Lawsian Gamer Types

RobinLaws2012Robin Laws, an experienced author of roleplaying books, has written an invaluable tool for GMs. It’s invaluable for all gamers, although it was targeted at the GM. In it, he includes a great deal of advice on how to make your games as enjoyable as possible for all participants. It’s not the stuff you’d normally find in the ‘For the Game Master’ section of the core rulebook or supplements like the Dungeons Master’s Guide. It’s more fundamental information, such as campaign design (are you running a dungeon crawl, a set-piece story, a branching story, an episodic story, etc?), suggestions on how to be spontaneous (have a list of appropriate names for when you need to ad-lib an NPC, have a box of index cards with stats for random NPCs that the players may encounter, etc), how to deal with different player types (what emotional kick is each player looking to get from the game, and how can you deliver it to them?).

One of the most important issues that he addresses in this book is the topic of Gamer Types.

This was a watershed moment for me, when I read that section. Suddenly, all the frustration and conflict I’d felt regarding the other members of my gaming group was made comprehensible! No wonder I wasn’t enjoying games with them as much as I thought I should be… I was a different gamer type!

Laws identifies seven types of gamers:

  1. The Butt Kicker – This type of player games for the thrill of vicarious violence. He or she enjoys creating a combat monster and defeating as many foes as possible. If there’s no combat in a gaming session, the Butt Kicker feels immensely unsatisfied.
  2. The Power Gamer – This type of player sees a player character as ‘a collection of super powers optimized for the acquisition of still more super powers.’ However success is defined in a game (spells, gear, money, etc), the Power Gamer wants more of it.
  3. The Tactician – This type of player games as a strategic exercise. He or she wants to face difficult tactical challenges and find the most effective way to overcome them. The Tactician lives for anti-climax, using intelligence to sidestep the GM’s obstacles.
  4. The Specialist – This type of player has a fantasy role, a specific part he or she wants to play. He or she want to play that character every time. Whether it’s a ninja, a Vulcan, or a fairy princess, the Specialist will find a way to play that character no matter the setting.
  5. The Storyteller – This type of player games for the thrill of being involved in an epic story. He or she lives for Freytag’s pyramid, and seeks exposition, climax, and resolution. The Storyteller loves games that would make an excellent book or movie.
  6. The Method Actor – This type of player sees gaming as an exercise in psychology. He or she wants to create a fully developed persona, and then become that persona. The Storyteller will often derail the plot if it means staying true to the character.
  7. The Casual Gamer – This type of player enjoys gaming, but doesn’t get as swept up in it as other gamer types. He or she usually games because it’s what everyone else wants to do. The Casual Gamer can often fill needed roles that no one else wants to take.

In reading these descriptions, I realised that I was most definitely a Storyteller with a hint of Method Actor (I’d say I’m about 60%-40%; I will usually work to further the story, but I’ve been known to prioritise my character’s personality over plot on occasion).

This was a problem, because the vast majority of people that I play with tended to be either Butt Kickers or Power Gamers. Every time I got frustrated with my fellow gamers for ignoring the needs of the story in favour of looking for more enemies to kill, it wasn’t because they were gaming wrong. It was because they wanted a different sort of emotional hook than I wanted.

This led to an interesting game in which I, angered by the groups choosing to follow the most mindless war spirit as the pack totem, tried to create the most unenjoyable combat-monster I could; I gave him the lowest possible scores in every attribute and skill that didn’t directly contribute to combat, and maxed out those that did.

It backfired. Everyone loved the character. One of the players even used him as an NPC in subsequent games.

But that’s something to think about: when you’re preparing a game, are you considering the player types of those people who are going to be playing? Chances are, many people don’t even think about these things.

Maybe a good idea to think about for next time.

And speaking of next time, I will see you again here at some point in the near future. Until then,

Game on!

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J was introduced to tabletop roleplaying games in high school, where he found that he enjoyed telling epic stories through the medium of games. Since then, he has only grown more fond of games, and is now an active supporter of his local board game cafe. He's been blogging about games at gamingdork.blogspot.com for a while, and is even working on play testing his own original RPG. He lives in Oklahoma with his wife, a cat, and two rats.

About J

J was introduced to tabletop roleplaying games in high school, where he found that he enjoyed telling epic stories through the medium of games. Since then, he has only grown more fond of games, and is now an active supporter of his local board game cafe. He's been blogging about games at gamingdork.blogspot.com for a while, and is even working on play testing his own original RPG. He lives in Oklahoma with his wife, a cat, and two rats.