In Gamemasters International number 6 of 1991 there were an article titled “Players: Love ’em or hate ’em?”. In that article the author (who is unknown to me) described four common “bad” player-types and how to deal with them. In this article I try to describe some common player character-types and how to deal with them. The simple solution to all these potential problem is to talk to the player and have him change the behaviour of the PC - but that not quite the purpose of this text. Here I assume that you want to deal with the character and not the player. Feedback is welcome.
This is the thief - by profession or by habit. No matter what you do he tries to steal something - pick lock, pick pockets, put his fingers where it doesn’t belong etc. How to deal with him is pretty easy: make him get caught a couple of time and then he probably will better choose his times. The party will most likely be thrown out of most inns if the rumour gets around: There is the thief and his companions. Most parties will then prevent the wannabe-thief from doing any more “jobs” (by force if necessary).
This comes in three different flavours: the techno-fetishist, the archmage, and the walking armoury. The common with them all is that they turn up sooner or later in most campaigns. For each adventure the GM wants to award the PCs with something good and quite soon the inflation strikes and the PCs becomes very powerful (sometimes you have to make them powerful to be able to combat the final foe – if you going to combat Sauron you got to be powerful if you do not have the One Ring). The problem is that you then have to throw in very powerful enemies to match the strength of The Powerful.
There is two ways of dealing with the powerful: Ask the player to drop some of the gadgets or teach the PC the hard way that he shouldn’t walk around with so much weapons. The first one ain’t as fun…
Exactly how you should proceed depends on your setting but these are some suggestions:
The techno-fetishist is the one to pick up every imaginable gadget that they ever stumble upon. As soon has he get some money he will spend them on new gadget etc. There is one very easy way to cure this disease; in the middle of some delicate task where balance and stealth is of importance, ask ”how much does it weight?” and start rolling dices. GM-evilness when it at its best…
We all know the archmage: The techno-fetishist and the walking armoury combined. Once again the cure is rather strait-forward. In most worlds magic users (and magical creatures) can ”see” magic items and other magic users. The more powerful they are, the brighter they shine. Apply same tactics as for the walking armoury. Never been giving any though of why truly powerful mages relocate to castles and towers in low-populated areas?
He has three locks on his backpack and moves the camp 9 times during the night to fool enemies. There are two ways to deal with it: Award him or let him do it in vain. The second is easiest and most boring; no one is trying to steal his backpack and no one ever finds his camp. The problem is that he will be assured that the reason they didn’t find the camp was that it was moved.
The funnier alternative is to award him (players like awards, don’t they?). The enemy won’t find him all right, but neither will the reinforcements. If they leave messages for the reinforcements, the enemies will find it - they can read, can’t they?
If you hunger for riches you are sooner or later going to hunger for others riches. The PC might not want to steal that gem, but greedy PCs tend to be played by greedy players so there should be little difficulties to inspire theft. See Mr Longfinger above.
This is an alternative to the Paranoid, typical symptoms are an diverse background, high levels in all attributes and a list of skills that is the equivalent of an Swiss Army knife–the one that needs a wheelbarrow to move around. (In this aspect the characters has similarities with munchkins.) The idea of the players is usually that no matter what kind of situation the character ends up in, the player will be in control – and that is usually exactly the point; control.
As usual, it is more fun to award the player then to punish – let him take full advantage of all this skills and equipment. Every task is a breeze and he always succeeds and there are never any challenges. But never put him in situations which he cannot handle; that will only convince him that he needs more skills. He will probably after a couple of session start to think that your campaign is boring and is then time for the second phase. Make him realise that it maybe wasn’t such a good idea to have all those skills.
As always, how you do it depends on the situation but one of doing it is to give them mysteries which others can’t solve without detailed knowledge of e.g. an area. The All-Prepared off course has the full set of needed skills, his character is on the other end of the island (or whatever) and can’t help. Let the character see how much fun you can have trying to figure out something you don’t know, that the search and discovery is part of the game. If the player is a bit of a munchkin as well, throw in the point that someone that already have all the knowledge doesn’t really get any experience points. That gonna hurt!
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