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My Werewolf game is going along quite swimmingly to the point that the players will ask that I keep the server (We play using maptools) open so they can discuss the plotline for hours after each session. There are conflicting motivations and goals for everyone in the pack, and it's fun to see what happens next.

This is except for one player who's entire contribution to the plot is "I kick that" or "I want to loot the body." He has told me that he's not comfortable with roleplay and just wants to be able to use his skills, yet, despite being the pack's best "rogue-like" (high stealth, larceny, dex), he will not really offer to use these skills unless the pack specifically asks it of him and really, the only initiative he takes is in combat.

Is there a way to reconcile this naturally when the larger portion of the group enjoys quieter dialogue puzzles and mysteries?

Edit for more info: The player in question is a good friend and he's been playing with me and my groups for a couple to three years now and, as my brother pointed out, he tends to be relatively disconnected from play except when something is presented as a challenge. So, a change in character may be in order and I could talk to him about switching to something that's more his style.

I did consider letting him play another supernatural type, but I'm leery about that due to other player response and the fact that I don't want to detract from what the others are doing.

While I am relating this for Werewolf, I figure this is a good system-agnostic question.

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I wanted to thank everyone for their input. I got to see the "problem" from a variety of perspectives. I think, I'm going to leave responsibility on him and just continue playing the way that the larger group enjoys. Thanks again! –  Bigeshu Jul 17 '12 at 14:30
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Let us know how it turns out. –  Joe Jul 17 '12 at 19:53
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Well, the game continued on. Just accepting that he would play in a particular manner seemed to work for him and it didn't bother anyone else. But the conversation did have us find a compromise. He was often allowed to venture alone or with the warrior type to take down threats, while the rest of the party smoothed things over or opened doors for them. –  Bigeshu Aug 21 at 16:37

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

As you cannot control the other person's fun just facilitate it, I suggest focusing your energies there and put the onus of participation on the player.

In the question and associated replies in comments, you have noted that the player gravitates toward combat characters and is actively disinterested in other types. He seems content to fill a secondary or support role, but not motivated to do this for the roleplaying challenge but to focus on the part that interests him (kicking things, and looting bodies).

Where I see the disconnect is that he is not playing a combat character per se, but the pack's best stealth operator. He is not interested in those skills, so they lie fallow unless called upon by the others. He is in fact so disengaged from these skills and that role, that he doesn't even spend earned XP.

Allow for Change

He does not sound disruptive in the classic sense, just hard on immersion and disinterested in his in-game role. Next opportunity, provide a new role.

The chronicle you mention is oriented toward puzzle solving, mysteries, intrigue, etc. If the other players have not taken stealthy characters and this player was pressed into that role by his acceptance and passivity, then building stories or scenes around stealth will lead to general dissatisfaction, regardless of character success, right? That is the thing that no one actively chose to portray, and success in that arena depends on the roleplaying of your least engaged player. The other, much more engaged players seem to love the game and its story, focus on that. The player has to play of his own volition. He should not be ignored or made useless except by his own choices.

Follow the Action

If the player will not really fill the role of anything other than a 'fighter' and is not disruptive, allow him to do so. Rather than exerting energy on finding ways to engage him and being rebuffed, find a way to replace the character with one he will prefer. If he continues to separate himself from what is going on, let him be and remain separated for as long as it takes for him to choose to either get into the actions of the pack, or drift away from them.

Clarify then offer choice

If he is disruptive when in the role of a fighter in an intrigue focused game, then he needs to be told that his intended actions will put the group and their potential for success in peril and asked to reconsider based on this clarification of the scene. If he chooses disruption over reasonable in-character actions, he is placing his 'enjoyment' over that if the stated preferences of the whole group, and so has essentially declared that he does not want to be involved in the group. There may be no right way to play, but there is a right way to work within a group. If that is the case, and he chooses to be problematic, then he should be told his focus is at odds with the current game, you are sorry that you cannot accommodate his interests at this time, and he is welcome back for the next Chronicle.

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It sounds like that other player is doing exactly what they're happy doing, and so long as it's not actively causing conflict with the others, let them.

Not every player feels the need to be proactive, or even as involved as you might feel is the minimum necessary for them to be enjoying themself. I don't understand those players either, but if nobody's unhappy, there's nothing broke to need fixing!

From my own experience, I've found that it's entirely possible to cause conflict by trying to draw such players into the spotlight. With best intentions I've put a bunch of plot onto one character, only to have their player dodge the spotlight and cause my plot to tangle and break. The problem there wasn't the player, but my expectation that they simply must want to be doing more than they were. If I hadn't tried to foist story on them, the game would have run much smoother: they would have been happier playing the way they like, other players would have been happier for not having the game blundering to a halt around the wreckage, and I wouldn't have a story tangle to clean up.

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That is an angle that I hadn't considered. I'll admit that it annoys me that the player doesn't really bother spending xp or using the skills that he himself chose. But then, in hindsight, he does tend to select characters to fill out a group, but vastly prefer fighters and fireball wizard types. –  Bigeshu Jul 16 '12 at 18:21
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@Johnny … Why…? –  SevenSidedDie Jul 16 '12 at 18:38
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@Johnny Killing a character is a bit dramatic just to test whether they care about the character. And diagnosing someone non-professionally serves no purpose at best, and is damaging at worst. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 16 '12 at 19:13
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@Johnny I suppose it depends on the group, but normally character death does not lead to a player leaving. The reverse might be true (a player is about to leave, so let's give his character a chance for a heroic death, etc), but when one of my characters dies I start making the next one. When I, as a GM, kill a character, I immediately ask how they want to get back in... –  TimothyAWiseman Jul 16 '12 at 19:32
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+1 for this: "From my own experience, I've found that it's entirely possible to cause conflict by trying to draw such players into the spotlight." It's happened to me, and it's no fun for the GM or the players when it does. –  Erik Schmidt Jul 16 '12 at 21:03

The hardest thing to do in a game is to fire a player. It sounds like this is what you have to do, however.

As I've learned to my sorrow when running my Ars Magica game, not every game is suitable to every player. If the social contract of the game involves a cautious, diplomatic approach dedicated to embezzling funds and resources from other players and generally trying to eke out an existance in mythic europe... a "I kill it with fire!" player will go over like a lead balloon.

The general rule of thumb is: "Are you willing to accomidate your player's chosen play style in at least one scene every other session?" This rule, of course, presumes that they enjoy or at least are non-repulsed by the other playstyles of the other players.

You have made two very telling statements:

  • "He has told me that he's not comfortable with roleplay "
  • "I'll admit that it annoys me that the player doesn't really bother spending xp or using the skills that he himself chose. But then, in hindsight, he does tend to select characters to fill out a group, but vastly prefer fighters and fireball wizard types."

I've never found someone building a character "to fill out the group" to be a very productive member of the group. Ultimately, they'll play what they want to play without regard to what their character sheet says. Now, guiding their choices to something the group needs and something that they want to play can be fun and rewarding... but is a different thing to do.

At the end of the day, you need to decide whether you must fire your player. It sounds like he's an incredibly bad fit for the group, and sometimes the best thing to do is to just say that. Ask him if he's having fun. If he's not, and if the group isn't finding his contributions satisfying, I'd recommend to ask him to try a different game. There are many good role-playing systems out there that fit his requirements. Life's too short to be playing a game that you don't find satisfying.

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I hesitate to recommend firing a player if they're not disruptive, but you make a compelling point there at the end: it might be a favour to them if they're only just tagging along and not really enjoying the game. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 16 '12 at 19:11
    
About kicking the player out: social psychology teaches us that once you dislike someone involved in your social circles (different opinions, value systems, communication and response styles), sooner or later, you'll find a way to get rid of that person, since being in close proximity to that person makes you uncomfortable. Therefore, trying to be "fair" to the player and rationalizing on reasons "to kick out or not to kick out" is not an effective approach; it's just agony. Better do it clean and fast - say "you're out!" And done. –  Johnny Jul 16 '12 at 19:20
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@Johnny Instead of a lot of comments, maybe you'd like to post an answer? (Comments tend to get cleaned up, so they'll disappear.) –  SevenSidedDie Jul 16 '12 at 19:39
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My experiences differ. In most of my gaming groups through the years, we have been friends first and then started gaming. When I ran into people that didn't quite enjoy it, I would point out that they didn't need to feel obligated to be there. But if someone is there mostly for the social aspect, and not disrupting the game I would let them stay as long as they wanted. This might be very different for a group where the game came first and they barely knew each othere away from the gaming table though... –  TimothyAWiseman Jul 16 '12 at 19:41

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