Game Mastery

What do your players bring to the table?

by on Jul.14, 2013, under Uncategorized

Originally this was a StackExchange answer presenting the classification I use when inviting players to my games. But it’s a work in progress so it didn’t really fit there.

Most schemes I’ve seen classify players by what they get out of playing – the buttkicker wants to fight, the method actor wants to pretend, the optimizer wants to crunch numbers, etc. They all address the things you need to put into your games. What I’d like to classify instead is what the addition of a player will bring to your table.


And I don’t mean the 4e class role.  Some players have a dominant personality.  Regardless of the character, these players tend to take over and lead the party.  Sometimes they don’t even do it consciously.

On the surface this seems awesome.  And it is, until you get several of them in the same group.

The problem with leaders is that they all want to lead.  They’re used to people doing what they say.  When they meet another leader, they can’t help but butt heads.

I’m strongly of the opinion that these players should be kept apart.  I’ve met quite a few of them who I am more than happy to play with, but can’t stand as soon as they play with each other.  The exception to this is when one of them is the GM.  That role takes enough leadership of its own that there’s still plenty of room for a party leader.

I’m also of the opinion that a leader is usually good for the table.  Usually.  It’s really nice to have someone who will herd the PCs for you.  But leaders are also prone to talking over quiet players.  If you have a player who is struggling to escape his own shell, put him at a table with no natural leader.  These players rarely sink when allowed to swim, but they’d sooner cling to the leader’s coattails than do anything for themselves.

Warm Body

The warm body might as well be an NPC.  They don’t have opinions and won’t contribute to the plot.  As far as I can tell they show up because they want to hang out, not to game.

Believe it or not, I’m not opposed to including a warm body or two at your table.  Stories have main characters and side characters.  It’s okay if your table does too.  Write plot for the three active participants who will take the plot and run with it.  Let the players who are just along for the ride go along with the ride.

The most important thing with warm body players is to be aware of them.  You don’t want a table full of these players.

Teacher’s Pet

I have mixed feelings about teacher’s pets.  These players try to help you out.  What I mean by that is that they’ll do what you tell them, or what they think you tell them.  They grab plot hooks as soon as they see them and pull as hard as they can.  It may not be universal, but in my experience most of these players also GM from time to time.

The problem is that teacher’s pets are predictable and boring.  If I wanted the characters to do everything I expected, I’d write fiction.  I prefer gaming because the players will do things I don’t expect and force me to improvise.  I like being kept on my toes and teacher’s pet players are incapable of that.

But they’re not without their uses.  I never mean to railroad the players, but sometimes I really want them to follow a certain plot line.  When that happens, I show the plot line to the teacher’s pet.  He bites it hook, line, and sinker, and the rest of the party has to follow.  For this reason I like having one teacher’s pet in the group.  It gives me a freebie when I need to manipulate the PCs, but leaves enough players who can catch me off guard.

Button Pusher

This isn’t the most common player type.  But I know one who is such a serious button pusher that I can’t not acknowledge them.

The button pusher is the chaotic version of the teacher’s pet.  He doesn’t care if he helps you or not, but if you put any actionable item in the game, he’s the one that’s going to try using it (or goad the other PCs into it.)

I’m not going to lie, I don’t have as many ideas for how to work with this kind of player.  The obvious usage is to make him do bad things to the party.  He’s going to eat forbidden fruit, drop rocks down the bottomless well, sleep with the farmer’s daughter, and steal the golden idol from its pedestal.  It’s like the teacher’s pet, but for making mischief.


Some players are out to beat the GM.  I don’t know how to deal with them because I don’t invite them to my tables.  Adversarial GMs might find them more interesting, but I’m not an adversarial GM and I have no use with a player who is trying to compete with me.

What else?

Who did I miss?

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