Check for Traps
Player Drama

Greg Tito | 27 Jul 2010 17:00
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In any group of people working towards a common goal, there is the potential for drama. I'm sure you've experienced it. One guy will have this awesome idea, the most awesomest idea in the world, but the rest of the team just can't get behind it, for whatever reason. That person can start to feel like the rest of the group is against him, which of course they are, at least in this instance, and he will start to lash out in retaliation. His negative feelings can then poison the efforts of the group, leading to more drama. I've seen it happen a million times, in all kinds of situations from family trips to writing collaborations to the Los Angeles Lakers. When it happens in a role playing group, though, it can be especially devastating because roleplaying games are cooperative storytelling. In many ways, playing them is an elaborate exercise in group decision-making. So if one facet of that group matrix is malfunctioning, then the fun of the whole group is in danger.

For that reason, I think that it is always a good idea to identify the conflict and solve it as soon as possible. You could say that, as a player, it's not your job to fix the group dynamic, that's GM territory. While there are certain situations where asking the GM to intervene is the right call, it doesn't mean that you can't be a good, proactive player and help to iron out the difficulties on your own (as Alex's columns have pointed out, GMs have enough to worry about). Luckily, I've learned a few ways to deal with inter-player drama around the gaming table.

It's hard to form a group of gamers who like to play the exact same way. As the 4th Edition Dungeon Master's Guide points out, there are 8 profiles of gamers and they all play for different reasons. A group of 6 people is bound to have 4, 5 or even 6 unique ways to play roleplaying games. Some of these motivators are compatible; the Slayer (wants to kill monsters all the time) and the Instigator (wants to keep the session moving forward) can often have similar goals. But an Actor (wants to speak in character more often than not) might not want to kill the dryad that Slayer and Instigator do, he or she would rather use roleplaying to gain information or feel cool by using the dryad to learn the back way into the Forest Chief's camp. How do you resolve the conflict that might arise from one course of action (in this case, killing monsters) always being chosen over roleplaying?

The answer is communication and compromise. If you are on the side that doesn't get to play the game the way that you want, it's important to make that known to the group. While you can bring it up when the situation arises, tempers might be too heated to have a rational discussion about it and it would slow down play. Try bringing it up at the beginning of a session, when everyone is chit-chatting. You might even want to send an email to the group about your concerns. Don't be demanding or point fingers, just state that sometimes you wish that the group supported your character in a different course of action. Appeal to them to compromise, without making any judgments on whether their way or your way is the right course. Just that it would make the game more fun to realize that not everyone wants to play the way that they do. The GM might be able to help here by bringing up your concerns to the rest of the group, opening the topic for discussion.

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