Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Team Player vs. Lone Wolf

Quick post for today.

This is actually a bit of classic advice, but - kind of going along with yesterday's post - it surprises me how often I see this trend coming up, even among experienced players. The advice is simple: when making your PC make someone who is willing to be a team player.

Now, this doesn't mean they can't grumble or whine about it. This doesn't mean that they can't act like they're doing it reluctantly. That's fine. Hell, they can even believe that they work better on their own. However, even if they think all those things they still need to be able to work as a team.

See, RPGs are a group activity - shocking I know, right? - and so when you make someone who insists on going against the grain and going off on their own you're doing one, or more, of several things:
  • Making the GM have to find something for you to do
  • Making the GM have to find a way to fit you back into the group
  • Making the group have to deal with being a person down
  • Making the group have to come up with reasons why they need/want your character with them

Not one of these things is good. The last point is especially rough because, quite frankly, if all you do is leave or say you'd be better on your own why should the group want you around? Why should their characters have to reach and stretch for a reason when you won't even try? Of course, if they're not expecting you, or wanting you, around then why should they have to deal with being a person down? They can just arrange things for you to be off on your own. Which means the GM would need to find a way to fit you back with the group - which you keep leaving or alienating as they don't want you around  so why do that? Which just brings us back to the top point of the GM having to find something for you to do. Except, the GM has every other player in the group to deal with. Why should they have to work harder because you want to be off on your own?

In other words, if you insist on going against the grain and being a loner, don't be surprised if the GM stops inviting you around for game. Frankly it's not worth the time trying to make a character fit into a game when they, and the player, don't want the character in that game.

Of course this doesn't mean you can't play those loner types. However, make sure with your group that it is ok with people, and with the GM, if you play someone who prefers to go off on their own. It's fine, and heck even expected. The Ninja Turtles had Raphael, the Justice League has Batman, the X-Men have Wolverine and they all work fine. Those characters stay loners, but when the group needs them they are also team players.

It makes things easier, and happier, for everyone.


  1. This is a great topic. I've found this Lone-Wolf phenomenon can come up a lot, especially when you include part-time Long-Wolfs.

    We recently had an inverted version of your last example there A.L. where you described someone being typically a Lone-Wolf but when the group needs them they're a team player. In this case, they were typically a team player but would occasionally do their own thing, sometimes at most inopportune times.

    Another problematic feature, in my experience, is that the Lone-Wolf tends to really enjoy their self-chosen status and tweaking the nose of the rest of the group about it. Essentially a bit of "look what a maverick I am" or "you guys are clueless, I've got this" attitude.

    Then, not uncommonly, the Lone-Wolf still expects the full support of the group if they need it! All of this gets old fast with the rest of the group.

    My best take on the solution if you run into this as a GM, and there's no silver bullet, is to make sure Lone-Wolfs experience the risks they take. Lone Wolfs tend to take more chances & sooner or later something isn't going to work out. Don't save them - simply make them fully deal with whatever they've wrought. That will likely curtail the Lone-Wolf (or result in their death) and mollify the rest of the group that actions have consequences.

  2. this happens in groups I've played in a hell of a lot, and i think I've been pretty lucky to have avoided it in games I've run. Mainly by being a bit belligerent I must say. Yes, the GM should come up with stuff for the players, kind of the job, but if it happens a lot, I just start to cut back on what happens to the player. I let them know that they're going to be getting more down time because something awesome is happening with the rest of the group, and I don't want to keep breaking away from it.

    Occasionally I'll just forget about them, and wait to see how long they're happy to be doing nothing while everyone else is having fun. I know it seems like a bit of a dick move, but it will always come after a sit down one-to-one conversation about their lone wolfing it. If they still keep it up, I just do my best to make sure the group has fun. On the two occasions it's happened to me, one player ended up leaving the group - not a massive loss, and everyone else had a better game - and the other just gave up trying to force me to create plots for him, and just sat quietly while everyone else gamed.

    If they're not willing to put some effort in, then I'm not going to make everyone else's game less fun.