Nothing in particular is prompting this post from my games, or from things I've read online, but it does seem like something that is good to say every now and then. One of the classic problems you get with certain players is their characters are the "go it alone" types who don't like being around others and definitely don't qualify as team players. It is easy to see where the desire to play those characters comes from too. In numerous forms of media those characters are portrayed as being awesome and regularly come across as being incredibly strong/powerful because they're able to handle problems on their own that otherwise take a team. The problem with this mentality though is that a loner type character can decrease the fun for everyone. Today, I want to talk about that.
How Your Loner Character Ruins The Game
Most people I've seen with the loner type character don't realize they're making things hard for the rest of the group. They don't understand how what they're doing actively decreases the enjoyment of the rest of the table. The problem caused by the loner is one of time management.
As a GM time management is one of the hardest skills to get down. I've been actively practicing it in my games for the past 2-3 years and I'm still bad at it. Juggling time so that everyone gets individual attention and no one is left there for 30-40 minutes stacking dice and not having fun. Everytime you split off from the group as a PC, and try to do something on your own that requires scene time or GM attention, you put the GM in the position of balancing the good of the other players against the integrity of the game.
In short, every minute the GM is focused on you as an individual, they're not giving attention to the other 3-5 players at the table. This means that 3-5 players are unable to act in the game. Furthermore, the GM has to worry about insta-killing you if you trigger an encounter meant for the whole group, or just hard stopping progress in that way, or making it a lot easier to do than it needs to be. These are the main reasons - that I've seen - people dislike loner PCs in their game.
Batman and Wolverine
I use Batman and Wolverine a lot when talking about this because in a lot of ways they're the quintissential examples of "bad boy loner type" characters. They both do what they want, when they want, and how they want. And yet, when Wolverine and Batman are in a team book they do act like team players. This is how a PC loner really should be done. Maybe they prefer to be alone. Maybe they play things close to the chest. They're still their for the group. They still do stuff for the group. They still pull their weight as a member of the group. Maybe they're unhappy about it, but they do it because they understand that in that situation they're a part of a team.
The Onus Is On You
Fun fact, it is not the GM's job to cater to a loner type PC. Nor should the GM feel obligated to make encounters that a loner type PC can get past. The GMs job is to have fun, and to run the game for everyone. If you go away from the rest of the group then that is on you and the GM is well within their rights - and the actual right - to keep the focus wherever the majority of the players are.
This is part of the shared responsibility to make the game fun for everyone and not just to have fun yourself. Sometimes that means you're not going to be the star of the game. But you'll have more opportunities to be such, and to just get things done, if you stick with the group than if you go off on your own.