People have different reasons for wanting to play roleplaying games, of course they do. People also choose to play with different styles and approaches. This is all good. What is interesting is to watch what happens when people with different reasons to play and goals from playing meet at the gaming table. Every now and then, this has happened to me.
I’ve always basically viewed all non-solo roleplaying as a team thing. What I mean is that we are all showing up to the table to play a game and the goal is that everyone (GM included) gets to have a good time. More recently, I have upgraded this to include the idea that it would be even better if the game we play together was more enjoyable than simply hanging out and shooting the breeze.
When a player behaves in a way that appears to go against this basic viewpoint, I usually get confused. For example, imagine a party of adventurers needs to get to a safe place and time is running out. One of the party members is injured and cannot keep up the pace. To my mind, offering to carry or support the injured adventurer and help them get to the objective is just good teamwork.
Imagine my surprise if the player of the injured character waves off help, even stating that the adventurer is becoming angry at the offer of help. They beg to be left behind. The party obliges and that player then spends the rest of the session watching the group complete the adventure without them. In my head, I am curious: didn’t that player want to take part?
These kinds of situations are not common but they have always – in my experience – come up when one player has a very different idea about what roleplaying means. When, for them, the goal is to faithfully play in role as their character and often without regard to their own satisfaction and enjoyment as a player. In other words, faithfulness to their character’s ways of thinking is more important than the ways in which the group chooses to function.
Many years ago, back in the late 1990s, I used to play in a game with a player who wanted to act completely separately from the rest of the party. It appeared that their goal was to have their own story going on without the support of the group. Over time, this became disruptive and that player ended up leaving our group. Once again, I was mystified.
Why would you take part in a team game and play as a solo? The less flattering and most tempting accusation would be to say that that the player is being selfish, or somehow trying to disrupt the enjoyment of the majority. But I am not so sure.
People have different reasons for wanting to play roleplaying games, of course they do. People also choose to play with different styles and approaches. What’s vitally important is to have the conversation before play begins wherein everyone in the potential group gets to talk out what they are seeking and how they are going to approach play.
Nowadays, I emphasise and explicitly state my preference for roleplaying as a team endeavour. I insist that any player character created is basically likeable and can function within a group. Players wishing to play the lone assassin or the loveable rogue better make sure they can adapt to a team game… which means either we all play assassins and rogues or we don’t. And your rogue better be Han Solo loveable.
The conversation pre-game is vital. I like to make sure the group all wants to play either Paragons or Rebels. What do you want from the game? Why are you showing up to play?
There is nothing wrong with playing in another style but we’re all going to have a better game at the table if we play as a team.