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I am a storyteller in a World of Darkness group, and I'm about to start designing a new scenario. However one of my players (let's call him Eric) is worrying me. Eric usually goes the goofball route when it comes to roleplaying. This means that he is great at doing just that (DM-ing comedic campaigns in D&D for example) but less great when it comes to actual serious roleplaying.

In my last (and first) WoD campaign (a pre-written scenario called Night of the Ghoul) he said that he played a depressed artist with a cat who lived in his backpack. However, after min-maxing him, he played the character like an agressive and borderline psychopathic thug who had almost no regard for anything, including his own life. Basically an MMO-character in the present day.

Now I want to run a proper, serious survival horror story, but I'm afraid that he will goof-out again. Is there any way I could design the story to build around this or fix this issue without just goofing-out myself?

[EDIT]: Eric's old character is now in jail for assisting in killing a hobo, digging up the corpse of his uncle and decapitating it and wounding a teenager… laughing all the way.

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What type of goofball is he? Is he disruptive? does he like to joke a lot? Does he just not take the game seriously? Is he self centered? There are lots of types of disruptive behaviors, and if properly channeled they can become productive instead of destructive. –  Thinking Sites May 10 '12 at 20:04
    
He is not disruptive and he doesn't just crack a bunch of jokes, He just de-rails the campaign to the point where the group had made an enemy out of every major NPC i'd introduced. –  Circusfreak May 10 '12 at 20:09
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So he antagonizes the NPCs in game, yes? And probably doesn't have much regard for the story? –  Thinking Sites May 10 '12 at 20:11
    
(Give it a try and) Build on his character instead of booting him or trying to force him to alter how and what he plays out of game. Try to slowly manipulate/train him into altering his ways by himself. –  OpaCitiZen May 13 '12 at 6:34
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7 Answers 7

up vote 26 down vote accepted

As usual, there are several grades of response. In order of goodness:

Option 1. Talk to him. Discuss this concern with him as a fellow adult, outside of game. Bring to his attention that he's behaving like a homicidal maniac rather than the character he claims he's playing (sounds like a good reason to deny him Willpower restoration in WoD, too). Standard procedure for dealing with problem players, really.

Option 2. Kill his PC repeatedly and without mercy. If you've talked to him about it but the behavior still hasn't changed, then it's time to use in-game incentives. Set up a situation where he's likely to separate himself from the group, and then obliterate him utterly. Do the same to anyone else who puts themselves in such a risky position; fair's fair, after all. Very much in keeping with survival horror tropes, so it reinforces the mood you're going for; if it happens in the first session, it could set the tone for the whole game right off the bat and show the players that you, and the game world, both mean serious business. I've found that several 'goofball' campaigns got much more serious very rapidly after a surprise PC death due to overaggressive behavior in the face of overwhelming force. Be aware that some people will take this as a challenge, in which case you move to...

Option 3. Boot him. If he's a repeat offender, won't yield to reason, and keeps up with it despite repeated PC deaths which were clearly a result of the problem behavior, then I don't think you're going to be able to get him to stop. Booting can be tricky if he's close friends with the other players and they don't mind the behavior, in which case your two options are either finding a new group or yielding and running a 'goofier' campaign.

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Great answer, but remember Goof Balls really exist. As long as he can keep it reasonable and make it fit within character, a little can be tolerated. –  TimothyAWiseman May 10 '12 at 20:57
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Here's the thing, though -- it's up to the GM and the other players how much they want to tolerate. If he repeatedly derails campaigns by being a goofball, they're perfectly allowed to ask him to either stop being a disruptive twit or stop coming to the sessions. –  Shadur May 11 '12 at 11:28
    
I tend to refer to this as the Malkav Conundrum. Because of the dementation most players tend to be as close to a schizophrenic version of the Joker from Dark Knight. Instead of reposting the same ideas as above, see above. Never be afraid of the "God Smack" when a player is out of line –  CatLord May 14 '12 at 5:14
    
@TimothyAWiseman — that's true. The world is full of goofballs. But when faced with a life-or-death situation, they tend to "sober up". Players of goofball characters, being less invested in survival, may not. If they want to goof-off in front of the terrifying horde or BBEG, so be it... but they had best be prepared for the consequences. –  heathenJesus Jun 29 '12 at 20:53
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Besides all the solutions already proposed by others, you may also want to try and consider his character and playing style as a creative challenge.

Try to approach this challenge as if you've been asked (by a huge publisher/studio :)) to write a story for, or at least, prominently featuring the Joker (of Batman fame), for example. Or to write a story that would give an actress/actor like Helena Bonham Carter or Jack Nicholson room to play what they usually play best.

Try to incorporate the character into the story, build on his ways, eccentricities and near-psychopathy. Write for his character. Have Eric design such a character on purpose ("you've proven quite good at playing this, so I need you to play such a PC in the next adventure") and even drive/motivate him to play as such. (WoD is one of the best settings for such characters anyway, besides Call of Cthulhu. :))

You may even want to turn these traits "against the character" in the story. Have it revealed by an occult expert (an NPC?) that these bouts of his are probably caused by a spirit trying to possess him. Take control away from Eric for a brief scene or two, have his character perform even worse acts than he'd have performed by himself. (Attacking his own companions or innocent bystanders etc.) Allow the player to restrain these attacks by spending Willpower. Have him be a subject of a Mind mage's curse, if spirits are not your thing. Or have him be strongly wolf-blooded, a werewolf in the making. But these are extra options, to be used and considered carefully, even in a game of "personal horror."

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My initial suggestion was to be, "treat his actions realistically and enforce appropriate consequences, both social and societal." But the edit you've added shows you've already done that, and it doesn't seem to have had much of an impact.

Given that, the step to take next is to ask him directly not to be a goof-ball. Use the example of the last chronicle as a guidepost of what you don't want: you're hoping to run a "serious survival story" and wacky madcaps and cartoon slashers aren't appropriate. If he can handle that, great; if not, express your regrets and invite him to the next game that can handle a little more dedicated silliness.

You might find some useful information in the answers to this question as well.

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First thing - min maxing is utilizing the rules to get what appears to some as an unbalanced advantage. As a gamemaster, you should feel free to eliminate rules as you feel fit - but do it prior to starting the game.

NOTE: This assumes you aren't having a personality conflict with the player.

Regarding his character choice, a few ways of dealing with him, in terms of the whole campaign -

1) Interview your players to find out what kind of game they want to play before you start. If the consensus is remarkably different from the game you want to run, talk it through. Getting the group to agree to the tone of the game helps you get other players to reinforce the style of play. Emphasize the rules you think are the most important.

2) WoD (old and new) character stats and reward system promote consistency of character, including the desirability of Humanity and the Willpower economy. Make it clear to the entire group that you intend on enforcing it. Other PCs should not tolerate a monster in their midst for the most part. Immediate rewards and penalties work.

3) At the end of each session, ask each player what their character learned and how they grew during the game session. If someone is playing a character that is a 100% departure from what they defined with you and on their character sheet, reward minimal experience points.

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I'd just like to note in regards to point (2) here, the Unknown Armies Madness Meters. You can add them in to pretty much any game where "make me a roll that is someway connected with how mentally sturdy you are" is a valid thing, and they provide a pretty good framework to let you know how much of a terrible/incapable human being/wreck you're becoming. –  Aesin May 11 '12 at 23:58
    
@Aesin completely unneeded in Vampire - it already has stats for that. –  aramis May 12 '12 at 7:20
    
@aramis: In my experience, the WoD morality trackers are freequently nonsensical or ambiguous and need house-ruling (especially with regard to xp costs). While they may be necessary for the supernatural templates since they represent something specific to those templates, for vanilla humans I'd much rather use the UA meters. –  Aesin May 12 '12 at 16:34
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Boot Him, Here's Why

Depending on how long you've been playing with "Eric" and how well you know him is of course a major factor. However, in all my years of DM'ing I've found this equation best works without the problem player in it. There's a big difference between a problem character, and a problem player. Though they are usually correlational, it is possible for one to exist without the other.

I'd say find a clean and civil way to remove him from your group and find another (or perhaps play with one less person) as problems like this will repeatedly keep bubbling back to the top of your group. Nip it in the bud before it gets out of hand and his roots aren't sunk to deep into the culture of your group.

This is all of course if other methods have not worked out yet, primarily the direct approach of "please stop being disruptive".

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It sounds like your player is playing a different game than you are. His artist character that you are talking about actually sounds really interesting--a homicidal artist. But, it sounds like your issue with him is the tone that he played the character as.

With this perspective in mind I would talk to him about it. Perhaps he didn't realize what he was doing. If he did, then be blunt. Explain that the type of game that he is looking to play isn't the type of game that you are trying to run. If he doesn't feel that he can play the type of game that you are going for let him know that he doesn't have to play at all.

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I used to punish goof-balls by awarding them no / very low character advance to get them play it right, but as the players felt this as 'punishment' but didn't feel it to be just I came up with something different: Having the players punish themselves by letting them award their own Experience Points.

So the goof-balls had to give themselves low points because they wrecked havoc with the story (and I made sure they knew that they just did that) while the other players got high points for keeping within the scene.

Its important that you check your goof players points so they min-max themselves but I haven't ever encountered a player that does that.

So in the current situation of yours: Tell your players (and Eric specifically) that this is a horror / survival plot and that you will use this technique from now on. Eric will most likely still goof around the first session, but after realizing that he just got 1 or 2 XP because of bad role playing, while his peers got 5 - 6 will soon make him change his plans.

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