but a collection of hard-core Exalted veterans who, with avuncular twinkles in their eyes, told me they'd explain everything as it came up. Cool, I thought, it'll be easy. I was helped through character creation and, without much preamble, we began.
I was awful!
The other players were a mix of bombastic character-actors and stoic planners, both working in well-oiled tandem to drive the narrative forward. My input was stunted, misinformed or simply overshadowed by something we all found more entertaining.
My character concept was confused (some kind of Zhuge Liang archer/sorcerer sage-figure) and seemed to be at odds with the beastmen and automaton powerhouses that seemed to be effective and assertive in all situations. My strengths (intelligence/lore checks) became a useful way for the GM to pass us all information, but gave me little to do. That's not to say the GM was a bad GM; I had attempted to relay the information in-character but I confused my terms, tried to invent details and generally blundered trying to make my character sound omniscient. In the end I was taken pity on and the group just listened to the GM.
I stumbled over the rules, which was accepted in good humor by the group who patiently pointed out my errors, assumptions and overlookings, but I felt bad taking up so much time and disrupting the pace of play. To my shame I found myself unable to give due attention to all the stats of my character, weapons, armour, summons etc; lists of numbers baffled and annoyed me at turns. I didn't throw a tantrum and tried to focus the best I could, but when a Crab-lunar is using a warehouse door as a riot shield and pirouetting into a band of Coralian slavers I really couldn't bring myself to keep my head in the rule-book.
All my days of GMing hadn't prepared me for stunting. Ah! Such a travesty, dear reader! I had heard of it previously, of course, and had agreed to play partly on how awesome it sounded: Cool descriptions get dice. Easy. Simple. Fun. Ha! My first stunt was cool, to be fair, but afterward I just stalled! I was struck by the lame tepidity of my own (usually good) improvisational abilities! I relegated myself to the rear, shooting arrows with as much wit and panache as a corpse. I ended up, as we were fighting polarbear wind-elementals, making terrible puns ("He bearly felt it." "I've had enough of your bearfaced cheek." &c.) which cracked grins but didn't make up for my sense of failure: I'd become what I was always irritated by, the joke-player.
Baffled, lame, boorish. I'm a terrible player. It's only now, with a lovecraftian sense of terrible enlightenment, that I wonder if I'm also a horrific GM too, but have only just realised the extent of my failings.
So, dear reader, advise me. Apart from investing time in the rules, what maketh the righteous player?