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D&D General What is an 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.
These players (and people in general) sound like they are ridiculous and insufferable. I can honestly say in all the time I've been playing I've been fortunate enough to encounter very few adversarial players and on the rare occasion we did we had absolutely no problem booting them immediately, mid game. We mostly kept our circle of players to friends so we rarely had these problems. Dont get me wrong I've played at a game store and with people I didn't know but even then I met some strange people none come to mind that I'd consider adversarial.
Clerics who refuse to heal unless paid.
I don't see this as adversarial if roleplayed well, in fact I've done this and see as the opposite. I'd say a player who expects the party cleric to heal them or cast other spells for them just because they can without contributing to help spread the teachings of the clerics faith is somewhat adversarial. Now I'm not saying that a players needs to contribute gold for every hp of healing but there should be a mutual understanding in the party that the cleric will heal and the rest will help spread the faith.
 

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bloodtide

Explorer
I will add the player type I hate: The Ruin Player. This player does not even WANT to play the game, though they will often lie and say it is their "favorite" and will say all the standard 'buzz phrases'. But they have but one goal: to ruin the game for everyone.

Just about anything this player can do to ruin the game, they will do it eagerly. They love nothing more then to ruin everyones fun....as that is fun for them.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Honestly, this is for me all linked to the level of self-centricity of the player. When you have players who come to the table so that their friends enjoy the game, you have fantastic players and great games. When you have players who come to mostly enjoy themselves, with often less or no regard for the other players at the table, it quickly becomes much more complicated.

As a link back to the other threads, this is also why I consider that it's a fault that I encounter much less in DMs who, by default, come to have players play in their campaign, so who, by default, centre their play around others. It does not mean that there are no adversarial DMs (I've never met one who was truly that way, and apparently some can be good for some type of games although my preferences run in other directions), but that for me it's harder to be all about "me! me! me!" when you are not really playing yourself (but it might mean that really bad DMs are probably those who play for themselves ?).

This form of selfishness on the table can take many forms, whether it's technical or in terms of role or general attitude, but for me it's the root of the problem. Whether it's ruining the game for others, ruleslawyering to show one's knowledge of the rules, wanting to be stronger than others, wanting a specific role that makes other reacts, often negatively, it's all the same cause.

And Basically, it comes back to respect of the others, even before wanting the others to enjoy themselves. The session zero advice from Tasha is good about this:
  • You will respect the players by running a game that is fun, fair, and tailored for them.
  • The players will respect you and the effort it takes to create a fun game for everyone.
  • The players will respect one another, listen to one another, support one another, and do their utmost to preserve the cohesion of the adventuring party.
  • Should you or a player disrespect each other or violate the social contract in some other way, the group may dismiss that person from the table.
So, in the end, to judge the acceptability of a player for a table I'm at, it's certainly not about their knowledge of the rules, the build of the character, or the role that they want to play, it's all about whether they show the necessary respect for the other players.

And note that this does not prevent a character from being adversarial. We had an extremely long Runequest Campaign in which, as part of our Heroquests I was incarnating Arkat, the hero who joined cult after cult and betrayed them all one after the other in search of what was needed to destroy chaos, which meant that I was always the adversary and the betrayer in almost all heroquests that my friends undertook. But as it was done to further the game and provide them with the best adversary possible for them to shine, it resulted in a great campaign. Characters may be strongly adversarial, but as long as the players are not, it's not a problem.

After that, again, for tables who are there about the technical challenge and "playing against the DM to overcome the difficult challenges", the "adversarial player" might be an asset, but it's so opposite to my personal preferences of playing the game as totally collaborative that I cannot comment.
 

Dragonsbane

Proud Grognard
You missed the most common sort - the Rules Lawyer is adversarial.
I think it depends on how they discuss rules. As a Forever DM, if I am getting a rule wrong, I want my players to tell me. Doesn't come up often anymore.

Now, on the other hand, I find the "Get One Over on the DM" player very adversarial.

"Ahh but the spell says this!" player points to a grammatical error or wording obviously not written as intended

"No no no RAW it is like this!"

"Wait, your house rules this before the campaign started?!? My one-trick-pony is gimped?!?"
 

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.
I've had the misfortune of meeting flavor number two.

As a player, he would keep switching characters (to ensure the GM was always confused by his character) and either rules lawyer or cheat. One time he made the GM feel bullied. His last character followed the rules strictly, but was still "cheesy". He knew our GM was better at running martial characters than magical characters.

I had him in my game for two sessions. He was disruptive, tried to cheat, and (as he did in the previous game) it was virtually impossible to get a look at his character sheet. He clearly didn't like the adventure and I thought he was going to quit. Another player complained about him. He showed up the next session, and I verified that he was cheating on his character sheet. He was still disruptive so I booted him.
 

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.
Nah, Bill was my guy. The funny thing was, outside of the game he was a pretty nice guy. During a game, really any type of game, he became super-competitive and with RPGs this included the DM. He also helped contribute to a campaign ending in session 0 when another competitive gamer rolled much higher ability scores than him (not all his fault, as the other player lorded it over him).
 




This is a sort of counterpart to the Adversarial DM discussion.
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
Just like with an adversarial DM, there's good and bad ones.

In broad terms, I agree with Helpful NPC Thom. There isn't going to be complete symmetry here. A player that tries to best the challenges the DM has laid out is generally doing what is expected. A DM who sets out as a goal to best the players is creating an adversarial relationship with someone they already have complete control over, and may be violating a social contract to simply let the game events play out as the occur and rule impartially (if such an assumption exists).

There are of course problem players, and those can be as big an issue as the problematic type of Adversarial DMs (as Shiroiken points out, not all Adversarial DMing need be a problem, depending on the assumptions of a given table), however those will be of a different nature.
 



Yeah, I had a friend back in the mid 90s run a game, do an awful job, get told he's never running for us again, and then I got elected to be the DM.

Usullay an Adversarial DM, who got kick out, and then return to player status.

I've known only two of these sorts, and they can be the worst. I had never encountered anything like them before, so I had no idea how to deal with that sort of behavior at the time. I don't game with either anymore.

The one, I don't think was really consciously trying to be disruptive, but the other, absolutely was. Their fun seemed to be solely in making the game more boring and difficult for the rest of the players, and more stressful for the DM. He considered it skilled play to "challenge" the DM by trying to slow the game to a crawl with digressions into minutiae or by trying to convince the rest of the group to never take the hook and go do something else.

I will add the player type I hate: The Ruin Player. This player does not even WANT to play the game, though they will often lie and say it is their "favorite" and will say all the standard 'buzz phrases'. But they have but one goal: to ruin the game for everyone.

Just about anything this player can do to ruin the game, they will do it eagerly. They love nothing more then to ruin everyones fun....as that is fun for them.

We may just be debating semantics here, but I think that there's a difference between someone that just knows the rules very well, and a Rules Lawyer. The former will speak up regardless of whether or not getting the rules right will hurt their character or not. The latter will only speak up when it's to their benefit, or will try to argue an...interpretation, shall we say, of the rules to benefit them.

I'm not sure I agree that Rules Lawyers mean to be adversarial, even if they can annoying. I've certainly encountered Rules Lawyers who are just overly obsessed with what they see as correctness.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
Well, I have to admit that I'm a "Rules Lawyer" of sorts, but I try not to be disruptive. When a question comes up I'll explicitly ask, "Permission to rules lawyer?". And my DM(s) and other players know that I'm as likely to argue that the rules play against us as they do for us.

So I try not to be adversarial about it, but I like to know the rules of the game I'm in.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Another favorite adversarial player is the metagamer.

DM: Jim, your character takes 13 damage from the assassin’s backstab.

Player 01: I run across town to where Jim’s character is and...

DM: Why?

Player 01: Uh...Because I’ve suddenly remembered that I have a book of his I should return.

DM: And it has nothing to do with Jim being attacked? That your character knows literally nothing about.

Player 01: I’m offended you’d suggest that.

DM: How long have you had Jim’s book?

Player 01: Since 1st level.

DM: So now, miraculously, at 12th level, in the middle of Jim’s character being attacked, now you decide to return the book?

Player 01: Yep.

DM: Do you happen to have any items belonging to any other characters?

Player 01: Of course. Just in case.
 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
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.
A cheater and/or someone who breaks the social contract.
 

amethal

Adventurer
Another favorite adversarial player is the metagamer.

DM: Jim, your character takes 13 damage from the assassin’s backstab.

Player 01: I run across town to where Jim’s character is and...

DM: Why?

Player 01: Uh...Because I’ve suddenly remembered that I have a book of his I should return.

DM: And it has nothing to do with Jim being attacked? That your character knows literally nothing about.

Player 01: I’m offended you’d suggest that.

DM: How long have you had Jim’s book?

Player 01: Since 1st level.

DM: So now, miraculously, at 12th level, in the middle of Jim’s character being attacked, now you decide to return the book?

Player 01: Yep.

DM: Do you happen to have any items belonging to any other characters?

Player 01: Of course. Just in case.
That needn't be adversarial.

Another way of looking at it is that one player's character was being threatened* and another player wanted his character to be able to do something to help them. (And friends turning up unexpectedly, in the nick of time, is a common trope in stories.)

*although 13 points of damage against a 12th level character, when attacking with complete surprise, isn't very threatening; in this case I think Jim's character might be just fine on his own ...
 


jasper

Rotten DM
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
You comment has been stolen. Pray I don't steal again.
..
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
You comment has been stolen. Pray I don't steal again.
..
An adversarial player tries to have fun by making the game not fun for others.
Did you get hacked, or are you showing an example of adversarial play?
 

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