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riplikash

GM Venting: those wacky PCs

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 Vent a bit with me about your frustrations with those wacky players...

Ever notice how murderously cutthroat players can be? Not all of them, but a lot of them. And it frustrates me, at least when their not done well. I see two types in almost every game:

The boring type that ALWAYS rolls up a jaded neutral or chaotic character. They interpret having no personality and always resorting to threats as being grim and gritty and deep. For them being and never giving an inch on anything is the same as being tough and manly. They hate the idea that their character would ever REACT to anything. While I find these players boring I don't mind them so much. Since they are predictable you can actually engineer encounters for them to feel like Big **** Heroes, to feel tough as nails, and be forced to make compelling 

I save my ire for the morally dissonant hero!

They role up a more traditional hero, a bit more wide eyed and with more heart. Their character tries to stand above the darkness around them and believes in the worth of a human life. Supposedly...

But despite supposedly being underdog heroes in a grim, dark universe they will almost NEVER take the high road if it is inconvenient. Morally they are inconsistant, trumping human values when convenient, willing to murder and pillage anyone and anything that isn't a puppy, wide eyed orphan, or princess. As often as not just as even more blood thirsty than the villain. If they see a Rival Rogue Trader before the rival sees them it is a chance for a sneak attack murder! If they have taken prisoners they feel the wisest course of action is summary execution. They will sell slaves, cause collateral damage, and lead coups at the slightest provocation if it seems tactically beneficial or mechanically useful. 

I think my issue may be the wasted potential. I love playing through stories of drama, trial, damnation and redemption, and the characters personality and background provide rich resources for these types of encounters. But these two types of players...

The first is so focused on being stoic and morally ambiguos they can never progress as characters. In most fiction the lonely gunman is compelling because of their depth: while they appear not to care, they really do. They can't help but do the right thing, or they grow to love those around them in spite of themselves. The former kind of player ignores all of that in favor of a two dimensional lonely stranger.

The latter is even worse, because not only are they hard to work with, they are actively detrimental to stories due to the eccentric nature of their choices. They take moral stands when convenient and through morals out the window the rest of the time. Where they could have enjoyed epic tales of being a light in the darkness they end up just drifting from encounter to encounter with no growth, no legacy. Just a string of technically "successful" encounters and a failing character. Such wasted potential.

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Probably the most annoying incident in the RT campaign I ran came from the arch militant in the group. He was the “silent, brooding guy who scowls at everyone for being weak” guy. I had problems with this guy before, as he made diplomacy almost impossible in several situations (Stryxis traders and feral/primitive human cultures for instance).

Anyway, it all came to a head in Lure of the Expanse. The RT and AM were down on Vaporous, introducing themselves to the local Priest-King. If you’ve read LotE, you know that the local Priest-King is like a mini-Emperor on Vaporous – his word is LAW. Anyone gets out of line, and they have a city of angry, fearlessly devoted citizens on their asses.

So, the RT is doing most of the talking and everything is going fairly well until they get to the water ritual (where all in attendance with the priest-king drink from the water he produces). The AM immediately gets it into his head that the water is poisonous. The RT says that it isn’t, as there were a bunch of other people who drank it. The AM will not relent and as the jug is passed to the RT, the AM stops him from drinking it. This goes on back and forth for a few minutes with the PK and court getting openly offended. The RT drinks, then passes it to the AM (everybody in attendance is required to drink). He doesn’t. He’s asked to leave. He spits in the water, then smashes the jug on the ground and draws his hellgun.

We roll for initiative (no one was surprised, as they were all preparing for bad stuff to happen due to the AM’s attitude). Two of the PK’s guards beat the AM in initiative and move themselves between him and the PK (throwing themselves in front of the shot). The AM fires two rounds at the PK, hitting and killing on of the guards. The RT is freaking out and instantly draws his pistol on the AM. Guards swarm both of them as the PK uses weapon jinx on the AM’s gun.

At this point, I’m pretty pissed, and so is the AM – he refuses to believe that these primitives should be able to stop him, as he’s an Imperial-trained storm trooper in full carapace and they’re in loin cloths. Yeah, well, they outnumber you 20-1 and about 8 of them are pinning you down. I then get inspired and have the PK give the RT a choice:

“Your companion has offended me in many ways. His hands have used a weapon against me, killing a follower. His tongue has been used to insult my power. His eyes have gazed hatred across my court. His feet brought his foulness to me. But I am a fair God. I will allow him to keep ONE of these things, and be cast out into the desert, to live or die by his own. What say you, trader? Which shall he keep?”

The RT is shocked (and laughing like hell out of game) and decided that he should keep his tongue (out of game, he couldn’t recall ever seeing a bionic tongue). The guards then dragged the AM to the town square, put out his eyes, cut off his hands and feet and dumped him in the desert a short way from town. The RT made amends with the PK through a series of amazing Fel rolls, and managed to get a contract for exporting the water (after promising to get rid of the Imperial missionaries). He called a shuttle down and extract himself and the AM back to the ship.

While the RT was off negotiating to fund the missionaries with a brand new mission on the other side of Vaporous (well away from the local PK) the AM got the ship’s commanding officer to move the ship into low orbit (again, very good Fel and Command roles), and lance strike the PK’s city into oblivion. The RT was pissed – he now had to provide the missionaries with a new mission and a steady supply of supplies, and in return he got zero profit factor out of the deal, all due to the psycho AM.

Its funny, kind of, to look back on it, but was frustrating as all hell at the time.

-Thulis


 

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Wow.... Thulis, that is one of the worst players I've ever heard. I mean, if I'd have been his GM, and he'd pulled that sort of **** with me, he'd have been kicked out faster than you can say "Purge the Unclean!".

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MILLANDSON said:

Wow.... Thulis, that is one of the worst players I've ever heard. I mean, if I'd have been his GM, and he'd pulled that sort of **** with me, he'd have been kicked out faster than you can say "Purge the Unclean!".

I know :S  He's got a one track mind - be suspicious of everyone and attack anyone who doesn't agree with you.  Its not anything I don't expect from the guy.  He's a good friend, but I cringe when he's a PC.  Because he's always the SAME PC...

 

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**** Thullis, your RT really needs to assert his dominance. He should have locked the AM in a brig and let him live out a few weeks in his condition in order to think about what he did.

Excuse my imagination, but it should have gone like this:

RT: I am a most forgiving man, but we must have standards!

*Beats the crippled AM senseless with his cane in front of the Priest King.*

Points if you can guess where I stole this from...

However to address the OP, I to have encountered those types players.

In my experience though, the first is more common in DH when players can't think of an investigator without creating a brooding pile of poodoo. Do not lose all hope my friend, as they can be saved. What do player's care about most? Their gear and stats generally. Mess with those and you'll get some sort of response. When they finally recuperate, they should feel some relief. Never let it settle, and the excitement of playing by the edge of teeth should set in.

The second is descended from DnD where you can slaughter whole tribes of natives, loot their village, and run back to civilization to be praised as heroes. My favorite counter to this is to have NPC's react to this behavior in way that contradicts how they see their character. It could be as simple as a friendly NPC cringing in fear when he angers the player. Or you might have a playwright send them the script of their latest work, all based on the genocide of a people the player conquered.

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LordMunchkin said:

The second is descended from DnD where you can slaughter whole tribes of natives, loot their village, and run back to civilization to be praised as heroes. My favorite counter to this is to have NPC's react to this behavior in way that contradicts how they see their character. It could be as simple as a friendly NPC cringing in fear when he angers the player. Or you might have a playwright send them the script of their latest work, all based on the genocide of a people the player conquered.
I actually think the second type fits perfectly well for an Imperial Noble, they belive they are paragons of good but wouldn't think twice about killing innocents if they gained fame or fortune of it. I would just make them meet others that act in the same way. Either they step away from the sort of behaviour and I can point them to those guys when they act in that way, or they embrace it and understand that they are the same kind of bad guys that rules the Imperium.

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One thing I have made sure the players know is any city in the expanse that has survived for any long period of time has some sort of defense against orbital attacks.  (Other wise someone would have bomb them back to the stone age already.)  In some cases it's macrocannons, and lances.  In others it's orbital shuttles with assault teams.  Or possibly nuclear missles.  (Of course given the atomic rules in ItS it's a lot more scary....)

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I don't necessarily have this problem with my group. The majority of them have a background in drama or theatre, and they enjoy creating complex characters and getting inside their minds. However, I think I can offer a couple suggestions on how to push your PC's towards the kind of roleplaying you seem to wish they were doing.

 

Before Play:

-Have players fill out short surveys about the personalities and history of their characters. I haven't done this in a while, but questions like 'how exactly does your character feel about the god emperor?' or 'what would your character consider a worthy trade for his life?' can really get your players to start thinking about their mindset.

-Urge (or bribe) your players to write backstories for their characters. Even if it takes a while, and isn't finished before the game starts, this exercise can reveal important things about a character that a more cursory exercise wouldn't touch upon. My RT PC is a very complex mind to get inside (He's convinced he is a prophet of the God Emperor) and it took me 18 pages of backstory to get to a point where I felt like I understood his mindset well enough.

 

During Play:

-Roleplaying XP can be a valuable motivator, but can also be a double edged sword, as some players will simply use it as a means to accrue further xp. So if you do, I'd suggest being very sparing with these rewards.

-Using the information you've collected about the characters (the key here being getting your players to write stuff down at character creation) don't be afraid to challenge your PC's on their decisions. Don't flat out tell them they can't do something, but if it goes against their stated philosophies, make them articulate to you why they are choosing their path. (Note that most PC's will be able to come up with a justification for almost anything, but this CAN curb the most bizarre choices and will also bring the erratic nature of their choices to their attention)

-Try to generate positive results for playing in character. Don't contrive them, necessarily, but if a merciful PC spares a rival, maybe have that rival come to them later and volunteer some valuable piece of information. One of the reasons I think PCs act cutthroat is that the rewards of doing so are much more evident.

 

After Play:

-I have portions of exposition that take place between the action, such as conversations between characters, extra interaction with NPC's, and sometimes mission briefings, occur online in text form. (usually on facebook, though other things could work) This gives characters more time to mull over their responses, and separates role playing challenges from the immediate game, where the success of the mission or the opportunity to garner loot could interfere with the decision making process.

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My players stole the battleship in Lure of the Expanse and used it to vaporize the Lord Admiral Bastille. They never made it to the Dread Pearl, and spent their gaming time running down parts for the ancient Battleship. However, it has proven to be a good ship, but at some point I am going to punish them with a Naval Inquest.

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the one that annoys me the most is the arch militant  who cant focus on the game and makes up **** without at least rolling lore and asking me what the clue means.

his bvackstory is that he is a lone survivor of tyran, hidden in a bunker and saved my inquisitor kryptmann and has since been used in a team hunting tyranids and mopping up after the tyrannic wars, and as a characterful thing his character playes solitare all the time because when he was trapped he played solitare, fun concept, i enjoy it, but he plays solitare ooc during game on his laptop for it, and then will start hitting webcomics. im at the verge of banning laptops in game, and he makes up tyranid lore sometimes trying to invent the world or claim things, and sometimes i dont mind but once it ran exactly counter to the storyline, i required him to make a forbidden lore (xenos) check and told him that even he doesn't believe it.

 

the other really annoying thing is the player who doesnt remember the basic mechanics of skill checks and initiative rolls. "how many DoS/DOF?" "uhh, 3 i guess" "well, is it 3 or is it not three, dont guess tell me!"

 

or he thought, he a sniper, firing at a hulking creature  30m away, with a full round aim and a RDLS that a 76 didn't hit. (59 BS + 20 Aim +10 RDLS + 10 hulking + 20 short range = 119 -76= 43 = 4 DOS.... i think, i might have messed some of the numbers up but its definitely a hit.) i mean i know he is bad at math, but i have to keep hand holding him, and that he cant remember that initiatve is 1 die + AB is somewhat infuriating.... on the other hand, helping him with his rolls does help me be better on the rules myself (I'm often the uhh, well gimme a err perception? roll i guess? you think you have a skill that might do that? uhh, its hard i guess? GM it works for me)

 

But venting aside, i like all my players, they come up with great stories and scenes and make game worth running.... because one of these days.... my genestealers will finally hit and I will watch their organs spread out amongst the floor MWAHAHAHAHAHA

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Thulis said:

[...]

 

While the RT was off negotiating to fund the missionaries with a brand new mission on the other side of Vaporous (well away from the local PK) the AM got the ship’s commanding officer to move the ship into low orbit (again, very good Fel and Command roles), and lance strike the PK’s city into oblivion. The RT was pissed – he now had to provide the missionaries with a new mission and a steady supply of supplies, and in return he got zero profit factor out of the deal, all due to the psycho AM.

[..]

 

 

 

RT in Darth Vader voice: Archmilitant, you have failed me for the last time...

On a sidenote excellent DMing on your part. I like the PK's solution, sadly he didn't live long enough to regret it :(

 

One of my players nearly always reacts to severe threats in the same way: "we are going to die anyway, so let's storm the front and see what happens" or if he gets wounded / crippled he kinda stops playing telling everyone else, who is encouraging him not to give up, that his character is totally useless now and can't do nothing... This really makes me go nuts.

the other really annoying thing is the player who doesnt remember the basic mechanics of skill checks and initiative rolls.

Why don't you make a cheatsheet with the most basic rules for him?

 

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nightclaw said:

Why don't you make a cheatsheet with the most basic rules for him?

 

 

we have, several times. i think he is slowly beginning to get used to it, and he swapped to a sceneshal instead of his high insanity navigator (which he played someone like Mad Dog Murdoch from the A-Team, who has now become GM PLOT DEVICE #11717) and he seems to be getting a bit better, i just need to keep reminding him about his lore skills. hes a fine roleplayer, (not #1 but he isn't the worst, he at least makes his presence known in game, somewhat not nearly as annoying as when the AM wont put down the webcomics and pay attention to whats going on ) but he just cant do the simple math for anything.

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The Boy Named Crow said:

Before Play:

-Urge (or bribe) your players to write backstories for their characters. Even if it takes a while, and isn't finished before the game starts, this exercise can reveal important things about a character that a more cursory exercise wouldn't touch upon. My RT PC is a very complex mind to get inside (He's convinced he is a prophet of the God Emperor) and it took me 18 pages of backstory to get to a point where I felt like I understood his mindset well enough.

I have issues with this. Here's some examples from past experiences;

a) a player that comes to me with a novel/saga/song/poem about his character before we have started the game makes me squirm. It is extremely rude against the group as a whole, as this player expects it to be accepted and made into canon for the game. The action of writing a complex background is then used to justify all sorts of ideas that will benefit the player and this character, trying to get away with being a munchkin by being a barde.

b) then there is the player that writes a oh! so utterly fantastic story about the character, going deep into the character with paradigm, siblings, dreams and whatever, never realizing until it is way to late that he actually can't portray the character at all. Why? Because the player for some reason choose to stick to what he has written, don't err from the static path and don't let the character evolve. Sometimes the story really sucks as well, and how should one tell that to them? "I have spent a week writing this! Its awesome!" ...no... then the player is disheartened and I feel bad etc.

End of the line is that I prefer if the players just make some general ideas about their characters, and then expand upon them after we have started to play. Its not that I hate backgrounds, but it is much more clean and fun when the group comes up with ideas instead of just everyone sitting for themselves and making completely different characters that none can perceive would ever work together.

By the way, I sensed a slight paradox in the quoted text and chose to underline it. You managed to present a general character idea with 10 words instead of 18 pages.

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