This isn’t What I Wanted
Incompatibility at the Tabletop
Part 3- Incompatible Player Groups-
Welcome, my friends and fellow adventurers, to The Ye Olde Wayfarer’s Adventurer’s Almanac. Come in, stay awhile, grab a tankard of your favorite ale, pull up a chair and listen as we talk of adventures, tales from long ago, worlds far beyond, the music of bards, and more. As I pore over the pages which have been chronicled by adventurers who have since faded into the realms of history, I am confronted by the struggles which still face Gamemasters and Players today. Even I am no stranger to the circumstances presented in these chronicled events. Come, gather ‘round as we discuss the issues of Players most dreadful-
When last we gathered, we discussed the importance of compatibility between Gamemasters and Players. Our conversation led us to the topic of Players whose purpose seemed to be to wreck the game and create carnage in the Gamemaster’s world. These heinous acts show the Gamemaster no respect for the effort they put in to create an epic experience for everyone, including the Gamemaster, to enjoy. They often leave the table annoyed, discouraged about the world they have spent the time building as all of his or her hard work ends up being destroyed in less than a couple of hours. Either way, whether it’s one or several sessions later, the Gamemaster eventually leaves this group.
Enter the next group-
With this group, the Characters aren’t killing everything and everyone in sight. They’re not robbing the shopkeepers, beating up locals just because they said hello in the streets, or terrorizing the random traveler. Nor are they exploring the area, talking to townsfolk, or taking advantage of the amazing opportunities being presented to them. In fact, they aren’t really doing anything productive as they seem more worried about socializing, talking about the latest DLC on Diablo, or on their phones too busy, texting or scrolling on Tik Tok, to keep up with what's going on. Their aloof approach to the game as a whole is unrewarding, and even when you make things more exciting or even funny, it is met with distracted indifference. Once more, as you go home, you’re discouraged as your efforts go unappreciated. As this happens time and time again, you begin to lose faith in the game. You even wonder, is it you, or are the players the problem? It is honestly a bit of both. Let me explain.
These Aloof and Divertive types of players are actually worse to a Gamemaster than the game-wreckers mentioned before. They basically have little to no respect for the game, the GM, or both. They agree to play, then they show up late, (which can be worked with, as we will discuss this in a future segment) they are loud, talk off subject, socialize during the
gameplay, mess with their phones, and otherwise detract from the game when they are supposed to be participating in the adventure. As with the game-wreckers, this could be the whole group or individual players. Their actions show no regard to the Gamemaster or the other players as they interrupt and divert attention from the gaming experience. I have personally seen players, especially new ones, lose interest in tabletop roleplaying altogether just because of these kinds of players. I, myself, took a long hiatus from Dungeon Mastering and playing due to a group who showed this type of disrespect for my game. In their act of disrespect, I lost both intrigued players and my desire to create, play, and run any games for a several years. Divertive Players can be devastating to the hobby as a whole, but I saw my mistake in this and created house rules for which to deal with such issues in the future. So as a GM, if you allow this to happen, it is partially your responsibility for Divertive Players getting out of hand, as it was mine.
The best way to handle the Divertive Player types is to begin by addressing it in the pre-game session. There, as the Gamemaster, you can lay down any house etiquette rules, and address the issue of outside interference. This even includes bringing in visitors to watch. Ensure that it is known that visitors to the game must be respectful of the game and table rules as well. By setting these necessary boundaries from the beginning, everyone understands what will and will not be allowed during the gaming session. If it happens during the game, it is best to address it immediately, politely but firmly to get things back on track, and keep the focus on the game. If the player or players persist, then it will be best to address this in full following the game, as to do so during the game will only add to the unnecessary distractions taking place. It may result in losing a player or two, but if it salvages the game as a whole, then it is better to lose the incompatible player(s) to keep the game together. If it is an issue with the group as a whole, then you must do what you have
to do to preserve your love for the hobby as well as that of any players who may be interested in actually playing. Standing up for the respect of the game and/or players who want to play does not make you a bad GM, it just shows that you are an integral part of the game experience.
Overall, the Aloof and Divertive Players are truly incompatible for any Gamemaster, beginning or veteran. Their actions show disregard for both the game and the Gamemaster like. They can drive away more serious players and deter any who might have otherwise been interested in the hobby as a whole. Most of all, they can be the ruin of a great Gamemaster, as the disrespect can wear on them and affect their drive to be a part of the hobby they love. In the end it is the Gamemaster who has to handle these players, for the integrity of the game and those involved. Well, it looks like we have come to the end of another night. There is still much to talk about concerning this subject, but it will have to wait until we gather again. When next we meet, we shall discuss one of the toughest groups for Gamemasters to deal with, the Power-Gamers. Until then, my friends and fellow adventurers, may the road rise to meet you; may you be safe in all your journeys, and till we meet again, Happy Adventuring.
W. R. Frady