CLASSES OF PLAYERS (What to expect)

     Most gamers start their life as a Slasher.  If you started your role-playing life with D&D, it’s almost a guarantee.  You pick a class, get some magic if necessary, and go off to do some good in a dark, damp dungeon.  The games are often referred to as a Hack & Slash game.  Character personality is slim--most just wait for the next battle.  Some Players never grow from this phase and perfect their technique to find out, in a game, what the best weapons are and how to best wield them.
 Inexperienced ones lump themselves with other novices.  Placing an inexperienced Slasher in a group of experienced players of any class leads to disaster.  The novice lacks the expertise to create a competing character.  The majority of novice AD&D games are Slashers.  Mecha games are renown for quickly distinguishing between experts and novice novices.  A GM introducing a new Slasher to a combat-orientated game should assist the Player in making a character that can compete with the rest.  A GM wanting a story driven game should lower his/her standards when dealing with a group of Slashers.  Keep the opponents coming…at least one fight per session.  An experienced GM keeps a good story going with one or two fights per session.  Make sure they receive rewards on a regular basis.  Don’t go overboard, but GMs should occasionally drop a new gun someone’s way.

     These italic sections refer to actual incidents of my life in role-playing.  The names of all other characters and players have been changed to protect their privacy…except, of course, for me.  Now, I started life as a Slasher in AD&D.  When I moved from that onto others like Star Wars and Robotech, I drifted towards creating personas and the need for weapons fell.  I have player every game imaginable.  Mostly, I refereed most games but I played a few times to.  One instance, I came as a Role Player but since this was my first foray into GURPS, I found my character (an ex-cop) overwhelmed by gun toting cyberpunkers.  After more than 4 months of falling behind in the group. I changed my character and turned him into a hitman who could hold his own with the others.  The first moment a PC drew his weapon on me, we rolled our quickdraw skills.  While his gun was being drawn from the holster, I pulled back the hammer on my pistol in front of his skull.  The game folded a month later…but I had my moment…

     Usually, after several months or even years of playing, a Player deviates and discovers that fighting gets somewhat monotonous.  Even though they might still enjoy the odd gun or swordplay, they yearn to create a character holding the potential to grow with traits and skills not designed solely for combat.  They strive to develop and live in a story.  The story becomes the priority, and not the next battle.  The Role-Player is born.  Role-Players might continue with AD&D, but often enough, drift away onto more creative venues.  For many, the “World of Darkness” series of games produced by White Wolf called to them.  Why not join a game that renamed its Game Master a “Storyteller.”
     Not to seem sexist, but my experience shows that the only Players that start their gaming life as Role Players are women.  Men can start with some minor role-playing skills, but most of the time, they can’t wait to start their first fight.  Role-Players often are experienced but unlike Slashers, novices and expert Role Players often get along since, surprisingly, it’s easier to create a PC designed for role-playing over one designed for combat.
     Watching an inexperienced GM dealing with a group of experienced Role-playing is a sight to behold.  Quickly enough, the GM stays silent, almost overwhelmed by the constant chattering players.  In an open-ended game, players often go off on tangents doing their own tasks and resuming the story when fit and ready.  A good GM must be able to anticipate this or be overwhelmed as the novice Slasher stated above.  When an experienced GM finds a group of pure role players, there’s seldom a bad session.  Role-Players don’t require tangible victories.  They love it when a GM uses intricate points of their character in the grand scheme of the game.  Their reward arrives when their character gets the opportunity to shine.  Combat in these game happens eventually, but battles are not tacked on like so many bad action flicks.  These game are the equivalent of an Indiana Jones movie over a Steven Seagal movie.  Hell, the really good ones are the Reservoirs Dogs games, when players seldom need to look at the GM unless they need something explained to them and most of the activity floats between the Players themselves.

     Derrick and I knew Bill’s mech game didn’t require much role-playing.  Derrick and I role-played together for almost a decade until this point.  We often would goof off together in our characters (whether they liked each other or not).  Also experienced designers, our Mechs showcased a pinnacle of construction.   After two hours in the first session, our mechs found themselves surrounded by twenty large opponent machines demanding surrender.  Our simple answer came in a barrage of missile fire.  Two hours later, after a nonstop mech fight, Derrick’s and my mech were barely hanging on.  I lost all but one weapon and Derrick pummeled a mech to death with another opponents dismembered arm.  However, we defeated them.  The game came to grinding halt.  The GM assumed we would have surrendered.  The story required it…Bill never refereed to Derrick and myself again.  Well…he should have known Derrick and I have fought greater odds in other mech games and won.

     When you carry the best guns and the best magic but know when not to use them, you have achieved the pinnacle of role-playing.  Mixtures are players that know their game so well, they can create the best their character can be with a personality all their own.  This is usually the most fun because it means these folks are going to be entertained no matter what happens.  Only experienced gamers can mix combat and character growth successfully.  When referees become players, mixtures often result.  I have encountered a few of these in my time; most are my friends whom I have played with for years.

     When I joined Doug’s game, I could have designed a killer mech with one eye closed and both hands tied behind my back.  After all, I created Conestoga a year earlier and built no less that 20 different designs for that game.  The Mekton Technical System was like a Bible and I could quote scripture with the best of them.  I also liked role-playing and created a combination that both worked well in combat as well as a personality I was itching to try…an ass.  I always played the nice guy…but I wanted to try a jerk for once.  The other players had some experience but the group suffered eventually from not one but from EVERY single conflict I list later in this essay.  In combat, of course, while the inexperienced players banged away with mechs with six or seven different guns (the first sign of a novice), I racked up as many kills as the rest of the group put together.  However, my personality became unpopular and since most of the group couldn’t disassociate me from my character, I found myself on the street within three months.

     In a group of experienced Role Players, the novice Slasher can find even his blossoming hacking skills inferior to players that have gamed for so long and just know the best combinations of weapons and skills to become Steven Seagal on speed.  If a GM creates a game populated by experience players, a novice Slasher is the most underused.  Worst-case scenario, the player sits silent, unable to function and when the battles start, the characters finds his only purpose in life overwhelmed by his cohorts who dominate the fight.
     A GM adapts his game to his group.  More Role Players, more role-playing, and the usefulness of a Slasher reduces.  If you have an experienced Slasher in a group of Role Players, you have a gun maniac in a group who basically only needs to be woken up when a battle starts.  The character turns-on and deals with the threat almost single-handedly.  Now if this game is story-driven, the Slasher must learn to adopt some new talents or soon be bored at the lack of excitement.  Amateur gamers of any time in a story driven game populated by Role Players find themselves suddenly unable to understand and cope with the situations at hand.  GMs must learn to help the inexperienced players but be careful. Many Players, if forced into a situation they don’t understand, often simply throw their hands in the air and give up.  The larger the group, the greater the chance one member won’t have the experience to keep up with the rest.

     Jack sat in my Terminals game, without speaking, for more than two hours.  Derrick and James, totally in characters, controlled the room at the moment.  The crisis dealt with Derrick’s son controlling a fleet of not so nice enemy spacecraft and James having the capacity of killing Derrick’s son.  The other three members of the group tried to ease the situation.  I turned to Jack and tried to get him involved.  Mouth almost gaping and eyes wide, in shock, Jack replied, “I have absolutely no idea what to say.”

    In episodic gaming (a series of adventures rather than one long story), a GM can tailor each episode to use the skills of certain players.  If the reverse happens and an experienced Role Player joins a bunch of rookies, disaster awaits in the ditches in case the game should veer too far.  Often enough, the PC is assumed to BE his/ her character and any little character fault is mapped onto the Player.  If joining a group of novices, the experienced Role Player should create a nice guy…seriously; otherwise you risk being kicked out of the group for being an ass.  As for the novice Slasher joining a Role Playing group, try to tone down your Rambo mentality and work on some eccentricities of you character that are not gun-related.  It may be difficult…give it a try.

     Joe was a Slasher in my Pathfinder game, but not an experienced one.  He bought all his weapons from the High Tech Supplement from GURPS.  However this setting utilized a tech setting from Ultra Tech (My Pathfinder game before I modified the game system to match my needs).   When Joe started pulling out his weapons, getting hard to showcase what he had to flaunt, he fell back as an experienced role player, Craig, yanked out his x-ray laser and minced the enemy in no time.  Soon, I had to bring everyone to the same level…down unfortunately, to even the playing field.  However, the game was story driven and gunfights were few and far between.  I encouraged Joe’s character by giving him a great conflict…he was a spy.  When his dark side came out, Joe’s lack of efficient Role Playing skills proved detrimental and instead of coming clean or perhaps growing his character to understand the plight of his comrades he just betrayed, he pulled his gun and tried to escape…on a spacecraft…less that two football fields long.  Five against one…not so fair.  Joe was ‘cuffed and placed in a cell.  Never once did he attempt to offer amends, instead trying more ways to sabotage the ship.  He wrote me notes on which of his devices in his quarters were rigged with explosives.  When the seasoned Players searched Joe’s belongings, they didn’t bother studying what he had, they simply “spaced” everything he owned into the deep.  His personal spacecraft?  Ejected as well and towed behind in case it was also rigged.  Disarmed, Joe became quiet and anti-social.  Unable to win the groups trust again, the character left.  Joe tried later with a new PC.  I allowed the group to “interview” this new character…low and behold; it was the same type of character.  Joe walked out of the game and was never heard from again.  The high point for me, and what made this incident fall into the “good memories” department, was that all I needed to do for four full hours was watch five role players completely sink into their characters with no input from their GM.  It was like releasing a bird and seeing it fly.

     Simply put, the older the better.  There definitely appears to be a critical mass of Role-playing.  If they are younger than twenty, they are predominantly Slashers and inexperienced ones at that.  Between 20 and 25, the lines blur a bit.  After 25 the ratio falls in the favor of role players.  I have met few players over 30 that were just interested in fighting.  Why?  I have never encountered someone who began his or her role-playing life at that age (unless the year was 1978 and you were all playing Chainmail).  Almost every one started young and continued through their twenties.  There are exceptions of course, but few.  Older players generally are more experienced of course but most of them migrate towards solid role-playing.
     As a general rule, having the age gap between players ten years apart or more is a recipe for trouble.  Rivalry is almost a given.  The similar aged will stick together.  The GM should be one of the older players or at least, not the one that could be a Player’s son/daughter.  The younger player/s soon get overwhelmed.  This is especially true if the young player is in the minority.  If the older player is alone, he/she may be an outcast, but can at least attempt to fit in with some moderate success.  It is seldom successful the other way around.

    When I played Martin’s fantasy game, I was among the age majority, between 25 and 30.  We all knew each other and role-played well.  The concern came from three other players.  Divided straight down the middle.  Three were circa 25 years of age; three were circa 18 years of age.  The lines were drawn.  We never came to blows in the game but whenever older players became cynical and annoyed, it never directed itself to any older players.  With age comes experience.  Jason and I played in a Cyberpunk game with three much older guys, above 30.  Two of them held bachelor degrees.  Suffice to say, the GM never tried to dumb them down nor did he try to keep us on the same level.  You can imagine who made most of the decisions in that game…
Ironbelly:  "I bless myself."
GM:  "You're currently drowning, that won't help." 

Leopold:  "Well, at least he'll go to Heaven."