Levels of Aggression


            Image credit to velinov, who created this image for Paizo

We all know the feeling. The frustration with your player unsheathing their sword at the local drunkard who insulted their mother. When you ask them if they’re really threatening the hobo, the dreadful answer of “yes” makes you prompt the player to make an attack roll. We are all guilty of this kind of behavior at the game table. Why do we do it? Well… simply put, it’s a fantasy game and who the hell cares? It’s just a peasant, right? Preventing your players from becoming murderous fiends is certainly a daunting task that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Some GMs are lucky and get a group of players that love immersing themselves in the world, players that understand a word can’t always be met with a blade or spell. As for the rest of us, we struggle with a player or entire group that loves nothing more than killing everything that so much looks menacing and taking its’ stuff.

There’s a number of ways this can be approached. The easiest, but usually the most difficult, is to have the conversation at your “Session 0,” your character building session. This is usually when you sit down, talk about the general idea of the campaign and flesh out the PC concepts together. Session 0 is always a good time to talk about the tone of the game, the setting, known lore of your setting etc. Why not talk about how there will be story consequences to shamelessly murdering everyone? Seems to make sense to me. I wish I had thought of this before I started my campaign…

After that there’s the trial and error method. Players do something against the law, you penalize them for it. Then the next time they have the impulse, they commit the deed and attempt to be smarter about hiding it. This buys them some time but then as a GM it’s almost your duty to make it catch up with them. The cycle goes on. This method can be effective but doesn’t exactly yield results immediately. I had two of my players be imprisoned for starting a bar fight and nearly beating the bar tender to death for information. They got the information they needed and then cast Heal on the bar tender… thinking all would be fine. Nope. They came up from the basement, were arrested and the rest of the party sold out the two PC’s that did it. They still sit in their cells.

The above table method can be used, which usually leads to an argument and slows down game time. Not really recommended, but can sometimes be effective when it’s with one particular player. Sometimes the others at the table will back you up. The downside of this one is that it ends up being confrontational. Alienating players is never a good thing but when other people’s fun is interrupted, you have to step in at some point. Try this one away form the table with the problem character before making it a topic whilst playing.

As for you pesky players…

Try to be understanding of your GM. Your  GM is putting a lot of personal time and effort into creating a game for you to enjoy. Often times, behaving in this way can be perceived as not taking the game seriously, thus leading to discouragement behind the screen. Approach problems in a reasonable and realistic manner. Of course, this only needs to be paid attention to in a certain degree (it is fantasy after all) but still should be considered nonetheless. So next time that pesky hobo tells you that your mother was a whore, answer with, ” Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.”

Stay Metal \m/

2 Comments on “Levels of Aggression

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