Wednesday, June 23, 2010

When Players Just Don't Get It - The Sequel

So...for the first time in 30 years of gaming I have a new player who has actively avoided joining the rest of the group not once but TWICE!

(If you haven't read my earlier posts around this topic they are here, here, and here. This will make more sense if you have read them.)

I don't mind taking an hour or two to work a new player into the game in an interesting way and making it memorable. In a Supers game especially, a new hero should enter dramatically. That didn't happen this time. Instead we wasted an hour plus on a new character NOT entering the game. This time it wasn't just me that was annoyed - the other players were actively annoyed and made it clear this was not a good idea. Several problems were evident:

1) The new player made a superhero. The game is called Necessary Evil because it's about Supervillains trying to throw off an alien invasion after the heroes are killed. The four current players all got this and made villains. Strike 1.

2) His character is basically built around money as a superpower. he's not an inventor, he doesn't have any special powers - he used his powers to beef up his stats and take 2 points of HTH attack (Martial Arts training). He bought a bunch of armor and guns and wants to be the billionaire playboy. Now I don't mind some of that and if he wants to spend two edges on it I'm perfectly willing to allow the trappings of that social level like a private jet, a nice car, a penthouse condo and a near-infinite wardrobe. However, it is not infinitely powerful. He wanted to have minions at his disposal, didn't want to have to pay for ammo for his Plasma Rifle, and most importantly didn't want to have to make skill rolls to make things happen. When I told him he couldn't just make a photographer appear at the restaurant with a phone call, he needed to make a persuasion check (or intimidate or some kind of knowledge roll - I'm pretty flexible on these things) he actually got annoyed that he was having to roll. He assumed that if he threw a bunch of money at the guy he would just automatically show up. I pointed out that he had already spent his starting funds on his guns and armor. He responded that he was Filthy Rich! I responded that yes he was and there was a number attached to that and he had already spent it! So he couldn't offer the guy some undefined amount of money and make him magically appear - he needed to make a roll and that would determine how things went. A lot of the game and my descriptions are driven off of these rolls - success = he shows up later; Raise = he happens to be in the neighborhood; 20+ = he's already right outside, what a stroke of luck! Roll a 1 (on both the skill die and the wild die) and guess what? He shows up because he happens to hate you and wants to do a smear job on you! things like that. So anyway, he wants to use Super Money as a diceless auto-succeed power in many situations and wants to argue when informed that isn't going to happen - Strike 2

3) Avoiding the player party in-game, attacking them, and then running away. These are all bad things and he did them twice. In the first session I dropped him in at the same location, let him know an overview of the situation (he had talked to the players between sessions too) and before he was ever attacked he started shooting at another PC. now comics and supers games have a long history of two good guys meeting for the first time, duking it out, then teaming up to fight a bad guy. I would have been fine with that. In this case he sees two one supervillain going after another supervillain, neither of which he has a personal connection to (according to his background - neither is mentioned) and he decides to shoot one of them. Then when that villain gets back up and comes after him he runs away. It's not heroic, it's not driven by background considerations, there's no personal grudge between these characters...nothing. No reason for this at all.

Despite this I gave him a second chance in the next session by reminding the party of the business card and they took it from there. The phone conversations and the restaurant meeting were all player-generated and I thought it was moving in a good direction. First warning sign - he leaves his armor and guns at home. So he's not going to fight well if discovered. OK, maybe he's going to be the peacemaker. Second warning sign - he stands up the bloodthirsty vampire girl. Not good. Then we moved into a series of dueling player skills to see who could get pictures and make a detective work roll to try and identify the other party first to get the drop on them. Unfortunately neither party really has the skills for this so lots of default rolls were being attempted and not much progress was made. Then sensing that he really had no idea what to do if he did ID them, he left right before being caught in the staged robbery. So once again, we have the new player avoiding a direct meeting with the party. This is not automatically bad - I'm fine with being mysterious, but he set up the meeting then avoided it! Then trying to one-up them with the spy games or hiding - and not just one, say "rival", member but the whole party. All this does is annoy or anger the other players - it doesn't bring out any background story or advance any plot, it just wastes time and worsens attitudes. Strike 3

4) The bonus round - After doing all this over 2 sessions, he realizes that he has walked out of the adventure for the rest of the night and starts making suggestions on how I can work him in!

"Hey maybe I'm a secret service agent protecting the family" things like that. Now he's full of ideas on how he might fit in to the upcoming mission. Only problem is there are no secret service with the family - they're all dead. This is specifically mentioned in the adventure and it's why the PC's need to go rescue the family in the first place., so I'm not inclined to change it, especially at this point in the evening.

"Well maybe I'm working for the government and I've been watching them so I contacted Dr. D to let him know-" No. Just no. Dr. Destruction doesn't need your help on this.

"Maybe Dr. D sent me in as reinforcements to the team" - no, because in your background you are a super hero, and he's not going to suddenly decide to add junior hero man to a team that's working well together and accomplishing missions already.

So yeah he got to watch the other players bust in, kick ass, rescue the first family, and get away. I didn't feel bad about it as he had at least two chances to join in and he didn't, so presumably he wanted to watch instead of play. Wish granted. Strike 4.

The bad thing here is that I actually like having one player who is a little out of sync with the rest of the team. It mixes things up and it's probably more true to the comics tradition than a fully-cohesive team would be anyway. But you have to be on the team to play that part and he just won't get there. Plus now the other players are irritated with the new player too and it's degrading the amount of fun we're having in the game. . He's not a first-time roleplayer - he's talked about 1st edition and 2nd edition D&D characters and other games so he should be able to make this work. It was worth a try but it's just not working out and I don't trust myself now not to take it personally if he avoided the party again. There's even an optional subplot in NE that I considered using him for but I just don't want to put the energy into it after the last 2 sessions.

So I'm going to un-invite him. I haven't had to do that in 15 years but after writing all this out I am not willing to waste part of another session trying to accommodate one player at the expense of 4 others and myself. I welcome any thoughts or comments any readers might have so feel free to sound off in the comments or in an email.

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