[RPG] Players playing weird characters breaking the immersion of the group


I have an issue with two players in my very large gaming group that I would like some advice from people who have perhaps dealt with players like these. In terms of age and experience, we're all between the ages of 18 to 21, and we've variously been playing the game for 2 to 10 years. This particular instance there were only 4 players, but our extended group is near 20.

To put it simply, they will only play weird characters that break the immersion for my self and the other players. An example being a recent pathfinder game where the party consisted of a human gunslinger, human fighter, elf wizard, and a flail snail. It was a one of these things is not like the others situation. No one could really get into the game because of having to imagine this fairly typical group, plus a snail.

There was one instance where one of the players demanded to play an aquatic elf in a land locked campaign. It slowed the group down mechanically when they had to keep finding water. Another example is when the GM was adamant that the campaign he was running was human only, the player still went on to nag the GM to let him play anything from various pixies, plants, and even a swarm. The arguing wound up delaying the campaign from starting for several hours.

I've asked the players why they play these types of characters and they say things along the lines of:

  • Its too hard to play a humanoid character because there is too much to think about when playing a neurotypical standard humanoid
  • I want to play characters that no one can relate too
  • I like playing with self imposed restrictions in terms of how I act.

We have asked them as a group to play more normal characters and there have been mixed responses from the two. One will keep asking whoever is the DM until they break down and allow something. The other will play a more normal character but is clearly not having fun.

If anyone has had experience with a situation like this, how did you resolve it?

Best Answer

Different players get different things out of gaming. Unfortunately, some people's gaming styles mean that their fun comes at the expense of others'.

Often in a case like this, the player either wants more attention than the other players or, via their outlier character, wants their character to constrain/implicitly control the rest of the group. This is unhealthy and distracting to the rest of the group, and they are justified in not liking it.

First, forward the group Making the Tough Decisions (see the "Deciding to React Differently" section) and ask them to read it. "My character would do that" is not an excuse for being a jerk. They need to find a type of character that provides their kind of fun but not at the expense of the experience of the other gamers. I had a player once who wanted to be "evil" and work against the party, so I had him be a spy and send reports back on their activity all the time, but was strictly instructed to "never blow his cover." So to the rest of the group he was perfectly helpful. The player eventually left and the PCs even still kept up with the NPC, they never found out he was a spy. This got that player his somewhat-dysfunctional fun without adverse effect on the group.

Second, the other players don't have to accept the control of the outlier character. Make it clear "we don't want that." If they do it anyway, then just have your characters react as they would in game to a weirdo freak. We had one serious game, with espionage and such, and a player brought in a new gnome character who was clinically insane. He'd just say stuff like "Turnips wheee!" and not make any sense. When he found out our secret-agent stuff, we sat him down and said "So, can you keep our secret?" "Turnips wheee!" "OK, so listen to me very carefully. If you don't start making some Goddamned sense right now we're going to tie you in a sack and drown you in the river." Our characters were not willing to have their lives in the hands of some incoherent freak.

This may lead to group exclusion. Which is sad but sometimes you have to do it. We had one player that was always "like that," and when he brought in a new character to our sci-fi game it was the last straw. Our spaceship touched down, we went recruiting crew. This guy couldn't even express why we'd hire him. "I have... skills. I can do things... that need doing." We left him on the planet. The group met later and decided to disinvite him from the group, as he just did that all the time.

@JonathanHobbs cites the Five Geek Social Fallacies, and he's right to do so. Heck, there's two of them, let them go play their own freak game together. Because groups have a right to set their playstyle. It's like recreational sports teams. Some people want to be goons and dress up in mascot costumes and play silly soccer. Other teams want to be serious and compete. Both get something different out of the hobby. But the serious team is welcome and expected to bounce a "mascot boy" from their team.

And third, we come to splitting the party. I was running games for a fairly large group, and I and some of the players wanted to do a more seriously immersive game. Half the group was on board and half wasn't. So I started an immersive game and invited those people to it, and I started a "fun" game and invited the others (eventually rotating out of GMing for the "fun" one). We had a five year long super deep immersive campaign that everyone looks back on, ten years later, as our single best roleplaying experience ever. You deserve that, and you don't have to always give in to someone that doesn't want that.