Yesterday’s blog post had a very good comment about asking for more information on how to spot each type of gamer, so I figure I might as well develop the Powergamer writeup further before I move on.
Identifying a Powergamer
Powergamers have a strong grasp of the rules. They go over it with in excruciating detail, often memorizing as they go in order to find specific “loopholes” or “exploits” in the system that they can take advantage of.
Their reasons for playing this way is often to demonstrate their mastery over a system by overachieving in their chosen field. Most of the time, this defaults to combat, and many Powergamers tend to bulldoze the opposition in situations where other players might be sweating bullets.
Powergamers often refer to their character “builds” and take on a mechanics-oriented point of view in character creation. Most of the time they will tweak with a character build until they have reached an exploit that satisfies their need to game the character creation system, then will wrap a concept around it.
Sometimes this might lead to interesting results as the player attempts to find a way to make all the seemingly disparate choices work as some form of backstory: “He’s and elft that was raised by Orcs and taught to be a barbarian but his mastery over the masterwork katana was due to being taught by an ancient master from the Far East. Oh and the gun was something he picked up from the corpse of a Gnome bandit he killed in self-defense. He just picked up the sharpshooting skills due to sheer talent.
Getting along with a Powergamer
One thing to remember about specialization is that it renders them less-abled than more well-rounded characters in a majority of situations. Combat optimization is fine and dandy in a game that’s 90% combat, for example, but in a game with a good mix of all the essential challenges of a game (a chase, combat, intrigues and investigation) it will leave a Powergamer rather bored as they wait until something triggers their specialty.
Nobody likes being left out of the action, so it’s often a good idea to bring the Powergamer character along and engage them in these scenes. It’s always good to keep in mind that complications (and failure) can be fun in the hand of the right GM, so don’t be afraid to take risks like dragging the team’s combat Powergamer into a scene where you have to smooth talk the Mayor’s daughter, or hack into a secure government database.
Learn to cultivate trust. I’ve met a few Powergamers whose single-minded devotion to combat was born of experiences with GMs or play groups that are remarkably deadly. People carry learned behaviors to their other groups, and sometimes it takes time to get them out of that mindset. Once you do however, it begins to pay in spades.