This Isn’t Working Out
Incompatibility at the Tabletop
Incompatible Player Character Groups
Hello, my friends, and welcome back to the Ye Olde Wayfarer’s Adventurer’s Almanac. Come in! Grab a flagon of your favorite ale, pull up a chair, stay a while, and listen as we discuss tales of old, adventures to be had, to the lessons to be learned by the fortunes and follies of those who have come before. If you were here for our last discussion, then you may recall that I found, amid the stacks of the Ebonstone Tower, the journals of tabletop adventurers, from long ago. Buried in these withered pages, is information vital to our success if we only heed what has transpired in days gone by. For, you see, much of this lore still holds true in the adventures of today, only they have changed with the times. In our last discussion we began talking about the compatibility of gamer groups between the Gamemasters and their Players. We talked about chemistry, communication, cooperation, and how the success of a game was a team effort on part of both, Gamemaster and Players
alike. But what traits demonstrate incompatibility? This is an in-depth subject that goes beyond just players, or just the Gamemaster. Because of its lengthy subject matter, this Legends from the Labyrinth topic may span over several segments. So, if your mug is full and your chair is warm, then let’s get started, for there is much to glean from this topic. Let’s start from the beginning…
So, you've had your first few sessions with your new group. Excited, you’ve spent countless hours of outlining, designing, world building, mapping, and preparing the quest. You have created NPCs rich in character and with memorable personalities which will be valuable for countless adventures to come, and just when everything seems to fall into place, the party becomes a world-class wrecking ball that destroys all you have built for them to enjoy. They not only upend the quest, but they also terrorize every person they encounter in town. Even though they are supposed to be heroes, they actually end up being more of a threat than the villain they were supposed to face. When the gaming session is done, you go home with a pit in your stomach, as all your hard work, to make an exciting experience for everyone, has been tanked by the players that you had thought would relish in the excitement of a quest as action-packed as an episode of The Witcher.
You try to understand and chalk it up the players just being players. So, you put in the work to rebuild what was lost, replace vital characters, replenish the ravaged town, only for the next session to be just as devastating as the last, even though the quest was run, unnecessary damage was done. Once more you go home with your world in ruins and your players seemingly as bloodthirsty as before. The gaming group seems to use their characters to exact some cruel fetish on the blood of the people that you have created for them to interact with. Their excuse when confronted with their vile behavior is that it's just fantasy or it's just a game. Their response shows no regard for the hard work you have put in. To this group, everyone is simply dungeon fodder.
You see, some players talk about living an epic adventure, but only want to see the fantasy world burn. Yes, I said it, there are groups as well as individual players who want to use their characters to do things that they would never even dream of doing in the real world. They crave and create carnage. It’s not saying that they, in general, are bad players, but they are terrible players in a group who are meant to be the heroes and saviors of the realm. These kinds of players need a GM who is running an evil campaign. It is what their player personality calls for. A villains campaign where they sow discord and malice while creating
fear, is perfect for the player or group of players who seek carnage and destruction. We may discuss this in a future segment. However, in a game where world-building and exploration as well as heroic adventure and tales of derring-do are the course, these types of players are game-wreckers, and while the group or individual may go home happy with their level of destruction, the other players and/or the GM who has watched all their efforts go up in smoke, leave the table feeling as though they have been disrespected, and in truth, they have, especially if the GM has openly discussed the style of game they wish to run in the pre-game session. This hearkens back to the Players and the GM being a team which together make the quest, the campaign, and ultimately the game a success. If the players are deliberately destroying everything that the Gamemaster has built for them, then they are not working for the betterment of the game as a whole, in fact they are doing the exact opposite. As a Gamemaster, this needs to be addressed before it poisons the game for you and those being affected. If it cannot be resolved through reasonable communication, then it is time to find a new group.
Well, I hope this brings to light one of the first of many traits that can make a Player or group of Players incompatible with a Gamemaster. Things are going to happen, hiccups can occur, and characters can get a little rowdy, but when it becomes an unrelenting chain of disasters for the GM, the quest, and the game as a whole, it’s time to address the issue even if it means finding a new group of players. We will continue this discussion when next we meet. Till then, I would like to thank you for stopping in. May your journeys be swift, may the roads rise to meet you, and until next time, my friends, Happy Adventuring!
W. R. Frady