May 212012

I love dirtbike riding, I love tearing up the dirt, and I love getting dirty because of it.  I love gunning it and climbing up steep hills, I love kicking up dirt on the rider next to me, and I love getting airborn.  I love it all so much it’s practically my medicine.

Unfortunately, all that wear and tear takes it’s toll on the bike, and thus, it requires a boatload of maintenance.  My first bike, a Honda XR650L, was a monster.  It wasn’t really suited for someone who was just learning how to ride, but I didn’t care – crashing was par for the course.  Between my ER bills, and the bike’s repair costs, we probably evened out.

After I finally settled into a nice rhythm of not crashing, my riding then became a matter of how much maintenance was required on the bike in order to continue riding.  Sure, a lot of that extra maintenance was my fault, due in part to my excessive-aggressive riding style, but there were many times I didn’t want to ride because I didn’t know if the resulting maintenance was going to be worth it.

Well (surprisingly), dirt bike riding and role-players have something in common – they both require varying degrees of maintenance.

If you have a player…

  1. that has tardiness or attendance issues,
  2. that has two weeks to make a character, and waits until 5:00 P.M. game night,
  3. who never reads the rules or setting, forcing you to spend more time showing him how to play.
  4. who challenges the GM’s rulings unnecessarily,
  5. who starts arguments,
  6. who often interrupts the game,
  7. or whose characters often create unnecessary friction within the party,

…then you may need to perform player maintenance from time to time.

But how do you do it?  And how often? And when is enough, enough?  How do you perform maintenance on this player so that the game can continue in relative harmony?

I suppose you could throw a few jabs from time to time, in the hopes that the player picks up on it.  But what if they aren’t as sharp as sharp cheddar?  What if they need a direct talkin’ to?  Do you confront them?  Can you?  What if you’ve done that too often and are now left with leaving the group as your only option?  Perhaps the offending player is forced to leave the group?

I’ve been on both ends of this dilemma.  I’ve been the player needing to be maintained, and also the player who watches this problem unfold around him.  I imagine this happens more often than not, and I long for the day when everyone at the table (myself included) requires the least amount of player maintenance, while still delivering the most amount of fun.

I guess what it boils down to is that you have to not only be able to recognize that there’s a problem (so that you can perform the necessary maintenance), but you also have to know when to throw in the towel and get a new bike altogether.

The question is, at what point do you get that new bike?

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Chris Stevens

In Chris's opinion, the very best vices are dirt bikes, rock music, and gaming, while the very best medicine is fatherhood. If he could just learn to balance them all, he'd live forever. He's much more creative than intelligent, often wakes up belligerent, and ponders many things insignificant. Lastly, in an effort to transform his well-fed body, P90X, Roller Blades, and Food are all laughing at him. And the pain continues.

  2 Responses to “Player Maintenance: When is enough “Enough”?”

  1. From a pragmatic standpoint, when the player’s repair bill costs more than a new player (to continue the analogy). Since the commodity being spent here is time (and usually sanity) the question is how long will it take to fix this player vs finding a new one? Almost any dirtbike can be fixed, as long as you spend enough money. I’m not entirely sure the same thing can be said for players.

    Now I’m not saying this is the case but it’s important to keep in mind. As you allude to, your riding (or GMing) habits may on occasion be the cause of the problem. If you get a new bike (or player) are you just going to break the new one? Then why get a new one? Fix yourself first, then figure out what needs to be done to undo what you did. (?)

  2. I’m coming off player maintenance from all angles, and it’s been a drag. I think that, in the end, a direct conversation is the way to go, possibly with ultimatums.

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