How Much can you Put Up With?
This is really a corollary to an earlier post, and it deals with players who violate that contract. Remember that everyone at your table should be having fun. If you have a player who is spoiling the fun for others…what can you do? The Answer may be obvious…what I’ll do is cover several scenarios that could be affecting the game. Of course, it is possible that none of these will fit your situation, but you might be able to take some of this advice and turn it to the benefit of your table.
The first, most common situation is also one of the hardest to fix. This is when a player simply “NEEDS to BE THE CENTER!” This is the player who always goes to where the action is, metagaming or not. They do not respect other player’s actions, often interrupting or offering “advice” to the other players in or out of character. Sometimes they are very rules knowledgeable, and other times they may simply assume they are experts at the setting, particularly when playing in a favored or well-known universe (Star Wars or even, for the real geeks amongst us, Forgotten Realms), and will often argue about why their plan is the best, or that their character would know something that will provide them the Key…Unfortunately, this player maybe the only one at the table having fun, as everyone else will be annoyed at their actions, or just bored as their character steals all the kills or “Deserves” all the treasure. The problem with this player is they think this is how to have fun, and will often balk at the very idea that they are pissing people off. My first suggestion: talk to them alone. Just you and them. This way, they are not “threatened with loss of face, and they don’t need to be King of the Table. Hopefully, you can show them ways to play, and teach them to respect others rights at the table. Even more unfortunate, if this doesn’t work, this player will probably never respect the contract, and they will likely be uninvited from your game. But sometimes, this is the threat you can use to bring them in line. Always remember this bit of wisdom: “If it pains you correct someone’s behavior, it is most needed, if it does not, then it is probably not needed, and even best avoided.” But, if it needs to be done, and doesn’t pain you in the slightest…sounds like a dis-invite to me!
The next most difficult, at least in my opinion, is the Role Player who creates a character that “runs with scissors” or “does not play well with others…” This player is often great to have at your table, as they create characters that people enjoy the experience around…but when they dip into the deep dark bag, and come up with the sociopathic combat monster…well, now it is a player issue, manifesting as a character issue. This is the kind of player who makes you sometimes want to encourage PVP games! Fortunately, this is usually fairly easy to deal with, depending on how up-front/confrontational you want to be. You can usually talk with this player and they will often alter the character to be more group friendly, or change characters. If they won’t, or you want to try something a little less friendly, well somebody that annoying will usually attract the unwanted attention of ruffians and murderers in the near vicinity…a maybe an old experienced duelist might take umbrage. In this way, you can even use the NPCs as etiquette instructors…“Do it again, and we’ll do a lot more than bruise your ego and break your nails!” Of course, if that character has really pissed in your Wheaties, then you can be less friendly and leave him a bleeding corpse, or demonstrate the displeasure of the gods by having a blue bolt from heaven transform him into a crippled mouse, in Alley Cat Town…Sometimes, As a fitting punishment, you can “over-roll” him. (this can also be used for dice cheaters!) Have him roll for every task as usual, but then you roll as well, and either take your roll in place of his, or just choose the least favorable, thereby demonstrating how little control the player actually has. And you can still argue that you are being fair, as everything is still determined by a dice roll! Sometimes rolling what you are certain is a critical success that turns out a critical fail can often show a player how their characters action can badly warp their fate! Always remember that as a ref, you have ultimate control over the characters that your players use! This is one of my weaknesses, as I tend to let anybody play anything, and consider it a challenge as to how to fit them in. On the other hand, I can also be unforgiving; a player who wants to play a troll in a campaign where all of the kingdom has been at war with them, will have a VERY difficult time in-game, from not being able to go into town, being unlikely to ever be trusted even with the PC Card, not being trusted by his own family…etc…
Something to keep in mind is that the contract applies to everyone. At my table, if one person is not having fun, we need to figure out why and change it. With few exceptions, we have had really good luck with this. Maybe it’s a matter of the genre, or maybe someone just can’t deal with playing their character, or another player’s character. Whatever the case, I always try to resolve it. I readily change games, and have even altered settings to ensure player enjoyment. And yes, sometimes this causes a fair amount of planning to get set aside, and sometimes makes another player unhappy and leads to changing again…and so on. But people come to game to have fun, and you are there not to provide that fun, but to participate in it as well. This is one place where if everybody is equally upset, you have not done your job. That means you and all of the players…or at least all of the players you enjoy having at your table, need to find at least a minimum of fun. Be willing to offer another player to ref! Prepare to switch games at a moment’s notice! Be ready for one player to need a swift kick to bring them back in line…whatever is needed…
And, after all of these considerations, maybe it’s time to take a few sessions off. Sometimes you or your players are just a bit burnt out. You can decide whether or not to get together for purely social occasions during this break…or just get those faces out of your space for a bit. Your choice. This should never be a burden for you or your players. And anyone, or anything that leads to that, should be addressed. One last consideration, particularly if you have experienced players is plan a short (maybe even one-off game) but don’t let your players create their characters…have another player make their character, or all of the other players collaborate to make each person’s character…and then enjoy the challenge of playing against the grain! Remember, this exercise needs to be short, and everybody needs to know what is going on but can prove to be an enjoyable role-playing experience, and should help stimulate those creative juices!
The whole purpose of this post: Enjoy gaming!
(OK…this got off topic, but it gets the point across!)