Problem Players

The biggest issue I’ve found when trying to deal with people is, how do you deal with the assholes? This, of course, carries over to tabletop gaming. Anyone who has ever run a game has encountered one of these people, in their many forms. Such as:

The Rules Lawyer: This is the person who, in real life, probably thought saying “no tag-backs” meant a damn thing. This is the sort of person who needs to check every single word someone plays in Scrabble just because they aren’t sure if “cats” is playable. 

The only way to beat this player is to play their game better than them. Learn the rules, and learn how to play them. It frustrates the hell out of these people, turning their own rules against them. It’s by no means fun, nor glorious, and I’m fairly certain that the after-school specials I watched growing up would be disappointed. But, it’s necessary for your own peace of mind in later games. 

The Power Gamer: This person creates some of the worse atmosphere in any game. Be it something as simple as Monopoly, to more complex games, like Shadowrun, they spend the pregame and the game itself looking for ways, never outside the rules, to play the game way too hard.

Beating this player is similar to beating the Rules Lawyer, but more severe. If you’re running the game, the best strategy is to raise the difficulty around the one character; make them work hard if they want to play hard. If you’re a player, or the game isn’t adjudicated by a single person, don’t let the desire to outplay go to your head; take the fangs out of losing, and the joy of winning dies too. 

The Joker: This one is a thin line to walk. Everyone can appreciate a good sense of humor, but it’s pretty easy to slip through to the annoying end. This is the guy who can’t make a statement without needing it to be a joke. 

The best way to treat this person is to not react, not negatively or positively. It’s the trick that parents always tell you with bullies; don’t let them see you react in anyway. They’ll get the message.

There are tonnes more kinds of players who are are the problem, but it would take way to long to list them all here. François

Most of these options are last-resort choices. Obviously, the first choice you want it make is to talk to them, in private.  

Photo Credit: François Phillipp


Michael Houle

Michael Houle is an insatiable reader, writer, gamer, and musician, and a critic of everything written, programmed, and performed. He is currently in the process of destroying his enjoyment of everything. Michael has been running tabletop games for years, starting in his freshmen year of high school to the present.

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