Six Role-playing Annoyances

Here are some annoying habits that players can exhibit in your game. There are some suggestions as to how to deal with these problems, either by encouragement (as another player) or enforcement (as a GM).

  • Playing yourself, but with armour

Problem: the character has the exact same personality as the player, which means that every character that players plays has the same personality. The result is usually very forgettable characters a bland roleplaying experience for everyone else. Unfortunately, this type of player is often a roll-player also (see below). Even the two-word-personality is better than this.

Solution: The GM think about the character as a character, instead of a series of statistics. Write down the major motivations of that character and play them. Even two-dimensional role-playing is better than none.

  • Dick Ramhard, and other stupid character names

Problem: you try to play a serious game and someone comes up with a stupid name for their character. This leaves everyone either snickering or sighing every time the character introduces themselves.

Solution: keep your name appropriate to the game setting. GMs should veto stupid names anyway, so this could well be the result of poor refereeing or player-bullying.

  • Objection! Rules lawyering!

Problem: the flow of the game is constantly broken as the player points out the rules and loopholes that have been used or missed in every situation. This is common in players who are more used to GMing, and in those who prefer less narrative style games.

Solution: this is a tough one. Remind the player that the GM is the final arbiter in all things (stick). Reward the player for good role-play, ideally through creating good story,regardless of the rules (carrot). One way is to give a conditional award – e.g. Everyone gets 3 character points for last week’s session. One (or more) of Bob’s are conditional on him not pointing rules infractions in this week’s session.

  • Kobolds can’t kill us metagamers

Problem: the player knows the system/background really well, and knows what every creature or denizen is capable of doing. Often this results in the character taking unrealistic chances based on knowledge he/she wouldn’t have. Sometimes it’s saying something like “there can’t really be a huge dragon in that cave as we’re all puny characters and the GM wouldn’t do that to us”.

Solution: give standard foes a non-standard name and/or appearance. Give them abilities that they could have but aren’t in the published material. Kill stupid characters who go into the dragon’s cave – it’s harsh, but fair (make sure and give plenty of warning that this is a dangerous thing to do!). Don’t tell the players what they are up against – describe to the characters what they experience.

  • Solo adventuring for five (GM Hogging)

Problem: One player insists on taking up a large percentage of the GM’s time. Sometimes this is because of rules-lawyering (above), other times it’s just because they (the GM and the player) don’t realise what they are doing.

Solution: Whether you’re a GM or a player, the simplest solution is to engage the other players in roleplaying. As a player, you should also try to engage the GM-hog, which will free up the GM and get the game moving again. If you can’t engage him/her, at least the RP with your other team-mates will provide for an interesting session. As a GM, you need to get better at managing your time equally (as much as possible) between players – creating circumstances for inter-player RP is one of the most effective time management techniques.

  • Roll-playing, or role-playing?

Problem: a player insists on making a roll for everything (“It’s a … pleasure to meet you!”), which not only slows down the game, but many times doesn’t make any sense. This can often be frustratingly combined with rules-lawyering and playing oneself and at it’s worst can lead to min/maxing in order to ensure the best rolls.

Solution: as a GM, I’ve taken away a player’s dice and even his character sheet to prevent roll-playing. As a player, I’ve tried to lead by example – I keep my character sheet upside down as a rule, and roll only when the GM tells me to.

Got any more annoyances? I know there are lots I didn’t cover (like Munchkin, Hack and Slash, etc.) mostly because I felt like they were well-established (they have Wikipedia entries!).

Edit: apologies for the typo – I got roll and role mixed up at a key point. D’oh!

About AJ

Gamist: 14%, Simulationist: 29%, Narrativist: 57%. Ah, the irony.
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10 Responses to Six Role-playing Annoyances

  1. matt says:

    Things that annoy me:

    OOC knowledge leak – This is bad in so many ways. I like giving vignettes of what’s happening behind the scenes. This is to assist players in building the story, enhancing drama. It’s not an opportunity for you to dodge like a bastard to avoid an attack.

    Showing up the GM – just because you’re a PhD, doesn’t mean your character is. So leave the molecular biology at home. Or the quantum physics. And worse still – if you use it to show up the GM, then you’re a dead man. She may not have had time to get five degrees in varying subjects (one for each player who claims to be an expert) so cut her a bit of slack. Be helpful, help the GM retcon if it’s really that important to you.

    Lack of Teamwork – there’s a reason that games are best played with 3+ players in my opinion. You get a team. It sucks to be the #2 in a party. Where you have the fighter, the cleric, the thief, the ranger, the magic user and…the not quite as good fighter. Teamwork is also the place of the GM. Force the players into situations where they have to encourage each other to co-operate. Reward ingenuity and also give props where appropriate when someone has managed to eke out a little in-character coercion for the good of the story.

    References to Roll-playing – I’m a story gamer. I like an entertaining story. But I don’t think that people who play to win or people who want a realistic game experience are necessarily bad roleplayers, just that their aims in the game may be different to mine. That may mean we have to find different groups but that’s just the way things are. Sure, I’d like everyone to want to play games the way I play them, but it’s not necessary. End of the day, we’re all grown ups and these are all games: it’s kinda odd of us to point at someone equally geeky and call them names.

    Four is all I can manage….

  2. paulk says:

    Can I add a couple?
    (sorry no idea how to get proper formatting!)

    British Rail provides the train not the plots. I cry when I realise the plot is being railroaded. I’d sooner no plot than one which is planned to the nth degree in a single direction

    My favourite player – I honestly don’t care if you’re sleeping with the Elf Rogue, you still can’t be all fluffy GM for them and nasty GM to everyone else…. unless there is a sensible story reason for it

    Throw a dog a bone – We all love a puzzle, but there comes a point where me playing a bacteriologist isn’t the same as me being one. If its something the character should know, but the player doesn’t you have to help them out. (I once spent 2 hours playing a Cyberpunk game where a defence sheild resisted every attempt we made to knock it out. Only to see the light of joy in the GM’s eyes as he told us it was a capacitor and all we needed to do was…. I still think my decision to blow the building up and sod the hostages was more efficient)

    Its not a frikkin compeititon – there is no winner in roleplaying. There can’t be. Oh lord how I wish people would remember that. It doesn’t matter what your character can do and what mine can’t, it doesn’t matter if the bad guys win or if they are defeated in the nick of time. you only win if you leave with a smile on your face,

  3. matt says:

    As a previous SOGM (Significant Other GM), my SO at the time was heard to remark “It sucks playing in Matt’s game because he picks on me so the other guys don’t cry favouritism”

    The Capacitor argument I’ve head a dozen times, usually when the GM is a physicist. We normals have little clue what a capacitor is (no, really) and we don’t care. Likewise I don’t expect any of you guys to know anything about cell biology or tramission vectors of viruses inside living hosts. Hence these do not become subplots. Likewise if I’m playing Star Trek and I come up with a pseudoscience explanation for something in the fashion of the show, the wrong thing to do is for the Gm to just say “No.” This happened once because the GM wanted us to find HIS solution to the problem which would then set us up for later attack, yadda yadda. He didn’t think of letting us run with my idea, letting me feel all clever but NPCs warning us that the “field could collapse at any minute, Cap’n” and, when the attack comes…whataya know….the field collapses. We just flailed around and felt stupid before being attacked rather than feeling accomplished and useful before being attacked…

    The Bone cry is something important too. No clue is too easy. That should be enough. But there are other weapons at your disposal and I have noted that one of the first things the guys in WT do is turn to the psychic and ask her where the baddies are. So, last night it turned out she was the only person who could find him. This will change. You do, of course, know fine rightly wher the baddies are. You’re working for them….

    [PS. It’s called HTML, Paul]

  4. Gav says:

    Closely related to players who hog the GM’s time and those who don’t work as a team are the ‘actors’, people who insist on playing their character’s (self-defined) personality no matter what the situation.

    This of course is no bad thing, except when the player has created a character totally incompatible with the the game and the other players. Examples include the D&D pacifist.

    Most often heard saying ‘but this is what my charcater would do’ as he generally screws the party over.

  5. Mark says:

    I’ve never bothered to compile a list of bad roleplaying thingys. But my current bug bear is dogmatic and hypocritical GMs. Don’t tell me I didn’t give you a f*ck’in background! *sigh* 🙂

  6. paulk says:

    Let me temper my earlier bone comment. Don’t feed the players all the time. Instead have fun finding out together. I like to play (and run) games which are reactive to player involvement – not ignorant of them


    I’ll have no truck with your demon tongue. Be gone foul pestilent pustule on the bottom of a camels scrotum.

  7. Mark says:

    Your using WordPress! 🙂 There is a plugin that adds “quicktags” to the comment area and another that gives a preview. No need to force your users to know HTML. That’s just for the programmers like me. (I just implemented over at my website as a test… fairly easy to do)

  8. aidan says:

    Bah, we spit on your technology *ptooey*!

  9. matt says:

    Paul uses Windows and IE7. What does that tell you.

  10. paulk says:


    Paul uses Firefox… and windows.

    IE is a work thing. Don’t ask me why we use it.

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