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A player in my Dresden Files game joined the group with a kick-in-the-door, "shoot-first-ask-questions-later"-style cop. The character had some fairly "meh" & a couple of potentially OK aspects. Since the majority of the group was pretty new to Fate & he was enthusiastic about earning, I didn't want to trash his initial character attempt by criticizing the "meh" aspects too hard; instead, I went with lots of minor milestones to let him adjust organically over time. His two decent aspects, however, describe a character wildly different from what he's been playing.

He'll frequently stomp on the brakes with both feet to prevent others from doing risky things, like disturbing the sanctity of a crime scene. He'll try to use semantics, "word games" and precise language -- along the lines of "can you tell me everything that this course of action will trigger across the entire world?" -- to nail down a winter sidhe into answering questions about things it couldn't possibly know… trying intently to pin down an an absolute answer (when he kept getting answers amounting to specific things that it would & would not do) while standing in the way of letting anyone else proceed. All the while, he'll insist that his character "would never do something like X"

He has no social skills & this went on to the point where I dropped the hammer and declared I was absolutely enforcing social combat for all social interaction and the summer changeling in the group was arguing that we help this winter sidhe!

In the past I've tried gently suggesting he modify his aspects & pointing out the problems with his existing aspects, but just got pushbback and that he "likes where is character is at now". but he keeps regularly crashing a sandbox game to a grinding halt over things like "nobody enter, we need to protect the crime scene & call in the cops" &the sidheexample trying to stop the other players from proceeding with no aspects to justify it even though he has no investigative/social skills & I've demonstrated that mortal cops +supernatural threat=carnage repeatedly. The only potentially extralegal action that he didn't throw up a fuss about has been white council tries and executes a warlock while the group is invited to watch the whole drawn out afair.

I've pretty much decided that I'm going to either start making him suffer consequences of straying so incredibly far from his core nature (his aspects) & start forcing him to buy off frequent compels at an elevated cost to do so or force him to work with me on adjusting his aspects. I'm not sure if that's the best course of action, or if I'm missing some key piece of the puzzle.

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So what are these aspects, anyway -- both the good ones and the meh ones? –  Jadasc Mar 22 '12 at 12:02
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the cops get there...are slaughtered brutally. the cops no longer respond to crime scene calls from these characters as there aren't enough cops left on the force... –  wax eagle Mar 22 '12 at 14:17
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Has this player ever played before, in a game where he's got his character killed or harmed because he did something he should not have done alone or with his party only? This could be part of the problem. –  Zachiel Mar 14 '13 at 11:07
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7 Answers 7

To me it sounds like your player is a mix of being impulsive and a newbie to roleplaying. The newbie elements (needing stuff explicitly explained and such) should work themselves out with time. The impulsiveness usually needs a little bit of work.

Here's what I did once to rebuff the impulsive players in my campaign:

  1. Set up a wonderful campaign arc that involves the "imminent" death of the party.
  2. Put impulsive character in a situation where he finds the important "cure"/MacGuffin.
  3. Both the MacGuffin and dilemma turn out to be fake.

I did this to deal with a combat monster who kept doing stupid things (shooting up places, making a "peace gesture" that got the party shot at, and spooking an extraction target [leading to his death]), and it worked pretty well- he was the face of the group, and decided that when the "nanite antidote" that was supposed to cure the party's impending doom nanite fun death he would drink the whole thing to ensure he didn't die (because only two party members were actually really in danger of death, him being one). Turns out that there were no nanites, and the antidote was cyanide.

That was the opposite of what I should have done.

Mind you, it didn't destroy my group, the player stopped being impulsive, and life went on (for all but that one guy's character). But it was a stupid, brash, inexperienced GM maneuver, and it could've cost me a player. It did have the upside of making everyone else more paranoid, but the impulsive people are still impulsive, they just put a layer of paranoia on their actions (which I guess makes them less impulsive by definition, but doesn't promote good decision making).

Ultimately, you will run into these brash and (frankly) obnoxious players. It's not even a personal fault in them; the three or so I have/had (as their various states of rehabilitation qualify them) in my group are all really nice guys, but they just don't create a coherent character. So here's what I've started to do with them:

  • Common Sense; Shadowrunners will recognize this as a name of an edge, and it basically reads like this: "Are you sure?". I encourage my players to all take this edge for all but the most oddball of characters (usually not an issue, since they tend to be played by the players who can handle themselves well).
  • "The Talk"; tell them it has to stop, plainly and explicitly. I actually had to do this with one of my players (the cyanide one, in case anyone was wondering) when they played a crazy sociopath Malkavian in Vampire: The Masquerade. Go to the player and tell them in explicit language that their characters' actions have to stop. No qualifications, no debate. If not, character goes bye-bye entirely, due to the fact that he [insert appropriate gaffe here] (the Malkavian was on the intersection of "Shot up the First National Bank at dawn while wearing a Speedo" and "Built a functional nuclear bomb, fumbled while stashing it away", with the former being slightly more likely).
  • Veto; most games include very prominent "ask your GM" clauses during character creation. Call that in. The player will fuss about it. They may leave. If they are that disruptive to the game and the group, however, it may be a necessary evil to tell them that their character cannot a) remain under their control and b) remain in the campaign. It doesn't necessarily mean that the character vanishes from the universe and never existed, but he's a NPC now, retires suddenly, or goes out in a blaze of glory. He does not, however, continue acting as he has and sticking with the group.

Disclaimer: You may have other factors leading to this issue.

Wrong Game: The player isn't actually interested in playing this game; even if they're interested in the setting and mechanics, they don't want to abide by them. This is what I call the "Sparkle Vampire" syndrome I occasionally have to deal with from a player who read all the supplements and got a bunch of ideas ("But the book says cyberzombies are only really, really, really hard to create!) that they then assumed would apply to their characters. These are the sort of people who want to play sentient variants of high-level D&D Monster Manual entries, fully sapient human-form mind animals, and the like. If they were playing Eclipse Phase they'd go for the Octomorph and give it a fancy cybernetic suite including jet thrusters.

Bad Player: I hesitate to call someone a "Bad Player", but it's true that some people prefer to play things revolving around them. While this is natural, some people take this to an additional extreme, and must make everything they play revolve around them all the time. Sometimes this leads to "The Talk" (see above), and sometimes this just means they won't have fun in the game and should pursue something else.

GM Ineptitude: Note that I'm not accusing you here, and I'll keep the examples my own. I used to run an Eclipse Phase game, and I made the players into hard hitting immortal cyborg soldiers. It lasted three runs. My players got bored because they had no consequences for failure. I ran a Remnants game. It failed because the players kept running into issues where their (overly large) group kept falling apart on matters of dogma or running into massively high power gradients. This same group has been in a Shadowrun campaign that lasted for almost a third of a year with weekly sessions, and the reason it ended was due to scheduling conflicts and getting far outside the realm of mortal power. It's not that this even means I'm a bad GM, it just meant that I was aiming for something and my players weren't, and there was a communication breakdown or I tried to push it on them too hard (or I over-hyped them).

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+1 for harsh reality tactics. +1 for "sparkly vampire" syndrome. +1 for common sense and +1 for an awesome post. I have an awesome GM, but if he died or something, I'd love to have you as my new one! –  LordScree Mar 22 '12 at 12:42
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+1 for awesome answer. I wish I could give another +1 just for "Sparkle Vampire Syndrome" –  TimothyAWiseman Mar 22 '12 at 16:38
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If the player plays past his aspects, why not tell that to him? Having suitable aspects is mechanically useful, so I assume most players would be happy the change them.

If his character would never do X, then that points towards an aspect related to never doing X (but written in a more flavourful and useful way).

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yea, I've tried that a few times with talking about it gently & got pushback about how he really likes what his aspects describe –  Tetra Mar 22 '12 at 14:11
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@Tetra Does the player realise that the aspects and his gameplay do not match, or does he think they do? –  Thanuir Mar 22 '12 at 14:24
    
I've mentioned it couple times yes & got reluctance from him about it –  Tetra Mar 22 '12 at 14:35
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@Tetra Could you be more specific about the player's responses, and edit it into the main question? In particular, is he reluctant about changing the character, admitting the dissonance between aspects and play, or something else entirely? –  Thanuir Mar 22 '12 at 14:55
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From my distant vantage point this looks like the crux of the biscuit:

He has no social skills

Tabletop RPGs are inherently social activities. While some excellent techniques for redirecting this player have been suggested, it may be that he is not really having a good time, which is why this negative behavior is manifesting. If tactical fixes don't work, you may want to turn the problem on its head by asking the player something along the lines of, "You know, it really looks like you're not having a good time in this game. Is there something that is making you uncomfortable? What is making this game difficult?"

You may be able to uncover some fundamental assumptions this player holds, then confront them each in turn. For example, he may not realize that when he brings everyone into his bizarre picayune digressions, he is alienating his fellow players. Perhaps he genuinely thinks it's fun for all, and he needs to be told that in fact it is not.

I admit that over the years I have become less willing to endure this sort of behavior, but I applaud those GMs who have the tenacity to work through it. That said, be careful that this player doesn't suck up all the oxygen in the room, at the expense of the larger group.

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I thought it was the character who had no social skills, not the player. The problem was that he was trying to browbeat the NPCs anyway with lots of questioning. –  Noumenon Mar 23 '12 at 15:45
    
Maybe we can get some clarification on that. I read the second paragraph as something of an indictment of the player's approach, especially "All the while, he'll insist that his character 'would never do something like X'" –  Erik Schmidt Mar 23 '12 at 19:12
    
+1 Here! here! for "be careful that this player doesn't suck up all the oxygen in the room, at the expense of the larger group." Applause aplenty –  Vethor Mar 25 '12 at 9:42
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Ah, I see it's not so much the impulsive player as the "bipolar" player who can't be pinned down. Here's a few things I suggest (I promise this one will be shorter, though I will probably repeat myself):

  • Abundant Adjectives- Use lots of hints and clues to tell the player what his character perceives. If the character gets a notion, whether or not it's true, make sure they get the right image. "The dark-clad man turns to you" isn't the same as "You sense a malice wash over you as the ominous figure turns his hooded visage towards you". Now, admittedly, this is a little bit over the top, but it helps.
  • Ominous Foreshadowing- Give players a "hunch" of what will happen; in your example of the "Stop, let's let the police examine it", the players could be told that "You call the police, but then are overwhelmed with an ominous feeling they won't make it in time". Include key words so long as the players don't seem overtly aware of what they mean, since it'll help them decide according to their characters' perspectives.
  • Flyswatter- Guy consistently bothers divine beings beyond mortal comprehension? Throws in his lot with an elder demonic vampire Illuminati-member mass murderer? They may not be harboring particularly fond views of him, and he may get hit on both sides from the backlash of people who he bothers and the people he naively supports.
  • "Giant Hit of Clog Remover- Squeaky wheels get the grease, stuck wheels get replaced. Remember those Draino commercials where the clog in the pipes comes out somewhere in France and interrupts a romantic dinner? That's how hard someone who winds up being an obstacle to progress gets hit in my campaigns-if you're not doing something, you're doing nothing, and if you decide to hold back investigations on why exactly Cthulhu may eat all our sock drawers by this time tomorrow, you're going to figure out first hand in twenty-four hours. Ensure that the character's inaction is highlighted, and that they bear the brunt of punishment.
  • "Silver Spoonful of Crap- It sounds like part of your issue is that the character doesn't want to solve their own problems. I recommend the old adage "If you wanna get something done right, do it yourself". When in doubt, people tend to make mistakes. Right now there's a big row about whether or not some French terrorist spent time in prison in Afghanistan, and nobody can get their stories straight. If the character insists on being spoonfed everything, said character should wind up with enough hot-air and self-serving fabrications to fill several voluminous tomes. Note that I'm assuming that the point is that he's supposed to be investigating these things himself, hence the definite need for external information to be faulty, though I've found that it's always good to keep players on their toes.

Hopefully some of this helps. Ultimately it sounds like you may have a player who just isn't a great player, and wants to sort of at times experience a story while dictating exactly how it happens, then write the history and context of events. Needless to say, it may just be a problem with that specific player you need to confront him (or her) about, should these methods fail.

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It sounds like there are a few different problems coinciding here.

  1. You, or whomever the GM is, approved a character you considered only marginally acceptable, and have now come to learn that the parts you thought were acceptable aren't showing up in play.
  2. You've got a player who's learned (possibly from other games) that undertaking risky action or putting oneself at a disadvantage is to be avoided. Unfortunately, he's in a FATE-based game, where being put at a disadvantage or at risk is one of the best ways to regain the plot currency points that keep the game going forward.

  3. The same player is a little selfish about the spotlight -- he wants to be perceived as thorough and dependable, but is actually holding up the game and stopping other people from playing.

You've tried addressing #1 directly, which is commendable, but I'm curious as to how the conversation played out. If he's not actually playing those aspects out, it means he's paying off Fate Points to buy off compels and the like. What does he like about "where his character is now" that makes him so willing to eat up Refresh?

One potential answer to #2 is to get him more used to declarations. Perhaps he'd be less invested in perfect investigations and interrogation scenes if he was able to put the clues and the revelations in directly, so he doesn't "miss" anything?

I'm also curious about #3 -- you've said that this is a "sandbox" game, so how does his reticence stop the other players' characters from going forward with their plans? Is he in a position of leadership or something? Can he physically stop them from acting? (Not likely, if he's spending his FP on buying off compels.) Is there an unspoken agreement among all the PCs that nothing happens unless all of them are in accord? What's preventing them from playing their characters as fully as he seems to want?

The ideal here would be that the group comes to some consensus as to how reasonable "reasonable caution" is. Otherwise, it might be worthwhile to throw some FP at the more active characters and move them toward the spotlight instead.

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Okay, I'm going to make a third answer about what I do when players disregard their characters' knowledge and use their own instead.

  • "The Penalty"- if a character is doing something that would be outright wrong for them, I give them a slight penalty; a -1 or -2 in d20 based systems, losing a die in Shadowrun, and the like. This is because they're acting without full knowledge of the extenuating circumstances, and they wind up doing something their character wasn't able to think through, or the likes.
  • Desynchronization- In extreme cases, do what Assassin's Creed does; if someone does something incredibly against their character, declare it "non-canon" and force a reset. Be careful to do this uniformly whether the action succeeds or fails. For instance, state something along the lines of: "Ezio does not kill civilians." and tell the character to choose a different course of action. If the player disagrees, point to the aspects on paper. If necessary, bring a dictionary. This is a bit of a strong arm move, and most players will resent it, but it can save a session.
  • Metamorphosis- If the game is, as I think it is, based around aspects that can reflect stuff like character traits, force the character to change. Do not make it optional, and be forceful. For instance, even I've been the victim of this; I was playing a game of Pathfinder and my wonderfully psychotic character got shifted from Chaotic Good to Chaotic Neutral to finally Chaotic Evil as he kept doing stupid stuff (my fault, primarily). When the GM came to me and said "Kyle, you're not actually being Chaotic Good", I realized that I didn't actually put my character's stats on paper accurate to my character's action.
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If character actions comes with absolutely no regards to his aspects you should compel him as GM. Because if his aspect says "Hot Headed" and he is, in reality, calm as fish it is a very good ground for compels.
Can it be a case?

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