Roleplaying

Five Types of Troublesome Players – and How to Deal With Them

It’s the job of the game master to herd cats through the roleplaying campaign. While dealing with unexpected player decisions, group dissatisfaction, or the occasional argument is just another day at the gaming table, sometimes specific players will make your day very difficult.

Many of those players fall into one of following categories:

1. The Metagamer

What they are: The metagamer takes actions that are out of character based on their knowledge of the game and the GM. While it’s possible to metagame in a positive way, troublesome metagamers help their character succeed instead of improving the gaming experience for everyone. If the character knows the weakness of every opponent listed in the monster manual, acts cautiously after you call for a spot check, or is suspicious of NPCs whose ill intent was revealed out-of-game, you have a metagamer on your hands.

Why they’re troublesome: Metagaming can wreak havoc on a story. Stories require healthy doses of conflict, and a player who metagames trivializes challenges that would otherwise be significant. Their choice to act out of character waters down their roleplaying and calls attention to the mechanics of the game, rather than the experience of the story.

How to deal with them: The easiest way to reduce metagaming- particularly if it’s happening with your entire group- is to reduce the knowledge they have. Reskin your monsters so they can’t recognize them from any reference guides. Ask for regular spot and listen checks instead of only calling for them when they’re relevant to the game. If you narrate any scenes between villainous NPCs to foreshadow or build tension, don’t name or describe the characters that are talking. That way the players won’t recognize them when their characters meet them.

If you have one or two players that are metagaming at a more blatant level, gently call them out. Often metagamers simply don’t realize what they’re doing or know any better. You can help them learn better habits.

2. The Power Gamer

What they are: The power gamer views a campaign as a technical strategy game they want to “win.” They have intimate knowledge of all the mechanics of the roleplaying system, and use them to build characters with broken power-combos and min-maxed abilities. They engage the game as a series of rules to follow and exploit instead of a story that’s unfolding.

Why they’re troublesome: Power gamers often view the GM as their opponent, since they’re the ones rolling for all the monsters and villains. They may try to police you by demanding you follow the exact rules of the system, creating arguments that are tedious for everyone. If their min-maxed characters succeed, they will break your conflicts and overshadow the other players. If they fail, it will leave them feeling bitter.

How to deal with them: The power gamer is simply used to a different style of gaming. If they had a GM that was actually trying to kill the PCs, and the other players were behaving like they were, they would be fine. The best way to keep power gamers from becoming a problem is to talk to your players ahead of time to find out what they want, and tell them how you run your games. If you do get a power gamer in your group, be firm about rules lawyering, but throw them the occasional bone with some challenging combat scenarios.

3. The Derailer

What they are: The derailer is a social butterfly that is easily distracted from the task at hand. They like to talk with people, and they’re not picky about what they talk about. As a result, they’ll frequently drop out of character to chat about the latest political news or the most recent Mythcreant Podcast.

Why they’re troublesome: It’s difficult to make any progress in the game when you have a derailer at your table. They’ll distract not only themselves, but all of the other players, bringing the game or its preparation to a screeching halt. Soon there’s not enough time to get through the material you’ve planned.

How to deal with them: While GMs are used to providing direction, no one wants to feel like they’re ruining everyone’s fun by repeatedly ending conversations that others are engaged in. To manage the derailer, you’ll need help from one or more of your players. Pull them aside at a convenient time and ask them to assist you in keeping the group on task.

It’s also good to make sure that the derailing isn’t a symptom of a bigger problem. It’s normal for derailing to take hold during game preparation and other slow periods, but if you have sober players that are derailing during important scenes, they may not be happy with your campaign.

4. The Gamejacker

What they are: The gamejacker is a GM, writer, or another storyteller with lots of their own ideas. They aren’t used to the lack of control that comes with being a player in a collaborative campaign. As as result, they put a lot of effort into trying to steer the direction of the story to fit their own ideas and preferences. They think they’re being helpful by taking everyone in that direction.

Why they’re troublesome: A solid campaign depends on the participation and satisfaction of all the players. A player that strongly asserts their ideas does so at the cost of everyone else. Other players become more passive participants instead being actively involved, decreasing their engagement. On top of that, gamejackers have a knack for stepping on GM toes. They don’t know everything you’ve planned for the campaign. By steering the game in another direction, they’re ruining all your careful preparation.

How to deal with them: Most gamejackers are going through an adjustment period; given time, they’ll relax. You can speed this process by talking to them privately and letting them know the effect they’re having on the other players. If they’re a writer, tell them that roleplaying is improvisational – they have to let go and allow events to happen naturally. If they’re a GM, inform them that this is your game, and you have extensive and secret plans that will never come to fruition if they continue taking control.

5. The Joker

What they are: Jokers roleplay in a wacky and silly manner. They create one-dimensional characters that maximize novelty, and hammer that one note at every opportunity. They might spend all their energy converting NPCs to a cult that worships toilet paper, or romancing any character with a beard.

Why they’re troublesome: Jokers get enjoyment from breaking social conventions, and as a result they don’t take anything seriously. It will be impossible to have any tense or tragic moments in your campaign, because the joker will be openly mocking the story and world you’ve worked so hard on. The players who want to follow the story or enjoy the world will quickly become frustrated with the joker’s unrealistic and inappropriate behavior.

How to deal with them: Much like power gamers, jokers are used to roleplaying in a campaign that is very mechanical. Silly roleplaying allows them to make the campaign interesting for themselves, without depending on the GM or anyone else. Now that you’re the GM, you should let them know that you’ll provide a compelling story, but that story depends on them playing seriously during the critical moments. Encourage the player to add depth and realism to their character. In exchange, provide regular opportunities for them to goof off with your blessing.

General Guidelines

Regardless of why a player might be causing trouble for your campaign, these tips can help you prevent or resolve the issue:

  • Ask what your players want from the campaign. Many of the problems that occur in a roleplaying group are caused by having different goals for the game. Talking to your players ahead of time will allow you to identify and resolve potential problems early.
  • Set expectations for your campaign. All your players should know what type of game master you are beforehand. They shouldn’t be surprised when you put an emphasis on storytelling.
  • Find the intent behind disruptive actions. Players may be rules lawyers, metagamers, or gamejackers for different reasons. If you know their intent, you can provide a different way to satisfy it.
  • Don’t argue with players. Describe the reasons for your decisions when necessary, but keep it short, and don’t let yourself get drawn into an argument. If you encourage combative behavior, you’ll be creating a terrible experience for all of the players who are sitting at the table.

 

It may seem like the only solution is to kick a troublesome player out of the campaign. But many of us game with the important people in our lives, and splitting the group would rob us of the opportunity to bond with them. Even when players want very different things, clear communication can allow them to find a compromise that works. And no matter how troublesome players can be, they’re at the table for the same reason you are – to enjoy a game together.

Treat your friends to an evening of dark ritual murder. In a fictional game scenario, of course. Uncover your lost memories and save the day in our stand-alone game, The Voyage.

Read more about

 

Comments

  1. Rand al'Thor

    I am having problems with a certain player in my games and would like assistance from one of the Mythcreants team. Most likely Oren, but anybody else who has GMed or played Mouse Guard and knows how to deal with childish players. Okay, here we go. What happens if someone repeatedly creates characters that follow clichés and stereotypes such as:
    -parents were killed by evil dude
    -the character’s enemy hurt them for no particular reason (this one is more of a stupid one-dimensional idea)
    -Chosen One
    etc.
    They cannot be kicked out of the game and will repeatedly create these types of characters. They aren’t interested in roleplaying and just want to win. I cannot assure them that the campaign will be engaging. I run a solo campaign built for one player, where one of them occasionally drops in and out (the problem player). My real player is interested in everything in between the covers of the MG book, but my problem player does nothing but cause problems (I replace the inn sign with an inappropriate picture I drew) and roll dice (HACK AND SLASH!!!!). They call anything else boring and completely tune out. Help! Sorry for the lengthy comment, and thanks for the assistance.

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      That does sound like quite a pickle. So you’ve covered that you can’t get rid of the problem player. Can you distract them? They like fighting stuff. Can you just include a really difficult bad guy for them to fight while you do RP stuff with the other player?

      He sounds like he might just not be interested, not the kind of player you can reason with. If distracting him doesn’t work, it might be best to call the campaign a lost cause. Some games just aren’t worth the emotional energy.

      • Rand al'Thor

        My main problem is the 1D characters. How to fix that?

      • Oren Ashkenazi

        Well, you can’t force someone to want to make real characters. Like Chris said, it sounds like he’s mostly after validation of how cool he is.

        The key here might be to give him some kind of classic connection to the bad guy. Have the villain be his old mentor or something. That way they can have a reason to fight a lot that’s story relevant. And you can have the villain comment on how good his fighting technique is, that kind of thing. Sounds a little cliche, but it can be a stepping stone to more interesting characters. It gives a reason to care about an NPC as something other than a pile of numbers.

      • Rand al'Thor

        Thanks for the assist. I’ll try it out.

    • Chris Winkle

      Someone who wants to be the chosen one and win the game is probably looking for candy. So while doing your distraction attempt, I might suggest making the big bad completely obsessed with their character, because they’re just so badass the villain can’t rest until they’re defeated. Have random NPCs walk up and tell the problem player’s character how they’ve heard about how they defeated x y and z, and ask for an autograph. Stuff like that. Hopefully if your other player has more refined tastes, they’ll enjoy the dynamic of being in the famous hero’s shadow.

  2. T4 Referee

    I have a player who always tries to take the spotlight and make all of the storylines about her. Unfortunately, it’s not just me who’s annoyed by this. The other players can barely tolerate her. For instance, I told my players that for this campaign, I’d like it if they were all human. She thought that’d be boring, so she said she wanted to be a K’Kree (race that murders anyone who’s ever eaten meat on sight). Obviously, this wouldn’t have worked. I managed to compromise with her, by giving her a weirder homeworld than everyone else, but I’m worried she’ll be a further issue. Any way I can try to rein her in without hurting her feelings? She is my friend (ish), so I don’t want to come down too herd on her.

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      That’s a difficult conundrum to solve. Without knowing the player in question very well, I’d say you have a few options.

      1. There’s always asking them privately to tone it down. Sometimes that works, but it depends on the temperament on the player in question.

      2. Make sure their character is tied into the main plot. Often, when a player does this, it’s because they feel like the story doesn’t involve them, and they’re overcompensating. If they know they matter in the story (make them the heir to the lost throne in question, or have the enemy general turn out to be their mother or what have you), they may calm down.

      3. Give them a personal nemesis. This is someone who focuses exclusively on them, trying to murder their face. Having that kind of attention from an NPC can often soothe a spotlight stealing ego.

      4. Give them some attention away from the table. Run an online mini-session for just that player. That gives them special time where they alone can be in the spotlight, without bothering the other PCs.

    • Krssven

      I’d also go the route here of creating a personal nemesis – not necessarily the Big Bad itself, but something relevant. In a sci-fi setting (as yours sounds), you could make this some group, peripherally or strongly linked to your primary antagonist(s). Balance might well be key here – in your place I’d be keen to not let the player have their own way (otherwise what’s stopping this happening in every game?), but to also create a way that makes her feel slightly special. This can be as simple as writing plot arcs within the main game that focus exclusively on her.

      In my own experience, our current group tends to be intrigue-heavy as a few of us seem to love the ‘hidden plot that only you know’ type of quest. These should usually form secondary plots done as downtimes, email or one-to-one sessions. I’ve discovered that these players often don’t like to share information with each other, probably because they simply enjoy the feeling of having something exclusively theirs. So it is possible to go too far down that road, but by writing player-specific content that also resonates heavily with the ‘main’ plot, you’re both satisfying a problem player and stopping their unique sidequests being boring for the rest of the group.

  3. Krssven

    I’ve encountered a unique type of player that might be merger of several of the types here. There are several traits that typify this players’ characters (plural – see below):

    – Always physically inept females (not a problem there necessarily) with magic or magic-analogue abilities. So mages in fantasy or urban settings, psychics in sci-fi settings).
    – Created in a way that often leaves them either completely or partially useless to the campaign (e.g. he ‘didn’t realise’ the power tree their character has uses certain skills that they didn’t put points in, or at best use a low skill/stat combo).
    – Acts in a way completely contrary to common sense at key times (while your character having an opinion you as a player might not is good roleplaying, saying ‘my character would do this’ is not a justification for not running away from the zombies with the rest of the party).
    – A probability-defying tendency for characters to end up dead without it being particularly obvious how it happened.

    The last two points are clearly connected – this has become almost a theme for this player. Create a character only for it to die in a seemingly ‘unlucky’ way that leaves other players scratching their heads. The current record I believe for the player is five or six characters in the same game session, averaging a character death every hour or two (this was many years ago). In games I’ve been involved in, the record is three (started a session with one character that died horribly, created another which also died horribly and ended the session with a third – this character also died at a later point as an NPC, in a session GM’d by the player that created it).

    What is baffling is that the player is also a rules lover, studying all of the powers/moves that are possible in the system and often talking enthusiastically (and knowledgeably) about the game, system or both. It’s possible that the player is simply a frustrated GM that is only really comfortable in the big chair. Thankfully, when our group played my own sci-fi game, the more negative aspects disappeared. The character was still a girl with powers, but her powers were awesomely useful in every session (more importantly, the PC was good at the skills needed for them). The character still died near the end, but in one of the biggest Big Damn Hero moments that we still talk about years afterward.

  4. Aboress

    I have one… particular player that I guess one could consider a metagamer. I’m part of a SciFi campaign based on the Atomic Robo RPG and Fate, and it’s heavily focused on producing outlandish, unique, and clever methods of dealing with a situation.
    However, we have one player who is a physics major, and every time we have to come up with some device to solve the problem, she pulls everyone out of the game so she can go calculate how it would work in real life. An example would be a guy who made a giant gun that launched tungsten rods – she stopped the game to talk about how it would shatter the planet, and proceeded to go on making more devices using those same physics.
    My GM allowed it because she defended it with real life science, leaving everyone else in the dust and forcing us to stand back and watch while she would tinker with our ideas to fit her physics boner.
    In my honest opinion, an edge like that is to be avoided in a SciFi environment because it forces players to have to know far more than just the basics of a field to be able to roleplay a character in said field successfully.
    I play an “Action Doctor” as I call it, and focus on healing with soundwaves. Do I have to go down to the basics of what it would take to invent that totally-not-a-medi-gun in real life now?
    It severely slows the playthrough and makes the game so tedious.
    Any idea what I could do?

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      Hey Aboress, so it sounds like what you’ve got here is someone who’s real life knowledge is giving them a major advantage, and also slowing down the game at the same time. It’s similar to playing with someone who’s so familiar with the system that they can power game in their sleep, except in order to catch up you’d have to switch majors. A proper pickle.

      Ideally, the GM would step in and address the problem. In my own campaigns, when I see that one player is outstripping the others, I go out of my way to give the everyone else some extra bonuses so they can stay on the same tier. I might also impose a time limit on how long these devices can be talked about out of game, and make it clear I’m more interested in cool narrative effects than real physics, to decrease the amount of time the group spends listening to a lecture on equal and opposite reactions. It’s cool that this player is using their education in the game, less cool that it’s slowing everything down.

      You could try talking to your GM about it, let them know this isn’t fun for you, ask if something can be done. However, it sounds like they might not be willing to step in.

      If they’re not, my best advice is to make your own fun. It sounds like the problem player focuses on big, planet buster effects, and there’s no way to compete with them on that front. So don’t try. You’re a doctor, focus on healing gear. You’ve already got plans for a medigun, go deeper. Look up all the cool medical tech that’s been in scifi and judge your success based on how much healing you do. Since medical technology is more about biology than physics, hopefully you won’t be in direct competition.

      As for explaining how it works, usually fictional tech has some kind of inworld explanation. I’m sure there’s a wiki article on the medigun somewhere, like there is for the Star Trek hypospray and the Star Wars bacta tank. If that’s not enough and your group demands an actual point by point biology explanation, you’ll be within your rights to call foul. Damn it Jim, you’re a roleplayer not a doctor!

      I can’t swear this will work, but it’s the best option I can think of in your situation. If it doesn’t, I’d recommend leaving the game. Bad games have a way of growing worse if something isn’t done, until it’s no longer a fun way to spend the evening.

    • Krssven

      You can probably easily do this in any one of a couple of ways. As a biologist myself, I have in the past played a character that also was, but I didn’t go into super detail with it. I played a slightly reckless field biologist whose fascination with new life forms sometimes put her in dangerous situations.

      Along those same lines, this player’s expertise in Physics does not equate to their character also having that expertise. How many of us play characters that are actually skilled at sword or bow use? It goes the same for learned skills too. Your first option is to use this – your players can’t pull real-world physics out of their behinds if their characters wouldn’t have the foggiest idea.

      If they are playing the physics card out of character there are other options. First, make it clear you’re not going to allow out of character tangents like this. The game does not turn on knowing the exact energy the railgain transfers to its target when it fires. The game has mechanics to deal with things like this – use those and anything else you are allowed to disregard. You’re the GM of this game.

      Even if you don’t want to do the above, there’s always the handwave. Oh, so a particular player thinks the railgun they have will destroy a ship outright? Surprise them by having the ship emerge unscathed thanks to their super upgraded new shields. I’ve encountered a similar type of player before that believed that because he stated something loudly and confidently enough (eg ‘this tactic WILL rout the enemy in this battle’ or ‘this weapon WILL destroy the enemy ship in just one or two shots), what he said would come to pass. He was both powergaming and metagaming by trying to come up with a tactic that would accomplish the goal and circumvent any plans the GM might have. The rest of the players quickly realised that his statements had a tendency to lead to unpredicted outcomes, such as the shields on the ancient ship from a vanished race being many times more powerful than they believed, or the demon not being susceptible to the method they were sure would kill it. I’m your case, the handwave will come when the player attempts to play the physics card. So they thought the weapon would work? Tough. It didn’t. Why are the shields that strong? They’re more advanced. How they work isn’t important.

      Unfortunately this is just another type of player that seeks to metagame by bringing out of character information to the table. It could be avoided by their characters being super-physics experts but in most games it will derail things.

  5. Ju-chan09

    My Sis and I started an rpg and it’s not a pen&paper rpg but a chat-forum-rpg, but it’s not so different (except for having no dice) and that kind of troublesome players also appear in those kind of rpgs.
    It was the first time we started our own thing and we stupidly forgot to put rules in our game. (Yeah, I know – that’s very stupid.)
    Now we quit the rpg but maybe you can give us some tips for the future. I would really appreciate this.
    Here’s a few problems we had with one of our players:
    1. The group moved to another basement. They walked for hours in game. Her character suddenly is back in the old basement. We asked: “How is that possible?” Her answer: “My character can run that fast.” We were like: “Well … ok.”
    2. Her character was just talking to my character. Then she wrote that her character was sleeping. I said: “What the …? We were just talking a second ago.” She: “Oh, I made a time jump. This happens often in books.” I: “But this isn’t a book! This is an rpg.”
    3. It also really annoyed me, when she said: “Since you (the other players) didn’t understand this I will describe the scene again.”
    4. Her character told another character that they knew why the healing magic didn’t work – something that we discussed out of the game!
    5. Her character has a VERY dramatic background story and want’s revenge and all she does is drive the story in that direction.
    6. She plays her character like it was the protagonist of a book.
    7. She sometimes doesn’t react to what others wrote when it goes against her intended storyline.
    8. When we were about to start a fight (in game) she said it’s logical that her character would win (because her character is the strongest, talest, most trained, most skilled and most intelligent aka because her character is a Mary Sue). When I tried to reason with her and tell her that it’s not a given thing that her character would win, her “solution” was: “Let’s make a time jump and say that my character won.”
    I quit the game after that. I know this was a bit harsh and extreme but I just couldn’t take ot anymore. I was to annoyed of her mary-sue-ish “protagonist” and the way she forced everyone in her direction.
    But for the future: What should I do? Do you have any tipps for me? A good advice? Thank you really very much!

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      Hey Ju-chan09. I’m not very experienced with forum based roleplaying, but I’ll do my best. I think the best way to avoid situations like that would be to either have a firm set of rules in place for what characters are allowed to do, or to have one player act as referee or game master. That second option is a lot easier in my opinion, because it’s hard to design a set of rules that no one can abuse, while a living game master can make decisions in real time based on context, and say things like “sorry, you can’t just say your character won, that doesn’t make sense.”

      Of course, finding someone to be the GM can be tricky, since not everyone wants that responsibility. This is also assuming that the problem with the unnamed was that they legitimately didn’t understand what they were doing wrong, but it’s possible they were being disruptive on purpose, in which case the only solution I know of is to boot them.

      That’s the best advice I got, though you could probably get a more helpful opinion for someone more familiar with online forum play.

  6. Mona

    I’m going to make a fool of myself, but how do you play roleplaying games? Are they online?

  7. pascal

    Congratulations! I just found a reference of your essay in an academic serious wargame report
    https://paxsims.files.wordpress.com/2018/09/in-stride-adjudication-working-group-report-20180908.pdf

  8. Neil

    Help! I think I’ve found an entirely new troublesome player archetype, and my party needs some help sorting out the situation. If I were to name it, I would call this archetype The Lazy Player.
    We just started a new D&D campaign and are only a few sessions in with the entire party, after the DM’s spent time to run one-on-one sessions to set up our player characters and RP motivations (We have some players new to D&D). However there is an experienced player (familiar with multiple versions of D&D, owns books for at least one version, and has played before) we’ll call him Joe (not their name) for ease’s sake, who isn’t ready to play at all. Joe hasn’t made an account for our campaign online, says their character is complete when it isn’t and doesn’t contact our DM’s to say whether they can play or not, but will selectively let other players know that they can’t come on the day we’re planning for.
    We started at the beginning of September, and now it’s the end of September, meaning that in four weeks Joe can’t/didn’t make an online RPG account or a D&D character, but still insists they wants to play and will be upset with some of the party if he is excluded from play (he’s friends with, and works with one of our 2 co-DM’s). I have also volunteered to assist Joe in making their character and getting online, but Joe refuses, saying they’re ‘almost finished’.
    How do we handle this situation? From my own Game-Mastering perspective, he just isn’t interested in actually playing, or doesn’t have the time, despite what they’re saying or how they feel. I also don’t want to suggest to the DM’s to just cut them out of the party, as I know that’ll cause interpersonal conflicts. Any advice would be appreciated, as the DM’s are concerned that sessions will be impossible to plan a day for if Joe can’t provide a timetable as to when they’ll be ready to play.

    • Michael Campbell

      Probably best to develop a “pick up character” for Joe and then use the backstory of the pick up character for Joe’s explanations of why he wasn’t at the game.

      E.g. A dimensional traveling wizard called “the Doctor” has several companions.
      Joe’s character is one of those companions.
      Sometimes Joe’s character can help the party.
      And sometimes a large blue wodden box appears and all of a sudden Joe’s character is in some alternate dimension and unable to help the group.

      The real question you’ve got to ask yourself is.
      Will Joe cause trouble when he’s playing one night a month and everybody else is playing once a week and he realises that the others are gaining level comparatively quickly?

      If yes, drop him.
      If he recognises that XP is his responsibility to earn and that he likes playing the game and spending time with players more than he minds falling behind, then you can just keep the character as a “pick up” character.

      • Michael Campbell

        Whoops.
        Wooden box.

        • Jasin Moridin

          I’ve run public campaigns before, and not all of our regulars could make it every game.

          I usually just gave a quick explanation of why their character wasn’t there and moved on.

          “Oh, such-and-so isn’t here today. His over-armoured cleric who’s utterly enamored of his adamantite full-plate is screaming his head off while being chased over hill and dale by a rust monster. None of you are sure what the whimsical fast-paced saxophone music is about, though.”

          “You hear someone yell, ‘CRIKEY!’, and hear our crocodile-man fighter screaming in terror, and see him run off, chased by a blonde human with khaki shirt and shorts.”

          That kind of thing.

        • Neil

          Thanks for your reply Michael!
          I can’t drop Joe; I’m not one of our two co-DMs so all I can do is suggest, but that’s exactly why I’m looking for advice. We’re playing a very story/survival-driven D&D campaign riffing off of the Walking Dead television series, so drop-in/drop-out player characters aren’t ideal for good reasons.
          It’s a sticky wicket that I’ve described unfortunately. I’ve cut people out of campaigns I’ve GM’d because they can’t make the commitment, while others just needed to know what my expectations of them as a player were, because they didn’t know or were new to RPGs.
          Joe is close to other people in the group, and dropping him just after inviting him will likely create drama nonsense that our DMs are trying to avoid.
          Joe is slow, lazy, or unmotivated (my perspective, but after 4 weeks he still isn’t done his character) and it is beginning to drag on our DMs ability to further the story.
          I guess having thought out the Game-Mechanics options and not seeing anything ideal that our DM’s haven’t already thought of, I’m wondering if anyone has some behavioural perspectives?
          Any questions or things we can say to Joe that may prompt him to realize he’s slowing us down, without specifically targeting him and saying “Look, everyone’s playing, we’re all ready to play, but the DMs don’t know where to take the party after we escape the zombie-infested city because we don’t know anything about your character because you’re not done yet.”
          Thanks again, and any suggestions are appreciated!

          • Michael Campbell

            Well I wasn’t saying drop him for not turning up as often as he should. I’m saying drop him if he revolts against the natural consequences of not turning up.

            Your DMs might be making the mistake of over pandering to him.
            They can’t move out of the zombie infested city because he wont turn up to the scheduled meeting to debate “near term forward planing”???
            No, they look through the other PCs options.
            Jim’s uncle has a cabin in the woods near here. We can hold up there until the kingdom guardsmen arrive to solve the zombie problem.
            I’m pretty sure Joe won’t mind.
            If he does mind, ask him why, there & then and see what it is he thinks he’s committing to. You don’t have to be Astronaut Michael Collins to know that sometimes teamwork is about getting the other guy into a position where he can be “the guy”.

            The real question is “how do human beings communicate with each other?”
            You seem eager to use the putsch as your first instinct.
            Don’t…not as the first move anyway. Your DMs seem to like the guy so maybe there’s value in liking the guy yourself.

            Talk to Joe. Ask him what he; expects and wants and seeks, from the game.
            He might be happy to jump into a weekly cycle but didn’t realise that, that was the S.O.P. as all the other games he had experienced had a monthly cycle.
            He might be happy to just drop in and out of the adventure as he can.
            He might want to play monthly with full integration and that’ll liberate you to GM some Buck Rogers style disintegration mayhem on alternate fortnights.

            Drop by for a cup of coffee. Drop by to help him take his dog for a walk.
            Ask him about his vision for his character and then ask him about his vision for his participation.

          • Michael Campbell

            “but the DMs don’t know … because we don’t know anything about your character because you’re not done yet.”
            Now to be fair. I bet the rule books he has don’t actually state how to deal with that particular problem.
            He might genuinely not know how dependent the DMs are on his character sheet.

            Most RPGs are written as scenario generators.
            They set the seen.
            …Now you improvise.
            …Usually by fighting.

            It’s not wrong to see an RPG as a board game like Hero Quest dialed up to 11.
            https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/699/heroquest
            Nor is it wrong to see an RPG as a form of improvisational theater’s interpretation of psychodrama with rules to give all the actors a slice of the limelight, instead of just the strong willed personalities.

            Neither is wrong.
            What is wrong, is condemning the other guy because he likes to dance to a different beat.
            Have a few jam sessions. Find a rhythm that works for everybody.

          • Michael Campbell

            Whoops
            Scene not seen.

    • Chris Winkle

      I’m definitely met people who have trouble coming to terms with their own limits, whether it’s that they are too busy or are trying to be too ambitious, and who just can’t admit that they are unable to follow through.

      The chances are pretty good that Joe will eventually drop out of his own accord, even if that looks like him just happening to have something come up and canceling each session. What’s important is that the game as a whole and the other players aren’t being held up on his account. Don’t delay anything for him. If he complains, tell him other people are on a schedule. Don’t plan sessions around his character. That kind of thing. If Joe doesn’t follow through, he should be the only one to miss out.

      • Michael Campbell

        I think some GMs might be taking too much insight from character sheets.

        Does Captain Kirk have his typical adventure because he graduated first in his class at Star Fleet Academy (just guessing here) or because he is “johnny on the spot”.

        The party goes on the adventure, not merely the character.

  9. Artie

    Hey Chris,

    This was a really good read. I’m working on some content for helping players avoid being “problem players” themselves on my blog and I found your perspective really clarifying. Would be open to collaborating with you on stuff in the future!

Leave a Comment

By submitting a comment, you confirm that you have read and agree to our comments policy (updated 9/3/18). We send comment data to outside parties for spam filtering and other services. See our privacy policy for details.

Follow Us

Facebooktwitterpinterestrsstumblr

Get Our Email Newsletter

We'll send our best work every month.