Monday, February 16, 2015

Across the Table from "That Guy"

I know it's not too hard to find lists of "Types of Gamers" or "Player Archetypes" like the Munchkin or Power Gamer and how to "fix" having those players, but honestly most of the types I've seen don't have anything wrong with them.  Sure a Munchkin can be a pain at a lot of tables, but there can also be games of nothing but them and everything goes fine.  The same goes for Power Gamers, Actors, and loads others.  Yes, they don't fit every group and if they are at your table the best course is to just talk to them when there's a problem.  In fact I strongly suggest talking to your players should always be the first course of action of a GM when player issues arise.

This article however is more dedicated to the types of players that are going to cause problems no matter what table they are at.  Some of them can be talked to.  Some just won't hear it.  Either way if left un-checked any one of these players can bring even a great game to a grinding halt or massive implosion.

The Nuisance: First up is one of the most common if you're playing online, but also luckily usually one the the most likely the change their ways.  The Nuisance just wants to be heard.  Sometimes that's in the form of constant pestering of the GM and Players at all times of the night and day during the week.  Sometimes it wanting to constantly be the center of attention at the table.  One of the worst versions of this is the "Novice Nuisance" that has heard about roleplaying or seen it a couple times, but has no understanding that there are also rules to go along with all that acting and description.

Dealing with The Nuisance: More often than not a Nuisance player is just over excited about being able to play.  There's nothing wrong with being excited and definitely nothing wrong with getting new enthusiastic players into the hobby.  A simple talk with this kind of player can do wonders.  The bigger issue is with the occasional player that simply doesn't care.  To them this is THEIR show and everyone else is along for the ride.  With them I give a simple 3 Strikes rules for interrupting players.  If it seems like they are trying I might let an extra strike slide, but if this problem isn't taken care of fast your adventuring party will turn into a party of one.

The Barely There: Second is a polar opposite to the Nuisance, but just as potentially destructive. The Barely There (TBT) is the player that WANTS to play at the table, but just can't seem to want it badly enough to focus on the game itself.  Tons of players slip a bit into this role more often than not now with smart phones at the table, but there is a big difference between a good player that is distracted and a player that acts like filling a seat is enough to warrant praise.  I will also make a small note that I have a player with slight ADD that needs to have a second activity to focus, but that is the exception not the rule.

Dealing with The Barely There: Dealing with TBT can be tricky.  The easiest will be to simply not allow distractions at the table.  This however, is easier said than done as more and more players use phones, tablets, and laptops for character sheets and book keeping.  There's also the fact that if a player really doesn't want to pay attention they will find something to distract themselves.  In all honesty the most effective course of action is to again have a conversation with the player.  Simply talk to them about needing to be engaged.  If the problem persists inform them that if they can not grant you the courtesy of their attention as a player then you are under no obligation to grant them you effort as a GM.  Its harsh, but these players are one of the biggest causes of games grinding to a halt as they constantly need updated on information the rest of the table already knows because they couldn't be bothered.

The Game Breaker: Finally there is the player that can only be described as The Game Breaker (GB).  While min/maxers and Munchkins looks to create the most optimized characters the GB specifically looks for obscure rules that literally break the rules in their favor.  If they can not find such rules some have been known to just make them up sighting sources that are near impossible to verify.  These are the players that will argue GM rulings sighting rule (correct or not) to try and get away with what they may want.  They are also known to become incredibly defensive over any player (or GM) that questions THEIR rulings.

Dealing with The Game Breaker: The only way to make a player like this really stop is to make them understand that GM rulings are final and to respect that. Some are min/maxers that might have gone a bit to far so I would say give them the courtesy of talking to them about it first, but this is a hard 3 Strike kind of situation. If a player is truly looking to make their own fun by breaking the game for everyone else they are cancer to your table.   These are the the kinds of players that if you give an inch they take a mile and can walk over in experienced GMs so tread lightly.

Well there you have it.  These aren't the only kinds of gamers out there, but in my experiences they are the ones to look out for.  One of the hardest things for me to learn as a GM was how to cut problem players from my game, but honestly sometimes it just needs to be done.

P.S.: A reminder, there's still time to get a chance at some free Star Wars Games.  Check out my post about it here before Thursday.

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