When a player's character is in charge! - Myth-Weavers


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When a player's character is in charge!

   
When a player's character is in charge!

So let's discuss the pros and cons of party leadership! It's something that's been discussed a lot in my two primary games over the years and one I've seldom seen go very well. I think it's a good topic to dig into.

So I'll use one of my previous games that ran long enough for me to have data on but isn't currently open so \nobody has to feel bad. Then I'll compare it to more recent events in another game of mine. These instances pretty much hit all the problems I see with the idea of a player's character being in charge.

Jimmy was a bad leader. He was a character ran by one of the PCs and thematically had the personality to make him a very Cyclops style leader. However, the player took the position to mean he could dictate everything anyone else did. He was very commanding about things and tended to micro-manage. In character, people tended to be more accepting of it as it was, from an IC perspective, efficient and the player did know how to win. Out of character, everyone hated Jimmy and it began bleeding through to the player and they eventually asked me to make it stop being a thing.

For awhile, the team just had no leader. I wrote the game forward a bit that it made sense, in character, for them to not have any leadership at all. It was an X-Men game so they technically still had Emma Frost around as an authority but she wasn't a field character and had little to do with the team, instead running the school.

This was a disaster. I don't think any of my players were bad players but nothing ever got done. Every scene turned into a long winded debate that ran in circles with nobody doing anything. Nobody had the authority to just say 'okay, so we're gonna do this thing,' in order to force things. This would usually end in me, in our chat or in OOC, anxiously begging them to actually do something.

So Alchemist ended up assuming the role of leadership. An objectively terrible leader. She was such a hands-off leader that they continued to never get anything done because she was too afraid to just say, 'okay, this is the thing we're gonna do."

Then Venus ended up in charge and this was, in my opinion, the most successful iteration. Venus assumed the role, in character, by just taking action and doing it in a way people tended to go along with her. She never micro-managed. Instead of "Hey Alchemist, turn that things wings into cement," she'd tend to go with something like "Alchemist, get those things out of the air. Terra, get the Sentinels as they come down."

This worked great! It let someone organize the team a little while still letting players control their own characters. I've long since thought a PC leader should just be a final authority to break stalemates or to make a call when there wasn't time to discuss it. In shows like Teen Titans, they'd usually talk about stuff between conflicts but Robin would just make a call in combat because they didn't have time to debate it.

In my Titans game, I had Robin there an NPC until recently. He was the team's leader and he lead them, mostly, like Venus did. However, despite that, people didn't care for it as much as they had with Venus. In this case, it was the GM in charge of the team since Robin was an NPC. Also, Robin had to at least be competitive with the others so he didn't weight them down and I didn't care for an NPC being there taking some of the spotlight. My philosophy is the PCs should always be the stars of the show.

But, in my experience, very few people can RP a leader like Venus did. The player had seen all the 'don't do it like this' first hand from being in that game for so long so she knew exactly what to do. It's hard to manage that with just anyone and it happened naturally. Nobody ever said 'Venus is in charge.'

Anyone else have any interesting experiences in this area?

Since most people are bad at being effective leaders, I can't say I'm surprised most people are bad at role-playing effective leaders. I've been doing PbP for a decade and I can think of two - maybe three - actually effective leader PCs in games that didn't drive the group nuts and/or apart.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GM Saint View Post

But, in my experience, very few people can RP a leader like Venus did. The player had seen all the 'don't do it like this' first hand from being in that game for so long so she knew exactly what to do. It's hard to manage that with just anyone and it happened naturally. Nobody ever said 'Venus is in charge.'
yay Venus! Sounds like literally THE best character I've ever heard of! *coughs*

It sounds like you and your players were picking up valuable experience for the workplace. I haven’t been there in a game, but in real life?

Umm... No comment.

As GM, I've always liked to resolve things like this in-game. Some options:

1. Just like in real life, the PCs have a debriefing to go thru the things they did right and the things they did wrong. The PCs air out their emotions like real people do. "I didn't like it when you told me not only 'what' to do, but also 'how' to do it!" I find that this approach makes the most sense because not only the players but their characters grow naturally.

2. When the party is stuck with indecision, I find that it's usually because they don't have a full grasp of the game world. And why should they? They don't live there - but their PC's do. I believe that there is always a place for roleplaying and for game mechanics; when roleplaying is failing, I give game mechanics a chance. I might call for some knowledge-based rolls, and give the player hints on the best course of action drawn from their character's knowledge. The player is then free to use that information as s/he sees fit - s/he might have the PC take command, or just pass the information along to their leader figure but be really confident about the information.

But yeah, using an NPC to lead the party is just the GM playing his/her own game. I'd suggest that you do an in-game debriefing and mutiny on that NPC's ass, but I'm afraid your GM might take the attack personally. Heh.

Yes, Robin didn't work out. Luckily, I felt it wasn't working out early on - and before the players complained - and was able to naturally write Robin out of the story instead of just pulling the plug abruptly. I split the team up some, had Robin go do solo stealth stuff to help them out, etc until then.

I think, for sure, any NPC authority has to be completely behind the scenes; A king giving the party quests or Xavier sending the X-Men on a mission, etc.

Oh, I think an NPC can have a place in a party, and even play a lead role - it just can't be on a permanent or long-term basis.

The party might have a specialist NPC tag along to crack open the safe or destroy the enchantments protecting some artifact. The party might play second fiddle to a fighter/paladin commander NPC who is leading their crack team through the battlefield. But then those NPCs shouldn't stick around too long.

I might as well share my experiences.

1. A long time ago I played a young knight in a d&d game and the DM decided to kick us off by the others being hired as mercenaries to assist her in a task. The group followed her decisions (general ones, like "Let's start searching there" or "We should attack from that side" on some cases and didn't in others. I didn't notice much disliking from the others, but it was also clear between us that she was intended to be inexperienced and idealistic and their characters older and more seasoned. Sadly it did not last long enough to have her become a more experienced leader and figuring out if they would follow her.

2. I'm not sure if it even counts, but another game I joined was rather weird and heavy handed. One player together with the DM started deciding what stats and classes some others were to pick. Then during the actual game the DM's PC went against the group and started berating them for not doing what he wanted. Thinking it's incentive for character conflict players reacted, but it just went south, turning into most of the players expressing their dislike and being told not to be jerks.

My conclusion is that I don't know if my form of leadership was any good, but I definitely know what type of control I don't like.

I'll chime in on this topic. Gaming is not much different than life. We need good leaders, leaders get stuff done. The problem is there are a lot of people who want to be a leader but few that are actually good at it and there are always people who don't want to follow a leader, especially if they think they are better qualified. Putting aside our personal ambition is hard but it can be rewarding and a credit to those who do it. The saying "Too many bosses, not enough workers" was coined for a reason.

Often at the table a game can come to a standstill when decisions have to be made about a plan to sneak into the castle, or investigate a crime, or how to steal a jewel that the dragon is guarding without trying to defeat a wyrm that can incinerate the party, and as always, how to divide loot. This problem can be multiplied in PbP and these discussions can grind a game to a halt. I think a leader can be very useful to make a decision to move a game forward when there is a stalemate among the party. Everyone should have input into a plan and a good leader should always listen to the group and be able to make a decision and move forward without just being "bossy" in doing so.
A good leader trusts the members of his team to get the job done using their unique skills and not micro managing how they do it.

My personal experience with a leader in a game is this. I'm in several games here on MW and there is not a leader in the parties. Most of them work fine but there are definitely times where someone needs to step up and make a decision to move the game forward and I think having an appointed leader can be very helpful. The only game I'm in with an appointed leader is a game where my character was voted to be the leader of the group. I hope I am doing a good job of not being a bossy micromanager, but that is for the other players in the game to judge. I try to be a positive motivator, and to encourage input from everyone. After I collect the input I make a decision for the GM to move forward with and advance the story. My perception is that it has been positive so far. That's not to say there hasn't been some minor disagreements, again, that is a microcosm of life.

In summary, I think a leader of the group can be very helpful as long as it's the right person to do it and the rest of the group are on board with it.

This is another thing that I think works quite differently in FtF vs PbP games. In FtF games, a leader will often naturally emerge, usually within just a few minutes of play, as stronger personalities are pushed to the forefront.







 

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