Thursday, March 2, 2017

Managing "That Guy"

Hey Game Fans, we’re back with another article about something that crops up in every gaming group from time to time.  “That Guy”  You know, the one you tell wtf stories about to your other gamer friends (I myself have an article series about my time in the “That Guy” mines) and you all laugh, and then show back up to see what the hell he (or she) is going to do the next time to cause havoc and screw stuff up.  Those players can be entertaining to a point, but eventually they’re going to upset the apple cart and the harmless antics you were laughing about just burned your gaming group to the ground.  Then you’re sitting in the burned out wreckage trying to figure out what the hell happened, and how the hell did it get that far.  

Most of these situations/issues/seal clubbings can be managed by communicating with the other players at the table and being able to set ground rules that everyone can live with.  If the players are incapable of coming to a consensus, then it’s up to the DM to set ground rules for making sure that everyone can enjoy the gaming experience.  This should probably be a starting point for session 0, even before the players start working on characters and the setting.

Bicker monsters

If you have a player you aren’t going to get along with because of the things that say as a player, well, you better get that sorted out before you even start making characters that hate each other.  Talk to each other, sort of like grown ups.  If you both want to play Dungeons and Dragons with the other people in the group, you’re going to have to figure out how to function in a civil manner at the table.  

If the DM has to consistently intervene out of character because two players are being nutcups to one another, it reduces the amount of time that everyone gets to play, and could eventually get both players banned from the group, but that’s a nuclear option.  Try diplomacy (the conflict resolution plan, not the board game), it might work.  

Class Clowns

These “That Guys” are focused on doing an incredible assortment of dumb/funny/comical things out of character things to get a reaction out of the other players at the table.  “I show her my ______” is usually the classiest thing that these players do at a table and while it’s funny once in awhile, it can dramatically slow down the pace of the game as everyone gets their collective wits back and gets back to the game.

One of the interesting aspects of gaming to me is the immersion that sucks players into the experience.  I love games that are so immersive that i don’t realize i have suspended my disbelief.  Having that immersion broken by a fart joke is something that annoys the crap out of me.  How do you handle this?  Well, the best result i’ve found is either ignoring the clown to the point they stop trying to be funny out of character (and start cracking wise in character).  From a psychological stand point, what you want to do is encourage the behaviors you want (In character interactions) while either not encouraging or actively discouraging the ones you don’t (I show the evil sorceress my bare ass teehee).  The other fun option for a DM with this is to treat everything people say as being in character statements.  This may not cure the behavior, but it’s fun for a laugh once in awhile.  


Some folks like pressing other people’s buttons.  These players love to find a group of people that function partially well and throw wrenches into the works until they fall apart.  These players are a little dangerous to a gaming group because they’ll cause problems between players away from the table.  

Being a schemer and watching the trouble they cause is most of the reason that these people start pressing all the buttons.  If they can’t get a reaction after escalating mischief, they will likely either move on to another group that’s easier to get a rise out of, or they’ll start concocting something even more grandiose.  This is a player that the GM is going to want to handle as early as possible, because they can ruin friendships and cause a battery of emotional problems for everyone.


The new guy is a fun category of “That Guy” because the things he does are generally not intentional.  Through a combination of lacking experience and unfamiliarity with the hobby, these guys are going to be a little slow to make decisions, and be unfamiliar with the procedures and the methods of role-playing.  Some of these guys are not going to react well to being told what/how to do by players at the table, but these are easy folks to manage.  Some advice outside of the game from a friendly perspective can go a long way to helping these players.  The other advice is to encourage them to read up on the game and get a better understanding of how the systems work, and what the background is.  Constructive criticism can be really helpful in getting these people with the program.


There are a lot of terms to describe these folks, but the best way to describe them is their behavior.  These players are going to go out of their way to deliberately stifle or mess with the game through a variety of methods including but not limited to:
  • Antagonizing other players
  • Antagonizing NPCs for the lulz
  • Random/quirky behavior that’s justified by the character’s alignment
  • Accusing other players of conspiring against them
  • Attacking other player characters
  • Going off on their own for no discernible reason
  • Constantly interrupting the DM/GM
  • Being Grade A nobs to everyone around them
  • Speaking at a ridiculous volume for an RPG environment
  • Touching other people’s things (especially dice)
  • Quoting Rules to other people that don’t apply to the situation at hand (Double points if they misunderstand the rules).  
  • A host of other quirky, irritating things that leave everyone at the table in an annoyed, agitated state during and after the game.

These players tend to have alternative goals that they are pursuing during the game and generally aren’t the most functional team players.  Depending on the severity of their behavior, there are a lot of ways to handle things.  Firmly established ground rules from Session 0 and everyone at the table working together to remind them of the rules as gameplay progresses can handle a lot of this behavior, but this may be a player who’s just not right for the larger gaming group.  

LIke i said, a lot of these issues can be handled by discussing the game during session 0 and making sure that you set ground rules that you’re comfortable with as a group.  The other thing that’s important as that you have to enforce your rules for the collective good and fun of the table.  It may seem like i’m making you be the fun police, but ultimately an RPG to me is a shared storytelling experience that you share with your friends.  Why would you want to antagonize and intentionally hurt one of your friends?  Most of us probably wouldn’t other people to do that to us, so let’s not be intentionally different to each other as players.  

There is a separation of player and character that occurs here, and so long as you and the other players are comfortable and not being difficult to each other as players, your characters can be as difficult/obstinate/jerkish as you feel comfortable playing.  Remember, the DM/GM controls what happens to your characters though.  

That’s my quick take on some of the more interesting personality traits associated with tabletop gaming.  Let me know if i missed anything, reply if you have a different take, or just to let me know i suck at this if you like.  

Game On, Game Fans

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