Players – A Guide to their Characters

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“I had a great adventure, until the players ruined it”
(Roee A., former GM)

Ask any self respecting GM and you’ll get the same answer – players are terrible people. They never do what they’re expected to and always seem do the only thing you never thought they would do. cest la vie. However, some kinds of players just seem to be worse than others.
In this article, I’ll attempt to describe a few stereotypes of players that I’m sure every GM has ran into sometime. And if not, allow me to ask you how you became so lucky, and what can I do so some of that luck rubs of onto me?
One final remark before I start – this is a humorous and sarcastic article, and no offense is intended towards anyone. However, it is important to remember that even though the stereotypes displayed here are exaggerated beyond any proportion, they are still based on real player traits. So, GMs reading this article might get some ideas on how to deal with their problematic characters.

The PNPC (Player Non-Player Character)
Description: PNPCs are players who theoretically play a character, but in fact don’t initiate any original action, just do what the other players (and the GM) suggest (tell) them to do. The result is that although there’s another player around the table, the only thing he does is save the GM rolling another set of dice.
Quote: “So, what do you think I should do?”
Usually appears at: Inexperienced players, who don’t know their character’s abilities properly.
Solution: There are two solutions to this problem. One, let the player play characters that are easy to operate (usually big, dumb, warriors ala Conan the Barbarian). However, this solution is not recommended since it only treats the symptoms but doesn’t solve the problem itself. The better approach is to force the player to think on his own, whether by a setting a simple ground rule that players aren’t allowed to help each other or by more drastic means such as separating that character from the rest of the party.

The GM in his Own Mind
Description: This is the player that didn’t quite grasp the fact that there’s only one GM in the game – and it’s not him. Usually, he will add to the GM’s descriptions – which enhance them in his own opinion but just annoy the other players. He will also instinctively announce the results of actions and try to undermine the GM in every possible occasion.
Quote: “In a closer examination, the green substance looks almost alive”, “I wouldn’t let my players do that, but you’re the GM…”
Usually appears at: Players who were just recently GMs (usually in their old groups), players who want to be GMs or just players that are so used to be GMs they just can’t kick the habit.
Solution: Let the player run one session, and give him a taste of his own medicine. Chances are, he’d never want to GM again.

The Ruleplayer (The Lawyer)
Description: This player resembles The GM in his Own Mind (q.v.), but is different. Like the GM in his own mind, this player also tries to undermine the GM in every possible opportunity. But unlike him, he doesn’t want to be a GM himself, but just to utilize and manipulate the rules in order maximize the gain for himself and his character.
Quote: “You can’t do this! Page 163 of the Player’s Guide states that…”
Usually appears at: Players that come from a power-gaming background, usually from a system that encourages it (like D&D).
Solution: Listen to his arguments, nod, and then ignore them. However, in the rare occasions that he actually does have a good point, you should seriously listen. It will prevent him from becoming too paranoid.

The One Character Player
Description: It doesn’t matter what character this player plays or what kind of a campaign it is, it will always look the same. This player usually operates one class of character extremely well, but when it comes to other characters he can’t cut loose from “his” class of character. This phenomena has two negative effects. First, he can only play one kind of character. Second, and worse, even when he tries to play other characters, he will still try to play them the way he would play “his” class of character. For instance, such a player who is used to play gallant knights will still charge shouting “For king and country!” even when playing an assassin.
Quote: “I just love Elves!”
Usually appears at: Players who played the same character in the same ongoing campaign for a long time.
Solution: Shock treatment. Change the player’s character (by a spell or a curse, for example) into a completely different character class, and let him adjust to the change. Before long he will understand it isn’t practical (and worse – poor roleplaying) to play this character this way, and will slowly start getting better. A more drastic solution is to start a new campaign (preferably in a different system and a different genre) where the player’s beloved character class just doesn’t exist.

His Own Character Player
Description: This player is in fact a special case of the One Character Player (q.v.), only here he doesn’t play the same reoccurring character, he plays himself.
Quote: “I don’t care I’m a Necromancer, I still don’t think it’s ethical to use bodies for my personal needs”
Usually appears at: Inexperienced players, who haven’t fully understood the concept of roleplaying.
Solution: The ability to play a character is an ability gained over time. You can’t speed up this process and you can’t even by roleplaying ability and your local seven-eleven. You should just passively encourage good roleplaying a experience grants.

The Hack and Slasher
Description: This player lives only for the kill. Usually his character will be built accordingly, packed with combat abilities, but lacking any other skills.
Quote: “Orcs! Kill!”
Usually appears at: Players that come from a background of unrealistic systems (like D&D and AD&D), where characters like that can live long and prosper.
Solution: First of all, move the center of the scenario from fights and encounters to diplomacy and roleplaying. Decrease or eliminate experience grants for slaying monsters and increase experience grants for good roleplaying that avoids combat. Play a realistic system where each hit seriously effects the character, and limit (or cancel) the various healing spells, so player will be more reluctant to enter fights.

The No-Time Player
Description: This player always has to be at a hundred and one different places all at once. As a result of that, the spare time he has for gaming is sparse, and will be full of glances at his watch.
Quote: “I’ve got to go. I promised my wife I’ll be home for dinner.”
Description: Players with a demanding job, demanding studies or even a demanding relationship.
Solution: In fact, there isn’t one. If the player can’t come, he just can’t come. In any case, it’s better to try and organize the sessions so he can come. Who knows? He might just turn out to be the best player in the group…