JP On Gaming

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bland characters & Disruptive Players

In RPGA events one thing I often find lacking is intra-party role-play. Just having fun with with the others... You know when you used to play in the old days and everyone would suspect the rogue/thief and the paladin would give out long tirades to party members" Well those elements.

I think with the replay rule of Living Forgotten Realms people spend less time making their characters unique in favor of play time. So to play, bland, tasteless and un-memorable characters seem to be the norm. So many players can tell you *EVERYTHING* you need to know about their character by saying "I play a dwarf fighter with a +1 lightning axe." That simple phrase sums up the blandness and vanilla-flavored PCs I’ve adventured with. The NPCs are the ones with the flavor and the background. Though interesting, I like to play with memorable characters, memorable characters can turn a boring adventure into something special, into an adventure you remember for a long time. I remember the Gnome-with-Yellow-Boots or Arny the Tumbling Dwarf. Characters with a flavor to them that made any adventure something special"

There is little I like more in LFR than people sitting at my table and going. "OH NO! Not your murderous tiefling chick! Man you’ll have to watch yourself!" I like that. Why? Because the character made an impression and how I play will change. In LG, I had Sir Azrel the Demonslayer a dedicated paladin, then Mousset the lying, cheating, lecherous, thieving devoted of Olidammara, then Tiernan the sorcerer who became more and more draconic with each level as he followed the commands of Gana, the evil wizard in his head" Those characters were very different. Adventuring with Tiernan or Mousset was a different proposition"

I was talking on-line to a friend (hi Otavio!) and explaining to him about my character (in this case, Gurbaz the Magnificient the unique orc warlord I play in Living Forgotten Realms. Gurbaz’s story is that he is stunty for an orc and he keeps eating to "bulk up". Gurbaz has potent flaws: he lacks empathy (Insight) and has no Perception skill to speak of. Those two flaws I decided to play up to make the character unique.

So Gurbaz eats like a pig and keeps taking other people’s food without their consent and is always looking for more food. Gurbaz generally negotiates a meal as part of any reward (usually a sandwich, ‘cuz you kan bring da san’witch in the fields"). I like playing him because he brings some minor role-playing element to the table. Gurbaz is a fully effective character in what he is supposed to do: fight and lead people into fights. During fights, Gurbaz spends wasted actions bellowing his strength, with a "GURBAZ SMASH!!!"

My friend’s response to my comments about Gurbaz’s was "So you’re a disruptive player then!" Which, I must admit caught me off-guard. I never considered myself disruptive (though I have been disruptive on occasion, this was not one of those occasions).

"Am I disruptive?" I asked myself since having that conversation. I do not believe that my action were disruptive. Most of the things I did helped the group. So, this led me to question myself about what a disruptive player was. I quickly eliminated came up with a few categories of disruptive players. I must say that I have found myself in most of those categories at one time or another (except the cheat).

I have tried to find a way to "fix" disruptive player. In some cases "not play with that person" or "kick his ass out the door" would be valid solutions. I prefer to avoid those solutions. Though far from an optimist, I think everyone should be given a chance to become a better player, thus enhancing the game.

  1. The A-hole plays with and for himself only. The a-hole only wants the party admire him because of his greatness and people to cajole him and give him praise. He is, after all, the most powerful and the one who could beat up Conan, Superman, Spiderman and the Tarrasque in one round, this is not to say that he is *necessarily* a munchkin. The a-hole relishes in the fact that he is more powerful than the rest of the adventure and the other PCs and lords it over them. You often find the a-hole playing down with a significantly overpowered character. To fix him, give him a good dose of reality: kick his ass and make sure the others see it and laugh at him.
  2. The Airhead comes to play, sits, rolls dice then leaves without ever knowing exactly what he did. The next day he has vague idea that he did something. The airhead does not pay attention to the story and must constantly be reminded about what is going on. "Dude, we’re still fighting the Uber-mega-dragon-of-death!" "It’s your turn again!" To fix him find something to keep him focused in the game.
  3. The Cheat survives because his dice rolls are often fudged, bonus added a few times, dice are added in creative ways. The cheat is one of the sneakiest of the lot. He does not disrupt (unless he happens to fall into one of the other categories AS WELL, often the a-hole). However, once discovered the cheat is one of the most disruptive because after that, everyone at the table begins to monitor him closely, leading to deals. The cheat can be found anywhere there is a game table. He is the guy who calls ‘7’ when asked to roll 1d6! To fix him, catch him in the act and do not let him forget about it!
  4. The Cheat-apparent is a player whose behavior often leads others to think he is a cheat. They often have strange dice-rolling or adding habits, character sheet no one can read or make any sense of, or uber-small or otherwise unreadable dice. Like his parent the cheat, the cheat-apparent cause intense monitoring from the rest of the table and can be found everywhere. The cheat-apparent has a bad reputation due to his action, but is usually legitimate. To fix him well he is more complex because he is not actually doing anything wrong!
  5. The Comic attends games to provide a captive audience his top material. While a few jokes and laughs are part of a healthy and fun game, the comic goes beyond that. I mean he is there giving a set where everything is a joke and every monster the occasion for more jaw dropping humor at the drop of a hat. To fix him don’t laugh. It’s (sometimes) hard, but don’t. He’ll tire of bringing his a-game to an audience who does not seek his humor. Pairs of comics or a comic/perv duo are nearly impossible to break. Make sure they are not seated next to each other"
  6. The Fanboy (aka the anal settingmonger) is someone who knows every details, facets and aspect of the game setting and disrupts the game be criticizing non-stop everything that happen. "This is not possible because in 1365, the castle was destroyed, so the King couldn’t have gone there in 1367!" You often find the fanboy engaged is complex discussion about points of setting that don’t matter, like the color of Elminster’s robes or the shades of the drapes in Tenser’s home. They are usually well-educated and linked to their internet connection where they can debate any point with anyone in the world at any time, and be 100% right 100% of the time. To fix him play something he doesn’t know by heart! (Though he soon will).
  7. The Idiot was told many times what his character needed to do, what the rules are, what the situation is, he persists in doing stupid thing which annoys everyone at the table. For example the 4e fighter throwing daggers, instead of walking forward and beating up on people is a good example. The guy who plays the most complicated class in the book and has no clue what to do with that character (often wizards or similar types of spellcasters). To fix him Patience, patience, patience. Try to offer pointers and idea without overwhelming him (and recommend simpler characters).
  8. The Kid is still young and wants to show off how cool he is or plays as he would Zelda" Though many adults equate the kid with the idiot, there is a big difference between the two. The kid could evolve! To fix him be patient, the kid might grow and become a good player. Kids also learn by example and acting a certain way while playing should (hopefully) rub off on them.
  9. The Lone Talker sits at the table and talks. Talks. Talks. And talks. Does not matter to whom, does not matter what happens in the game, he has something to say: whether to himself, his character sheet, his character, the player next to him or the DM. Lone talkers are often found when adventures require thinking or concentration to complete, or adventures with a lot of stories. They also usually triumph over their arch-nemesis: boxed text by talking without cease. To fix him tell him to shut up. Frequently.
  10. The Naysayer fights tooth, nails and sword against any type of adventure hook or plot. "I don’t care for the king’s daughter", "I always have to do those adventure pro-bono" or *does the fish hook in his cheek*. Throughout the adventure, that player will remind everyone how much he does not care about the adventure and how his character would be better not to take part in this adventure. The naysayer is particularly active in heavily story-driven adventures where the PCs must or are asked to care about people. To fix him tell him to run an adventure (and he rarely will).
  11. The Overwhelming Table-Lord *BAD JP* *Bad!* Okay" this is, I believe the one I would be guilty of most often. The overwhelming table-lord tries to dominate everything, plot strategies for everyone and shoots down ideas from other players. Unlike the a-hole, the overwhelming table-lord usually tries to do what’s best for everyone, not just himself. Combat-intensive and investigation-intensive adventure seem to bring the overwhelming table-lord out, the "guy-who-brought-his-girlfriend-to-the-con" also often acts as a table-lord. To fix him tell him that it’s another player’s turn.
  12. The Perv is a close relative of the Comic. The big difference between the two is that the Perv’s material is all X-rated and usually pretty" well" "down there". Pervs are almost exclusively males and can put a dirty twist on anything that happens in a game. To fix him is difficult. A perv’s mind has many pathways that all leads into his (or someone else’s) pants. Being mature and not laughing at the bewildering array of ideas produced by a perv. Pairs of pervs or a comic/perv duo are nearly impossible to break. Make sure they are not seated next to each other"

So there you are" a classification of the most common types of disruptive gamers" I know I have strong tendencies towards the "Overwhelming Table-Lord" and the "Perv". I generally tone my Perv-dom down, depending on the audience. Then again, when you have French blood, everything is dirty" Hummmm" French blood"

I make no apologies for those comments. If you recognize yourself as a bland-character-player or a disruptive player, then own up and give your PCs some flavor without disrupting games! If your character’s only interesting feature is what you found in a catalog ("I have the ‘Smell my Feet’ Power"), do something about it so that people remember who your character is. If you read the above categories and went: "Holy Smokes! That’s me!" Fix yourself.

In the end, it’s up to each player at the table to ensure *everyone* has a good time (yes the DM must have a good time too). If you are told that you are disruptive or think you are, you probably are disrupting the game. Act upon that and make sure to enhance the game instead for everyone.

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