It pays to know what you are doing. Ergo, it pays to study it. Ladies & Gentlemen, it pays to read the freaking manual.
RPGs don’t just have settings and premises, they have systems. Hopefully a game will have a genre or idea that it is supposed to emulate or create, and hopefully the moving parts assist you in doing just that.
It’s not enough just to study the scenario and setting of a new RPG. One must also become familiar with the game system, the procedures, and the mechanics of the RPG in question. Sometimes when we aren’t sure, we fall back on role play and fly by the seat of our pants when it comes to engaging with the system.
However, if we are diligent, we begin to internalize the nuts and bolts of the game, and then w start to see how it really works. We begin to develop system mastery, and we learn how to leverage the system.
Sometimes we start to see how things work during character creation, and we are able to leverage the information in order to create a character capable of doing the things we envision within the parameters of the system. (My musketeer uses a deadly combination of Parry & Riposte talents to cut his opponents to ribbons…unless they happen to be vampires). Other times we learn that the system limits the concept in our head, so we make adjustments. In this case we have leveraged our system mastery to prevent character poisoning.
A player who has learned how to leverage the system to enforce genre and display competence can be a sight to behold. I’ll never forget playing Star Trek Adventures with the Complex Games Apologist and watching CGA effortlessly use the 2D20 system to have his character take control of the situation as a good commanding officer should.
So get cracking. Read that new RPG. Learn how it works, learn how it really works. Show up prepared to play and to leverage your knowledge to make the experience fuller via the system. And Bring donuts. Everyone likes those.