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Author Topic: Jerk Reoccurances?  (Read 3256 times)
Galfraxas
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Posts: 75


« on: October 26, 2001, 07:53:00 AM »

Anybody who was part of my last discussion on the "Actual Play" forum knows that my gaming group is seriously troubled. Well, no longer. I have found a new group. Now, this has nothing to do with my new group in particular, but I have noticed this with every group I have ever played games with. No matter what the case, somebody decides to play a character who's a total antisocial jerk. It's not the same person every time. It's sorta like that movie Fallen, only instead of passing the spirit of a psycho serial killer, they pass the spirit of a guy who creates total asshole characters. Anybody have any idea as to why this might happen? I think it may have something to do with the person bringing their feelings out of the game into the game. Maybe they just had a bad day, week, year, eternity, whatever, and have decided to bring it to the game. Any thoughts?

Galfraxas (Tim)
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Jason L Blair
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« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2001, 08:25:00 AM »

My initial thought was that someone plays the asshole because they want to stand out. In a room full of nice guys, the one killing the butler gets all the looks. But, you're right, the role shifts (if you're "lucky")... maybe it's in response to the initial player creating an asshole character? Or maybe the majority of the group is the same groove but one character is going to stand out as working "against" the party?


A phatlotta good I am.
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Jason L Blair
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Galfraxas
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Posts: 75


« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2001, 09:37:00 AM »

Interesting thoughts, Jason. Everybody's the jerk, but only one person is good at it. That could be a possibility.

Galfraxas, Scratching His Chin In Deep Thought
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2001, 10:13:00 AM »

Tim and all,

Jerkdom, to my way of thinking, is a play strategy that is quite understandable given many people's history of role-playing. Basically, they know that if there's a story, it's the GM's "story" and there's no changing it. They also know that if conflict of interest comes into things, character survival is favored by acting totally on one's own (this is especially likely in games with "freeze" style combat mechanics, in which congruous teamwork is not easy or especially effective). Finally, they know that sooner or later they'll have to deal with SOMETHING, and all they have to do is wait.

The person, basically, doesn't want to be pushed around. He doesn't want to have to do stupid things because "it's for the good of the story." He doesn't want to like anyone because "if the group doesn't get together then we can't run the scenario." He has no stake in What Is Happening, and is stating his case in no uncertain terms. He knows that the GM will sooner or later include his character without his consent, so refuses to cooperate in any way - why participate in one's own hosing?

"My guy says nothing." "My guy wouldn't do that." "My guy doesn't want to do that."

Take the turtle player I describe at the end of my essay, and add some resentment from past experiences and some expertise at designing characters for maximal survivorship and damage potential. You now have the Jerk - the perpetual assassin, hit man, loner, cyborg, killer, et cetera. Accuse him of "not role-playing" and he'll laugh at you - he IS role-playing, this is what His Guy is like. Implore him to join up and help with the scenario, and he sneers at your attempt to railroad him. Ask him to change his ways, and he points out that you are obviously a poor GM for not being able to cope with a legally-designed, honestly-role-played character, and obviously only willing to GM players who obey your every directive.

It's GNS degeneration, I say. The Jerk is one of the walking wounded, people who do role-play but don't especially mind if they don't have fun or if anyone else doesn't either. Mess up the scenario? Cool. Kill the villain? Cool. Kill the pushy, interfering NPC? Cool. It all comes down that final fight scene, right? Well, it's coming, so cooperating along the way is stupid. Just play My Guy ("My guy goes back to the hotel and watches TV") and wait.

This is what happens when people think that role-playing as an activity is only defined by the word's literal meaning: to play a role. OK, they're playing a role. I'm not impressed - by my definitions, they are not role-playing (in the broad sense) at all.

Best,
Ron
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greyorm
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« Reply #4 on: October 31, 2001, 07:56:00 AM »

Ahhhh...the jerk.
Interesting, since I am apparently playing the 'jerk' in the campaign I play in.  It isn't out of any desire to disrupt the game or foul up the story, but rather I'm just playing my character.

I'd like to find a way to bind him to the other two characters meaningfully, I'd like to blithely follow along the story-path without disrupting things and dropping wrenches in the gears, but honestly, it isn't in my character's nature to behave in a "let's all go adventuring together even though we just met" manner.  In fact, while he's interested in combat and adventure and gold, the current goings-on interest him not at all (it is a mystery).

And I like the character far too much to roll up a new one.  I haven't had this much fun playing a character in years.

So, I'm playing the jerk; I know I'm giving my DM a headache; but I'm playing in-character, and out-of-character I'm really looking for ways to tie this character to the others in the group.  But my character wants to pursue the goals he started this campaign with, not the plot-lines of the adveture currently set forth by the GM.

I guess this really speaks to the need of character creation with an involved GM, one who can say, "Can you make a character around [this event]?" (an atypical method of creation, since it adds boundaries to a usually boundless event (character creation))
Or it speaks to the need for the GM to create the story around the characters, not throw random individuals with differing goals and motivations into a situation (which is what most D&D modules seem to be built around).

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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Laurel
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« Reply #5 on: October 31, 2001, 11:25:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-10-31 10:56, greyorm wrote:
Ahhhh...the jerk.
Interesting, since I am apparently playing the 'jerk' in the campaign I play in.  It isn't out of any desire to disrupt the game or foul up the story, but rather I'm just playing my character.


Yes indeed, but that begs the question as to why, out of all the character concepts available, you chose a 'jerk' in the first place.  :smile:

Ron's idea of the "walking wounded" intrigues me.  Not that I'm suggesting anyone here is, or that every player who creates an annoying or jerk-ish character is one.  I would like very much to discuss the idea of "Why Players Choose Certain Roles" in another thread or be directed to some old ones or both.  I think Player psychology is HUGE factor in successful game design (what is GNS after all) but GNS only talks about "healthy" players.  What about players, the ones who are attempting to role-play because of dysfunctional, non-game concerns?  Its a wide-spread phenomenon, in my opinion.
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greyorm
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« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2001, 08:03:00 AM »

Quote

Yes indeed, but that begs the question as to why, out of all the character concepts available, you chose a 'jerk' in the first place.  :smile:

lol...When I created the character, he was not meant to be a 'jerk' or a disruption (nor did I plan on being).  It's really a problem of GM goals and player goals not meshing well enough.  I'm playing my character to play my character, the GM is trying to run a story my character just doesn't fit well within.

Two things can be done to alleviate the problem:
1> I can roll up and play a different character
2> The GM can modify his game to make my character fit better

IMO, it is the GM's job to fit the world to the players when it doesn't work; unless, of course, one is playing a game where the players have to be something in particular, for reasons of theme or premise or whatnot (frex: an all-dwarven campaign set in a specific, isolated area; or a knightly game of Pendragon).
This sort of points to the necessity of a great deal of what is being discussed on the Forge (ie: interactive campaign building/game playing, or "proper utilization of player input").

So, the answer to the question: why did I choose to play the jerk?
I didn't, the role chose me after the game started.  Now THAT'S interesting.

You see, I'm *never the jerk, or at least I've never been before.  Poll: what sort of solutions can be devised that would be acceptable to both GM and player, assuming that the desires of each are: keeping current character in play, keeping current story/adventure.

I'm curious to see how other Forge residents would handle this situation?

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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2001, 08:47:00 AM »

I think this is key. The Jerk then is the player whose character doesn't, for whatever reason, fit in. Sometimes it's what Ron describes where a player goes for this continually because of bad prior experiences. But what is that bad prior experience? In Greyworm's case this is his first bad experience, and it is simply a problem with the character and plot not seeming to fit.

Greyworm cites the solutions well. Let the players know what will or won't work when making up characters or be prepared to bend the plot a lot. Since you have already passed this point unsuccessfully and your GM seems oblivious to the problem, GW, I would suggest making up a new character.

GMs are human, too. Players can take it pon themselves to have the responsibility to do the right thing, as well. This means asking the GM about your character concept before hand, and tring to get them to discuss it with you to ensure that it will fit. And after the game begins, it means making the tough choice to alter your character or start a new one if the current character does not fit.

If you are really unwilling to make a change in your character or start a new one, GW, might it not be that the overall plot of the game or its play is something that you're not really enamored with? I suggest that jerk play may also be the result of boredom with a bad GM on occasion. The solution there is to suck it up and do your best under the circumstances, or to quit if things are really intollerable.

I can't see how Jerk play can improve a game.

Mike
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Balbinus
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Posts: 290


« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2001, 09:02:00 AM »

Oddly enough I'm a player in a new game and have what I consider to be a jerk character.  The setting is Lyonnesse, of Jack Vance fame.  The GM told us to create our own characters using GURPS, whatever we wished to play, and he would fit them in.  I created a retired mercenary who had retrained as a chef and had over time become a master chef.

So, the game starts and we're all in jail following some pre-game incidents.  Each character is interrogated and following their proval of innocence offered a job in the city guard.  Unfortunately, my master chef was not offered a job in the city guard as he was obviously unsuited, so that was the end of my playing him and I was told to create a new character.

The important point at this stage is that I as a player did not have the city guard conversation as my character never got that far.  My impression, as a player, was that the others had been pressganged into guard service however.

So, I create a new character on the spot, a disreputable rogue and criminal with violent tendencies.  Exactly the sort of man to get pressed into the guard.  I asked the gm if I should assume he'd had the same jail experience as the other characters, the GM said yes.  Unfortunately he didn't realise that I thought the others had been pressganged, I didn't realise I was operating under a misconception.

So, play starts and my character tries to connive with the others to exploit their position as guards to rob people and run protection rackets.  I refuse to go into areas I consider dangerous, I play my character as a conscripted rogue.  By the end of the night I realise what's happened but the character is already established as totally at odds with the rest of the group.  Of course he is, they all volunteered for the city guard and he is a hardened criminal.

So, next week I plan to go onto character 3.  Not because I dislike my present character, he's actually quite fun.  But because he's a jerk character, he doesn't cooperate with the group and doesn't fit in.  His concept is at odds with everyone else's.  If I play him "in character" it'll spoil things for the others.  So he gets retired.

I wonder how often jerk characters come about because of simple miscommunication.  The player and gm work at cross purposes and then the player is reluctant to give up their character.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: November 01, 2001, 09:28:00 AM »

Again, I'd like to suggest that the distinction between Jerk Character and Jerk Player is extremely, extremely marked. They are not the same things.

It might be, for instance, that a lot of Author Stance might go into making the conscripted rogue work VERY well as a character in the game described above. The character might not want to cooperate, or might be utterly up to other things, but somehow someway, events/etc generated by his player seem to keep the character's actions relevant to whatever is "going on" in group terms. This is a very satisfying way to play a jerk/dickweed character if everyone is into it, and it has many precedents in film and adventure fiction. (My favorite example is Gollum in The Return of the King.)

The Jerk Player is another problem entirely, and if one finds oneself in this position, one is probably going to end up playing a Jerk Character as a side-effect, who is NOT fun for everyone (unlike the above example).

Best,
Ron
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greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2001, 09:33:00 AM »

Quote

Since you have already passed this point unsuccessfully and your GM seems oblivious to the problem, GW, I would suggest making up a new character.

Actually, there's a third choice here: make the GM unoblivious.  Communication is key!  Something along the lines of "Listen, I'm not trying to mess things up and be a pain, but my character doesn't seem to really fit well into the current game.  I'd make a new character, but I really like playing this one and would prefer to stick with it.  What can we do?"

It doesn't have to be the GM acting on his own or the player doing so; it can easily be both working together to solve a common problem.  IMO, that's actually how it should always work.

Now in my situation: normally under this circumstance I would just make a new character.  Unfortunately, this is the first character I have really, really enjoyed playing in about four years of gaming.  Hence I'm not so ready to give him up after only about four sessions for fear of going right back to those "just OK characters" I was playing/creating beforehand.

With this character, I actually look forward to playing again.  Before it was something I could take or leave.

Quote

This means asking the GM about your character concept before hand, and tring to get them to discuss it with you to ensure that it will fit.

Interestingly, all character concepts were funneled through the GM before play began, and approved in final form before the first session.

Quote

might it not be that the overall plot of the game or its play is something that you're not really enamored with?

Hrm, unlikely.  It is simply that I enjoy this character far too much to abandon it (considering that I haven't been thrilled with any character for four years before this one) and the problem really stems from the character not fitting the GM's vision of the events he sees occuring (or at least I suspect this to be the case).

Not to accuse him of railroading, for I haven't seen any of that yet, but I think he's an epic quest/plot in mind of which we are supposed to partake, an unconciously scripted scenario of which (I think) we've all been guilty of creating in the past ("Oh yeah, then he'll do this, and I'll do this, and he'll do this, resulting in that...oh wow, that will be soooo cool!!")).

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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #11 on: November 01, 2001, 11:02:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-11-01 12:33, greyorm wrote:
Not to accuse him of railroading, for I haven't seen any of that yet, but I think he's an epic quest/plot in mind of which we are supposed to partake, an unconciously scripted scenario of which (I think) we've all been guilty of creating in the past ("Oh yeah, then he'll do this, and I'll do this, and he'll do this, resulting in that...oh wow, that will be soooo cool!!")).

Guilty? Filthy Narrativist! You leave my metaplot alone!  :wink:

Oh, yeah, and communication, always communication. I had assumed that you had tried this tac previously. And given that he already had looked through the characters, he still seems like the oblivious sort to me, to have not caught your character's potential problems. :wink:

Hope it works out for you.

Mike
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