Thursday, July 3, 2014

D&D Needs a Kindergarten

I cannot understand DMs who allow themselves to be held hostage by their players.  How often have we heard this?  The party has only just met an NPC - an old man, typically, but could be anyone - who begins to describe something.  Then one of the players says, without provocation, "I kill him."  Good moment gone.

There are pages and posts out there explaining how to punish a player that does this - even creating circumstances that will deliberately lure the player into the dumb action, then proscribing exactly how to humiliate the player to get the best results.  I will forego linking these sites.  We've all seen this approach.  I have even seen it said that DMs 'fear' dumb characters, or that the solution is the removal of intelligence, as a low intelligence encourages players to act stupidly.


Has everyone in this game had their brain removed?  Allow me to put it another way.

You get a group of players together for soccer (or football, if you're reading this in a civilized country). As the ball rolls towards Geoff, he turns and kicks the ball as hard as he can, straight off the field into the trees.

Do the other players a) ask Geoff what the fuck?; or b) presume this is Geoff's way of playing the game, arguing that he's just being a player the best way he thinks?

The ball is retrieved (Geoff refuses to do it) and put back in play.  Geoff approaches it, and, thump, back into the trees.

Do the other players a) gather together and figure out how to move the ball towards Geoff in such a way that Geoff will be humiliated, or b) do the other players threaten to beat the living crap out of Geoff and stop him from playing?

I really don't understand the people who play this game.  I don't understand why they can't take a simple and obvious social annoyance and treat it as it deserves to be treated.  I can only assume that there are many Geoff's in the world who have been booted off soccer fields who end up in role-playing games, with people who have been so completely abused by their school experiences that they're willing to tolerate any behaviour.

I suppose what I find so odd about this is that the same people, playing soccer in the example above, wouldn't hesitate to tell Geoff to fuck himself.  After all, Geoff is clearly ruining the game, for reasons known only to Geoff, in a manner that is imbecile and particularly annoying.  Yet if it is happening in a role-playing game, where Geoff is just as imbecile and just as annoying, and clearly still ruining the game for his own reasons, suddenly we're all supposed to be tolerant.

I wouldn't say Geoff needs a beating.  Chances are, if this is how Geoff behaves, he has had many beatings already.  I personally would ask him the first time, "Why are you behaving like this?"  The second time, I would just say, "Go.  Get out.  I'm not interested in playing with you."  Clean and simple.

What is it?  Are you so desperate for players that Geoff looks good?  Do you need Geoff?  Have you no self esteem at all?  Do you have so little actual regard for the game that you're still fuzzy on what acceptable play is?  It could be, after all, that since we've been trained to recognize the way soccer is played, and that the Geoff's of the world have spent hours in detention already for being obtuse, we accept and recognize the right way to play soccer - that is, to play it.

On the other hand, we had no kindergarten time for D&D.  So your players were never given a time-out for acting stupid - and you never watched them given a time out, so now you're totally fuzzy on what's right and what's wrong here.  Perhaps what's needed is a good six months in D&D kindergaren.  You need an adult to sit Geoff down and explain to the others what he did wrong, so the rest of you will finally know what happens when people don't play nice.

Hm?  Is that what you need?  An adult to sort this stuff out for you?


Jomo Rising said...

This is the kind of "funny" stuff we did as children, playing at playing the game. Do adult players still do this? People be regressing to childhood, I guess.

Thinking about it, I do have a player that likes to be "funny" from time to time, when speaking with an NPC, his way of dealing with discomfort. Yet he hasn't ruined a situation by speaking so.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Hasn't he? What game has he come to play?

Jomo. Get me a signed affidavit from all your players stating that this one player's habit of being 'funny' is fine with them and doesn't interrupt or diminish your game. Good luck with that.

JDJarvis said...

Yup that player is an ass, send them home. They don't play with others and it is an infant response to the authority of the DM. spank em and send them home.

Barrow said...

I like the analogy of D&D as a team game, soccer. It really puts into perspective the type of player dialog and action a DM should expect at the table. Team oriented. You have said many times before that teamwork in D&D will result in better gaming experience for everyone.

I have a sandbox world. My players take the freedom which that provides and tend to work on personal projects and goals that are specific to their characters. I often struggle to unify the group to work towards a group goal or mission, trying never to railroad them.

I was thinking my creativity was lacking, but this post made me consider that my players' characters are too self centered. Have I been too weak in reeling in individual goals? Should I just declare: "OK, what do you want to accomplish as a group today?"

It also occurred to me (by thinking about another post I read by Alexis and this current post)that the characters customization of 4ed that I use in my campaign might feed into this self-centered play. My players characters are too specific and uniquely capable. Maybe from the start, focusing on a group goal would always be secondary to these characters?

Jomo Rising said...

Point taken. He has come to play a different game than I want to provide. I know there are players that would not sign the affidavit, my girlfriend for one.
Worse is that the more I think about it, the more I remember other players learning from his example. While he hasn't said "I kill him" he has driven NPC's away.

Alexis Smolensk said...

See, and right there is where I'm completely non-plussed.

Take this in good faith, Jomo. Why are you tolerating this behaviour from this ONE player when you say that player(s) - with an 's' meaning more than one - don't support his actions? I haven't figured out what you're losing by asking this one player to change.

Should there be anything going on at your table that doesn't get 100% support?

Maxwell Joslyn said...

Thank you for putting to words the soccer example. It's something I can use to illustrate why the "I can do anything I want!" attitude toward RPG is just as childish as it sounds on paper.

Dave Cesarano said...

Yeah, this kind of blows my mind at my age and maturity level. I've no tolerance for this sort of behavior. If the entire party doesn't chew him out for being an idiot, I announce that the evening is over, gameplay has ceased and I need to find another group for which I may run.

I've gone years without playing any tabletop RPGs because of these sorts of situations. I can do it again, no problem. The inability to take the setting or world seriously is a huge insult to the person running it, let alone the GM who crafts and builds it himself.

When the PCs burn down the village, it had better be because they've gone Viking and just beached their longship near Lindisfarne. It had better make sense. If a player looks me in the eye and says, "I'm killing this old man because I'm damn certain he's a spy" and the player means it, well... I'm not going to argue with him, right or wrong. Actions have consequences. But if he kills the old man just because he felt like it my rage meter will go off the scale.