Eclipse, Problem Players, and Page 163

And to try (once more, despite real life) to get back to posting regularly, we have the most recent question…

I have a question regarding page 163 in Eclipse: The Codex Persona: I’ve now encountered an abusive character (well, by the numbers, he doesn’t actually abuse his power) and would like to know what I can do without destroying it entirely.

Now I’ve looked at the page and it said: “Explaining rationally […] better than smiting them without explanation.”

Looking at the 10 “options” presented, however, the page doesn’t really tell me how to do just that: Option 1, 7 and 8 seem to be saying “Fuck you” pretty blandly, whereas 2, 4 and 5 seem to be able to backfire greatly and haven’t really shown the player where the problem is (he could lead the over-monster back to the party or the character to protect dies because of a natural 1).

Reading the “explain rationally”-line, I rather expected more of the likes of option 3 (you are powerful, you just won’t get any stronger), option 6 (talking seems to solve such a disagreement rather smoothly) and option 9 (well, the last 2 lines at least imply that you aren’t trying to just screw others over out of what can easily described as (in my case and I’m sure in about 95% of the other cases) the DM’s incompetence (I’m fairly new, so I make my mistakes…).

Also, should I consider option 10 after already having applied options that aren’t 3, 6 or 9? After all, it seems likely to me that there will be divine justice as soon as my character would enter the scene (especially fearing option 9 as justified revenge since his designs seem to outsmart me at given times…)

A DM that would really like his group to not soon view him as vengeful monster^^̊

Sometimes you have problem players.

Now the exact nature of that problem doesn’t matter. You may have a player who’s frustrated in real life and – when it comes to play – simply wants to take out his or her frustrations on the monsters and NPC’s. Unfortunately, Godzilla Junior has no patience with conversation, clues, mission objectives, or anything but leaping into combat – thoroughly disrupting the game for everyone else.

Perhaps a player wishes to focus on romance. Or plays characters who are so noble and honorable that they refuse to participate in ninety percent of the game. Or are so evil that no other character would come near them if they weren’t a player character. Or is optimizing their character to the point that no one else gets to contribute in whatever situation the character is optimized for. Perhaps they want to debate obscure rules rather than trusting the game master to move the game along.

Pretty much any behavior pattern – from clowning around to negotiating – can become a serious problem if taken to excess. Everyone knows how big a drain on a game someone who is simply passive and disinterested can be. A player who is actively disruptive can ruin a game in short order. Tabletop role-playing games are cooperative social activities; part of the deal is adding to the fun rather than detracting from it.

While anyone can have a bad day, a player who consistently detracts from the game rather than adding to it is a potential disaster for a game. Unfortunately, like any other behavior, said player is getting something out of acting that way or they wouldn’t be doing it, and so they won’t want to stop. On the upside, quite a lot of role-playing gamers aren’t very good at being sociable, and so they may not know that pursuing their personal goal is disrupting the game for everyone else. If you can get them to stop being disruptive, the overall improvement in the game is likely to wind up with everyone having more fun, troublesome player included.

So step one is to bring it up. Point out the ways in which the other players are being frustrated or where you’re having problems. Is one character over-powered? Say “You know, I’m having trouble coming up with encounters that will challenge your character but which won’t wipe out the rest of the group. Wouldn’t it be more fun for everyone if…”.

If you’re lucky, whether the player just didn’t realize what he or she was doing or because they just wanted some attention, that will be enough.

If your player is having a bad time elsewhere and can’t keep that out of the game, it might be time for a break, or you can just put up with it for a bit longer.

If the player won’t stop because they refuse to see the problem, or feel that they know the “right” way to play, or whatever justification they produce for them continuing to get whatever they’re getting out of the behavior pattern, then you have a few choices.

  • You can decide to avoid confrontation and put up with it. There are lots of rationales for this option; the player is a friend, they’ve already gotten over-stressed, they’re not that bad, maybe they’ll get over it, you don’t need the argument – but statements like this are only rationales. You might want to check with the rest of the players before just throwing up your hands; it really isn’t fair to force them to put up with a disruptive behavior without at least talking about it with them.
  • You can throw the disruptive player out of the game. As a “solution” this is quick, simple, effective, upsetting, and extremely disruptive in its own right. Nobody really wants to do this, which is why it’s an utter last resort.
  • You can go in for some behavior modification by making sure that the behavior pattern isn’t rewarded.

That’s what page 163 in Eclipse is really all about. Perhaps the most common, and the only mechanical (since only the characters mechanics are really under the players control), form of this problem in role-playing games is the individual character who overshadows everyone else in some field. A certain amount of that is fine – every character should have their specialties – but if they’re dominating a major part of the game (often combat) the other players will rightfully feel cheated. They’re investing their time in the game and they aren’t getting to play.

Thus page 163 in Eclipse is a collection of ways to make sure that building an overpowered character doesn’t get the player extra attention or rewards.

And yes; you are intentionally setting out to make what the player wants to do less fun. No, that’s not being a jerk; said player has already had the problem brought up – and has refused to stop making the game less fun for everyone else. Such a player has ALREADY said “Fuck You!” to you as the game master and to every other player in the game. Refusing to deal with that problem, and thus letting one player take over the game for his or her personal amusement, is shirking being a game master – and is letting all of the other players down.

There isn’t a page on dealing with similar problems on the role-playing side because Eclipse is a book of mechanics and because there are generally a lot fewer rules involved there; if one player insists on trying to beat every problem into submission with his or her silver tongue… well, some things can’t talk, some things will be totally unreasonable and might as well not talk, and some things will simply stall while matters become worse and worse. You can always note that “ten minutes of talking passes unproductively”; you do not HAVE to play out useless scenes. Simply refusing to spend a lot of time on activities that don’t interest the rest of the group will cure most role-playing problems.

Unfortunately, that’s a game master tactic, not something for a character-design system to cover.

And I hope that that answers the question; if you feel that something needs more explanation, then do let me know.

2 Responses

  1. Hey, it’s me again.
    First of all, thank you for helping me to tackle this issue.
    The situation with him has cleared now thanks to your help.

    I’m only responding now because we only found something that really worked out last session (Sunday). Before that, I still tried some of the options, but the actual “punishing” function kinda… didn’t work out initially. He would in fact bring a book with him when he comes over in case I “screw” with his character and take him out of game for a while.

    Now that solved the problem in a way, but his presence made the game weird when I did this, with him just sitting there, reading his book and sometimes randomly laughing when he came across a funny passage.

    However, with this article, I came across the idea to bring everyone in the group together to discuss what revealed itself to be the problem for the player: The heavy combat focus. As it turns out, his character does overpower the others in combat, but dislikes the heavy focus on combat.

    The compromise we now have makes his character have some additional penalities associated with his corrupted template, which makes him less effective in combat while still letting him have his character with the intended manifesting abilities out of combat or for mundane tasks (we kinda figured it wouldn’t make much difference if he’s manifesting “Ship of Shadows” or let’s his followers dig the tunnel), but allows him to dedicate some time to establish his characters place in the campaign world beyond “Status: Adventurer”.

    His template’s corruption right now is:
    -Can only have one path of power (he took Dominion due to backstory reasons)
    -He looses 1 Mana/Hour
    -Every creature has an -1 to it’s starting attitude towards him
    -“Detect Magic” reveals a strange aura/gives unwanted attention
    -He cannot cast Excellent Lore or use Divine Attribute/Opportunist in important situations (if he has no pact forcing him to)
    -any astral constructs he summons that have a CR higher than his ECL -2 gain the “Ablative”-Template (3.5 book of deluxe templates)
    -Cannot breed without magical help (counters the godfire-ability)
    -His template makes him victim of major prejudice because he looks really weird/monstrous
    -He takes 2d6 additional damage from mithral weapons (he wated ti for some reason)
    -His natural instincts force him to make a will save whenever the DM (I) deems it necessary to avoid minor penalites
    -He cannot invest CP he gains when leveling up into Caster or Magic levels.
    -He cannot eat anything but meat
    -He is permanently possessed (see Fiendish Codex I)
    -He is compulsed to form pacts like a devil would and cannot break them willingly.
    -Every weakness he has is a well-known racial weakness which his enemies will utilize if they can.

    With that corruption, he’ll have a harder time dominating combat as well as have some other problems with NPCs, which makes this a solved problem (at least I hope it does).

    With that being said, once again thank you for helping me solve that issue.


    • You’re entirely welcome – and I’m glad it helped.

      Talking is usually a lot faster than going for behavior modification; you usually have to keep that up for a very long time before you get anywhere – which is why it’s something of a last resort when talking does not work. I have had to go that route a few times, but not very often.

      Even then, there’s the occasional player who can’t be reached and will just drift away if you keep it up long enough. Those are often types who really need a solo game – players who want the focus to be continuously on their character, or who just want to relieve real-life stress by massacring everything in sight until their character dies. For them… a first-person video game usually works better than a group game.

      And that does sound more limiting. I’d guess a rather high-value template there, resulting in Corrupting it being a massive savings

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