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Role-playing Rants: Dealing with "problem players", or how I've learned that people are assholes, the hard way

Social activities are generally a lot of fun. You can spend your free time with people of similar interests, passions and attitudes. That's why RPG's are such a cool hobby. You and your fellow-minded nerds are all sitting at the table, eating Cheetos, roll some dice and... trying to be as horrible and shitty to each other, as possible?

Wait, what? I thought that this kind of entertainment was supposed to be a fun, healthy endeavor, not a way for some asshole to vent his life frustrations out on other people. Turns out I was very, very wrong, as apparently, there are a lot of people out there who decided to play these game, solely so they can fuck with their fellow men. No regrets, no hesitations, no nothing - just an urge to be an asshole. Is there a way of dealing with the, so-called, "problem players"? Yes, yes there is. Although it ain't pretty.

Apologies for this, completely random, Overwatch art. My google-fu is not strong today. Also, this picture is not mine. Used w/o permission
First of all, what it means exactly, to be a "problem player"? There are a few definitions, but since I'm not a bloody Wikipedia editor, I'm not going to give you an exhaustive, pseudo-scientific definition of this term. To keep it short: a "problem player" is a person, who decides to be an absolute, fucking asshole to the rest of his gaming group. There, you have it. No fancy words, no bullshit, semi-psychological analysis, just the bare, honest truth. He or she is an asshole, pure and simple. Whether this kind of person decides to constantly be late to games, interrupt the GM and/or his fellow players, trying to derail the game for whatever reason or simply being an asshole, doesn't really matter. There are even players who make problems, because of how they're portraying their characters. There's nothing worse than having a pretentious edgelord in your party, fucking up the game "because my character would totally do that". Yeah, no mate, you're just a shitty person.

I've had my share of "problem players" over the years, way too much for my liking, if I have to be honest. From drug and booze abusers to narcissists, whom felt that everything should be about them and their flawed, crappy characters to people who downright disrespected others' time, work and efforts. By "others'", I mean myself, mostly. To be completely honest, I've only begun playing "normally", in a non-toxic environment, from the early 2017 up to now. 2015, if I'm counting my Roll20 group (which I totally should!). Before that my experiences were... less pleasing. I would even use words like "shite" or "horrible" or maybe  even "a waste of fucking time". Now don't get me wrong, there were good moments, but they were more like islands in an ocean of feces. Why was that and why did I endured years of less-than-fun gaming? Well, the main reason was that I used to game with my friends. As I've already written in one of my previous articles (which I'd written completely differently now, to be honest), there are benefits and downsides to this kind of RP'ing. Unfortunately, in the long run, downsides begun to take over the good parts and so, after a few years of that particular party's dissolution (which happened mainly due to personal loss and good, old-fashioned human weakness of character) I can look back with a clear eye on the time, which I've spent in it, and... feel cheated. Cheated and disillusioned by the treatment which I've received by my colleagues and, I'm sad to say it, friends. Many of whom, if not all, were the aforementioned "problem players".

I'm a rather calm, composed person, not used to yelling at people or argue with them. I don't like it, pure and simple. Unfortunately, more than once, it has been used against me. In work, in my relationships and even in my games. While I can, or at least try to accept that in work and love, people can act like dicks, it saddens me greatly, that such a behavior takes place around the gaming table, one place, which should be free from negativity and toxic actions. After all, people play these games to relax after a hard week of work, to let their imagination run wild and to just have fun with other, likely minded fellows. At least that's what it should be like, as I personally can confess, that it's not always so. You wanna know how to spot a "problem player"? Well, let me give you a few examples.

Arrogance is always a good indicator that one of your fellow games should've probably stay at home, instead of rolling a funny shaped dice at the table. Not conforming to an established set of rules (despite promising to do so, pre-game), insulting the GM and other players, when being called out on it, being physically unable to take any sort of constructive criticism and feebly trying to shift the blame on other players and GM (of course this never works, since the person in question is totally and completely inept at doing so). Thinking that everything should be about them and only them and the rules are for their benefit, not the other way around. As long as the game favors them, it's cool, but woe to GM, who kills their favorite character, for they will receive a temper tantrum, truly worthy of a spoiled manchild with ego problems.

Bonus points for uttering my favorite, asinine non-reply of: "this is only a game, why are you so mad at me for acting like a dick?" Perhaps because I'm treating you fair and you're not returning the favor. Just a little hint there, moron.

How about another one. A guy, who's not really interested in playing, but just likes to hang out with the group. Ok, you'll probably say, that's fair enough. But wait! Let's make it more interesting, shall we? What if said person is not just content with sitting in silence at the table, occasionally throwing some dice? What if he decides to act as dickishly as possible? Interrupting the GM in mid sequence of explaining the plot, cracking a joke during an atmosphere build up, interrupting the game because "he totally read a cool article today" and needs immediately to inform everyone about that fact. When asked to keep it down a notch or, maybe, to leave it for the downtime, he of course gets righteously angered and makes everyone's lives at the table a living hell. Threatens to live the group many, many times, because he's a friend and knows fully well that no one will have the balls to actually kick him out.

Bonus points for coming to the game drugged and/or drunk. Oh yeah, fun times.

Want another example? I got you, fam. So imagine being a new player, who've just joined the group. People in this particular group are playing together for many years now, and you're the new guy. Naturally, the first thing that you should be doing, is to start complaining about how the game is being run, how the fights are too hard, how it's all unfair and how you would have done it all better. Make sure to also create the most broken, OP character with which you will show all the other peasants, just how big of a badass you truly are. Of course you've joined the team for a chance to play your favorite system, so when others decide to change it for something else, don't forget to start acting like a spoiled brat on every, single occasion. Some of your activities can include: not showing up to games, without a word of explanation, being constantly late, playing on your phone all the time, while grunting off a half-assed reply of: "I'm listening, what's your problem?", talking behind GM's back to change the game, because "this one's stupid, but my favorite one is not stupid" and finally, after getting a chance of run a game yourself, drop all communication with the group and get righteously offended, when they've decided to switch the system.

Bonus points for leaving the group when you've finally had enough and understood that you'll never have the thing your way here. When the others've decided to change the system, despite most of people having fun playing it, agree on staying (even tough your "excuse" to quit was a lack of time). Then, after a few months, quit anyway, because you've found another group and they're playing a game that you like more. "What's that? No, I don't know what "acting fair" means, why do you ask?"

One more? Well, I think I can manage that. I've had my fill of "problem players", so why not talk about it in length, eh? So you're one of the players, who's in the group from the very beginning. You've played that one, particular game, from the start and, for some reason, decided that other games are not really necessary. So when the system gets changed you begin to show your displeasure. Maybe not in the way, as the other one did, but you're still acting like an asshole, nonetheless. Make sure to speak about how the old title was a much better game and how much you despise the current one. Constantly. To everyone. No, it doesn't matter that other people might want to play something else, you KNOW BETTER. After all, you know everything. Act like a petulant child on every, single opportunity and let your fellow men know, that it is you who knows what is best for the group.

Bonus points for trying to concoct the most ludicrous, game-breaking, atmosphere-raping plots, which have zero sense and succeed in only derailing the game itself. Bravo sir, you are a definition of a spoiled, self-centered manchild.

Finally there's the last example. Another new player! Yay! You join the group and, for a time, play really well. Then another new player arrives, one of the aforementioned ones. This newcomer immediately finds himself the target of your affection. At times it is really scary, like you're almost in love with the man. Which is no bad thing of course, however the blind zeal with which you're defending his shitty actions, his constant arguments and arrogant behavior, as well as blaming others for not understanding his completely immature reactions, actually is. Meanwhile, despite promising to respect the rules of the group, you also begin to emulate your idol. Getting late, cancelling games at the last, possible moment, getting angry when the group switches systems and many, many other examples of being a nob-head, are all your trademarks. Finally, after your guru decides to leave the group for his own, selfish reasons, you've actually managed to gather enough courage to do the same. You'd never do it alone, because of how big of a fucking coward you are, but if someone else will clear the way, then it's all good.

Bonus points for getting righteously offended when asked if, maybe, you could A) print your work schedule, so you won't forget about the next night shift and B), get one, maybe two early shifts in a week, so that you'll have an easier time coming to the game. Of course you decline, because otherwise you won't be able to get you 12 hour beauty sleep, after getting to bed at 4 A.M., because you just had to play your favorite video game.

These were some of the examples of "problem players", which I've encountered over the years. Back then I wasn't able to do much about them, since they were mostly friends and/or good buddies, and I always was very careful not to hurt their feelings, despite being constantly treated like trash in return. That was back then, however, and now I've learned my lessons. What does it mean, exactly?

That it was not worth it. The time, the effort, the nerves - none of it was worth the hassle of dealing with unfair people, and that I will never make those same mistakes again, ever. It doesn't matter if they're your friends, family, work buddies etc. If someone treats you like a rag, because he thinks that he can do that, because he doesn't care about anything or anyone else, except themselves, tell them to fuck off and never come back. Drop them and never look back, as they're not worth your time, nor your nerves.

The art of dialogue is an important thing and Lord know that it's always worth speaking to others, explaining your views, motivations and opinions. But make it so in a civilized way, leave the arrogance at home. Don't be toxic, be kind. Don't be a dick.This hobby is about mutual respect and acceptance, not to see who's the biggest alpha in the group. There's no alpha, because there shouldn't be any. There should be, however, a team, a group of fellow-minded friends or colleagues, enjoying their hobby together. Something that I'm very fortunate to be currently a part of, and for which I'm deeply grateful to my fellow players.

Pic related. I just love this art so much
I hope that all of you, my dear readers, will be fortunate enough to experience only the best aspects of this wonderful hobby. Just remember one thing: don't let frustrated, petty and childish people ruin it for you. They're not worth your nerves, nor your time. It is something that I've finally came to understand, not so long ago, but ultimately, way, way too late.

Until next time!