Monday, 24 February 2014

Handling Large Parties - Part 2 - Conflicting Player Types

Following on from my last post, I am now going to discuss differing player types, and how having lots of players can exacerbate player-type conflicts that may already exist. Get ready for lots of political jokes...

The Variables

For this study, I am going to be using a 2-axis scale, using the variables Loud vs Quiet and Solitary vs Social. Let me just define those for you now, and quickly outline the pros and cons of each.

Loud

The Loud end of the Loud vs Quiet axis is, obviously, for players who are louder at the table than others. This end is for players who tend to lead discussions and, by virtue of this, grow into leadership roles within the group.

Loud players are good for a party because they represent a rallying point for ideas, and they are often able to push Quiet players out of their bubbles, but they can be troublesome because they can overshadow a Quiet player. 

Furthermore, multiple Loud players leads to a Parliament Stagnation, a situation where multiple people are yelling about their view points, yet not actually listening to the other side so as to allow any chance for them to be dissuaded from their ideas.
With leaders like these, we can't be far off World Peace, right?!

Quiet

The Quiet end of the Loud vs Quiet axis is for players who tend to speak up less, and who are more happy to watch events unfold and react after the fact, instead of asserting their views early. This isn't to say that they never speak up, but they are rarely the ones to whip a group into shape before the shit hits the fan.

Quiet players are good for a party because they are usually more contemplative, quietly working on an issue, listening to the GM, and solving problems before presenting them to the group. Additionally, they are generally more accepting of leadership roles within the group, allowing for smooth movement. However, they can be troublesome in that they have a tendency to hold back useful feedback for the group and GM, meaning that they can become discontented, or cause others to become discontented during play because of their inaction.

Multiple Quiet players often leads to the Stalin Lack-of-Initiative, where in everyone is too afraid to say anything to break the silence, resulting in Loud players dominating play when they have no more right to than the Quiet players.
"It seems like we should attack the Orks from the south..."

Solitary

The Solitary end of the Solitary vs Social axis represents players who are happier playing their "own game", following side-quests and generally acting on their own during a session, instead of travelling or conferring with the party as a whole.

Solitary players are good because they can help the GM build suspense by revealing secrets to one character (but saying them aloud to the table), causing some players to squirm with the fun-frustration of In-Character vs Out-of-Character information. They also help explore extra parts of the world, and allow the other players to see sections that they otherwise wouldn't have under the main game. They can be difficult, however, due to the fact that time spent on Solitary players is obviously time spent on only one player, leaving everyone else twiddling their thumbs.

Multiple Solitary players leads to a Stooge Paradox, of everyone running in multiple directions, resulting in the side-quests getting more screen time collectively than the main quest. Naturally, this slows down play considerably with so many split parties that you may as well be running multiple games.
Not sure if photo of TV show or Player Characters...

Social

The Social end of the Solitary vs Social axis is for players who are happiest when discussing tactics and events with other players, and following along with the group's agenda, rather than any individual goals.

Social players are good because they get the main quest line rolling, and maintain group unity and direction. They can cause problems, however, because they tend to prefer discussion above action, leading to slower sessions.

Multiple Solitary players leads to a United Nations of Inactivity, where everyone discusses situations ad infinitum, and never actually accomplishes anything. This obviously has the downfall that nothing ends up getting done, in the end.
GMing for 9 people doesn't seem so bad when looking at this...

My Group

Now that I have outlined the variables, it's time to look at the main topic - my ridiculously sized group.

I have filled out my players on the axis listed above, and I received the following graph:
As you can see, due to the large amount of players, I have a pretty even split between the four variables. One would think this is a good idea, but one would be wrong. An even split is good when you have 4 players, because one can fit in each niche, but having more than 1 in each niche causes problems. 

Lets have a look at the specific interactions, shall we?

Multiple Loud players results in often the 3 loudest dominating discussions, with the other 5-6 quieter players either not saying anything or forming factions behind the 3 - this causing division within the group, as well as boredom for the unheard Quiet players. This also means that often very good ideas coming from the Social/Quiet players are never enforced, and the Social/Loud players tend to bring discussions to a stand still with neither side gaining ground or convincing each other. It is a debate where neither side is listening to the other...

Multiple Solitary players results in more than half of a games session being taken up by side-stuff, like Side-Quests and book keeping, etc. It also means that I literally cannot remember the last session where the party wasn't split at least 3 ways. This means either each group does not much in a session, or favourites are played, and that is never fun for anyone involved.

Now, neither camp would be a bad thing if there were only a few of them. An ideal group will have at least one person that fits into every corner of the graph, but the above does not represent ideal... Therefore, something needs to be fixed. And that's the topic for next time.

Play more games!!! NOW!