Playing With X

[Playing With X, Part 4] Jokers

Here’s a tricky kind of player to work with, but one that happens in most tables. These kinds can either make a game richer, or drive it crashing into failure in the span of a few sessions.


Jokers are players who like to kid around. They prefer to make jokes in and out of character. This can be a welcome thing to a group that is playing a light hearted game, but they can also be a pain when trying to maintain a serious mood in a game.


Jokers enjoy making other people laugh. Their jokes are a way to bring attention to themsleves, and sometimes to break the monotony of a boring game. It’s important to understand where they might be coming from as this kind of behavior can be constructive, or destructive depending on when and where it’s used.

How to Spot a Joker

It doesn’t take much to spot a Joker. While humor is admittedly subjective, the Joker is the one who tries his best to keep people chuckling from time to time.

Getting Along

Jokers tend to enjoy the spotlight, but can be forgetful that they can be ruining the mood of a game or someone else’s turn with their jokes. The best way to handle this kind is to quietly (and privately) talk to the Joker and let them know to try to reign it in once in a while as their jokes border on being rude.

In-game, having a Joker is not always so destructive. It might help them to have someone to trade barbs with, so having a few jokes of your own to hurl back at his character will allow him to let loose with his tendencies in a way that enriches the game rather than distracts from it.

One thing to note though is that Joker behaviour can also be used by passive-aggressive players to try and disrupt a game. As always, my recommendation here is to try and talk to them and see if they can air out their concerns and work out a solution rather than relying on passive-aggressive actions to try and drag everyone’s game down.

[Playing With X, Part 3] Facemen

Happy Monday everyone, welcome back to part 3 of the Playing with X series where we tackle the different kinds of players you might run into in a game and how to best get along with them from a Player’s point of view.


Facemen are the talkers of the team. They’re witty players who bring a different kind of specialty to the game that is separate from their character’s attributes and skills: the gift of gab. They naturally dominate table-side conversation, and naturally become the game’s spokespersons, tackling social situations without fear.


Facemen enjoy interaction. While they might not necessarily be the smartest in the team, they thrive on being able to engage in Roleplay through negotiation, conversation and fast talking. They prefer games where they get to engage with NPCs, learning from them or outmaneuvering them or making allies as they go. It’s not necessarily the objective, as much as the experience of interaction that makes a game “fun” for them.

How to Spot a Faceman

You don’t really spot a faceman as much as you hear them. They’re often the ones that engage in conversation first with NPCs, the ones who prefer to negotiate before drawing their weapons. Their characters can run the gamut from well-optimized killing machines, to scattershot builds with points everywhere, but none of these mechanics matter to a faceman in his element.

How to Get Along

For those following the series, the advice might start feeling repetitive. Facemen enjoy talking, so let them indulge in a bit of it now and then. Don’t just stab the opponent in mid-dialogue if the Faceman is obviously raring to throw a sizzling comeback line. Likewise, take the time to talk to them in-character, giving his character a chance to interact with your own outside of barking commands in a fight. Characters aren’t often psychic, and part of the fun from them is the banter between the two.

Facemen are easy to get along with. It doesn’t take much for them to enjoy a game as long as they get to play out their character. By engaging them in-character you give them (and yourself) a chance to develop your characters further and establish a rapport that makes for a much more entertaining game.

[Playing With X, Part 2] Tacticians

Hello everyone, today we’re talking about Tacticians, what they’re like, how to spot one, and of course, how to get along best with their play style.


Tacticians in my book are the players who resort to planning and tactics to succeed in a game. They’re consummate planners, and have a tendency to step back from a situation in order to analyze it without any emotions getting in the way.

This manifests most obviously in combat, but I’ve seen Tacticians take to social situations with the same kind of focus, drawing up social interaction diagrams in order to most effectively understand where everyone is in a given community.


Tacticians get the most fun out of figuring out a situation and coming up with an inspired solution to get the most desirable outcome. The kind of challenge they enjoy is one where they get to engage the opponent and dominate them not necessarily with brute force, but with a combination of factors that leaved the opposition thoroughly defeated in the ways that matter. Their methods may range from honorable to machiavellian, but their objective is always the same: complete and utter victory.

How to Spot a Tactician

Tacticians tend to expose themselves in a game when the team is given an opportunity to plan. They’re the ones who are the first to call the group together, and discuss the situation. This sometimes makes them suited towards leadership status in a group, but is not always the case. Tacticians will go over a plan with excruciating detail, hashing out backup plans to cover for any imagined possibilities. Of course, depending on their personality, this can be either a welcome thing, or an annoyance. Groups composed of more spontaneous players might chafe at the Tactician’s insistence on sticking to a plan.

How to get Along

Tacticians appreciate feedback and discussion. When they’re in brainstorming mode, jump in an engage them, toss in a scenario or two where your character can help out. They will appreciate the idea of having other points of view to analyze a situation and will be more willing to relax their control if they can see that their teammates are perfectly able to make sound tactial decisions when left alone.

As a Tactician-type of player myself, I find that I fixate on running a scenario in my head and plan for as many eventualities as possible. I’ve learned to work with my fellow players, delegating responsibility to them according to what they do best. In my eyes, the team wins when we get everything we want and leave little to nothing for our opponents to pick over when we’re gone.

[Playing With X, Part 1b] Extra Notes on Powergamers

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.

[Playing With X, Part 1] Powergamers

Hey guys, today I’m kicking off another limited series of posts, this time talking about how to best play with different types of players from a player’s perspective. Given the number of GM perspective posts I’ve made on this blog, this should be a neat little experiement.

Today’s topic is all about everyone’s favorite (or least favorite) player archetype: the Powergamer. For the sake of today’s discussion we’ll stick with the definition of a Powergamer as someone who utilizes the mechanics of a game to gain an advantage in a chosen form of conflict found in the game.

I won’t get into discussing issues of personality, as I’ve met many Powergamers who are perfectly fun individuals who get along fine with the team. Likewise, I’ve also met a few that are genuinely not very nice people. Let’s just say that I believe that it is possible to divorce a player’s playing style from their personality, and that GMs ought to be careful that they’re not blaming the first, for what is a flaw of the second.

Moving on, let’s start talking about Powergamers in earnest. Powergamers are mechanically gifted. They have a knack for dissecting a ruleset and finding the little things that bestow them an edge in their chosen conflict. While many Powergamers go for excellence in combat, others may choose to be the best in other fields like social situations or in spellcasting.

I would recommend thinking of these guys as your specialists. Send them to engage in the activities that they have chosen to dominate in, while working with the rest of the team to insulate them from weaknesses that may occur from over-specialization. The thing to remember is that Powergamers sacrifice a lot of everything else to be the best at one particular thing, so they need a support structure, even when they might not act like it.

In managing a team, acknowledging a Powergamer’s ability in his chosen field is important. It gives him something to do, and provides him with the necessary recognition that what he can do is important to the team. By giving him the limelight when his chosen specialty is called upon, he gets to enjoy his character’s abilities while safe in the knowledge that the other players don’t begrudge him of it.

Powergamers are an excellent addition to any playgroup, but they do require a certain awareness from the team. Once the group acknowledges a Powergamer’s role, they can be free to let loose on the opposition safe in the knowledge that the team has their back.

What do you guys think of this approach? Am I missing something? Also, what player type would you like to see me tackle next? Let me know in the comments below.

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