Gaming: How to deal with those pesky players.

I’ve been DMing/GMing for a while.  I’ve run into many types of players.  Most are demanding and can provide issues for your games, though they can be amusing as well.  It is helpful if you can identify and know how to deal with them. Most gamers will fall into one or more of the following categories:

         The role-player. This gamer likes to think they are the Olivier or O’Toole of the gaming world.  They will write out elaborate stories for their characters, complete with genealogy, family history, and enough detail to make George RR Martin cross-eyed.  They live for the interaction; wanting to know that you have read their background and often will ask little questions “What do you think about my mother’s Ferret . . .” They’ll use accents to differentiate themselves from other players. They don’t always like to use dice because they have a grand plan that the dice often will throw out the window. This type of player can be fun but get tedious since they are only interested in their characters story and progression.

How to deal with them: Incorporate some of their story into the overall story arc. I will give them little notes or exchange emails with their ideas and interactions with NPC’s as to avoid bogging down actual game time. As much as I hate to say it I will pay lip service to them but skim over their backgrounds so I can get a basic idea of their character.

·         The roll-player. This is the person who just wants to roll dice.  They’ll give you what they want to do and just roll dice even before you decide if it is feasible or not. They will say things like “I want to persuade the guard to let us pass” and then dice crash on the table. No idea as to how they will persuade but just hope the dice rolls succeed.  No real description or flourish – just rolling dice.

How to deal with them: I politely tell them to tell me what they want to do and I’ll mull it over. I can see the fingers twitch, the jonesing need to roll the bones,  but I let them stew. All in all they are not bad though they won’t really add too much to the story.

·         The Rules Lawyer. This gamer is typically the most feared and loathed of the bunch. They will memorize huge swaths of text and regurgitate it without warning. As a GM when I make a ruling I don’t mind having the decision question – except by a rules lawyer. They will quote case studies and examples of how the ruling is incorrect. They won’t even ask for a side-bar.  Any idea brought up by another player will be stabbed repeatedly unless it falls within the Book of Laws that the Lawyer has memorized.
How to deal with this player: I don’t usually allow them in my games. If they do persist in questioning my ruling or judgment in a game I will politely (or not so politely) tell them if they don’t like it to find a game that they would like. Of course, the rules lawyer usually bounces from game to game – but never seems to figure out why.

·         The combat monster. This Gamer lives for the fight. They will play the fighter, warrior, or street samurai.  The solution to every problem is a sword. Or a warhammer. Or a gun. Or their hands and feet.  Stealth is a skill for the weak. Social skills? That would cut into their killin’ skills. Cannot bribe or con your way past the guard? I hope he had life insurance.  Their strength will be super human – so they can break the necks of the enemy and carry enough firepower to take over a third world country. They will ignore everything else and jabber on until their gunney-sense tingles and a fight is brewing.

How to deal with this character: I love to remind these characters that there is always someone bigger, better, or has a bigger gun.  Their weapons usually get slagged, armor destroyed and any money made goes to repair of their gear.  The other players will often cut them loose as well. The combat monster is pushed down the corridor towards the attacking minions while the rest of the party stays way back.

·         The Min-Maxer: This player will over analyze any game system to find the sweet spot to maximize every advantage and avoid every hindrance.  They’ll justify it somehow, usually in a background of some kind. They don’t care for flare or ambiance; they just want the most power with the least expenditure of resources.  They won’t take a hindrance like “Major enemy” but will take a phobia of chipmunks or an allergy to something that usually doesn’t come up much.  They will play up any advantage and neglect to mention the disadvantage.

How to deal with this player: I like to get a copy of their character sheet and go over it before playing.  I will point out some of the hindrances that are pretty lame and if they don’t remember them I’ll make a special note to bring it up.  Don’t like chipmunks? Well you just got sprayed with cologne smelling like acorns.  Bad news for you, buddy.

·         The sleeper. This is the player that shows up to the game to escape their home life.  They’ll bring a pillow and blanket and curl up in a corner.  If you are lucky they don’t snore and will wake up long enough to let you know what they want to do, roll a few dice, then back to bed.

How to deal with this player: Let them sleep is the best solution I’ve found.
·         The Encyclopedia. This player has sacrificed large amounts of long term memory to memorize the lore of whatever setting you play in. They can tell you the lineage of kings, the full history of the pantheon, and draw out the geography with little thought. The issue is the Encyclopedia has a nasty habit of correcting you or pointing out flaws in your story.

How to deal with this player: I ignore them and let them know this is an alternate reality if I am running in a pre-generated world. That is usually why I prefer to create my own worlds to avoid such shenanigans.
·         The Comedian. This player should wear a jester’s cap. They will quote Monty Python or something else at the most inappropriate time. All the tension you had built up, watching your players sitting on the edge of their seats is destroyed when he quotes The Holy Grail or something else.

How to deal with this player: Usually, a harsh glare silences them.  The first few times I am polite and ask them before the next or after the current session to tone it down. We’ll share a laugh and then I threaten their kitten. No, not really but I let them know that I don’t appreciate that. If they continue, their character often will meet a very unpleasant situation that even the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch could not save them from.

There are probably more player types but these are the ones I have run into. The truth is, most players fall into several of the categories above.  They can also progress from one to another, though most finally wind up as the Role-Player.  In general I find the carrot approach best to guide my players and their behavior. The stick doesn’t come out until they either miss my subtle hints or flat out ignore my requests.

If you have any suggestions for dealing with players or a different player type please let us know!

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