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I have a player that is claiming "that's what my guy would do", but I don't think they're actually suffering My Guy Syndrome.

Based on What is "my guy syndrome" and how do I handle it?, a My Guy Syndrome player uses character attributes, past roleplaying and what-have-you to justify certain behavior in-game, thus disclaiming his decision-making. The character will do what he's meant to do, no matter the outcome, because "that's what my guy would do".

In the accepted answer, it is clear that the character itself actually could follow that rationale were he an independent entity, so much that all players end up agreeing "that's what that guy would do". This happens because the choices make sense according to information on the character sheet, character class/role, past choices, etc.

But I have a player who claims "that's what my guy would do" when in fact everything denies that. Very basic case: a Lawful D&D player-character persistently roleplayed in a very Chaotic manner, yet the player claims "that's what my guy would do" (i.e., "he has to take advantage of others and lie about it, no sane character would do different"). So there you have it, that's not what his guy would do, but he says we have to put up with it.

In this particular real-game situation, the player obviously decided he wasn't profitting maximally by being Lawful, so he just decided taking Chaotic steps when he felt that was convenient.

Personally I understand why people use the "My guy would do" line — I've done it before. In fact, as the example in the other question goes, all the other players can end up agreeing with the My Guy Syndrome player, even if it could ruin a game. But making up as you go whatever "your guy would do" can be doubly frustrating to players, not to mention the GM who built a game perhaps even anticipating "what the guys would do", only to be undone by decisions that are very much out of character.

My question is, how do I deal with a player like this, preferably in a way that avoids frustration of both the problem-player and the other players?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @RafaelLVX We handle subjective questions like these fairly often actually, as many can be answered from experience. If you want to ask about a label do feel free to post a fresh question—the point of changing this one was to cut it down to just one question per post, not to say one question was better than the other. I just picked the more substantial question (just as the answers were responding primarily to the most substantial question). If you do ask a fresh question about a label though, perhaps emphasis that you're looking for an established term, not suggestions, to avoid random words. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 22 '16 at 2:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ What is the player's previous tabletop/RPG experience? My gut says new to tabletop, experienced in video game RPG's, but depending on how much they've played in the past the solution may be different. Also, aside from the inconsistency in the character, are the player's actions harmful to the story/group? A LG paladin looting the cemetary probably isn't good, but it's better than the LG paladin killing an important NPC in cold blood because he's a thief. \$\endgroup\$ – Ethan Jul 22 '16 at 17:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ What about the existing MGS handling advice are you having trouble with? None of it hinges on the person being right, the handling is all universally "help him learn that regardless of whether his character would do that it doesn't justify being a dick at the table." That all applies in this case too. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Jul 23 '16 at 13:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ethan We play tabletop RPGs together for almost 20 years, so we're both experienced players, but to be honest I didn't know the name "My Guy Syndrome" until a few days ago. Anyway I wouldn't have such high expectations from an inexperienced player. About the player's actions being harmful, that depends... it can be potentially harmful just like MGS. I'm more upset by the fact that it is irresponsible towards the group and the game itself. \$\endgroup\$ – RafaelLVX Jul 25 '16 at 19:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk This has been tried and failed, though it's definitely new to have the reference of MGS experiences quoted in the other discussion: to call the problem by name might help. I haven't had that chance to try that in a gaming session, we'll see. \$\endgroup\$ – RafaelLVX Jul 25 '16 at 19:03
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It seems there are three distinct parts to this question.

The player isn't following his character sheet

RPGs are games. Games are played for fun. Something about the character as written on the sheet isn't fun for your player. He is thus ignoring the sheet and doing what he considers fun. Here are some options.

  • Talk to him about playing a role.
  • Modify his character to be more in line with his play style. This can potentially be a very memorable journey to the dark side.
  • Have him change characters to be more in line with his style. This can involve a dramatic sendoff for the previous character.
  • Enforce in-game consequences for his actions, particularly when they go against alignment. In games like D&D, classes such as clerics, paladins, and druids lose their powers over stuff like that.

The player is exhibiting my guy syndrome

Once you get the player more comfortable with his character, you may or may not still end up with a case of My Guy Syndrome. This is more than amply covered in the question you originally linked.

Is there a name for this behavior

I'm not aware of a specific term for this particular combination, but I'd be interested to find out.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you need a name, perhaps Video Game Syndrome? In general, it seems like the player takes the optimization approach one takes playing a video game. I'm sure on Arqade there's questions on optimal relationship partners, or whether you get better powers as dark or light side. Of course, it isn't necessarily bad, if that's the kind of game everyone wants, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. \$\endgroup\$ – Ethan Jul 22 '16 at 17:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ethan Though perhaps restrictive in scope, I like the name Video Game Syndrome. It definitely is a way of seeing it: player might roleplay a lot or very little, but only towards maximum profit, like on videogames. It also presents a new venue for handling it: "I suppose this would be okay on videogames, but not on this campaign no -- we're hoping for more credible roleplaying". \$\endgroup\$ – RafaelLVX Jul 25 '16 at 19:14
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As I read the question, there's two possibilities.

Possibility One

The first possibility is that your player really does think this is what his character (as he envisions it) would do. If so, the term for this is "My Guy Syndrome." Yes, really: He's doing stuff that's detrimental to the fun of the table as a whole, justifying it as staying in-character and therefore unavoidable.

If this is the case, you have another problem: Your conception of his character doesn't line up with his. There's all sorts of possible causes for this: Different definitions of the alignments, misreading or insufficient proofing of character sheets, differing understandings of the impact of alignments in play, inconsistent messaging about the tone and themes of the setting... But all of them can be solved.

Possibility Two

The second possibility is that your player knows that he's acting out-of-character, and he's invoking 'that's what my guy would do' in an attempt to get away with it. This is understandable, and not necessarily entirely underhanded; Many players can get into the habit of 'trying to win' without realising the particular strategy they're using is detrimental to the game as a whole.

The Solution

First, sit down with your player and start a conversation by saying "I think I've got a different mental image of your character than you do. To sort this out, I'm going to start describing your character and how he fits into the world, as I understand it based on the character sheet and background you gave me; Interrupt me when I start getting things wrong."

There's a high chance you'll learn that your mental image of the character differs from your player's mental image. If so, update your mental image of the character to match your player's idea of it.

There's also a high chance you'll discover your player has a different idea of the setting to what you do - in particular, he might have a different understanding of what his character's alignment means, or what the themes and tone of the campaign is supposed to be. (Often some players expect 'legendary noble quest' and others expect 'scoundrels and barbarians out for thrills and riches.' Those are both good ways to play, but they're not very compatible.) If so, you'll have to explain to him what you're going for - possibly in conjunction with the other players so that everyone can be on the same page.

Anyway, once you've done all that, you should point your player to one of the many excellent pages that explains My Guy syndrome. Whether or not he thinks he's acting in character, this will teach him that claiming 'it's what my guy would do' isn't really a valid argument for doing stuff that makes the game worse.

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If your objection is that a character that acts chaotic has "lawful" written on his character sheet, then depending on the version of D&D you can either ignore it completely since it has no game effect, or you can kick in some rules for alignment change. "My Guy" is when the behaviour damages the game, not when the behaviour conflicts with stated alignment.

If the behaviour is damaging the game in addition to conflicting with alignment then the usual handling of MGS should work, at least it's worth trying.

It doesn't matter whether the other players and the DM agree that's what the guy would do or not. They aren't running the character. If it solves the problem then they can just accept the player's stated opinion that this is what the guy would do, and keep their reservations to themselves. It won't prevent techniques working for persuading the player to act differently, because those techniques don't actually rely on the player being correct about how to play a particular alignment, only on him accepting that he needs to change what's he's doing, for the good of the game.

So for example if you've all agreed a game in which the heroes are Lawful, and as a consequence you've got some serious thematic business going on that requires every character to be Lawful, and which therefore can't go ahead with this character around, then this Chaotic-acting guy is "my guy". There's one extra option available, not usually applicable to MGS, which is to say that you all don't think the behaviour in question qualifies as Lawful, but it sounds like you've already tried that and it didn't work.

When your player says, "no sane character would act Lawful so I'm doing something else", then he's not playing the game you agreed, in which the heroes would (in his view) act insane. Instead he's doing what My Sane Guy would do.

Obviously it's possible for the DM and the players to genuinely disagree over the definition of alignments. Suppose the player thinks that "good alignment" means helping the poor by giving them food, whereas the DM thinks that "good alignment" means helping the poor by giving them a hand up, not a hand out, and that while building sweatshops is Good because it creates jobs, just giving people free food incentivises laziness, traps people in poverty for generations, and is Evil. Then you're going to fall out any time you discuss ethics, not just because of the game.

If you want a label for players who decide that "clearly" characters should optimise their situation in a way that involves a lot of very disgraceful goings-on, then it might go so far as the term Murder Hobo, meaning a vagrant who goes around killing people (humans or orcs, as the case may be) and taking their stuff. That is to say the typical protagonist in a tediously ill-considered fantasy. The responsibility for that lies as much with DMs and whole player groups, though, as it does with a single player taking their character in that direction. Or perhaps describe the character as a sociopath, albeit that's a clinical term used imprecisely. If it's done with the goal of ridiculous personal power advancement then it could be a form of munchkinism. Since you disapprove of the behaviour, frankly no label for your characterisation of it it will be accepted gladly by the player!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know, I for once see a lot of difference with common My Guy Syndrome behavior as stated in the other discussion, because you can agree to what My Guy is doing but not here. That is fundamental because many people give My Guy a free pass, simply because it makes sense. Being out-of-character breaks that for everyone except the problem-player. You mentioned "his view", but I gather a typical My Guy doesn't just state a personal view, but a view that could be verified somehow (in his sheet for example). Also, this is definitely not a case of different interpretation of alignments. \$\endgroup\$ – RafaelLVX Jul 22 '16 at 2:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ "many people give My Guy a free pass, simply because it makes sense", well, if you like then where I say "all the usual techniques work" you can read it as "all the usual techniques work except for resigning yourself to it and giving it a free pass". I see that as a non-solution to MGS, because while you might choose to do that, it doesn't mitigate the damage to the game. I disagree that MGS typically involves presenting anything on a sheet that dictates the problem behaviour: usually it's just the player stating that his conception of the character's personality leads to it. \$\endgroup\$ – Steve Jessop Jul 22 '16 at 2:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ So giving MGS a free pass is not really any better (or any worse) than you giving this guy a free pass in the sense of just deciding "OK, he's not sticking to his alignment, what if any are the game effects of that" and playing it out. If that's enough to satisfy you, great, do that. If not, you have to do something else, whether you label it MGS or not, and the active MGS techniques are all about appealing to the good of the game and therefore apply here. The MGS caveats also apply here: before acting ask yourselves, is the rest of the group being sufficiently tolerant? \$\endgroup\$ – Steve Jessop Jul 22 '16 at 2:52
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The fundamental spirit behind the "My Guy Syndrome" discussion is this:

  • Roleplaying is a hobby, so the underlying goal is for all of us to enjoy ourselves.
  • Roleplaying games flow best when we can be honest about our desires and intentions, both with our friends and our own selves.

Those principles still apply here.

I think one reason1 that you're not making much headway is that "This Isn't What Your Guy Would Do" is also "My Guy" Thinking. You're focusing on your competing visions of a character rather than the actual consequences in play.

Go back and try to identify the root problem:

  1. Is the player picking actions that hurt someone's enjoyment? For example, is the lying self-centered character turning his schemes on the other PCs, which is off-putting to folks who were expecting a more straight-up cooperative game without PC infighting?

    This is where the "My Guy" fixes really come into play.

  2. Is "My Guy" a cover for annoying behavior at the table level? For example, are the character's schemes being used as a justification to constantly spin off just-for-me scenes while everyone else twiddles their thumbs?

    It may be helpful to step back from the narrative and just look at the group/procedural issues. Maybe there are plenty of ways to play the same character in a similar way that manage to avoid the annoying stuff for everyone else.

  3. If it's mostly a disagreement about the game's setting and terminology, then I think it's good to compromise here — generally erring on the side of trusting players to define their own characters. In my personal experience, D&D flows just fine if you give folks broad leeway to interpret their own characters' alignment (the worst we experienced was a bit of "Why does this Neutral person seem so much worse than this Evil person?" prompting us to think a bit about whether the game terminology matched our own sense of ethics at all in the first place).


1 — It's not the only reason, but the one that is easiest for you to fix unilaterally. And it's good to start with low-hanging fruit.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Nice point about "your guy wouldn't do that" being a variation of my guy syndrome. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 23 '16 at 4:57
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The two most obvious ways to describe this type of behaviour (to me) are Reverse MyGuy Syndrome, where the actions are not what MyGuy would do, as written on the sheet, or simply Poor Roleplaying where a character's listed traits are ignored in order to profit from the situation at-hand.

Anyway...


Firstly: Is it actually a problem? From your description of the situation, it doesn't really appear to be a major issue at the gaming table. The player is obviously not strictly following their character sheet, in this case their alignment.

But is that a big deal? If it's not causing any issues at the table, then don't waste effort to try and fix something that isn't broken. Alignment is a vague muddy mess at the best of times, and for anyone that isn't a divine caster there is usually little impact to simply tossing it out the window.

More than that, this appears to be an issue relating to a specific player. If this is something all of your players do, it might be better to simply toss the whole alignment section out the window, other than making sure Divine casters are staying in line with their gods' requirements.

However, if it is causing problems, then they certainly need addressing. There are quite a number of ways to do it. It would help a bit to know which system(s) you are working with, but you did mention D&D so I'm going to go with that.

  • AD&D (1e and 2e) tries to take alignment Very Seriously(tm). There are often large penalties associated with alignment changes, or not properly following your listed alignment. That always seemed forced to me, preventing characters from growing naturally based on their experiences. But, it's a thing, and the penalties are laid out in the books. If he misbehaves in the Old-School realms, just slap him down with the appropriate punishment. Explain it clearly, and make sure he understands, "This is not a debate. Your written alignment is X, and your actions are Y. You get this penalty because you are not behaving as per your written alignment. You can change your alignment, which will have A,B,C effect on you, or you can attempt to return to the path of your alignment."

  • D&D 3.x (and 4e I think, but my experience with 4e is very limited) really dial it back on the alignment thing. For most characters it boils down to a general guideline, and you are free to change your alignment more or less whenever. Characters with a Divine connection of some sort (Paladins, Clerics, etc), still have to follow the ethos of their religion, but small mistakes are mostly fairly easily forgiven. On top of that, most Deities also have some wiggle-room, and sliding a step to either side isn't really a big deal. If he misbehaves in 3.x, just tell him "Your alignment has changed to X, because that is how your character is acting. If you want to be Y again, you'll need to start acting more like Y." Unless his character will actually lose something for an alignment change, this probably won't be a big deal anyway. If it is a big deal, then you should look into why this is a big deal for him.

  • D&D 5e almost tosses alignment right out the window. Characters still have an alignment, but it's simply a general guideline. No classes have restrictions based on it. Even classes that were traditionally aligned, such as Paladins, have been reworked to base their mechanics on something less "fuzzy." Paladins swear a Sacred Oath, which has the details nicely laid out for you. In 5e (as I've experienced it), alignment is simply a background trait, intended to give your character general guidance. An alignment change could be handled much like in 3.x, simply telling him his alignment has changed and why. Again, if this becomes a big issue, you should find out why.


So the might Zot from beyond the heavens strikes down. His alignment is changed. You should probably make sure you do this at the beginning of a play-session, so you can take a couple of minutes to discuss it. If it starts to take more than a couple of minutes though, just put in the classic "Let's not worry about it for now. We'll ignore it for this session, and we can talk about it [later/ after the session/ tomorrow/ February 31st/ whatever fits]."

Generally, this should be expected to go over as No Big Deal(tm). But we all know the sayings about "The greatest plans..." and all that.

If an alignment change is a big deal to the player, then you need to get into more detail as to why he thinks his character must be exactly X alignment.

  • Is it an In-character or an Out-of-Character issue? That is, does the player believe it must be such-and-such a way? Or does he feel that his character feels restricted to such-and-such a way?

  • Alignment itself is often very vague around the edges, with endless examples of things that straddle the border. Discuss what he feels is proper behaviour and general tendencies for various alignments.

  • Maybe he feels that he is obligated in some way to have a certain alignment written on his character sheet. Eg, maybe a misunderstanding of a rule somewhere has lead him to believe that PC's are only allowed to use the AB alignment.


In summary...

If it's a problem, talk with the player about it. Preferably outside of the game, so he won't feel like he's being put on the spot in front of the other players.

But if it's really not a problem, then let it go, instead of making it into one.

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My question is, is there a name to this kind of player?

"Poor sport".

That's the expression I'd use when confronting such a player at my table, at least if I really had the ammunition to demonstrate that I perceive him to be dishonest. I'm not saying you should do this, because you know more about the situation than I do, but, as presented, this sure sounds like bad sportsmanship.

It seems like it would get the message across.

I'm also taking suggestions of ways to deal with a player like this, preferentially avoiding frustration of both the problem-player and others.

Let the player tell you in his own words what he's seeking from the game, what turns him on about playing D&D, why he's unsatisfied with taking the in-character roleplaying part of the game more seriously, and show him that the reason you're having the conversation with him about this whole subject is so that you can help him have his good time while freeing him from behaving in a way which is making the rest of the table unhappy.

It's a little late for the Same Page Tool but the above is something which might pay off.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Just wanted to mention that while I appreciate you sharing your personal view of how this kind of player is labeled (and the behavior is a type bad sportsmanship alright), I should clarify I'm more interested in case there was a widespread definition, much like I just learned about My Guy Syndrome (I didn't know this definition existed). \$\endgroup\$ – RafaelLVX Jul 22 '16 at 1:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ There isn't one, so, I gave an answer which was in the spirit of the question being asked at the time (before it got altered). That spirit was "what do I call it when I confront the player", as far as I understood. \$\endgroup\$ – Beanluc Jul 22 '16 at 2:49
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I would argue that this is still "My Guy" syndrome.

Just because he's wrong about how his character should logically act, doesn't mean he's not trying to use his character's personality to justify unfun behavior in-game. And that is the real problem with "My Guy" syndrome. Regardless of whether or not his character would, reasonably, act that way, he's choosing to make his character act that way, and shifting the blame onto the character.

At its core, the problem is the same - he's putting the justification of his actions on his character and not himself, when it's his decision to make the character act that way, and his decisions that are making things problematic for the group.

Now maybe he does want to play a character that isn't Lawful Good anymore - and maybe letting him do so would help him act more in-character - but if his behavior is causing problems for the group, that needs to be addressed; separately from whether or not he's playing in-character.

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Change his alignment

If he acts chaotic, present him as such. Toss the attention that chaotic characters earn at him. If he insists he is lawful, have the guards tell him to tell it to the judge.

More importantly, do not get caught up in his character sheet, but rather design games based around how you know he is going to play. Don't let what is on paper override what you actually know about the character.

My experience about this comes from dealing with an incredibly erratic "lawful" player of my own who may as well be the Joker.

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