Problem Players and how to deal with them?

How do you people deal with players that:

  1. Starts long arguments every time they want to do something with magic and they do not get the answers they want:
    For example I have a player that wants to be a Rego specialists and he wants to do any and everything by using Rego, even though the guidelines say that he cant do it.

  2. Players that really wants to know everything and downloads the book illegally - just to get all the spoilers for what will happen.
    I have a strong inkling that at least one player in my group download the books illegally and has read through them, just because knowing things that the character does not know.

  3. Players that try to interpret all the rulings and start arguments if they are not to the liking of said player

  4. Players using computers and type in everything that happens during the game as if they were a court stenographer?

  5. Players that without remorse ignore the Oath of Hermes and when they gets punished , sulk about it?

  1. Well, I've found it helps to make sure players have a firm grasp of what can and cannot be accomplished with their magic. Rego is especially troublesome on this front in that there's a strong overlap with Muto and (to a lesser extent), Creo/Perdo. Beyond that, my advice is to try and help the player find away to accomplish whatever it is he'd trying to do with a legal application of Rego magic.

  2. Without evidence I'm not sure what you could do and wouldn't recommend accusing him of wrongdoing even if there was. One suggestion, if you're running scenarios from the books, is to take the time to introduce minor changes to the story that way even if he does read the books it won't necessarily confer an unfair advantage.

  3. I'm not sure what to say. I like discussing the game's rules, but there's a time and a place for it. Perhaps encourage the players to discuss some of their concerns about your ruling calmly and rationally after the game some time so that you're all on the same page as to why you made the rulings you did.

  4. I'm sure this is annoying to you as an SG, but I'm not sure of a solution. You could, of course, ask that all electronic devices be set aside during the game, but if they're taking notes of the game, they may simply continue (more noisily) with their pencils and paper.

  5. I'm not sure about this. Ultimately, I suppose a certain amount of annoyance is understandable - it is a punishment after all. That said, if the player's being disruptive, I'm afraid I've got no suggestions for this one.

Running a game is challenging, and it doesn't matter what system you're in. Ars has special problems because it's a fairly complex system, which means it lends itself to rules-lawyering, and it also has actual lawyering in the game setting, which can easily get your game stuck in endless debates over the minutia of the Code. And, because magi have council meetings, debating various courses of action can often chew up a lot of your game time. And because magi are notoriously unable to cooperate, your troublesome players can even claim they have setting reasons to be complete jerks!

If it were me in your position, I would begin with private, personal, conversations with the players involved. Do not begin with accusations a player is doing something "wrong"; instead, lay out the consequences of these actions. "When you debate the rules with me in front of everyone else during the game, it disrupts the story, it monopolizes table time, and it bores the heck out of everyone else. You're stealing their time. Let's find a way to talk about rule problems outside the game. You may not agree with my rule decisions, but for the good of the other players, let's talk about it after the game. Okay?"

When you have a player who is reading the adventures, make it clear to the player that these kinds of sneaky advantages are just not necessary. "I'm here to make sure everyone has a good time. I'm not here to kill your character. Reading the adventure ahead of time is just not necessary for you to succeed in it. When you -do- read the adventure ahead of time, all you do is make more work for me, because I have to change it to make sure you get the level of suspense and unpredictability a good gaming session requires." The same language is useful for players who think they have to make the toughest, most kick-butt magus in the Order. "Look, you just don't need to be that tough. You are totally overkilling this. Min/maxing is not required to succeed in my game. All you're doing is making more work for me, and making the other players think they have to min/max to keep up with you."

I have, myself, instituted "no computer" rules at the table. It depends on the group. These days, I run almost all my games over Google Hangout (video chat), so it's sort of a moot point. But when you are running games at the table, you are perfectly within your rights to ask the computers be put away. IF a player really wants to take notes, he can use paper like every other magus. He can practice his Profession: Scribe. It'll be good for him.

As for the Code and breaking the Code ... I am of mixed opinion on this, personally. I find many Ars games devolve into arguments over interpretation of the Code. It's as bad as the old debates over a Paladin's alignment. You have a couple of things going on here. First, your question is broadly concerned not with the Code in specific, but with the general idea that players don't like the consequences of their own actions. Perhaps a player thinks "That's not what would happen," or he is just here for wish-fulfillment and does not want anyone to give him a hard time when he slaughters a village for fun. You have a tough problem here, because games are supposed to be fun. You want to help your player have fun, but his version of fun may not be the version of fun you -- or the rest of your table -- enjoy. What you might try is giving him a particular venue where he can go crazy without worrying about consequences, while making it clear to him in direct conversation that the rest of the world is not going to be so easy. For example, maybe the local village is totally cowed by this player's magus. He can basically do whatever he wants to them. Or he has the local baron under his thumb. Maybe he has a pack of faeries he has bound to service. If he wants to go crazy on people, he can do it there. Everywhere else? They're not going to put up with that kind of boloney.

But the issue of the Code itself is another problem. Remember that, out of character, the Code exists to facilitate stories. In the setting, it is there to keep magi out of each other's business, but out of character it is supposed to create and drive stories. If you find yourself wanting to tell a cool story, but you can't because the Code is in the way, well, find a way to ignore the Code. This is not actually very hard. The Code is basically a tool of politics in the Order, and a strong enough political force (like an archmagus or a Primus or something) can provide a lot of cover to player characters. In a very real sense, the exact wording of the Code and what is, or is not, legal in a particular instance is sort of irrelevant. It's not about what the Code says, it's about what the political forces behind a particular prosecution or defense can bring to bear. A magus in violation of the Code but with strong political connections can cut a deal and get away unpunished. A magus can be charged with trumped up accusations and, if the opposition is well connected, end up suffering a thoroughly unfair penalty. That's not an accident of game design. It is that way on purpose. Because that makes for more interesting, and more varied, stories.

I hope some of this is useful to you. I've been GMing games for thirty years and I learn more about doing it every damn time I sit down at the table. If you want some really good advice, regardless of game system, I recommend Robin's Laws of Good Gamemastering. It's a slender little book published by Steve Jackson Games and written by a genius in the field.

If the player is trying to rules-lawyer the Code of Hermes, then the obvious solution is to tell them to make their case in-character and roll Communication+Code, or Presence+Intrigue if it's the Rhine Tribunal (or the player is otherwise focusing more on power politics than the actual Code), to determine just how legal their action was. I'd be kind of surprised if any player tried to rules-lawyer it out of game, personally; it's the kind of thing that you're expected to try to cheat on.

If a player just wants to overrun the system without being chained by it, explain that his actions will have consequences in-game, and thus that he'd better brush up on the Code and find ways to use it to his advantage if he wants to continue interfering with mundanes.

Rules lawyers who argue with my face to face rulings get put to the troupe[1]. Now it doesn't happen during play, but afterwards. My rulings stand until the entire has consensus. Very rarely will I make a ruling that everyone will disagree with. The other players may side with you because reversing the ruling could significantly impact their own character. This is consistent with the idea of a troupe. I also explain that some rulings that can be reversed are also available to the NPCs. If the players are familiar enough with the NPCs they might realize how bad such a ruling really is.
Sometimes troublesome players are a response to a GM controlling things too tightly. I say this with some knowledge based on personal experience from the player and GM side of things.

[1]This also happens in PbP, but may have less of an impact on pacing of the game.

You might come to enjoy that 6 months down the line, when you try to remember who met who. Just make sure those notes are accessible by all.

Don't play with fools?

Seriously, these are not rule issues: these are people issues. The answer to them is not rule based: it goes like this:

"Fred, I'm talking to you before the game like this because I'm really not enjoying the game any more, Your play style and mine are too different. You are treating the thing as some sort of competition, and I'm in it mostly for the storytelling. So, I'm going to quit as SG. Ars is designed for rotating SGs, so perhaps you'd like to take over for a while. I'll run this one session to wrap storylines up, and you can start next week."

Only say this if you mean it, of course...

My other convention is that if you have an electronic device in your hand, your character is a zombie. At my last Ars demo game, there was a guy who was tweeting through my rules explanation and then sat there confused and bored for the rest of the session. Tough cheese, dude. Play or don't play: you don't get to only pay attention when you are the centre of attention. I know, I'm a horrible ambassador for the game...but there you go.

As to the court reporting thing: we used to reward players keeping journals in Amber DRPG. Just ask them to record voices passively, and only transcribe afterwards, because it puts you off your game. Indeed in some of my Ars games, diaries = vis sources.

I should be so lucky! Sometimes I miss the days of Earthdawn, which rewarded your character if you (the player) took notes.

The thing is that this player writes down so much and is so int writing that it is impossible for me as a SG to get him into the group. He just writes down everything and misses when people wants to RP against him. Then he gets angry when both me and the other SG ask him not to dedicate all the session to write down the stuff.

For the later, make him a central character in a few scenes, so he needs to immerse himself in it instead of typing it.

For the other things (and this one as well) I think that the basic thing you are lacking is a "session 0 Consensus". A troupe ois a complicated thing. Each member of the troupe tends to want different things, and most people do not have the slightest idea of your ubber-cool-amazing-of-awesome design for the saga, and they do not care much, really (QFT from a friend of mine after we busted the masks of Nyarlathotep for the second time).

A session 0 where you and the troupe reach a consensus of what you all want to play, what will be the general guidelines achievable with their power level and what kind of stories you all want to play is a good thing to do. It comes before the session of character creation since it is the session of SAGA creation. It helps to define what types of interaction you will want to have, and for example, if you as alpha SG will throw details that they missrtemember to hunt them down or not (typing problem) or you will play loser and more or less allow them to do whatever they want within certain limits, but rules lawyering will or will not be allowed. Putting a strong emphasis on the fact that this is the story of a community and that theyr jerk actions have consequences is important. The Code should be reviewed in some detail, including loopholes (they are explicit in the official material, like item sales or strict interpretation of the "AND bring down ruin on sodales" for mundane interaction).

This has happened in my troupe as well, and I have been in both sides of it, so it is not that uncommon :slight_smile: Right now this is a basic feature of any game we play. We just played 2 sagas, one going overboard with power level to abuse the system (we moved mount Snowden to create a new island in the Manx sea, created 2 new tribunals and had a dragon guard dog with an Unravelling collar to protect him from hermetics) and one to test hedge magicians (we replayed the conflict between Pralix and Damhandh Allaidh). Obviously the troupe consensus were quite different for both sagas :slight_smile: In the first Might 50 was an everyday encounter, in the second a flu almost decimated our characters in downtime :mrgreen:


So, he's wasting only his own time and not everyone elses?
Sad, but seems to me like he's there to be told a story, rather than participating.

I like the idea of player diaries. But diaries are almost imperfect because they rely upon the recollection of the one writing the diaries. I often shade what I say or write with how the character would reasonably remember it. I almost never relay all the information that the SG has an NPC impart to my character. The players may all know it because they heard the SG, but they can usually compartmentalize what information their character knows. Of course a mentem expert should be expected to have a good recollection. But that can be augmented by the SG and/or troupe to fill in the blanks, so extensive an voluminous noted shouldn't be necessary.

Ihave nothing against people taking notes and stuff, but it should not be that they do nothing else. They are after all in the campaign to play and have fun...or so I thinks

I agree. Let's try again. What have you done to moderate the excessive note taking?

Problem players can be a pain particularly in Ars with it's high power level and steep learning curve. If they are to unpleasant not playing with them is an option. But if you won't go that far it may be up to you to change if you wan't to save your game.

1)In general try to be as positive as you can be during play. Say no as little as possible. Try to redirect players to something they can do rather then spend a lot of energy telling them why their interpretation is wrong. One trick I will use sometimes when a player is compleatly off track is to mention something really cool the TeFo their misapplying actually can do even if it has no immediate application.

Specifically rego can be a big problem. More then most arts rego is defined by what it can't do. It's fair to say, "Look at what all the other Techniques can do what's leftover is Rego." My first suggestion guide any player who doesn't have a really good grasp of the rules away from a Rego maven concept. Failing that try to make them more focused. Have them spcilize in a specific form (ReMe, ReCo, ReVi) or application (Telekinesis, Wards, Craft Magic). Finally, but perhaps most importantly, make sure the player isn't wrong. With a little creativity Rego can indirectly accomplish many things that seem to be limited to other Te. Just look at many of the passionate argu... er discussions on this very forum.

  1. Like the applications Rego there is much OOC debate over interpretations of the code. Try to make sure you and the player are on the same page before any actions take place. Not just if an action is an infraction but how seriosly the Order takes it. Remember blasting your way through a fairy forest stealing any pawn of vis not nailed down is less likely to get you in trouble trying to scry the location of a item that your pretty sure was stolen from you but might be in another Magi's sanctum. Of course as the ST you ultimatly determine the reactions of your NPCs. One bit of advice I can give on this topic is to remember is that the characters usually know more about the world then the players. Statements like
    "Your characters knows the quesitors look out for this sort of thing." are very appriat ways to warn a player about consequences.

My first action was to talk with him what he wanted out of the game and the reply was "To play and have fun"
Then I decided to put him into a more central role for a short while, where he must be the driving person, but he only cared about half of what I said and did as the rest of his attention was at his keyboard.

So my final resolution will probably be banning computers all together as the other three players are bothered by his inability to play his character when needed and that he never hears what they say when he is typing.

As others have said, many of these problems are not specific to Ars Magica.

My biggest advice for all points concerned is ask yourself what you might be doing that is prompting the observed behaviour. It might be nothing, but don't discount the possibility that at least some of these actions are reactionary. Being self-critical is hard.

That said, I have seen examples of players who are antisocial idiots, bullies and somehow think the rules don't apply to them in the same way they apply to everyone else. If they are poison for your game and confronting them directly and asking them to change their behaviour either doesn't work or makes the problem worse then either they have to go or you need to not SG for the group. SGing is tough and its a lot of work. Remind your players that you are there to have fun as well, and if they continue to make your play experience miserable then step away from the big chair.

If this means the end of the group then so be it. You can always form up another one and refrain from inviting the problem children back.

I suggest an open dialogue with the entire group. It's probably long past due. Discussion of the game contract, and how to move forward.

Bring up the rules lawyering and ways to address it and leave it in play. I like a good rules discussion, because I like rules. Rules are the framework for building a good story. I hate it when fantasy authors (and SGs) break their own (system's) rules by saying it's another form of magic the protagonist isn't familiar with, and then never explores that magic. But in the heat of the game, a decision needs to be made, if you make one, the only way to reverse it is to have the table veto it. If it's especially egregious on the part of the GM, that vote will come up almost immediately. If players have doubts, they can hash it out later, after the game. Events can be retconned, or explained some other manner.

The excessive note taker needs to understand the impact he's having on the game. This is very much like the parent who videos every child's event, but really isn't in the moment. He's paying attention to the camera, not really what he's filming. When I film events my daughter participates in I enjoy them less. I never have a desire to go back and rewatch things. So, what's the player's motivation for excessive note taking? Does he bring these things backup to correct the SG about every detail? Has he received the shaft before, because he didn't have clear notes on what has transpired in the past? Is there some way you can assure him that won't be the case?