How do you deal with problem players at conventions or your FLGS?
How do you deal with “bad” gamers in pick-up games at your friendly local gaming store?
Wow! Great question. I think “bad gamers” happen a lot, but rarely on purpose. What constitutes “bad gaming etiquette” for one group might not be the same for another. The MtG players who are yelling and screaming at the top of their lungs at each other are having the time of their lives in their own microcosm.
So, let’s dive into this shall we? If you are running a game at a convention or your FLGS, you need to set up some ground rules. This should work just like session zero in your own home campaign. You aren’t here to be a tyrant, you are there to provide entertainment for others. That said, you also need to be having fun, because running a game is a lot of work, and pick-up players often forget that fact. They might not realize that you put 15 hours into making their characters, writing the adventure and drawing all the cool maps.
The first thing I’d do is welcome everyone and thank them for joining you. Let them know what you are running, your passion for it and how much you’ve invested yourself in it. Then do a mini-session zero. Let them know your expectations, play style and what you’d like to get out of running the adventure.
What are you running?
What is the theme?
What is your GM style?
What are your expectations of the players?
How do you feel about electronic devices?
Consequences of cheating, etc.
Your transparency gives them direction. I don’t run silly games. I abhor silly players in my games. The material I run isn’t funny. But, I’m making that all about me. Remember that there are numerous different play styles and everyone enjoys the games differently than you. If you are running a game with a serious tone, just be honest and forthright with your expectations in the beginning. Roleplaying is about the experience of being in character and being part of a great story. It should definitely be within everyone’s best interest to get the most enjoyment out of that.
Now, you’ve laid the groundwork, and suddenly realize that someone is not adhering to your game plan. They are doing something disruptive or are breaking the immersion of your carefully crafted game. Now what?
Well, remember that you made a pact with everyone in the beginning. Just give them a polite nudge towards your original goals. Maybe slip them a note to remind them and not embarrass them. Usually people will be cool with that, especially after consenting to your game style in the beginning (btw, did you ask what THEY wanted?).
If someone is being disruptive, or hogging all the action though, that’s another case. Why are they acting like that? Well, in some cases, it’s because they are having fun and they want to have ALL the fun. They don’t even realize it. Just politely let them know that you need to handle this other character’s actions and you’ll be back to them. It’s completely fine to let people know that you want EVERYONE to have fun. They’ll get the hint and hopefully dial it back.
If someone’s being disruptive, “OMG, LOOK AT MY NEWEST POKEMON!”, well, then don’t feel bad about quelling that behavior right away. They are clearly not paying attention, and worse, they are taking away from the experience for everyone else. Let them know that you are here to run a game that you’ve spent a lot of time (and possibly money) on and really want that to be the main focus. If they are distracted, they might be bored. Thrust them into some action. Engage them. If you can’t, and Pokemon is more important, it’s ok to ask them to leave because they are disrupting your game. I don’t think I’ve ever had to kick anyone out of my games, but I’m not saying I wouldn’t.
In all, remember that everyone is there for the same reason: to have fun. Maybe your ideas are different than someone else’s. Be flexible and open-minded, but at the same time, don’t let problem players arise and take over your carefully crafted session. Keep them from occurring by using a quick session zero pow-wow before the start of your game--even at conventions.
Follow my advice and you’ll be creating a great atmosphere for the game you want to run and maybe even teaching new players HOW to be more mature roleplayers.
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