Somehow, people keep missing this even though it is at the beginning of EVERY F$&%ING ASK ANGRY ARTICLE! Let’s see if slapping some headings, caps, and a numbered list in it make it clearer. Holy f$&%.
How To Submit a Question to Ask Angry
- Type your question up somehow. Be brief and get to the point. On YOUR blog, you get to be as wordy as you want. On MY blog, I’m the wordy one. A paragraph or two of the actual question is good.
- Put that typed up question into an e-mail. If you don’t know how to compose an e-mail, then you haven’t earned the right to ask the brilliant Angry GM for help. Sorry.
- Put ASK ANGRY in the subject line. If you don’t do this, the automatic mail sorter program I keep in the basement who sorts my e-mail for food will miss it. And then I will have to flog him. I mean… uninstall it. Yeah. It’s a program. Not a human being.
- Tell me, in the e-mail WHO to credit the question to. You know that “<person> Asks:” thing? Tell me what to put in for <person>. And, BY THE WAY, if you’re a blog or have a Twitter account or something, I WILL turn your name into a hyperlink to it if you ask me to or add a link to your thing. Just my way of saying thanks for your question. Give me the details.
- E-mail the question to THEANGRYGAMEMASTER@GMAIL.COM.
- Sit back and wait. There are a lot of demands for my brilliance. I generally try to respond to every single question I get to at least acknowledge it, because I’m THAT awesome, but I’m behind schedule and A LOT of people want my brilliance. I will ALWAYS e-mail you to know when the answer to your question is going live. Obviously, you shouldn’t e-mail me a question that is urgent in some way. Don’t send me “I’m starting a campaign in a week and I need help or else it is going to fall apart” or “I’ve been shot by a furious player because I killed her favorite halfling rogue, how do I stop the bleeding?”
- Bask in the brilliance that is the answer to your question.
Got it?! Good. On with the questions!
The Hungry GM asks:
I’ve got some great players. I love running games for them. We have a great time. But something happens every time someone chooses to play a Rogue or Thief. In fact, I’ve noticed that this thing happens in a bunch of D&D actual play videos on YouTube.
Every time a player decides to be a rogue or thief type character, they turn into a piece of shit. Why? That’s my main question.
I’m lucky enough to have players who don’t try too hard to be lone wolves or anything. But where other character types tend to be able to involve many players in character exploration, the thief type character tends to derail gameplay just to steal stuff. On their own.
How do I, as a GM, do my best to limit this kind of play, where a player unintentionally attempts to steal the spotlight? How have you dealt with it in the past? Have you noticed it, or is it just me?
I usually edit these questions down a little bit to cut right to the point, but I felt this question needed all the qualifiers around it. Especially, because there seems to be two different questions happening here.
First of all, people think I’m crazy when I say it, but it is true: certain character archetypes attract certain styles of play. That’s why there are so many jokes about lawful-stupid paladins alongside the jokes about anti-social a$&hole thieves. The patterns are strong enough that everyone notices them. Now, that is not to say “every paladin” or “every rogue” is going to end up a certain way. Because every time you bring this up, someone always insists on saying “not ALL paladins” or “not ALL rogues” and “certainly not MY rogue.” But that’s because people are stupid. Number one, statistical patterns DO happen. Number two, no, they don’t apply to all individuals but that doesn’t disprove the pattern.
Do you want to know why gnomes are banned from my games and pixies are not only banned, but extinct, in all of my games? It’s primarily because of this. I could make both gnomes and pixies work in my worlds if I wanted to, but the fact is, they attract the wrong type of players. They seem to be permission to be silly and obnoxious and ruin a serious game with bonkers-a$& lunacy. So I just outright banned them. That’s also part of the reason why I hate bards. Bards are the purview of the spotlight-hogging, amateur, obnoxious, creative thespian who is going to seize control of the game, damn the other players. Yeah, not ALL bards. But lots. Enough. Sorry. F$&% bards and the players who like them. If you like bards, you’re a terrible player. I can almost guarantee it.
The thing is, I think the problem is that each of these classes and races give the player a sort of winking, nodding permission to be an a$&hole. “I’m the thief, I’m supposed to steal and be antisocial and only care what’s in it for me?” “I’m the paladin, I’m supposed to behave this way and make everyone else behave the same way.” “I’m the gnome, I’m supposed to be ‘hilarious’ until everyone at the table wants to tie me into a burlap sack and drown me.” But if you really want to get deeper into it, all of these people are basically the same. They are all spotlight hogging special snowflakes who want to be the focus of the attention and do whatever they want. Different races and classes just give permission to be that a$&hole in different ways.
Personally, I can deal with the paladins and rogues and most of the other spotlight hogging crap. But, it’s the inveterate, random silly person I absolutely can’t cope with without punching. That’s why I ban gnomes and pixies and bards but not paladins and rogues.
As to how to deal with it, you deal with it the same way you deal with every problem player. You tell the player what they are doing is a problem and why. You set some boundaries and enforce them. And if they player doesn’t want to change the way they are playing their character, you let them make a new character. And if the player doesn’t want to make a new character, you let them find a new game.
It sounds harsh, but this is the reality. There comes a point where you don’t get to be the cool person playing a fun game with their friends anymore and you have to be the MASTER OF THE GAME doing what is best for everyone at the table even if it is painful, difficult, hurts someone’s feelings, or even costs you a friend. It sucks. It really, truly does. But when the spotlight hogging reaches the point where it’s upsetting you and other people at the table and the person isn’t willing to compromise, the will of the group has to win or the game dies. And you, the GM, are the will of the group. That’s your job. It’s part of being behind the screen. It sucks. Because it should be just about playing games with friends. But it isn’t.
If you were running a sports team or an official club, you couldn’t give your buddy leeway to f$&% it up for you and everyone else. And D&D is a club. It’s a sports team. It’s not just a board game with friends. Board games are board games. The minute you get behind the screen, you accept responsibility for steering the ship. And that’s the truth. The buck will always stop with you.
My question sort of piggybacks on your previous answer about PCvPC skill rolls. How do you handle PCs stealing things in game, like the lonewolf ranger on night watch searches through another party member’s bag and grabs their Opuscule of Erotic Fanfic. Or the old pickpocket in the bustling market deal. do you tell them something is missing, pass notes, wait till they try to buy/use something and say “huh, you can’t seem to find that item”, or do you just sneakily erase it from their character sheet and wait for them to notice? This is strictly an in-game query, as it’s not common or causing any butthurt feelings between players (yet) and i can handle that if it arises.
Honestly, since you’re not asking about how to deal with the a$&hole player, you’ve made my job easy. Because you’ve acknowledged you know you’re going down a dangerous road and you’ll handle that when it arises. Famous last words! Ha! Good luck is all I have to say.
But seriously, who cares. It’s all the same. It depends on what your goal is. If your goal is to delay the surprise as long as possible so you can say “gotcha,” then, yeah, wait for the person to look for the item or for them to dig through their stuff and say “by the way, your thing is gone.” This is fun because it makes players extra mad. First, they get mad at you because they think you screwed them in some unfair way. Second, when the culprit is actually revealed, they are usually murderously mad at the player who took it. You can pretty much guarantee that things are going to get personal at that point. That’s a great way to wreck a game. Have fun with that.
I’ll tell you what I do though. This is going to drive everyone utterly f$&%ing bonkers. The commenters are going to scream at me and use words like “metagaming.” It’s going to be great.
I resolve the theft AT THE TABLE so that the players know exactly what happened and who did it. And then I leave it up to them to decide how they discover it and what they do about it. That’s right. When Oona the rogue steals the ruby out of Ragnar’s backpack, everyone gets to watch that scene play out. Ragnar’s player knows what happened. Everyone knows what happened. And they have to decide how to discover it, what they reason about what happened, and what to do about it.
Look, there’s two types of players in the world. Those that are mature enough to handle to a thief in their midst without it ruining a game. And those that are going to go absolutely f$&%ing bonkers when they discover a thief is in the midst and ruin my f$&%ing campaign over it.
The first type can absolutely handle the whole thing being played out in the open. The thief understands the choice they are making and is accepting the potential consequences. The other players will deal with it appropriately. And there won’t be a pissy little fight about “metagaming” when the players immediately reason that the professional thief they hired to steal things for them and left on watch alone at night might be responsible for the sudden appearance of party valuables. Because, not for nothing, that’s usually a pretty good assumption.
The second type can’t handle it. And the thief is usually the first one to realize they can’t handle it. So, when they realize you aren’t going to hide their crimes from the PLAYERS (not the characters), they have a tendency to back off. Knowing the action will be exposed to the table usually puts the kibosh on the action. And if it doesn’t, the fallout – whatever it is going to be – is going to happen right away. Whatever is going to get ruined is going to get ruined immediately. And I prefer that. I don’t want to run a campaign I know is a dead-man-walking.
So, do it however you want, but I heartily recommend you do it where everyone can see it.