Monday, May 25, 2015

Come What May

This post, and the two before it, are linked in a number of ways.

They were all inspired by conversations with fellow gamers. They all follow, or are connected to, a similar train of thought (though they are periodically derailed by other ideas - it is me after all). Finally, all the post titles are lines from Shakespeare.


OK, maybe not freaky. Neat though.


I was discussing Plumbers in my last post, a type of player that focuses wholeheartedly on their own PC, for better, or for worse. Probably a bit of both.

The Plumber creates a character of great scope, nuance, and depth, but tends to ignore, or at the very least deemphasizes, everything else in the campaign. They can be the source of fantastic stories, subplots, and some top shelf drama and angst (often self-inflicted). They can also be scene stealing, moment hogging, self-absorbed pains in keister.

Now, as awesome, and difficult, as it can be to have a Plumber, having two competing for center stage can make even the most flexible, and resilient Gamemaster want to throw their hands up, and the players out a window.

If my own experience is any indication, the two stars will battle for top billing, and eventually turn on each other. While the nature of this conflict will vary, inadvertently it will be 'great television', but bad for the campaign as a whole. A game can certainly survive this kind of confrontation, but not without a few scars.


Knowing that I have these personalities among my group's number, what do I do now? How do I defend the next game against the issues that threatened to damage, or helped to wreck past ones?

To begin with, I have to note, both to my readership out there, and to myself, that Plumbers are far from my only obstacle. There are a number issues that must be overcome to create a great gaming experience for my mainstay group, though not so many as to be insurmountable. Were the obstacles to far outweigh the potential for enjoyment, I wouldn't bother to try, and fix them. Better to cut my loses in that scenario, and find a new group.

No, that's not what is happening here. What is happening is that there are some wires crossed, and I need to unplug everything, then make sure it's all plugged back in the right way.

Now, as to what to do with Plumbers:

If no one is having an issue with the scene-stealing,, um...dedicated, method actor (or actors), don't worry about it too much. They may frustrate  you (the GM) on occasion, but their activities are less problematic to a campaign's structure than they are to the group's interpersonal dynamic (usually).

Only the other hand, if the Plumber is getting on the nerves of the rest of the group (players, GM, or both), you need to do something about it.

First things first. If you have a player who displays the negative aspects of the Plumber, or any behavior detrimental to the rest of the group's enjoyment of the game, address it with them. Address it with the player in question, address with the group separately, but don't let it sit, and fester. Sometimes making people aware of a thing is all it takes to fix it.

Sometimes not.

Often (at least in my experience) the Plumber is only vaguely aware that they are being the Plumber.

They notice, for example, that they are very interested in their own character's personality, and motivations, but don't realize they are ignoring the game world around them. They know they're excited about following through with their particular character's story, and background, but don't see that their immediate, and/or constant pursuit of it takes the spotlight away from other PCs.

A little reminder now, and then can't hurt. This can range from politely pointing it out, to straight up saying, "You had your moment, and your scene. Let this person have theirs. It's not only about your PC". The approach you take should be based on how severe the Plumber's self-absorbance is, how well you know the player, what's worked in the past, and what hasn't, and of course, what you the GM feel comfortable with.

If you have more than one Plumber, you may have to work doubly hard to keep things from spiraling out of control. Of course, if one Plumber is manageable, while the other isn't, get rid of the troublemaker. I want to make it clear that I view this as a last resort, but a resort nonetheless.

Anyone else have any thoughts on the subject? I'd love to hear them.

Happy Memorial Day Everyone, and a great, big, Barking Alien Thank You to our men, and woman of the armed forces. Also to the canines serving this country, who hold a very special place in my heart.

Barking Alien

PS: A number of notable, recent passings I'd like to acknowledge on this day.

Anne Meara, actress, comedian, playwright, wife of Jerry Stiller, mother of Ben Stiller, passed away on Saturday, May 23rd, at the age of 85.

John Forbes Nash, Jr., the Nobel Prize winning American Mathematician who was the subject of the film, A Beautiful Mind, was killed in a traffic collision on the 23rd, along with his wife Alicia. He was 86.

PSS: To offset the sadness of these passing even a bit, I would like to wish a Happy Birthday today to actor, director, puppeteer, and all around amazing fellow Frank Oz. Frank is well known to Barking Alien fans for his work with the Muppets, and as the voice, and performer for Yoda, in the original Star Wars trilogy. Have a great one Frank, and many more!

Oh, and I had a date today. No foolin'.

See you soon!

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