Not a how to be a better player post
This is not a “How to be a better player” post. Most of you have seen those posts. These clichéd posts have suggestions like:
Pay attention; even when you aren’t in the spotlight.
- Sometimes failure is a better story.
Learn the rules
Make a character that plays well with other
Most, if not all, of the points above, are common sense for most players. Players that lack common sense will pick up on these common-sense-etiquette rules from the social queues of the other players over time. However, one great way to get everyone at the table on the same page is to set expectations with a session 0. Session 0 is a very important part of most games. I’ll have a post on session 0s in the future. In the meantime, know that session 0 is the time for everyone at the table to talk about what they expect to get from the game.
Now to the main topic, what kind of player are you and do you have any bad habits?
As players, we all have things we grow accustom to in games. Sometimes these habits are learned over time as we play more and get more comfortable with proper etiquette within our groups. Most problem players fall into bad habits for two reasons: They are new, or they don’t care. The new players will be new to Role playing games entirely, or new to the current systems. The players that don’t care will be apathetic to role-playing games or the rules. We will talk about these two categories and their four extreme points, and what types of players fall into them.
The RP and G spectrum
The chart on the bottom of the second page is something I made from a similar chart I found on Reddit. The one of Reddit, which can be found here was created by a Reddit user named u/AngryRepublican. The RP and G spectrum has two scales: the RP scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being No interest in role-playing or new to role-playing and 10 being an expert in role-playing. The G scale is 1 to 10 with 1 being don’t know the rules or ignores the rules, and 10 is a master of the rules.
The RP in RPG
The Role-Playing aspect is hard to remember sometimes, not all of us are great of actors, but we like to try hard to be one sometimes. It can get a little cringy at times, but that is part of the fun. We want to be the gruff Dwarf, but we cannot do a Scottish accent, so we don’t try that hard, or we want to play the intellectual gnome, but our character is far smarter than we are, so we get into our heads about it. The RP spectrum of players has most of us falling close to the middle somewhere between 4 and 6. On a 1 to 10 scale with 1 being indifferent to Role Playing and 10 being a Role-Playing enthusiast, we fall somewhere between 4 and 6. But what about those 1s or 10s, what are they like to play with.
We have all encountered a 1 before. You started as a 1 yourself at some point. The 1s are likely that significant-other that came along or were dragged along kicking and screaming by their partner, or the player is there for the social aspect and to hang with their friends. A good 1 will try hard to get their roleplaying legs, a bad 1 will sit on their phone scrolling the latest memes.
How do you handle the bad 1s? Get them engaged, try to pull the role player out of them. The best way to get them to put their phone down is to give them a reason to pick their dice up. Get them in the spotlight a little. Most players at the table 1s or 10s are there for a good time, try to give it to them. Get the 1s to comfortable 4s.
There are a few things to watch out for when dealing with a 1. Once engaged in the game they could start to crave the spotlight. They could become munchkin player or min/maxers. You will notice these players wanting to switch characters often, citing their current character isn’t effective. The game becomes less and less about the store and social aspect and more about bending the rules to win. Try to check these types of behavior early as their energy can become toxic for other players. Think about penalties you can impose if the character switch becomes a problem. Have their new character start at a level or two below their current character or limited the gear they have access to at character creations for a system without levels, like Shadowrun. The thing for you to remember is this is not meant to be a punishment, it is meant to discourage. If, after all your attempts, you cannot get the apathetic 1s to engaged you either end up with a glorified NPC for the party, or a constant distraction to your game. The best thing to do is to talk with the player.
What about the 10s? You may have seen a 10 if you watch YouTube gameplay channels. Most notably the game hosted by Matt Mercer called Critical Role. This series has some of the best character roleplaying I’ve ever seen. As it should since everyone at the table is a voice actor. Check out their page here. The series can make you feel bad about your role-playing abilities if you let it. However, I recommend watching a few episodes. A lot can be learned from them, least of which is that even they don’t take themselves too seriously. It is just a game after all.
The G in RPG
It is sometimes frustrating to know what the heroes must follow the rules like ordinary people. Especially at character creation when you have a vivid idea of who you want your character to be. You might need to have 4 or 5 skills maxed out but not enough points to accomplish that task, or you need two feats but can only take one. When it comes to the rules they can seem more of a hindrance than a help. Try to remember rules have their place in games. If we use our 1 to 10 scale again, most players probably fall somewhere in the 7-8 range. Who amongst us hasn’t fudged a roll from time to time (if you’re a GM you only roll the dice because you like the sound anyway)? But what about our 1s and 10s. The bad examples of the 1s and 10s in the G of the RPG are frustrating.
The 1s are either players who don’t know the rules, because they didn’t have time to read them, or didn’t take the time, or they are the cheaters. The former will get better as the rules are used or they find the time or desire to read the rules for the game. The latter, well these players will need to be talked to privately by the DM or a player. Constantly cheating can make the game feel meaningless. Don’t call these players out at the table, talk with them one-on-one. No reason to embarrass anyone.
10s, these 10s… The good 10s are the co-DMs or seasoned players. These 10s are quick with the rules. The important thing to remember is the strong difference between a good 10 and a bad 10. That is when and how to explain or clarify the rules. The good 10s only do so WHEN ASKED. The bad 10s are the rules lawyers. The people come for the 7th layer of hell. The best thing to do with them is to kill them with the game manual and bury them in a shallow grave in the back yard…
I’ve calmed down… The rules lawyer is a problematic player. We have all experience these players in the past, but how to do stop the behavior. Well, mostly you cannot, it’s in their DNA. What you can do and to talk with them privately or set the expectations in session 0 that the rules are called by the DM or when the DM asked for something.
Common role player types and where they fall on the Spectrum
There are many role player types. I did my best on gathering a list of some of the most common types to rank them in the RP and G spectrum. Some mentioned in the RP and G Spectrum chart above.
- The Power Gamer RP tends to be low, around 3-5, but the rules are very high 8-10. These players want more power and to have all the cool powers. It is less a character for a tabletop game and more for an MMORPG.
- The Actor/Method Actor/ Storyteller: RP is 9-10, The G can hit anywhere on the scale but tend to be ignored if they don’t fit into the current story. The players are great to play with, at first. They tend to steal the spotlight and they make others feel uncomfortable if it’s taken too far.
- The Terrorist: These little gems have both RP and G set low. RP is 1-2 with G jumping to 4. Your hobo murders can be in this group, but some of these players take it to the extreme. They don’t take the game serious and will play their characters in a way that doesn’t make sense. These players will be the ones that want to kill the king or will refuse to harm anything that looks like an animal because the player doesn’t believe in animal cruelty. There is no reasoning with these players.
- The Rules Lawyer: These players have RP scores in from 4-10 with a G score 8-10. The correct every little mistake and call the DM out when the DM is trying to create a story. There are a time and place, but these players don’t know when that is.
- The extremist: This role is like the Terrorist they can be anywhere on the spectrum. These players take one or two facets of their characters and play them to the extreme. The dumb Orc barbarian that cannot speak a word or the Paladin that tries to arrest the inn keeps who waters down the ale.
- The Berserkers/Slayer/Masher: There players tend to have RP score in the middle of the road 4-7, with G scores up in the high-level 7-9 (maybe a 10) but they only know the combat-related rules well. They just want to hit things and make them bleed. These are not bad players, but it can be challenging to keep them engaged when there isn’t something to smash.
Did I get something wrong, or miss something entirely? Share your experiences with bad habits or bad etiquette. Commit, Subscribe and share.