Angry Rants: There’s No Such Thing as Better Players

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Just because you’re good at one thing, doesn’t mean your good at everything else. So, if you’re a Game Master, stop telling to try players how to be better players. You need to be a better Game Master.

Read the entire rant at The Mad Adventurers Society…

14 thoughts on “Angry Rants: There’s No Such Thing as Better Players

  1. Your worst article. It’s too bad you brought up a bunch of heavily intellectually involved subjects (i.e. real subjects such as science and philosophy, as opposed to topics such as economics and international relations) that you know nothing about in order to justify a relatively trivial point about the topic of role-playing games.

    Why you felt the need to personally insult people is beyond me. It had nothing at all to do with your point, except to weaken it.

    Incidentally, when a topic is multidisciplinary, and since there are very few people, if any, who are qualified in all of the disciplines involved, it makes sense for someone qualified in one of the disciplines to weigh in. It’s also worth pointing out that ridicule of ideas and behaviours has its place (a very important place) in academic discussion. Ridicule of people does not.

  2. Not sure where you got the idea that economics and international relations aren’t heavily intellectual… But in any case, it’s irrelevant that Angry knows “nothing about them” (not sure how you could know this anyway) because he’s not trying to convince us that he does. Which is the whole damn point of the article!

    I guess the Angry GM in his Angry Rant (the angriest part of all) is just pissed off at people who abuse their popularity in order to deliver sermons from on high regarding any topic of their choice, without a flicker of self-awareness that their opinion is worth as much as any random Joe on the street. NDGT and WW just happen to be good examples (plus Angry just likes to rustle some jimmies every now and then, I think). I can relate, because it’s the same seething anger I have at anti-vaxxers who have no fucking clue what they’re talking about.

    • I do understand the point of the article. Angry is essentially saying don’t act like an expert when you’re not. But when you’re talking about applied fields (of which both economics and international relations are examples), they encroach upon the subjects, and so often experts from the subjects upon which they encroach can comment on them – and in fact in many cases they are more qualified than the so-called experts because they are more qualified in the subject in question. For example, when NDGT comments on atheism and mocks particular theistic beliefs, he is qualified to do so because of the encroachment of those theistic claims on the natural world (the realm of science). And when philosophers of religion discuss the scientific implications of religious claims, it turnout that scientists are more qualified to evaluate them than theologians or philosophers of religion. Whether one thinks he’s smug isn’t really relevant. So if NDGT said something (as you have rightly pointed out) like “I’m a famous physicist, so you should take my word for it: god doesn’t exist” then he’d be out of line. But he doesn’t. He says something more akin to “I’m a scientist, and when we consider this claim against the evidence, your conclusion is not reasonable.” So they’re very different things, and they shouldn’t be equated.

      Also the implication that Carl Sagan was somehow more humble because he was an agnostic is just plain wrong (note: he was almost certainly more humble, but that’s not what’s being contested). Although Sagan never called himself an atheist, he certainly fit the definition. This has been often discussed.

      Anyway I didn’t want to derail – just point out that this aspect of the article was unnecessary and only took away from the point.

  3. For once I don’t know if I can agree with angry. Expecting involvement or buy in on setting creation is not unreasonable. The GM puts a lot of work into making a game happen, asking that the players be involved is a drop in the bucket. I know some players want to show up and have a mindless game handed to them, but if that isn’t the type of game the GM is running then there will be a problem. As the guy making the game happen, the GM can set standards for what type of players he wants. If he doesn’t want tune out and have a beer guy, that is his choice.

    It’s also not rediculous for players to help involve other players. Unless there is a GMPC present, the players are the most encountered things in the whole game. That puts them in a position to shine a light on someone just by opening up dialogue with them. That simple. Give a shit about the other people at the table and involve their characters.

    The whole embracing failure thing is kinda stupid though. How would you even do it? Just ham up each failure? High five the other players and make “Failure, all right!” Jokes in a Borat voice?

    On the subject of not playing with dicks, why would you? Whatever your GM or player style, some other people will rub you wrong. Why would you continue to hang out with them? Wether it be they are power gamers or hippy story gamers, get out of there. We play to have fun, no raise our blood pressure.

  4. I agree with the basic premise of this rant — that GMs and players have different ways of looking at the game and thus different ‘needs’ with respect to the game, and that GMs shouldn’t presume that players share their needs. That makes sense. Heck, I run across the ‘different view of the game’ idea all the time, when my players are muttering to each other that they’re not sure they’ll survive the battle, while I look at the remaining monster HP and think ‘you guys are one round from winning this fight, and half of you aren’t even damaged yet’.

    The part I disagree with is where Angry argues that power-gamers aren’t ruining the game for everyone else, because in my experience, they always do. When a power-gamer sits down at a table with a bunch of non power-gamers, the simple fact that the power-gamer can solo my previously well-designed encounters means I have to do one of three things (usually #3):

    1. Up the difficulty of the encounters to challenge the power-gamer, which means everyone else at the table now has to power-game to keep up or be satisfied playing a character who doesn’t contribute in combat encounters any more.

    2. Leave the difficulty as-is and disappoint those players who are challenge-seekers (and by Angry’s own rant on players and the types of fun they pursue, not every challenge-seeking player is necessarily a power-gamer), not to mention make the game boring as hell for me as GM.

    3. Yell at the power-gamer until he gets frustrated and leaves the game so we can go back to the Platonic ideal of D&D we enjoyed before he showed up.

    I get that if you have a table full of power-gamers, there’s no issue, since everybody is competing on the same level; as long as the GM is OK being the test server for these butt-kicking character builds, that’s cool for everybody. I’d love to read a rant about how to balance a game for a combination of power-gamers and non power-gamers that:

    a) doesn’t just boil down to ‘provide non-combat challenges for the non power-gamers so they feel useful’ (been there, and that doesn’t work in, for example, the Age of Worms adventure path which heavily features combat), and

    b) doesn’t assume that every player secretly wants to be a power-gamer but simply doesn’t know how.

    • In any reasonably well balanced game, min-maxing creates both strengths and weaknesses. You have to know and understand the game system well enough to identify the weaknesses. The strengths will be a lot more obvious, mostly because the min-maxer will be shoving them in your face.
      The way to handle the min-maxed character is to exploit the hell out of those weaknesses. Hammer his vulnerable stat saving throws, and use the advantage/disadvantage rules to put him in a bind. BUT! Always remember that your job as DM is, at least in part, to deliver a reasonably satisfying game experience, so you should also make sure that, from time to time, the min-maxer has an opportunity to trivialize an encounter by virtue of his planning and preparation. Just make sure that there are also times where he has to rely on the other party members to save him from a beastie that targets his “dump stat” save.
      You should be planning your encounters based on your party anyway. Make sure your rangers get a chance to use their favored enemy bonus once in awhile, make sure some of your traps require arcana checks instead of thieves’ tools, etc. Part of that is making sure that your players are often rewarded for making clever choices, and sometimes punished for leaving themselves vulnerable.

    • Fine. Challenge accepted. I’ll add it to my schedule. Might take me about two weeks to get to it.

      EDIT: Sorry, in case it’s unclear. The challenge to write an article about how to handle a game for both power-gamers and non-power gamers at the same time has been accepted. I will write it. But, understand this: like any clash of play styles, it takes two things: ENFORCING COMPROMISE and EFFORT. And a lot of people don’t want to hear either of those things. So they just default to “there’s just no way.”

      • I look forward to this article. I’m !#%#%^ing sick and tired of self righteous idiots having nothing useful to say on the topic. Un-objective, morally-outraged advice about how everyone else should play the damn game has, for the longest time, been the primary reason I have a hard time stomaching any of the online D&D communities there are to be found, and as such, it’s taken me this !@%^ing long to get back into the game.

  5. I dunno on this one. Undeniable there’s a hell of a lot of self-righteous behavior in just about anything. I don’t feel “better players” comes from a comparison of GMs and players, though. Mostly comes from how they play with others. The good old golden rule of Don’t Be A Dick. Courtesy, like Angry mentioned, is a huge part of that. Patience, to some degree. Participation. Willingness to play a group game, and design a character capable of functioning in a group. Not being an asshat to try to get your character’s boots kissed. That kind of thing. Sure, a lot of things are secondary, but there is such a thing as a better player.

  6. There are such things as better players.

    They are the players who put the needs of the group ahead of their own. They offer to take notes from session to session. They draw maps. They track critical NPCs, hirelings and followers. They write down the DM’s ad-hoc rulings so the group can discuss them when the game isn’t running. They know where to find the barely used rules so the game doesn’t suffer from wasted time. They coach new players (at least, those new to their group) and help integrate them into the group’s game. They celebrate the group’s victories, mourn the group’s losses and make plans (with the group) to wreak revenge against their enemies.

    But that’s not Angry’s point. His point is that, more often than not, advice from DMs on how to be a better player is jaded by the DMs’ interests. In that sense, I agree. I’m just quibbling about the article’s title…

  7. Whether intentionally, or merely coincidentally, the back end of this article is basically you ranting on this tweet I posted in that rpgchat:

    While I am pleased to be a muse, I must riposte.

    Yes, the GM should possess the skills you mention to ensure that their table runs to the satisfaction of all players. These skills are not the GMs sole purview however. This is a collective activity and a team sport. Every one needs to master certain core social skills to ensure a successful outcome.

    Second, a good GM is also a good leader. A competent manager of people. They delegate tasks, despite their ability(perhaps even superior ability)to perform those tasks well themselves. Advising that players take on some of the simpler, considerate actions of knowing when to pass their turn and working towards group fun instead of individual pleasure is sound table management. This is the core GM skill, is it not?

    As for embracing the unexpected (or failure, as you like) this isn’t about shitty GMs needing a tension fix. It’s about players remembering it’s just a game, accepting you don’t always succeed because dice are involved, and not pouting or shouting or complaining endlessly etc. It didn’t go your way this time. See the big picture and maybe instead of sulking find a way to move forward that, oh I don’t know, contributes to the entertainment a bit?

    So yeah, I feel like I was a bit of a muse on this one, and I get that the larger point was about falsely assuming blanket expertise. Still, if you think even these things are only the purview of the GM, and any who ask players to take on some of these tasks are bad GMs, I can’t agree with you.

    Loosen your grip on the table man, and learn how to delegate some of this stuff. Maybe you’ll end up being a better GM too.

    • And for what it’s worth, 90% of my gaming time is spent as a player. I’m not a GM telling players how to play. I’m a player describing the traits I have noticed in the other players I most enjoy playing with.

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