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I've seen numerous games go down the pan when certain players derail the plot, either making it PC vs GM, or making the game more about their ludicrous choices. It might seem overly harsh turn of phrase, but the majority of players decided to launch a space ship at a Blue Sun base, in a game of Firefly, which seemed at the time out of character for the setting. Which for those not familiar with firefly, would be like hi-jacking a star destroyer and launching it into the Deathstar.

The players had been making this sort of brute force decision making throughout the campaign, sometimes with aplomb (taking out 8 Alliance troops without a casualty, in a way that would make Mal jealous), othertimes ruining what I thought could have been interesting games, that the GM had obviously spent a long time preparing for.

For some context, Launch a ship at the enemy had been the solution for three games that campaign out of about 6 sessions, each time the GM losing more and more patience eventually losing interest in preparing for the game.

TL;DR

How, as a player can I step in and help keep the game interesting for everyone and the plot on track?

Answers of find a different group aren't too helpful, as it's a university based role-playing society group, so we only get to chose the game, not our fellow players.

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I'm decided to convince my party to hi-jack a star destroyer in our Star Wars campaign now –  briddums Dec 21 '11 at 2:09
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It's worth noting that historically, kamikaze tactics could actually be somewhat ineffective, because, well... an aircraft carrier is just so damn large. Putting a monstrous hole in the flight deck, and setting a bunch of fires on board, isn't usually going to be enough to sink it. –  RMorrisey Dec 21 '11 at 16:06
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Also, giant enemy bases big enough to be hit by star destroyers will tend to be garrisoned by fleets of OTHER star destroyers.... –  RMorrisey Dec 21 '11 at 16:09
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5 Answers 5

up vote 13 down vote accepted
  • Put them in their place: Tell them to try and focus, to calm down and play the game - what you described that they do ruins the fun for everyone not aboard the 'silly train', not to mention the GM loses interest in the game and might stop running it. No point in gathering and playing if not everyone is having fun. Raise your voice if you have to. (not in an angry manner necessarily, just to put the spotlight on you)
  • Oppose their ideas IC: If they keep doing the same dumb thing over and over, seek to actively stop them.
  • Help the GM help you: Give him ideas in how to deal with the situation. Maybe he never gives them access to a spaceship. Maybe they can get in one but not control it. Formulate an in-game excuse of why they can't do that again.
  • Talk to them OOC: Have a calm chat with them explaining that what they are doing is disrupting the flow and fun of the game, and that if they are not going to respect the GM's preparation and the fact that others don't enjoy playing this way, they should leave the group. (This is not about telling them not to have fun, but about respecting the GM and other players and what they consider to be fun)
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Addition to the Help the GM help you part: If the trend among rogue elements of the galaxy is to crash ships into things, other people will definitely start investing in countermeasures. –  evilcandybag Dec 19 '11 at 17:22
    
As a DM, I delay stupid descisions, and suggest possible highly unpleasant countermeasures that would occur from stupid decisions until they decide to do something else. So far that's stalled most stupidity. –  Mooing Duck Apr 11 at 22:22
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First, you have to realize the players are not being obstreperous for the heck of it. If they are presented with a goal that in their mind justifies mass murder (and in an RPG, don't most of them?), and there is a way presented to them of accomplishing it without risking themselves, then they'll take it. In this case I'm not sure they're deliberately setting out to derail what the GM has set up, it's just that the GM is somewhat hapless and doesn't understand the implications of his setup. In his mind he may have an unreasonable idea of what a group of players would do when exposed to a certain stimulus, and then gets sad when they don't do what they are "supposed to." Saying "it doesn't fit the genre" is usually pretty poor justification for criticizing player actions, especially in this case - I seem to remember in Serenity they led a Reaver fleet into an Alliance fleet for wholesale slaughter. "You're not going to do what I had prepped even though it doesn't really make sense to your characters to do it" is also IMO poor criticism. Understanding the problem, then you can do a couple things.

Coach the GM offline. Say "I don't like how 'crash a ship into it' is the answer to everything - don't you think that tactic is too effective? There must be a reason in the game world people don't do that all the time." Give him proactive feedback on scenarios he proposes - "this goal of 'go kill all the guys in that building' makes my character think 'Hmmm, we could risk ourselves by going in there and doing it hand to hand, or we could stopper up the doors and gas them." Perhaps a more subtle plot? We have to go kidnap someone? Or there are innocents on board? By giving them insight into how the PCs think, and exposing their reasoning to him, you can feed him better ideas for motivation, plot, technical details, etc. I find this happens a lot with GMs who don't play enough - they start to get a warped sense of how player decisionmaking works.

Work inside the player group. "Hey, is the solution here really being total terrorists and mass murdering a bunch of people because we don't like their cola ads?" See How do I get my PCs to not be a bunch of murderous cretins? for more on this. Certainly when players adopt "total war" tactics it means that, in the game world, they are going to have extreme heat on them and be hunted, little chance to ever settle down, etc. (If those Alliance soldiers disappeared after they explicitly went out after y'all, and their ship later shows up and smashes into a base, then every civilized place will have shoot on sight orders for you...) If no one has any goals except "kill whatever the GM presents us with next," then you can help the group by roleplaying. That'll hopefully add over time a layer of richness and goals that makes becoming Al-Qaida every time someone opposes you less desirable.

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The reason they 'nuked it from orbit' was cos they had sent a summons to the party, as a plot point, leading to the next part of the story. I don't think I can go into much detail here, perhaps on chat? Suffice to say I think your two suggestions are a very good idea. –  Pureferret Dec 19 '11 at 16:11
    
Also (after lookingthe word up) I think they were being obstreperous. In a 'We don't want to play your game, we will play our game' manner) –  Pureferret Dec 20 '11 at 0:05
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The game is 85% (or so, depending on how many total players you have in the group) theirs. They might be acting out, but I suspect it's expectation mismatch. –  mxyzplk Dec 20 '11 at 1:23
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Bite whatever hook the GM is giving you. Even if you have other ideas, come up with an in character idea why whatever the GM is pushing is the way to go. Then try and convince your party.

This will help communicate to the GM that he's still got some control over the game. That alone may be enough to let him save face and continue playing. If it's not enough, convincing the party to go along with what you're saying can help buy the GM some time to compose himself and come up with alternative hooks or see if there's a way to work with whatever's gone awry.

In your example, as a PC I'd probably argue that ship launching is a waste of a perfectly good ship. Unless I were playing an absurdly wealthy and arrogant character, I think I could run with that argument for a time and come up with another plan.

Also, for what it's worth I don't always suggest biting the GM's plot hook and running with it. Some GMs (myself included) like being kept on their toes. But for a GM who is losing his cool when the players take too much control, giving back some of that control is effective.

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The ship that was launched at the Blue Sun base was captured from the Alliance troops we killed without casualty. It was free, evidence against us and unusable as it was such a give away it was stolen.... But yes I agree those are good ideas. –  Pureferret Dec 19 '11 at 15:02
    
Agreed with this: crashing a perfectly good ship is only a good idea if the ship is worthless to the players. It falls onto the GM to make this an unusable worthless ship, or provide it some value beyond that gained from kamikaze tactics. If, instead, players are crashing valuable ships into spaceports, you should object IC and again OOC if you have to. Those types of players are simply being jackasses. –  Trey Kirk Dec 20 '11 at 5:56
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I run my game by invite only so I can vet the players. It maybe harsh but I have better things to do than waste my time with cretins. WOW, do I sound arrogant or what? Even in a university based society, you should be able to pick and chose your players.

Otherwise, I would recommend the book Assertiveness at Work and reading it. It will be worthwhile of your time. Basically, state what the game is about, manage the player's expectations and if they continue to be dicks, tell them to leave.

As a player, be assertive that you do not wish to play in a silly game and if things continue both you and the GM will run the game without them. Offer conciliatory solutions, ask why they do the things they do and above all else criticism actions and specific comments, never the players.

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In most uni groups, you can exclude people for disruptiveness. Just have the GM have a 3 strikes policy. –  aramis Dec 19 '11 at 23:02
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The biggest thing you can do is talk to everyone about it, like mature adults.

Presumably, the players and the GM are showing up because they intend to have fun. "Dumb tactics" like kamikaze runs are apparently making the game unfun for you; communicate that to your fellow players.

As an example: I'm currently running a campaign where the players are all playing as children. They've recently chosen to embark upon a quest that will lead them into potentially dangerous situations (although they do have backup from three adults and a friendly dragon). One of the players made an offhand comment at the end of one of the game sessions about bringing along weapons, and the next day another player sent me a message expressing concern over how that would change the mood of the entire campaign -- the only actual combat that's taken place so far was children getting into an unarmed scuffle with one another, and the player felt that introducing weapons would up the ante, as it were (worse, the game system is not particularly forgiving when it comes to combat survivability).

I run the campaign in a very open fashion: even the dangerous quest the players are on now was their idea, not mine. So, rather than hand down a decision from on-high, I told the player to bring up his concerns in a thread in the campaign's online forum. 16 posts over the course of 5 days later, and the group came to a consensus that they were all pleased with.

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