Friday, October 8, 2010

To be or not to be ...

 RPG related quandry ... its an age old one for me as I've had this issue many times in games I've played in and ran and have yet to really find a decent answer other than one I'll provide. But I'm tossing this out in hopes of maybe getting some points of view or ideas I hadn't encountered before.


The problem goes like this:

Player X is your typical happy go lucky  ... fun loving ... team playing ... D&D fan. He just is stoked to be at the table, happy to be hanging out with his friends, eagerly anticipating what the DM is going to do this session. This guy is a team player, he wants to get along, ok sure sometimes he will disagree about going right or left, about what to ask a captive, etc. he tends to play "good-ish ... maybe a little neutral at times."

Player Y is not necessarily your typical fun loving guy ... he is a bit edgy (maybe its an act to seem kinda cool ... or maybe he just listens to too much death metal ... and/or watches too much twisted shit on the internet ... probably Japanese or German twisted) ... he generally gets along with people. He knows the rules, has fun most of the time and isn't a jerk at heart really ... he is just a non-conformist. The guy never wants to play anything near a "good" alignment tending character. He hates just going along with the party ... no matter how sound the "group" plan is he tends to want to do something else. He frequently suggests things that are overtly evil ... pulling an NPC into an alleyway and killing them because they have something he needs (when there are non-evil/murderous alternatives readily available) ... etc. 

So at the end of the day playing a "good" or "evil" party in my opinion is ok ... either option can be fun ... either option can have good combat or good RP ... or both. I just strongly feel that you generally need to as a group decide this before you start to play. IF you choose the very difficult option of playing a mixed party, and your going to stay true to your character concepts ... you better be ready for some PVP at some point. Again its totally ok if that is what everyone is willing to sign on for ... BUT ... to just randomly pick character concepts and alignments that are in diametric opposition to one an other ... in my opinion ... is just asking for trouble. So my preference is to just play a somewhat synchronized game where the party is loosely on the same page.

This said ... it never fails ... best laid plans soon fall to ruin ... the plans of battle rarely survive contact with the enemy ... the road to hell is paved with good intentions ... yada yada ... 

So the question is ... when ... X+Y= Shit^100 ... what should one do?

I mean in the case that player X and player Y are both showing up, know the rules, being polite out of the game ... yet are abjectly miserable half of the time while playing the game ... what should one do? I know honesty is the best policy, but frequently people don't listen or don't understand fully what is being said. So the group talk is had .. and nothing changes. What then? Just quit the game ... reboot without one of them?
This has happened several times to me over the years and it seems like there isn't a good option really.


ScottyVegas said...

This problem is as old as D&D. There are a couple of methods that can be used to deal with it. I prefer one that I have heard and read about several times and used in my current game.
In D&D character creation often happens in a vaccuum. The DM aske player to make characters and bring them to the table. Sometimes the characters ave backgrounds written that the DM can use. The vaccuum can be enhanced in 4e by the use of the Character Builder. This creates characters that are all islands unto themselves. They have no connection to anything but the player. This often leads to behavior that is justified by "Well, that's what my character would do." That is lame.

The solution: BEfore any character sheets hit the table the DM should gather the players for a character creation session. Get everyone around the table and talk about what each person is going to play. What are they thinking about for background and personality? Why do they want to play the particular character? What kind of things do tehy want to see in the game? Most importantly; How do the PCs know one another and why are they together? This eliminates that typical meet in a bar, at a job, in the caravan, etc. etc. THe players should try to relate their charater background together and create a reason why they are together and what they have already done. THis creates a reason for them to trust one another, a reason to bond the party, and a reason why they would not act like assholes or perform evil acts.

If a player stll wants to play and evil PC, the standard and how they want to deal with that characters' behavior can be hashed out before hand. If that cannot be done, then the DM needs to urge the player to make things more compatible with the rest of the party. This should help to deal with the "Surprise, I made an evil PC!" event coming up in play.

One other thing that needs to be addressed and become part of the group dynamic is that each player is responsible for the group. One player can ruin the enjoyment of the game for the rest of the table if he chooses to act out and be selfish all of the time. This is unacceptable to me and as a DM, I do not tolerate it. Every player should be contributing to the experience for the group, not making the game a place for them to indulge in their power fantasies. There is plenty of space for that online if they need to act up. Tell them to go make a toon an a WoW PvP server and to leave their bullshit at home.

My final point is that is this is an issue that cannot be addressed in creation because that point is passed; the DM needs to bring it up at the table. Not in a veiled way either. Throw the naked truth ont he tablem address the troublesome player(s), and state that their behavior is creating a problem for the rest of the group. If they cannot own up to that, perhaps they should leave the game. IF you are dealing with adults, this shouldn't be an issue. It sounds harsh, but in my adult life, game time is precious and rare. Do not waste your time playing with people who don't care. Take charge of your game time and make it as good as you can.

ScottyVegas said...

I hate this comment system. I wrote a long reply and it didn't publish.
It boils down to, have the DM address the problem players at the table, before a game, with the whole group present. If these two are wasting your precious game time, their behavior needs to be brought into the open. Do not let selfish assholes waste your time.

The Lord of Excess said...

Well if its simply a matter of selfish asshole-ism ... I agree ... just chastise the player and let that be that. But in the case I have experienced recently ... there is really none of that ... just very different wants and expectations from the game. Everyone is civil, being polite, showing up on time, not interrupting the game with arguments, etc. it is just a conflict of viewpoints ... one player wants one type of game the other another ...

The Lord of Excess said...

At the end of the day the DM is the ultimate arbiter ... to be sure ... however ... that said. It is sad to have to boot a player or burn down what for 8/10ths of game play is a good cohesive group ... due to philosophical differences on alignment.

The Lord of Excess said...

I have been inspired to do a second post about alignment ... that age old theological quandary which hearkens my mind to the heirs of Henry VIII.

Papa JJ said...

I've been in a couple of groups where this became a problem. The worst though was when one DM actively encouraged this type of situation because he personally enjoyed the dynamic of division and paranoia that it fostered. It ended up killing the fun for most of us and over time the players all just stopped showing up for games. It was a shame too because the DM was a really good storyteller and quite creative, but after a while it just was not worth it anymore.

Unfortunately a group reboot sometimes seems to be the only option. The only other solution I can suggest if you want to keep all the same players is to run two separate games or campaigns, with the understanding that one will be for good/neutral alignments while the other will be open to evil/neutral alignments. You can even run an occasional cross-over game in which a couple players use their characters from the other campaign. This can actually be a lot of fun so long as everyone understands what's going on and what's expected of them.

Best wishes to you figuring out a solution... good luck!

Will said...

As I very much tend ro play as player "X", I tend to go along with the team and generally avoid evil-aligned chars, I can only comment from that perspective. I like a dynamic party where there might be another person who is willing to play differently. Although there is the chance of inner-party hostility, it seems to keep things interesting. It must be difficult for a DM to cater to this arrangement tho. I think ultimately group chemistry means everything and can help close the gaps between different styles of play. I guess what Im trying to say is that out of game personalities seem to determine what will work in game more than anything.