by Todd VanHooser
by Todd VanHooser
You've got your 24 oz drink and box of Sour Jacks ready to roll. Dice are neatly categorized by color, luck, and variation. You're ready to get your game on...when That Guy shows up. Pop! there goes your enthusiasm balloon.
We've all seen him. We all know one. Despite differences in appearance, style, or attitude, underneath that irritating exterior, they're all the same.
It's That Guy, and with dice in hand, he's ready to ruin everybody's gaming day.
That Guy has any number of annoying characteristics ranging from constantly challenging the Game Master, cheating dice rolls, derailing your well-planned adventure, having a pessimistic attitude, table-texting, being a know-it-all, "meta-gaming," and generally ruining everyone else's good time. That Guy does one thing well, and that's spoil your game.
So how do you deal with That Guy? This is a tough call for a lot of Game Masters, and the solution isn't easy. If That Guy is a regular player in your group (and therefore a friend of the GM), one approach may be a simple conversation where the issues are put on the table, so to speak. Diplomacy is always recommended, and rather than beginning with, "Look, the dwarf, the elf, and the cleric think you're an insufferable prick," maybe you try a different approach. Try appealing to the character That Guy plays. Maybe something like, "You know, I'd love to see your character take on a mentor role in the game. Maybe let the rookies take down the bad guys in the next battle." Mention the fact that his character might better be served by allowing the thief to pick the locks on the treasure chest, or leave the battle strategy to the mercenary.
Establishing "house rules" may also be a good solution if That Guy likes to cheat his dice rolls when you as the GM aren't looking. Asking everyone to wait until their turn, or maybe randomly choosing a "dice checker" to verify rolls can easily fix smaller issues that can get under your skin.
But diplomacy doesn't always prevail, despite our best intentions. Depending on the annoyance level That Guy brings to the table, you as the Game Master may be forced to make some uncomfortable decisions. After all, it is a game, and games are supposed to be fun for everyone involved.
At the high school where I teach, we have a weekly after-school RPG group, and you can just imagine the number of Those Guys that show up. Most of the kids are great--funny, creative, thoughtful--the exact type you would hope to have in your own group. That Guy, however, never seems to pick up on the more charming characteristics of the better players.
We see this same scenario occasionally at conventions. Most attendees are extremely fun to have involved, and bring a fresh perspective to the table. However, we have seen our share of over-ripe, boisterous, buzz kills claim a seat as well. Luckily, they are far outnumbered by the enjoyable con-goers. My advice to our team of GMs is to just stick it out, let the game roll, and try and cater more toward the players who really are there just to have a good time.
But sometimes, "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one." If you are the Game Master, it may very well be your responsibility to hit that ejector-seat button, and send That Guy packing.
If it comes to this point, try not to burn any bridges. Maybe you can involve That Guy in another gaming group...maybe with other Those Guys. It's the gaming equivalent of Exile Island from Survivor. Or Australia. Granted you may end up going a little crazy, but it may be a way to preserve a friendship. If this doesn't pan out, maybe consider asking That Guy to be the Game Master. Now you can switch hats and test his patience and annoyance level.
Besides, we're all a That Guy to someone.