Friday, June 13, 2014


Every table has a few people who don't quite jive well with the rest of the group. They might be too into the game, or not into it enough. They might have some questionable social habits or loudly interrupt other players. Over the years I've spent gaming, I've noticed a few archetypes that seem to be present at most gaming tables, for better or for worse. 

1) Warning Signs:
  • Do your friends turn away or change the subject when you start to talk about your character?
  • Do you tell lots of unprompted stories about what happened “this one time” in a game?
  • Do you repeat those stories? Several times?
  • Did you write a backstory more than 3 pages long?
The Braggart isn't really that bad. He’s a passionate gamer, and generally stays in character. He’s metagamed a bit or rolled well, and he plays the game well besides, so he’s a pretty effective asset to the party. The problem with the Braggart is fairly self explanatory. He goes on about his different abilities, synergies, and backstory, long after his audience has lost interest. There's nothing wrong with being enthusiastic about the crazy stuff that happens in D&D, but try to stay humble in the face of it. Smile and move on.

2 and 3) Warning Signs:
  • Does the party sigh and roll their eyes when your barbarian throws the foreign npc out the window in frustration, or laugh along with you?
  • Have you ever opened a door with another party member’s face?
  • Have you ever squelched a friend’s action to do something stupid?
The Monkey and Berzerker are two very similar players. They are both based on very basic character ideas. The Monkey is effectively insane. Her zany antics are intentionally chaotic. She might roll dice to determine her actions once a day, or make saving throws against bad decisions. Where the Monkey has no common sense, the Berzerker has no higher brain functions. Usually a barbarian, she plays axe-to-face, solving every problem with “I break it in half”. In the right circumstances, these characters can work well and be fun. In the wrong party though, they reduce the plotline to a slapstick comedy.

4) Warning Signs:
  • Have you missed one of the last 4 gaming sessions?
  • How do you react to a phone call or text at the gaming table? What about your friends?
  • Do you describe yourself as a gamer, or just a person who hangs out with gamers?
The Halfling isn't committed to the game. He’s the guy who checks his texts, replies to them, makes a quick phone call, and then takes his turn. He isn't clear on how to play, and will jokingly call the rest of the group his “nerd friends”. The flakiest member of the gaming group, the Halfling will frequently cancel at the last minute when other plans come up. Dungeons and Dragons is about having fun, and there is plenty of room around the table for gamers of all social circles and walks of life, but the Halfling can easily alienate his friends and detracts from the game with his absence. There's nothing wrong with a new player learning the game, but the Halfling takes pride in their lack of knowledge.

5 and 6) Warning Signs:
  • Have you read the rulebook cover to cover more than once or twice?
  • Do you check the book more than twice a session?
  • Do you know the calculable strength of tempered steel, or the methods used to forge it?
The Lawyer and Expert are both authorities in their own right. The Lawyer has studied up on every rule of the game, and she knows exactly how to resolve every action. She overrules the DM to help resolve things, effectively backseat gaming. The Expert does the same thing, but from the perspective of real life. The Expert practices swordplay in real life, is an amateur blacksmith, reads about occult wizardry, or is a general fantasy buff. Both of these players bring a unique knowledge base to the game, but if they aren’t careful, they can annoy their friends and slow the game down. Where the Lawyer will say "You did that wrong; stone walls have a break DC of 25", the Expert will say "There's no way that you can break down that wall; 13th century mortar was actually stronger than modern concrete". These two can be great for conversation, as along as they don't let their viewpoints intrude too much on what the DM is trying to accomplish.

There's nothing inherently wrong with these archetypes, and nobody is exactly a cookie-cutter copy of one of these. It's worth paying attention to them though, because each is an exaggeration of qualities in a good gamer. A good gamer takes pride in their character, and isn't afraid to do something crazy once in a while. A good gamer keeps the outside world in mind, and doesn't solely live within the confines of the game. A good gamer knows a bit about the real world, and a bit about the game world, and can let the DM handle the latter.

As always, game on.

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