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D&D General What is an Adversarial Player?

Greenfield

Adventurer
This is a sort of counterpart to the Adversarial DM discussion.

What traits would you say define the "Adversarial Player"?

I've seen two flavors of this. Some player seem to play as if they were in competition with the other players, and strive to make the most powerful character. I had a player who wouldn't be satisfied unless his character had an AC at least five points higher than anyone else in the party, and hated the fact that his character could actually fail a Saving Throw.

The other sort is adversarial towards the DM. That is, they seek to "beat" the DM, often through rules-lawyering or flat out cheating. Some go so far as to try and derail the campaign, to prove that they're "better" than the DM on some personal scale.

You, of course, are free to supply definitions and/or examples of your own. That's kind of what this discussion is about, after all.
 

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Stormonu

Legend
I’ve encountered two versions.

A) The “Lone Wolf” player

This individual has no interest in the other players or whatever adventure the DM may have prepared. They deliberately walk off-camera to pursue their own goal, leaving the party underpowered and left to twiddle their thumbs while the Lone Wolf does their thing.

B) The “Killer Friend” player

This individual is prone to drop fireballs or other area effect spells deliberately on their own party, not out of callousness but out of actual desire in killing the other characters. Also starts PVP battles at the drop of a hat. Will destroy treasure rather than let someone other than themselves have it, will hold back to trigger every dungeon trap with the rest of the party in it and will run off with treasure to leave the players fighting the bad guys. Has been known to cast beneficial spells on enemy NPCs to make fights tougher as well, and won’t pass up a chance to betray the party to the bad guys the moment the option presents itself, or pull a “Leroy Jenkins” to alert the bad guys to the party’s presence, foiling any attempt by the party to prep for a fight..

Both can rot in hell
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
I've had the "Killer Friend" in games. They're a self-solving problem, when they're that blatant. The players get voted out of the group pretty quickly.

Not the character, the player. We learn, pretty quickly, that their next PC will behave the same way, because it's a player thing, not a "It's what my character would do." thing.

Had a Thief (1st Ed AD&D) who stole from the party. In character it was made clear why nobody would travel with the guy: "When I go into a fight, I have to be able to trust my companions with my life. I wouldn't trust you with my beer!"

He'd put some work into that character, and hated to lose him. His next character did better. If he hadn't, he would have been gone.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I think it mostly comes down to selfishness. Putting one’s own fun, enjoyment, and entertainment above the rest of the group is what makes an adversarial player (and DM for that matter).

I’m told optimization isn’t inherently adversarial, for example, but if they’re asked to stop for the enjoyment of the group and the player refuses, then it’s clearly adversarial behavior. Same with rules lawyers. Some level of “trying to get the rules right” is fine, taking it to the point of regularly or constantly arguing with the DM and trying to somehow win the game or beat the DM is clearly adversarial. Dicking over the party is also clearly adversarial. Thieves stealing from the party. Clerics who refuse to heal unless paid.
 






Just like with an adversarial DM, there's good and bad ones.

Bad for the Group:
  • Competitive against other players
  • Spotlight hog (often lone wolf types)
  • PvP types (including treasure theft)
Bad for the DM
  • Rules Lawyers that manipulate everything
  • Contrarians* who defy the adventure hook
  • Power Gamers that believe they should be able to overcome anything
Good for the Group
  • Intelligent player in a good Adversarial DM's game

* I have to add a special case. I've only run across this one guy, but he truly believes that his job as a player is to ruin the DM's plot. Not just adventure hooks, but any possible plan the DM might have. He'll kill any important NPC and destroy any McGuffin. This guy was so bad he annoyed the other players. I booted him from my games, but he was a player in a game I played in.
 

I don't know if it is adversarial per se, but players who get upset when the world reacts in a reasonable way, the extreme example of a combat leading to character death. What's "reasonable" is of course subjective, which is why people turn to rule sets for answers, but a dynamic where player or dm don't trust the other's investment in the world is unhealthy if not adversarial. Players don't need to take the fiction of the world seriously, but then they shouldn't be upset when the world reacts to whatever they are doing.

If an adversarial DM says "rocks fall, you die," you also have players that will have their characters stand underneath falling rocks, so to speak, and are upset when their character dies.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I don't know if it is adversarial per se, but players who get upset when the world reacts in a reasonable way, the extreme example of a combat leading to character death. What's "reasonable" is of course subjective, which is why people turn to rule sets for answers, but a dynamic where player or dm don't trust the other's investment in the world is unhealthy if not adversarial. Players don't need to take the fiction of the world seriously, but then they shouldn't be upset when the world reacts to whatever they are doing.

If an adversarial DM says "rocks fall, you die," you also have players that will have their characters stand underneath falling rocks, so to speak, and are upset when their character dies.
Yeah. Those players are...precious.

Or murderhobos who get upset when the world reacts negatively to the characters.

“But they didn’t see us murder all the guards!”

“No, but you walked into the town square covered in their blood, brandishing their weapons, had a few of their heads on spears, and tried to sell whatever you looted off their bodies to the townsfolk.”
 

Helpful NPC Thom

Adventurer
There aren't adversarial players. The power disparity and role differences between GMs and players means that there is not a mirror term. There are specific problem player traits and we use different terminology for them: munchkins and rules lawyers come to mind. We could use a term for the players that say, "I make a [skill] check," then roll the dice without any input from the GM whatsoever. :p
 



Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Just like with an adversarial DM, there's good and bad ones.

Bad for the Group:
  • Competitive against other players
  • Spotlight hog (often lone wolf types)
  • PvP types (including treasure theft)
Bad for the DM
  • Rules Lawyers that manipulate everything
  • Contrarians* who defy the adventure hook
  • Power Gamers that believe they should be able to overcome anything
Good for the Group
  • Intelligent player in a good Adversarial DM's game

* I have to add a special case. I've only run across this one guy, but he truly believes that his job as a player is to ruin the DM's plot. Not just adventure hooks, but any possible plan the DM might have. He'll kill any important NPC and destroy any McGuffin. This guy was so bad he annoyed the other players. I booted him from my games, but he was a player in a game I played in.

I don't suppose his name was Jack by any chance? In any case, Jack was my contrarian. If there was a plot hook, he'd ignore it. If there was a reason for his PC to care he'd blow it off. If he thought I had X planned he'd do Y. All while gloating about not "falling for that". Then he'd insist that I was railroading because I'm good enough at improvisational DMing and could keep the game moving forward for anyone else.

When I asked what he wanted from the game, he just said that he wanted to "hang out in a tavern and have things happen". What things? Heck if I know. I threw out plot hooks for helping fellow dwarves, dungeon crawls, revenge, a variety of save the [fill in the blank] quests he ignored them or tried to sabotage them all. Thankfully as I was about to kick him out he left on his own.

Didn't go quite as far as killing off important NPCs or destroying McGuffins, so I guess I should count my blessings. I still don't know what he wanted to get out of the game other than perhaps to practice being a jackass.
 


Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
How about the

"Perfectly normal and decent sort of player who shows up regularly and is affable and amusing in play until one day a relationship is harmed or something particularly important to them doesn't go the way they're expecting it and then they do their best to utterly nuke the campaign during the next session before blowing up in a pointless and utterly disgusting argument with another player or DM over the perceived slight before never playing again?"

I've had a few of those. One was even aimed at me 'cause when the player confessed to the cops in the game that she and her friends had been taking evidence from crime scenes (In the form of illegal as heck powerful weapons they intended to use for themselves) she was expecting the cops to be really happy she came forward and work with the party. They tried to arrest her, instead, along with her friends who were angry at her for doing that.

I had "Put her in a bad position" so she tried to derail and end the campaign.
 
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I recommend the excellent no-budget film Gamers: Dorkness Rising (which can currently be streamed for free from several outlets). The entire motivating incident for the plot is a player insisting that the group replay the campaign they just got TPKed in for a second time because he refuses to let the DM and "some unpublished module" beat him. That, to me, is the platonic form of an adversarial player (played up rather over-the-top, because they needed to set the plot in motion).
 

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