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Problem Players Discussion

This past week has brought up the Power Gamer discussion again. Your Main Man Ander Wood from WoodWWAD on YouTube had messaged me a few months back after watching a video I did a few years ago which you can watch here. He followed up last week with a video of his own which you can watch here. Once he did that video many others began to debate whether or not power gamers were killing the hobby. I decided to weigh in once again with why I think people even bother debating this. Now this has all had me wondering more about the various types of problem players. 

Power Gamer - Many don't agree to the definition of what a power gamer is and I find that is why people don't always agree with Main Mans point that they are destroying the hobby. Everyone agrees that a disruptive player hurts the experience though. Power Gamers aren't to be confused with optimizers, min/maxers, or hack and slashers. Some view power games as people who try to optimize their character and some view it as more than just that. I used to think it was just someone who optimized. My idea of what a power game is has changed though. I personally think a power gamer is someone who tries to sneak a combination of abilities, powers, spells, or multi-classing by a game master and group of players.  By this definition since they are using a mechanical advantage at the expense of the group they are a power gamer and I think they are bad for the hobby. If you have a power gamer you need to speak to them and explain what you and the group are striving for. If the player just wants a strong character that is ok as long as they know they need to work within the style of game you the game master and the rest of the group are striving for. If they can't change their disruptive behavior it is time to let them go.

Loner Character - The player who is playing this character can be very disruptive. They force the game master to split their time between the one character and the rest of the group due to splitting the party frequently. RPGs are a group activity and if you are playing a character that doesn't fit this model then they probably are best not being played. If they can still work in the group though then they may be ok. I recommend avoiding the loner characters though. If you have a player like this talk to them and tell them it is ok to be that character but they need to find a way to work within the structure of the group. If they can't do that then they will need to make a new type of character to fit within the group.

Rules Lawyer - The rules lawyer can be very disruptive by cutting off other players or the game master. Whether they are wrong or right about the rules they can be really obnoxious. I know because I tend to do this sometimes as a player. I am working on fixing this! Anyways the rules lawyer may have good intentions. If you let them know your house rules up front and also if you establish when it is ok for them to say something this can help with this player type. Another thing you can do is have this player write down any rules you or the group got wrong on a piece of paper. At the end of the session they can give it to you and you can review the things before the following session. At the next session before starting go over these rules with page numbers for reference to help the whole group.

Thespian - The thespian can be a fun player but can also be very distracting at the table. A lot of times they can demand a lot of attention. They may also stifle a session with the dreaded phrase "that's not what my character would do." In a game where it is collaborative storytelling if the group is trying to do things but one player refuses to do what the other want to do it can ruin a game night. It can cause a lot of problems for other players who want to seek out a specific adventure or quest. Sometimes you may need to pull them aside and ask them to compromise at times for the benefit of the group. You can also ask this player to help you share the spotlight with some of the players who get less "screen time" than the rest.

Multitasker - This is the person always on their cell phone, drawing sketches, knitting, sculpting with clay, or generally doing other things. This can be distracting to them or other players even. Some people don't mind this as much as others. I find that if it slows down play or is ruining anyone elses time at the table then they need to be talked to and asked to stop. Ask this player to take notes on the session so you have a timeline of events for example.

Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons)
$27.51
By Wizards RPG Team

Spotlight Hog - This player wants all the glory whether in RPing with the NPCs or being the best in combat. This player can be all of the above problem player types or even none of them. They just require a lot of attention or they get bored. Give this player a job whether it is keeping track of events by taking notes much like the multitasker or something else.

Sometimes the problem isn't even that they are a bad player. It might be that everyone can't agree on a play style whether that is hack and slashing, investigations, or some other type of game. A majority of people for example don't want a hack and slash type of player in a Call of Cthulhu game. The type of player that is good for that type of game is someone who enjoys puzzles and investigations. There may be a time with the right group of players and game master though where a hack and slash player could play a fun game of CoC though. Point is though really think about what the problem is at your table before throwing around labels at people. Don't confuse combat as non RP and social interactions as RP. I have played in games with great combat RP and terrible social interaction RP. You can RP everything in a game. If you like to get past encounters with social interaction that is great but that doesn't mean the other players who enjoy combat don't like RP. If you find that your group has styles that clash talk to them to see if both sides can compromise at times for the better of the group.

These are just some of the types of problems/problem players and potential ways to handle them. Keep in mind at all times it is a group experience and if anyone at your table is making it less fun for others then they may need to be talked to. Try to think of ways to make them help the group though before talking to them so you have some constructive suggestions. I hope you found this article helpful. If you did you can help support this blog by purchasing something from my Amazon links on the side or by subscribing to my channel on YouTube. Would love to hear your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.

Can Gamers Change?

I have seen people say on Facebook, Blogs, Google +, and in their YouTube Videos that if you have a problem player just kick them out of your game because once a problem player always a problem player. I never wanted to believe it but until recently was starting to think this may be true. Then something happened this past weekend that could not have made me more happy. Before I go into that though let me say that the people I am going to mention here are great people and I enjoy hanging out with them. Also if you read the whole post you will see that gamers can change!

When we began gaming as a group together it was 2nd edition and I was a player in the game. 3 of the 5 players felt we needed the core roles magic user, healer, tank, and rogue but we had a ranger, 2 fighers, a druid, and a cleric. We lacked in the eyes of most the players a magic user, and a rogue. We managed to hire a rogue to come along with us which made most of us happy but the other fighter, and cleric really felt we needed someone to cast spells. Now if you know me well I am adamant that you don't need a balanced party in any game. Also the players were very cautious about a lot of things. I would leave sessions sometimes and see the DM frustrated but he rewarded slow and cautious behavior and penalized anyone rushing head first into things. Me for instance playing a fighter would get tired of the discussion about who should open the chest or the door so I would just do it. This campaign went on for awhile and after about 8 sessions or so we quit playing because the DM was tired of it.

Then Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons came out and I was talking about it. This managed to get the group interested in trying to play again. I told them I wanted to run the game but apparently the player who was the ranger wanted to run Second Edition D&D for us. Luckily they remembered I said a year before that I really wanted to run the game.

We came together to create characters and the amount of questions the players had who had never played anything besides Second Edition in the last 25 years was amazing. I did my best to answer all of the questions in a clear and concise way that they would understand. When we were done only 1 of the 5 players had a finished character. I told them I would meet with them individually because I could tell the amount of questions others had about their class was confusing others. It was much easier when I was able to do it one on one with them.

The 1st session had some difficulties with the former DM rushing into combat constantly. He did the same in our 2nd session. The 2nd session actually had some very uncomfortable moments between him and his wife which was the cleric. He yelled at her saying it was her job to keep him healed up so he could be on the front line constantly.

Our 3rd session was a bit better but the players still struggled with knowing their spells, weapon damage, how to use skills, and other things along those lines. This session though was the start of the improvement I wanted to see though and gave me a little bit of hope for this group. They still didn't understand short rests and how they effect them.

I had my apprehension going into this session on Saturday night because we hadn't played since Thanksgiving weekend. When we arrived to play though some of the players who had just got the 5e PHB for Christmas were asking me some questions about short rests and things like that. The comprehension of the rules were quite a bit better and I took a moment to answer any further questions before we began playing.

The game ran really smooth finally for this group. Players were getting along and not arguing about tactics. The fighter wasn't rushing into everything head first. In fact the only thing I will say that was sort of a problem was the wizard (former ranger in 2e campaign) didn't know any of his spells and would wait until his turn to look them up. There was a point where he was wrong on his magic missile damage and I corrected him by telling him each blast did 1d4+1 damage. He said oh then last round I did 4 more damage. I said "no, I am not going to retcon that." He came back with something to which I said "know your spells."

The cleric was my biggest worry because she felt this huge sense of urgency to heal people when they were getting hit instead of playing her character. She felt that it was her duty to be a combat medic first and foremost. This past session though she used some of her offensive spells and wasn't trying to run around healing people the whole time. It was nice to see her actually having a good time too.

The game ended with the players coming up with a good way to divide treasure. They had debated how to split treasure for 2 sessions so this was a big thing. The way everyone played was so much better this time that I was very happy. For the first time in this campaign I am extremely excited for our next game. Hoping they continue to get better.

The lesson of the story is sometimes you just need to talk things out which I had been doing with them between games. It may take some people to come around but when they do it will feel like your greatest victory. In the coming months I will keep you posted on if things continue to get better like I expect.

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