featured image: pixabay
Everybody approaches role playing games differently. Some players see it as an opportunity to show off their acting skills. Some players are here for the game and are constantly trying to find that strategic edge. Some players are just here to hang out with their friends, others are just there to roll dice. None of these players are wrong, they’re just getting different things out of the roleplaying experience. If you run your adventure as a strategy game for divas and actors, or your political intrigue for wargamers, you may end up with a great adventure that just doesn’t work with your playgroup. By looking at the following roles players play, you can figure out how best to run your campaign for your particular playgroup.
There are 3 fundamental aspects of tabletop roleplaying from which players derive their enjoyment of the game: Roleplay, Challenge, and Socialization. There’s countless variation but most players are here for one of these aspects or a combination thereof and identifying what they’re after can be key to providing them the best experience.
Not everybody comes to a game because they’re excited about the game, many players are just happy to be hanging out with friends, others. Chums are often related to/friends with/dating one of your regular players and would be just as happy doing literally anything else with friends. They’re here to socialize and it’s up to you to engage them in the game itself. Chums typically only roleplay when forced to and are otherwise content to sit on the sidelines chatting with other players or looking at their phones. They don’t often know how the game works and have had a character made for them. Chums will blossom into other player types if you can get them engaged. Try tying their character into a plot line directly, get him talking to some NPCs and making decisions. Keep making their character relevant until they start engaging on their own.
Divas are here to act, they absolutely adore their character (which is usually a bard) and jump at any opportunity to roleplay their hearts out. They’re usually good roleplayers but they tend to try to dominate your time and attention. Divas love the spotlight and if you let them, they’ll chew the scenery until the session is over. You can make a diva happy by giving them opportunities to take the stage and really roleplay. Give them good interactions with NPCs and let them take center stage once in a while. Just make sure you don’t let them take all the time away from the other players.
Sometimes, a player just wants to watch the world burn. These are players that want to poke and prod everything and relish any opportunity to destroy/create/mess with things in the most outlandish ways they can think of. They’re generally creative but aren’t really interested in progressing the plot or gaming. The game is an opportunity for them to act on impulses in a “consequence-free” environment. Dealing with jokers is difficult as a GM, as they’ll monopolize your time like a diva, while trying to break the game like a wargamer. They’re after a mix of roleplay and challenge, and you’ll need to dole both out in moderate amounts. Allow a joker to poke and prod occasionally, but not to dominate the session time. Let jokers get away with things if they’re clever, but firmly say no when they try to bend the rules.
Lumps are the players that barely look up from their phones, pay no attention to the game and generally don’t contribute. Often confused for wallflowers, a lump is often only here because the games are trendy and doesn’t really engage with the game, letting the wargamers and divas take the reins as they just follow along. If you encounter a lump, you need to force a lump into the spotlight. Try separating them from the rest of the party and giving them life-or-death decisions. Force them to stop following along and put real choices in their hands. Lumps will either find their own footing and mature into another type of player, or they’ll lose interest and disengage.
A scrivener sees the game as an opportunity to tell a story, and the actual gameplay is a sort of unfortunate accessory that must be dealt with from time to time. Scriveners are here for roleplay, first and foremost. You can often spot them by their 10-page backstories and collections of dense fantasy novels. These players absorb the plots, take extensive notes, and roleplay their character as accurately as possible. They often make suboptimal and even underpowered but flavorful characters and portray them faithfully. You can make these players happy by providing complex stories, plentiful roleplaying opportunities, and memorable or quirky NPCs.
A typecast has a character that they love to play, in whatever form it takes. They always play dwarven clerics, or broody rogues. Multiple characters come and go but they’re always variations of the same idea. Typecasts either just absolutely love a character or type of character and love roleplaying them, or that character is how they see themselves (or an idealized version) that they want to live vicariously through in your fantasy world. This can be a problem if their type doesn’t fit your setting (no you can’t play a robot in my classical fantasy setting) but otherwise just let them roll with it. Give these players a few opportunities to let their character shine. They’ll use their experience using this type to really play it well.
Warriors often have stressful or menial jobs or situations and they see the game as an opportunity to fight and win. Kicking the necromancer’s ass at the end of a long workday is a great way to blow off steam. Warriors are here for the challenge, and while they tend to make combat-centered characters (especially human fighters) they’re not as concerned with the wargaming aspect. Warriors are here for the roleplaying of victory, of facing the challenges while really putting themselves into their characters. Warriors are the bread and butter of a good playgroup and they’ll keep coming back if you keep providing the catharsis of well-fought victories.
Wargamers are here to play, strategize and WIN. To a wargamer, the characters are little more than playing pieces and the roleplay just gets in the way. Wargamers often have a background in tabletop wargaming or complex strategy games. They’re here for the challenge, they see the game as a set of unique tactical puzzles, and they love powerful optimized characters. If you have one or more wargamers in your group, avoid theater of the mind style combats, they will only end in arguments. Play your games with a battle map or using software that presents a clear battlefield. To make wargamers happy, have combat happen early and often. Try creating interesting battlefields with multiple combatants and shifting circumstances. Make interesting challenges a priority and they’ll be happy to battle their way through them.
A wallflower sits, listens, and never speaks unless prompted and when they do, they speak briefly and quietly. These players are either shy, non-confrontational or are just generally passive and quiet. Think of these players as chums who are more knowledgeable about the game. Wallflowers are usually here to socialize, they just have trouble in social situations. It’s best to let wallflowers engage in the game when they choose, and not to push them too hard into the limelight. If you do notice them trying to speak up, and getting ignored or overshadowed, try to clear the air and make sure they get a chance to speak. Just don’t confuse them for a lump, which needs different attention.
Winners come in many flavors, such as power gamers, rules lawyers or min-maxers. They all have the same goal in mind though, and that’s winning the game. Sadly, these are games to be experienced, not really won or lost. Winners are the fastest way to sour a playgroup, as they shout about rulings and berate other players for suboptimal plays. Winners aren’t here for roleplaying or even really a challenge, they’re actually here to socialize. Winners want to be the best at something, and they want to be seen being the best at something. If you’re stuck with a winner, don’t try to appease them, as they’ll only demand more next week. Instead, try pushing more roleplaying their direction than combat. Force them to roleplay their way through a situation rather than beat it, and they’ll either have to adapt or leave.
As a GM, do your best to identify what kind of playgroup you have. Does your playgroup have a bunch of wargamers and warriors? Blast them with impressive combats whose victories will go down in legend! Does your playgroup have a bunch of divas and scriveners? Weave a tale of intrigue and mystery full of twists and turns and lovable NPCs. Bring the right kind of game to the right kind of players and you’ll have a playgroup to enjoy for years to come.