Here’s a question for you. Just how do you deal with players who want to play differently?
The expression always goes that if you’re having fun you’re doing it right, or conversely that is no wrong way to have fun. Those are true, but they don’t consider the fact that no tow players are ever the same, and how do you factor for the differences and keep your players happy? I may have had a harder time with this than some, as I grew up in a relatively small town in Scotland, and so the pool of players was always small. You couldn’t;t afford to be choosy, and so my natural tendency as a GM was to try and find a compromise that allowed all players to have as much fun as possible.
I guess to illustrate my point I’d be better using a real life example of the main situation I find myself in. Essentially, we had in my last gaming group a hard core power gamer who loved to min max his stats and feats etc. Now essentially this was fine. I have no problem with making an effective character and I have in the past been guilty of trawling the rule books for combination feats (in my 3.5 days), to get the best damned character I can make. The problem was he didn’t stop there. Oh no, he would then proceed to ‘advise’ the other players on how they had made their characters wrong.
That is very much a no-no in my books. Another player for example chose to play a cleric of peace, and spent all the combat encounters trying to pacify the enemies without killing them, and often trying to avoid combat entirely. Now I loved this. I was sceptical at first (especially as we were playing 2e) but I let him run with it and he did it really well. As a DM it made the odd bit hard as the prewritten adventure assumed that you killed everyone, but that’s part of the art of GMing. Our old power gamer did not like this however, and spent most sessions getting pissed off at the cleric.
Secondly, he often played the wizard in the party, but in this instance he had chosen to play a ranger, and a relatively new player chose the mage. Unfortunately for her, she didn’t pump all her points into INT and instead went for a concept whereby she was a charismatic mage. This again didn’t go down well with our power gamer who spent every session lecturing her on how she’s made here character wrong. I did my best to reassure her and explain why I loved her character, but I feel it as one of my failures that she eventually bowed down to his persistent advice and changed some of her stats around.
What perhaps annoyed me more was his sudden decision to scrap his ranger character and roll up a mage. A mage that he wanted to make better than our other mage. Now I again have to sadly admit that at the time I allowed it. What ensued was him competing (though admittedly on in his own mind, as the other player seemed to take it well) with the other mage in the party. It annoyed me to distraction.
This resulted in me having to write up a code of conduct for our players. This is something I’d never done before, but I felt it necessary at the time. In that I made everyone agree that we’d respect each others play style, we’d not double up on classes and try to invade other player’s areas of expertise etc. Now I was expecting a grumble, but my word I wasn’t expecting the backlash I received. I got a nice ranty email (he could be very passive aggressive at times) about how this was how he liked to have fun and he was only trying to help the other players etc.
Now, not to be one sided, I do believe that this is exactly how he felt he was being. I can understand that he genuinely believed that he was helping, and he obviously wanted to play the game in a way that he enjoyed, and I do respect that. I believe it because if I ever said no to even a small part of his 6 page emails detailing all the 3rd party rules he’d found to make his character epic, he did look genuinely devastated. Due to my compromising nature I would always try to look at the information as fairly as possible to see what I could allow, but I could see how the other players looked when he made them all feel irrelevant as he tracked, cast spells and did more damage than any of them due to some rules loophole.. For some reason, he never could.
I guess these days I look back on these events on reflect what the issues were. I question if I could have been a better GM and stood up for the other players more, or if I should have let him have his way more when he felt dejected at me saying no. What I do wonder more now is if in actual fact he was the wrong player for our group.
It sounds harsh and I’m loathe to every be excluding of anyone, but I do now think that he wasn’t a good fit with the other players. It’s not that he played wrong, or that he didn’t have the right kind of fun, it was simply that his idea of fun was too far from that of the other players that they couldn’t have fun together. He did bring a nice sense of keeping the game on a serious track at times, but as harsh as it sounds, I know some of the players had much more fun on the sessions he missed.