Monday, October 7, 2013

The Problem Players Series: The Loner's Path

Heya folks. Took a little break from blogging to work out what I wanted to cover and some RL issues.

This time I'm going to do an informal series on problematic players and my own experience handing them. I'm going to start off covering the Loner player.

The Loner is a player who likes to play the so-called isolated solo characters. The tragic hero types that don't make friends and take care of business on their own. (See Wolverine, Blade, The Dark Knight, most 80's action movie heroes)

The problem with this is screws up party dynamics and does murder to the ability to keep everyone working together when their character wonders off to do something dark and foreboding and suddenly the group is down one of their critical members.

This comes from a few bad assumptions. First off the Loner character is rarely a 'loner' in sense they don't interact with others. If you notice using Wolverine as an example, he's often with the X-men, featured with a partner or 3 in his own book, or has a lot of "NPC" character he talks with and has to deal with. The other flaw in the logic is that the Loner isn't awesome because he does things on his or her own, it's because they do things different than the rest of the group.

The truth of the Loner is they are following the internal path, an introverted ideology on how to solve their problems. Mind you, those doesn't mean they don't work well with others. As much as the character Wolverine protests that the group cramps his style he often is seen looking out for his allies, and tries desperately to keep his personal drama out of it. Not that it works, but that's good story telling for you.

One of the methods I find with debugging a loner is to allow them to write a backstory element that shows up in the main plot. Such as Logan's lost memories, time in Japan, and strange dealings with Weapon X. The Loner character wants his character's highlight scenes to be meaningful. The trick is you have to see if the player feels he never gets the limelight, or is it more to do with his need to write his character's journey/tale down.

This is where bluebooking comes in. Bluebooking, for those that don't know the old term, is a process of non-game time mutual background writing and event extension. Think of it as extremely rules light narrative building. Give the Loner player room in their background and down time to fill in what they think of the past adventure, blog or wiki it for others to read (after all the Loner wants an audience for their monolog.) and then give them optional paths for the downtime activities. Then..hit that player and group with the results the next session. You might soon have the whole group bluebooking if it works out. Otherwise, it will blunt a LOT of the Loner's need to monolog and solo play DURING an existing session.

Being firm with the player works, but they have to understand that they have a role in the group dynamic. The loner follows the internal path, the path of the outsider looking in. Having them walk around outside the main activity doesn't showcase that at all! Warn them of this. The Loner is interesting because of their outsider perspective. They need to be in the thick of it to have chances to roleplay the interesting tangents their plots would bring to a game. Otherwise, what they really want is Solo RPing. And honestly, if they are there weekly to game...that's NOT what they want.

Not all Loners are spotlight hogs, but some don't understand how to play a Loner in a group and still be productive to the whole game. There are ways to fix this, but like all problem players. A little TLC is needed.