Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/10/22/tabletop-review-the-gms-
So, The GM’s Field Guide to Players interests you eh? Lookin’ to ID some wild gamers lurking around your table? Let me tell you what, stranger: I’ll give you the lowdown on this here learnin’ book.
You got yer talkers, and you got yer walkers:
This book seems kind of short for the subject matter, as I’m sure seasoned GMs could write volumes about the players they have had who did this or that too much, or ruined this game, or whatever. Upon reading it though, you start to see that the book is an excellent length. It is not exhaustive and droning about players and what they tend to do, but it doesn’t just throw out a few blurbs and a paragraph of advice either. Cherie manages to focus in on some gamer sub-types and then describe what she means by the label she uses. For instance, there’s “The Power Gamer”. Okay, I don’t even have to describe this person, but Cherie describes him thus: “Power Gamers tend to get a lot of flack. Other players don’t understand the joy Power Gamers find in collecting increasingly powerful abilities. Our modern world often to [sic] leaves us feeling small, insignificant, and powerless. Gaming can counter those feelings and allow players have [sic] a chance to be powerful forces in a world…” Besides the typing slip-ups there (which are rare, actually), you can see that Cherie makes an effort to see the game from the perspective of the type of player that she is describing. Why does a Power Gamer crave power? Why does a Meta-Gamer have to be Meta all the time? (Okay, I made that last one up.)
Not every player type she describes in the first part of the book is meant to be seen as a problem player, they are just types of players that she has categorized. There is a latter section dedicated to that, though, which I will get to. Other character types in the first section include “The Socialite”, “The Mechanic”, and “The Character Actor”.
So, you got Crazy Joe sittin’ at your table. What to do?
I’ve sat at tables with gamers that I really, really was not appreciating, and then when I think about problem gamers… ugh. I’m not talking about players that you just don’t think are the greatest, I mean players who are wrecking a session or ruining someone else’s good time, or even just wasting time or not paying attention; the players who are real problems. If you think it’s hard to play with these people, try GMing them.
This book goes with some great approaches for dealing with problem players, but they are for mature people. If your 12-year-old brother is playing in your game and causing problems, these solutions might not work. Let’s take step two: “Communicate, communicate, communicate”. Since when is your little brother Joe going to listen when you take him aside, sit him down and tell him that he can’t just go around asking NPCs if they want to see his “pants dragon”? Okay, maybe that’s more 14-year-old behavior. Okay, okay, I did that last week in a game of Burning Wheel. Seriously though, Cherie takes a very mature approach to things, emphasizing the diplomatic options before the nuclear option (i.e. kick their ass out of the game).
How many a**holes we got on this ship anyhow?
The last section of the book details types of problem players, what they do, and ways to try and deal with them. You’ve got “The Flaky Gamer,” who might be late, absent, or just plain not care about the game. There’s also “The Munchkin,” perhaps somewhat immortalized in Steve Jackson’s card game of a similar name. Cherie describes the Munchkin like this: “The Munchkin is a Power Gamer gone bad. All power gamers want to “win,” but in the case of the Munchkin, that desire goes out of control…” Ok, now for my favorite one: “The Persistent Noob.” This is the guy who never remembers the damn rules to the game no matter how much they play. I know, some games are quite crunchy and complicated, but it can be grating when a player does not make the effort to learn even the most basic level of rules. See how I fit that mini-rant in there? That was sneaky.
This book is a great little resource for GMs, and I would definitely recommend it if you can spare the seven bucks. I know some people balk at anything more than a few bucks for a product like this, but it is quite well presented and written very thoughtfully. It’s obvious that Cherie has put a lot of thought into it and if you are a GM who runs games regularly I would bet money that you would get some use out of this. Those interested in more can visit rpgGM.com for articles and other musings from the folks who brought you this book.