The Five RPG Player Archetypes

Last week I talked about the five types of game masters and how they behave.  I’m always writing from a game master perspective because that’s the role I seem to always find myself in, but it was nice to think about things from a player perspective for a while.  I realized that I kind of talk trash about players a bit, forgetting that ever so often I’m not the one behind the GM Screen.  But I do believe that players, like game masters and people in general, have certain behavioral trends that they fall into.  So this week I’m going to talk about the five player archetypes.  Yeah.

  1.  The Wargamer

Yes, this was one of the GM archetypes.  The wargamer as a player is a bit different though.  This type of player has made his character to fight and he’s like Kevin Owens with a falchion, he will fight anyone and everyone who stands in his way.  Or near him really.

On the plus side, this type of player tends to know the rules.  A good wargamer knows the combat system inside and out and can be trusted to explain how a certain maneuver works in a pinch.  Also, their character is built for combat so you have a little leeway in what kinds of challenges you can throw at the players.  Also, at their best a wargamer will be happy to help other players tweak their characters to their satisfaction and can explain how the party can get the best out of their action economy.  At his best, the wargamer is super helpful and can do the number crunching that other people don’t like to do.

The downside of a wargamer is that even at his best he’s usually just there for the fighting.  This means that he can lose interest and zone out when it’s not clobberin’ time.  At their absolute worst, though, this guy wants to fight the other players.  A word of advice to young GMs, if you have a player who keeps trying to justify P.V.P when that’s clearly not the point of the game, you’re in for a very long and miserable campaign.  These players also tend to do their best to misrepresent rules in their favor, and will argue until you agree to a compromise just to get the game moving forward.  Expect a lot of vaguery, and a lot of sudden recollection of when a new memory benefits them.

  1.  The Writer

Ok, ok, I hear you saying “We’re not stupid bro, you are CLEARLY rehashing your last list.”  But no I’m not, ok, this is different.  I swear.  Just bear with me.

As a player, the writer creates his character with a full backstory.   They can thoroughly explain why their character is doing what they’re doing, and why they are going into dungeons to slaughter dragons.  These guys can also help you evolve your setting as they give their characters homes and friends and connections which are just distant enough to be unobtrusive but just near enough to make for plot material.

At their worst, though, they write super detailed backstories and expect it to be relevant.  A writer at his worst has actually already written a story for your campaign, and they will make it your job to tell them the story that they have planned.  They will also usually have an entire set of personalized gear: weapon, armor, and shield.  So I hope you weren’t ever planning on using weapons, armor, or shields part of the cool loot pile you had built.  Also, yes, there will be a super high level character in their backstory who will obviously be expected to bail them out of a bad situation.

  1.  The Performer

See!  This wasn’t a GM archetype, although some GMs tend to love the performance aspect of the game, it rarely defines them enough to be considered an archetype.  Also, I’m not going to lie, I’m this guy.

If the writer is focused on his character’s history, the performer is focused on his character’s actions.  Why am I going into the dungeon to fight the dragon?  Because that’s the plot hook that got thrown at me, and I’m not thinking too far past that.  At our best, performers add depth and flavor,  capturing the attention of DMs and players alike and making sure that things are never boring.  While sometimes we can get on a roll, when we’re doing it right we make sure to stop before things get out of hand.

At our worst though, we can be such a pain.  Performers can steal the spotlight, and not in the sense of drawing it’s attention but in the sense of holding it hostage.  Whenever one person tries to speak, we cut them off because damn it I’m the one that talks to NPCs.  We cut the GM off with our own narrative, and never let anyone finish a statement without cutting them off at every comma.  I assume that we do this to compensate for a lack of attention as children.

  1.  The Casual

I almost made this an honorable mention, but decided it deserved its own spot.  For this gal, the game is just another thing to do.  She enjoys it, yeah, but she’s not consumed by it.  In fact, there’s a decent chance that she’s doing it not because she’s a particularly big fan of role-playing and more because her circle of friends is playing it and she likes hanging out with them.  Her characters may be cool, but she might not actually get terribly invested in what’s happening.

The casuals can be really great, because while they may not be invested in the game itself they tend to be very invested in the group playing.  They’re really flexible about the system that they play in because it’s not so much about the game as the social experience.  Also, if she does get invested in the game then she can really be a dream player for the GM because she wants the story to happen, rather than trying to do stuff in spite of it.

At her worst, a casual is just uninterested to the point of being disruptive.  They don’t care about the game that’s going on, so they’re busy youtubing or trying to tell off-topic anecdotes.  She’s there to hang out with her friends, but she might not get that they’re trying to take the thing that they’re doing seriously.  Casuals like this can still usually be sorted out with a simple conversation about the problem.  If it’s really bad, though, it may become a case of “I love them but I don’t want them at my gaming table.”

  1. The Net-decker

So this one requires a little bit more explanation.  “Net-decker” is a term that used to come up when I played Magic: the Gathering as a derogatory term for someone who was playing a deck list that they had found on the internet.  The idea was that somehow, in our teenage minds, your deck only mattered if you had created every part of the idea yourself.  Really, we were probably just bitter that those decks won more than ours because the net-decker had done a more effective form of research than just using keywords in Gatherer.

Anyway, so in Pathfinder the net-decker does something very similar.  They comb message boards and guides looking for the build that they want to use.  It’s hard to really put bests and worsts with this one because unlike all of the others it isn’t so much about style as about how much they do it.  There’s nothing wrong with looking for advice and guidelines to help you sort through the millions of options available to build a character, but some people will straight copy and paste a build from another source without putting any flavor to the character.  Now, in MtG this made some sense if you were playing competitively but most RPGs are entirely non-competitive.

I guess I would say that at their best, net-deckers use guides and pre-existing builds as a reference.  They also know how all of the rules that their build uses interact, so that if a GM has doubts about it they can explain how it works without just saying “Well, this guy said it should work.”

At their worst, net-deckers just copy the text down and tell you what they can do.  If you ask why they won’t have an explanation, and you’ve got a decent chance of finding out that they’re completely wrong about what they’re trying to do.

Honorable Mention: The PvPer

This player is always looking for an opportunity to kill, maim, or otherwise screw over party members.  Sometimes it’s the wargamer wanting to compete, sometimes its the writer thinking it’ll make a good story, and sometimes it’s just a guy being an asshole.  Expect to hear “Why are you mad? It’s just a game!” and “But the rules don’t say I can’t.”

It’s best to stop this behavior early.  How you do it is up to you, but this type of player doesn’t have a best and is pretty much always the worst.

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