Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Problem Player

So I play a lot of games.  It is cool really, it gives me the chance to meet all sorts of people and really get to know them.  I have made some great friends while gaming and I hope to continue to do so.

But this time I am not talking about any of that.

Today I want to talk about the problem player.
We have this guy in one of my groups.  I am not going to mention his name or which group he is in, but suffice to say he is just not working out.  He seems to be a nice enough guy.  He isn't a freak or psycho or anything like that. He just doesn't fit the group dynamic well.
So far through his actions at least two characters have died over the course of the game.  I am not sure what exactly he is trying to do half the time and he spends the session getting so jacked up on caffeine that it is hard to watch him.  No he is not running around like a squirrel on meth or anything, but there it is like his whole boody is vibrating at a frequency that only he and the Flash can relate too.

I think part of the problem too is there is a significant age difference between him and the other players.  The GM is ready to cut him, based on the "he should know better" principle, a couple of the players want him out now and the rest are rather non-committal.

I want to restate it is not that he is screwing up.  I am playing a different character type than I am used too (we all are really) and all of us have made silly rules mistakes that noobs would not make and some "type" mistakes (ie I keep thinking I can throw spells so I put myself in situations that would be good for that).

But he is not bringing anything to the table really.  He is a good guy, but he just doesn't "get it" I think. He throws off the group dynamic.

What are your opinions?  Have you run into the same situations?  How do you / did you handle it?


Anonymous said...

We had a dude like that in our college Changeling: the Dreaming game. He didn't seem to get the group dynamics or the conventions of the game. When there was liquid evil, he poured it all over his hands for no good reason. When he had a power that might be useful, he'd elbow in and use it, even if it was someone else's turn to have the spotlight. A lot of the details have faded with time, but I remember finding him really frustrating.

In that case, though, it worked out for two reasons. Firstly, we were playing kids - it was an all-childling game - so having someone who made dumb mistakes and acted like a fool was kind of ok. Secondly, he worked hard and grew up, and by the end of the game he had his shit together a little more, resulting in some significantly more awesome scenes.

That said, I'm a firm believer in the "games are for fun" school, and if it's not working out with a player it's not working out. I do think you should give him at least one frank conversation where someone - one individual, not a whole gang - just lays it out for him. That way he has a chance to get his shit together on his own, or at least leave under his own power, which he might find a bit less humiliating than being tossed out.

Siskoid said...

Our usual strategy is to collapse the game entirely, then start over (or from that point, but he doesn't need to know that) with the remaining players. Not ideal or even praiseworthy, but avoids a confrontation.

That said, that last resort doesn't happen often. I'd rather find a way to make it work (talking to the player about how his behavior interferes with the tone or dynamics of play, or creating consequences in-game). If the player's character is killed, then I would suggest that cuts him out quite naturally. I have enough potential players to say "if you die, you don't make a new character, I'm giving someone else a chance".

Unknown said...

I had to ask a player to leave one of my games back in the 90s and it was one of the hardest things that I have ever done. The worst thing is that I actually liked the guy but *everyone* else in the group wanted him gone (mostly for non-game related issues). if I had to do it again, I'd be tempted to go with Siskoid's option.

Anonymous said...

If the player is acting in a boorish manner that is infringing on the enjoyment of other players, then by all means give him the boot. Also your GM should have a social contract with his players as to what behavior he should expect at the table.

However, if your player is just a noob or does dumb stuff like play the rogue and don't flank, then I find the attitudes on kicking him out for the sake of that to be petty.

In my group, I have a player who does dumb stuff. He's been gaming for years and even longer than I've been alive, yet he forgets to this action or that and it gets characters seriously punished or he gets himself killed. We get pissed at him at times, but we're mature enough to not kick him out just because of his lack of oversight.

However, if he were to be doing it on purpose or purposely put the other players' characters in harms way just for giggles, then he would need to go.

Gaming Ronin said...

While not an answer to your question I thought I would share.

While I was in High school we had a lot of friends of friends play in some of my games. My good buddy Robert once brought a guy from his school over to play with us. He was very quiet but seemed very experienced in role-playing saying he had played D&D as a kid. During the game he made some odd comment about "keeping pieces of dead humans with him in case he ran out of rations." I glazed over it and continued the game. Other than the occasional odd comment or question he seemed fine.

Two weeks later I picked up the local paper, On the cover was this kid and another guy (who was his boy friend according to Robert) being led from the court house in orange jumpsuits. They had shot the other guys parents and drown his little brother in the bath tub to steal the parents money and valuables to buy drugs.

Robert was not allowed to bring a friend to game ever again.

this has not nothing to do with your question. Just you saying he was not psycho brought it back to me. Some times you never know.

Corone said...

I've had to ask people to leave games I've run and it is very hard to do. One of the worst jobs for a GM. But in my case it was either the problem player left or other members of the group were going to go and I knew which I'd prefer to keep.

I'd say the best plan is for the GM to talk to the guy and warn him that it isn't working and he needs to change something. If he still doesn't listen your only option is to ask him to leave.

Cross Planes said...

I've done Siskoid's approach & its worked, but the best path I've found is to honestly say, things aren't working out & a) give him a chance with honest feedback about his behavior or b) there's not room in the group for him.

In my experience as a play & a game store manager, there is portion of our hobby with varying degrees of social problems. Its part of the reason many of us dread confrontation, but its socially acceptable to clearly define expectations & expect people to behave accordingly.

Goken said...

A social contract might do a world of good. This means expectations in the type of game everyone wants and the way that everyone wants to play.

That said, gaming is best when with friends. If there isn't a natural connection on which to build a friendship, it may be best to part ways.

christian said...

If you aren't having a good time with the guy, I say let him go. As humans, we owe it to one another to be civil, but friendship is a valuable thing and does not have to be extended without limits.

Conversely, there was one fellow I cut loose year or two ago that I wish I'd kept around. He was a classic beta player. He wasn't a great role-player and was a little wacky, but he was dependable and enthusiastic. Sometimes you need one of those. :)

Rhonin84 said...

Well...I am the GM of this group and I have GM'd him for almost five years with another group of players closer to his age. (I sponsor the high school gaming club that I work at.) This last year I really thought he was coming on but then he started making little mistakes that led to the deaths of three players in that group. He has had three sessions with the "bigger" kids group and as Tim said it has been a bit off track.

I am leaning towards cutting him loose because of the reaction from the other players...but I will do it in person and I will do it in a non-confrontational manner.

Original_Carl said...

Hi there. This is a problem close to my heart and something that every game group faces. Here's what I tell players who want to get rid of someone from the group who may be an ass, but isn't being an ass on purpose.

This guy, the donkey, is the outlier in the social group. Every group picks on the outlier. They find him annoying, bothersome and contend that they don't fit in. And honestly, they don't -- well, they're not a complete mismatch, but they're far enough out there that they're not meshing well. Let's say we do get rid of him. Let's say we kick him out and make it all nice and it's-not-you-it's-us and all that. And so he's gone. Now who is the outlier? There's going to be one. It's going to be one of you, or it's going to be me. And someday, the group is going to come to me or you're all going to get together and have this same conversation all over again. So think on this. Is what he's doing really so bad? Is he that far out there, or is this just a case of not having a good basis for comparison?

It's a good conversation to have with a group. I've had it a couple of times, and it's effective. It resets the counter, so-to-speak and in one case turned a group's opinion of a "troublesome" player into that of a player who was a pretty good guy, didn't mean any harm, and was just trying play the game like everyone else.

Think on it. In the end, it's up to the DM to decide who's going to play. Too many players is a nice problem to have.