Three Great Table Top Player Types (And the Worst!)
We have all had a group with at least one these types of players in our games. We've loved them, applauded them and wept (in character) with them. Others, we have wanted to cast a magic missile where the sun doesn't shine to shut them up. In my humble experience, I have identified my top three player types I love to game with and my least three player types, and a few little methods on how to deal with them.
The Listen and Learn
They could be anyone. They can be the teenage girl in the glasses who rolled a Dwarf Cleric, the project manager who decided it was time to be a half-elf Ranger, the sales adviser who wanted to have a hand at being a magic user and blow the heads off of enemies with a well timed spell or a very very ill timed Summon. These secret leaders of the group grab the story by the horns and encourage other players to dive in head first with their enthusiasm and willingness to share their ideas. They don't railroad, they don't demand everyone listen to them constantly (except when their character does!), they don't expect everyone to do exactly as they want to do. They go with the flow, or gently edge the game in a good direction by listening to their fellow players wants and needs. They do what they want because it's fun, but they don't do it at the expense of the group. They suggest things when people get stuck, they offer encouragement when a player wants to bring out their character's story but isn't sure how. They bring the player handbook but they don't shove it down your throat. They help with the rules but they don't stomp over the authority of the dungeon master. They inform the party of what they know with a passionate exuberance and sometimes a wicked smile or hold it back for good reason. They don't have to be the best but in a way they sometimes are. They are there to enjoy the game, unravel the mystery and most important of all... spend time with good friends.
They might have their own goals and they might only like role-playing, or only like combat. The thing that marks them as great is their ability to make the game about the enjoyment of the group, not about themselves.
These players are often forgotten in favor of the Loud Leaders or the Perceptive Puzzle-crackers. It's worth sometimes making a note of these silent heroes and rewarding them, either with an in game treasure or an out of game pizza slice. A little acknowledgement for being a good player goes a long way!
The Luck Baron
This person blows on their dice and rolls a critical success. This person has a 1 in six chance of rolling a stealth check and... always does. This person is a dice whisperer. No matter what happens, there is a player in your group you will always want around to try out that roll you just could not make, because, somehow, through sheer luck or through Pelor's intervention, they manage to always bloody crit roll and they go with it. They ride that luck like a bull. They use it to enhance the roleplay or crush the combat. It's all for the good of the party, and the thrill of being a miracle worker.
There is not much you can do with a Luck Baron, except ask them to purchase you fifty scratch cards and fifty lottery tickets and rub their belly until you win millions.
The Honors in Acting
These player's are the most hilarious, most intense, most terrifying and most heart-warming individuals you will meet. They bring the game alive. Sometimes they are improvisers with immense talent, or simply veteran role-players who love their characters and know them well enough to do them justice, these players draw everyone into the story and help the dungeon master make an unforgettable game. This person doesn't necessarily need to be Shakespeare and stay in character constantly; but when they do they bring the thunder so hard Thor has a momentary heart attack and Mjölnir thinks them worthy. Not only do these lead actors progress the plot with their character mastery, they bring everyone else character into the game. They don't run over their fellow roleplayers and they banter and bounce off other player's roleplay so well the game master can sometimes sit and simply enjoy the scene.
One of the best roleplaying moments I have seen is when a character died. He threw himself over a comrade to save him from certain death and the game master allowed it. He was run through with a spear and the person he protect, in vengeful anger, severed the head of the enemy. The protected player lowered the other to the ground and shouted for assistance, but unfortunately a critical roll left the protector beyond help. They role played a death scene worth of Sean Bean in pretty much everything, and, what should have been quite funny became serious and solemn. We had lost our leader. We were so wrapped up in it, we ended up having a funeral with eulogies. It was one of the most interesting sessions I have had when a player has died. It took away from the usual "Oh, he's dead. Roll a new one" and added some serious heart to an otherwise quite silly game up to that point. The atmosphere changed that session and we went from enjoyable jaunt to full scale epic which carried on into many other games.
These players are best rewarded in game, with a healthy dose of situations for them to really sink their creative teeth into and plenty of situations where the characters can interact will satisfy and challenge them. A little nod at the end of the game, or some experience points never hurts!
Now we are on to the worst of the players. The problem with the players that cause the part and the game master headaches is that there is sometimes no solution to stopping it. Sometimes, people are people and people are either oblivious or simply dicks. The nice thing about the former is that a little ignorance can be educated.
The Backseat Game Master
"Er, excuuuuse me, you can't let the Monk do that, it's not on page 35 of the rulebook of the third edition which I said we SHOULD be using for the campaign you spent weeks writing for us all instead of the fifth because it is far superior. You should have them do a grapple, then a dexterity roll, and then lick the inside of a unicorn horn whilst reciting the korean alphabet to pass that check"
Yes. We have had that before. Perhaps, not quite so dramatically. There is that one player who will find it difficult to separate themselves from being a game master, or maybe they just feel their opinion is best aired every thirty seconds. They speak over players, add their dice for them, read their sheets over their shoulders, bark rules into the air and when the game master says something, they second guess it constantly. The problem with this sort of player is that they sometimes think that they are helping, which only backfires. It's sweet, but it's aggressive and intimidating. Sometimes they just like to have the power trip of feeling like they know more than the group. Suddenly, the group is theirs and the Game Master is an inconvenience. I once had a guy who, when we went down a corridor towards a shimmering arch, began to argue about what we should find there and what rolls the dungeon master should make for his minions. The dungeon master made a point of throwing in a few traps to shut him up. With death. A bit extreme, but effective.
This is not just a case of being a bit excited about the rules or wishing to be helpful, this is the player who runs a hostile takeover and ends up ruining the fun for the entire party with bickering and confrontation. They don't listen in game, which makes it worse. Everything is a challenge for dominance and it is exhausting.
These players are best taken aside at the end of the game or before the game and their behavior pointed out to them gently. Once we had a chat with our resident backseat Game Master they mentioned they hadn't even realised they had been doing it, and the pressure of being in a new group manifested in a.. rather odd way. He calmed right down and became a Honors in Acting. Other times, these players are too far gone and if they are warned and don't comply, they should be asked to leave for the sake of everyone's legal records.
The "Me-Me-Me" is self explanatory. They have the "best" character with the "most interesting" backstory, if any at all, and the game is there for them to propel themselves, and only themselves, to fame and glory. The "Me-me-me" isn't aware that the point of a table top game is to share in a community of fun, and experience an adventure as a group.
Unfortunately the "me-me-me" will protest and rage if they don't get their own way. If they wanted to go east and the rest want to go west, they are the person who goes east anyway with the magic item the party needs regardless of group consensus. If they don't have it they will steal it. This is not in character, this is out of character. They meta-game to get their way and sometimes they use "it's just my character" as an excuse to do something that makes their denied wish come true.
We had a player who so hated combat that they deliberately stole other players dice to stop them from being able to roll on their turns, saying that "they really didn't care about combat" enough to let the others, who did, enjoy it. The game was not combat heavy and the players sometimes put themselves into combat situations (in this case, stealing a crown) but this player saw all combat as boring and immediately began to act up the moment it happened, despite two players who struggled with verbal communication expressing that combat made them feel more involved in the game. They just didn't care because it wasn't satisfying them.
Another player didn't have the story arc focusing on them after one of the quieter players found a piece of an artifact that, caused them to go insane, so the player (despite having a "good" character) tried to kill the quiet players character without provocation to get the attention on them, and they proceeded to act insane (not Nolan's Joker Insane, Clucking Hen insane) even though the crown had no effect on them after a Will Save.
The Me-Me-Me needs to be reminded they are not the center of the game universe, or the real universe, and that the game is for everyone to enjoy. Feeding a bit of their ego can sometimes keep them satisfied with a quick one on one roleplaying session or some combat, but if it is too much a word alone on behaving in a group may help.
The Chaotic Douchebag
My least favorite player on the planet.
Once we were playing a group of superheroes and we were stuck. The reason we were stuck was because one player had decided to simply kill everyone we tried to talk too. Any evidence she found, she burned or hid. She constantly separated from the party and simply sabotaged us as a group. We were superheroes, but she decided it would be "funnier" to be a villain and to make it difficult for us or the game master to do anything by having a character who completely destroyed everything. She caused a frustrating block by claiming it was her character, not her. Despite external calls for her to tone it down, she simply laughed at us and really did, in real life, say "What you gunn' do about it, punks?"
Okay, perhaps she didn't say it exactly like that.
The end result was the group of good superheroes tied this woman up, stole her belongings (and the information she had hidden) and then dropped a building on her. We did it in ten seconds because were were all so utterly pissed off and the Game Master just shrugged. She then through a hissy fit because we would not let her roll the same character and continue in the game.
If you are going to be the Chaotic Douchebag, expect no one to play with you. And if they do, expect to be ripped on. Play Chaotic like chaotic is meant to be player aka. Not A Serial Killer.
I am not a great player, I have my flaws and I love working on them to be a fun player to hang with both table top and larping. I hope the good inspires to be good and the three players I cant stand serves as a warning, and as a help, on how to play with groups.