Playing Into Type
Welcome back! A few weeks ago, we examined a basic aspect of character generation. At the end of the article, we touched briefly on how knowing your play style helps you pick a game that suits you best. Today, we will use Robin D. Laws’ “Player Types” to discuss how people play, hopefully giving insight into your style. Remember these are just Laws’ approach, modified by me to talk to you, the player. The types can blend and your mileage may vary.
The Power Gamer:
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be the best. Does anyone really want to be the worse engineer or underwater basket weaver? Why would a PC want to be anything other than the best they can be even if they start off far behind? Let’s face it: sometimes you get called a rules lawyer or min-maxer from people who roll their eyes as you add up all your modifiers. Is this really that bad? Those who succeed are often the best at what they do. Those who understand the rules of their profession. But the others at the table just see someone who cares less about their character, the story, or the other players and more about controlling outcomes.
How do you make your love of success and control something positive? Why not bring that into your character? Maybe your character is a Type A wizard who knows all the rules of the realm when it comes to magic. Maybe they’re a Netrunner focused on being the most badass hacker around. You can add flavor to the story by introducing the trainers and mentors that helped shape your PC into who they are. Explain offhand how you learned that new skill. Those hours around the campfire? Your fighter is practicing with those double swords, not just waiting on the wimpy wizard to read his book. So when you slaughter that horde of aliens, you smile and say, “I train every day. You can say thank you now!”
You can also help out around the table in a meta way by helping the GM with the rules. To do this, you have to earn the party’s trust, but boy will this help the game. If the GM doesn’t have to flip through rulebooks, they can focus on spinning the story and setting. Win-win for everyone, and you become the hero, not the subject of scorn.
The Butt Kicker:
These are the players who love a good fight. Better yet, they love winning any fight. Anyone can be the Butt Kicker because we’ve all had that bad day and just have to let go. All of a sudden, that Priest who often tries to talk things out pulls out the spell God’s Wrath of Butt Kicking.
On the other hand, you might be the player who’s into combat and loves crushing your enemies. Those around the table might consider you a min-maxer, but this isn’t about being in control; it’s about enjoying the fight. You’re quick on the draw because the NPC will kill you anyway. This leads the players into fights they don’t want to fight and may not win. Players hate this. Well, until after you crush their enemy, that is. We all have to blow off steam and blowing a tank to pieces is a great way to do it. The Butt Kicker knows this. While the occasional flip-out is good for you, the Butt Kicker, if it becomes more common, it’s time to add a story flip. Your good cop character becomes the Punisher, but why? We love Daredevil and Conan not just because they slaughter the enemy, but because they have a strong story.
Regardless of the story element around the table, you better become friends with the Tactician and the Power Gamer. These are your natural allies and will help to make your character stronger and more likely to do the butt-kicking you feel destined to do. You will win a lot of respect from the Method Player both in and out of character if you keep your story up.
The tactician is the planner and problem solver; puzzles or assault plans are your thing. Reaching the objective is your primary goal. Really everyone should just shut up and let you think because you can solve the code. What do you mean we should just rush in all guns blazing? We need intelligence, then we can carry out a proper breaching.
An hour later, after everyone surfed their social media and planned their next character, you announce you got it. Yes, there is little doubt your planning saves lives and gets the party around efficiently, but it comes with a lot of time-wasting. Players who do not embrace your approach often resent this and point out they want action in their game.
Some things you can do to bring the fun are to do planning in-character. Remember the difference between game and real time. You don’t have hours to plan the attack on the 10-foot by 10-foot room, you have minutes. So use that time.
Improve the group coordination and communication. Your play style shows you’re a natural leader; become the party’s leader too. You can even add complexity by being the reluctant leader.
You’ve mastered a character type, and you enjoy it. Why fix something that isn’t broken? What’s wrong with playing a pirate again? Sure, you’re playing a land-based game. So? We all have our comfort zone, right? But if you change campaigns often, playing the same type of character can really drag down the party both in and out of character. Honestly, it is hard to criticize this approach to gaming. It’s just the other players’ perspective.
You could try to ham it up by becoming the comic relief. The pirate on the plains might buy a wagon and stick a sail on it and treat everyone as crew. The key to playing comic relief is to be on your toes, pushing while having a good read on players and characters. The PCs might even get in your face and tease back.
The Method Player:
You’re the opposite of the Tactician; the process (especially your character’s process) is more important than reaching the objective. You’re the actor. You really love staying in character. We all get to know your sorceress in the long black dress and high heel boots. We know she dances every full moon because we all get to hear the details of the dance. It’s great you’re playing the role, but what about the others? While you’re enjoying your sandbox and sharing stories about it, you often lose track of the adventure or what the other PCs and players want. This one-track mind often annoys players. Also your act can lead to party conflict with “I am just doing what Madam Solvan would do, so deal with it ”selfish.
First, since you’re self-motivated, look for sandbox games and campaigns because this is where you’ll shine. Second, if the rest of the players are down for a more structured campaign, keep your eye on the ball. Keep your character moving along with the party. Use down time to play out your character.
When the rest of the party is lost as to what to do next, step up and use your self-motivation to get the players moving again. You’re so deep into your character that you have insights others might not. Help bring the characters out of their shells. Instead of being divisive, be the wise member of the group pulling the players together during the tough times.
Where a Method Player is all about the character, you are all about the story and the world your character inhabits. You’re likely the GM’s dream player because you embrace their creation, helping to bring it alive. Immersion like the Method Player can be your enemy. While your understanding of the world can help bring it alive at the table, have you ever sat through grand mama’s travel slides? Yea, you just sucked all the fun out of the word adventure.
How do you enjoy the world without being a travel agent, a camp counselor, and grandmother all rolled into one? First, enjoy your exploration. Second, instead of sharing info out of character, share it in character. Take all the knowledge skills you can take. This way your walking gazetteer only appears when needed. When the party decides to go to the asteroid, don’t say, “Hey the GM said the crime lord makes his base there.” Instead, remind them in character, “You want to do what? Don’t you remember that place has the crime boss? Here, look at our database.”
Also, like the Power Gamer, use your skills in support of the GM. Keep party records, help with locations and names. By taking the pressures off the GM’s mind, you free them to be creative elsewhere. If the Method Player is the wise one, you be the strong loremaster/bard.
The Casual Gamer:
This seems to be a misnomer , so let’s go with the Laidback Gamer. You’re here for fun, and as long as it’s a good night, you really don’t care what happens. Fun’s good. Flexibility’s great. Not caring? That’s bad. This is one of the reasons players get annoyed when partners who don’t care about gaming are brought in as players. Look at all the other player types; they have objectives that they take seriously and so should others at the table.
Alright, drop-ins are easy targets, but what about long-term players who are laid back? We all have days when we’re laid back and really just want to be around friends and not spend a lot of energy. Every priest, space solider, and netrunner has a bad day or wants a day to chill.
If you’re laid back, think about playing characters that are young or with nothing to lose. You also make a great fun barometer. If you’re checking social media, something may be wrong.
Ok, we’ve reached TL;DR, but I will sum up We all come to the table with different play styles. Your style influences the group dynamitic both in and out of character, and you should find ways to bring out the positives (preferably in character). Channeling your style into your character’s style will add depth to your character’s actions. And hopefully, it’ll lead to more fun and better relationships with the other players at the gaming table with you.