Pathfinder Adventurer's Guild
This guy has already done the work to write a great article about it, so lets start there.
Now I’d like to say that his advice probably has more bearing on people that have already been roleplaying for a bit, though its all good to keep in mind. Here’s some advice for newbies:
1. We’re all looking stupid, so have fun with it.
Roleplaying has never been the most socially acceptable thing to do, but it is better than harmless, it is fun. It’s social. It may even help you practice your basic math and reasoning skills. The less you worry about being weird and the more you let yourself have fun the better for everyone.
2. If everyone’s having fun, you’re doing it right.
You don’t have to do everything perfectly. You will often fail rolls and elicit groans, but read the faces. If everyone is still smiling you are doing alright. Even if the way you play is totally different than everyone around you its okay.
3. It’s just a game, but don’t be a dick.
“It’s just a game” is helpful advice to remember, but because of the connection that people may get to their characters it can seem awfully serious in the moment. If characters are disagreeing it may be helpful to take a quick moment to check in with each other to make certain that no player is getting too upset. If somebody needs to take a break for a bit, do it.
4. “No one cares about your gnome wizard demon lord.”
It may happen that you become infected with the roleplaying bug. You love your new hobby and you want to tell everyone about it. Unfortunately, RPGs are much harder to explain than they are to experience. It is helpful to remember this when you try to tell a story (or worse stats) to someone not into the hobby as much as you are. If they have never played an RPG or RPG video game or done improv, they are probably not going to understand whats so great about roleplaying. The best way to clear that up is to run a game for them.
5. Care about your character.
If you care about your character as much as you care about that banana peel you threw away, you may still have a good time hanging out with your friends, but you aren’t going to have the same experience as someone who has seen their character grow and mature over time finally reach their lifetime goal. Since, you are in charge of deciding who your character is there is really no excuse not to make someone that you really like.
6. Don’t be afraid to be a passenger.
I know Grant’s article talks a lot about being active. But sometimes there is going to be a scene where things are really going back and forth between some characters and your character doesn’t have anything to add. If you would be breaking up the flow or stealing the spotlight by interjecting, then let it flow. We all know that guy that can’t read social clues and makes inappropriate jokes when things are tense and only make things worse. I’m not telling you not to be that guy, but don’t be that guy all the time. On the other hand, if the action has stalled, get back in the driver’s seat and punch it Chewie.
7. Be nice to your GM or better yet, be a GM.
There is a lot of work that goes into being a GM (though it does get to be less, the more experience you have). Some GMs will do 2-3 hours of prep work per hour of play. If you have a good time, let them know. If they ask you for suggestions, KINDLY offer it, even if it comes to mind days later. And if you have any guts, and chutzpah, any storytelling blood in you, try being a GM. You can ask a GM to be your co-pilot, but give it a try sometime. Even if you find out it’s not for you, it does a lot for increasing your understanding of the game.