Dennis Detwiller

Delta Green: Dealing with Unruly Players

In Gaming, Writing on March 19, 2012 at 8:10 am


In my experience, there are two types of players. There are players who honestly want to play, and there are those who want to fuck around. Nothing can ruin a Delta Green game MORE than an unruly player who attempts to seize control of the game. The difference between a great game and a mediocre game is cutting your losses early. Players who min-max (if such a thing were really possible in Delta Green), who correct the Keeper, who talk out of character, ruin surprises or otherwise challenge the Keeper’s authority in some stupid attempt to look “cool” should not be tolerated. The good news is they are easily dealt with.

I’ve had a couple of these types in 28 years of gaming. They didn’t last. Here are a few examples.

Let’s call the first one Mike. Mike was a gun nut. He wouldn’t shut up about guns. He’d correct, he’d revert to the pedantic diatribe about bullets whenever any shots were fired, he’d draw other players into endless reams of gun porn in the selection of their firearm.

I had had enough of him fifteen minutes into the first session. When the creature showed up in the second act, it boiled in from some other dimension and lunged at Mike, who had some amazing, incredible firearm which took forever for him to settle upon (and then we had to buy attachments!) He shot this thing in the face with a critical and blew its head off. The thing proceeded to grab Mike’s character, pick him up over its head and snap his back in two, before vanishing back to where it came — with Mikes’ character.

Mike’s protest was “but I blew off it’s head with my *POINTLESS FIREARM*!” My response was “how do you know where its head was?” In any case, mechanically, Mike’s shot had little or no chance in killing the thing. The other two Agents who ran made it out alive.

Mike never came back, in the game or to the game session. Everyone was happy about that.

Another good example was a person we will call Percy. Percy would shout out what he thought the monster was, and use his prodigious memory to spit back huge reams of information on the creature in question. Number of Hit Points, Armor Points, Attacks, etc… He took a decidedly stupid proactive “let’s do everything we can to end up in front of the monster” methodology which would be the exact 180 of any skilled DG agent. Even worse, he knew this, and didn’t care.

Percy and his group came upon a seaside town, they came across a book about a group of fishermen who summoned a creature called “The Sons of the Deep”. He read the description in the book (took the SANITY loss) and calculated they were up against, at most, a Deep One or two. Percy decided to be proactive, he’d end the threat.

After setting up a vast booby trap at the summon area, they cast the summons. I still can’t express how unnecessary and stupid this was.

When the Starspawn of Cthulhu showed up, things quickly soured. Needless to say, it was a total party kill. When Percy began to rant and rave about the book being inaccurate, I explained it was written in 1704, and had been translated from some horrific hybrid language of Latin, English and Spanish; it used euphemisms and code. Some of the tenses and numbering might have been off. What it had actually said was “The Son of the Deep”. Oh well.

The point of these two stories is to say to Keepers: the game is yours. The rules are stacked against the Players — most effectively I might add and on purpose. It is very easy to tie troublesome players up in knots with little more than a clear enforcement of the rules. Do not be afraid to enforce the one thing that can make or break a Delta Green game: mood.

You, the Keeper are uncaring fate. Act like it.

  1. Ab Fab! Yep, you are the hand of Fate when acting as the Keeper. I recall one player who was fearless about Deep Ones, “Low tech fish f*!*s as he called them…but when one of them got a harpoon into his leg (from a harpoon gun) during a firefight, dragged him out of cover and proceeded to rip the stuffing out of him, he changed his tune. At least he was willing to learn, and I give him some slack since he came into DG from the land of D&D, so the idea of facing creatures that were truly nasty and unbeatable was foreign to him.

  2. Eh… this goes against my philosophy that the game should be fun for everyone. Of course, some players want to ruin other people’s fun, but that doesn’t mean that the Keeper has to resort to being a spoilsport. A guy likes guns, give him something to shoot at. A player likes math, stats and planning, give him something to calculate. People get enough abuse outside the game, they don’t need it in game too.

    • Wait. MIB is a softie? There is a Santa Claus. 😉

      IMO players need to actually, you know, play the game they’re in.

      The two examples illustrate people who were not playing Delta Green. They were playing something else in the midst of other people playing Delta Green. It’s like breaking out a Stratego tile during Catan and screaming TOUCHDOWN!

      I don’t have the time or inclination to rehabilitate gamers. They’re a feisty lot.

      In any case YMMV.

  3. i agree with the MiB.
    A game is firsly made by people and problems can be discussed before reach a dead end solution.

    • There’s no point in discussing such things. In my experience there are two types of people, those who can handle CofC and those who can’t.

      Explaining the harsh facts of CofC, in my experience has little or no effect. They continue their stupidity.

      Finally, their behavior is just rude. It tromps all over other’s fun. The minute these guys left the game, both games picked up, and in one case lead to a session which would become Night Floors. Imagine the gun guy in that one, oh, that’s right, it never would have happened since he’d be shooting everything.

      Honestly, YMMV but in my experience if you’re on the MiB’s side…well… 😉

  4. There’s a difference between accommodating the game to your players’ taste, and handling pain in the ass players. I’ve had both.

    Accommodating the game is OK. If my players are just more interested in investigating and shooting, then I won’t put too much conspiracy and politics in the campaign. If, on the other hand, they’re don’t care at all about action scenes and instead mostly have fun with double-crossing NPCs and hiding things from each other, then I focus the campaign on spy-games and character development. IMHO you can do that with DG without betraying the spirit of the game, the same way you can run, say, Star Wars games in completely different ways (Galactic Senate politics or Jedi apprenticeship or bounty hunters or whatever).

    Pain in the ass players however are exactly the kind Dennis just describe. They argue with the GM and interrupt the game to show how much they know about a subject nobody cares about because you’re trying to run a fucking game and yes that game happens to be in a fucking parallel universe where the window locks on that Alabama residential house cannot be lock-picked from the outside because I’m the fucking GM and I said so (true argument… the player went on to describe all the houses he saw while on vacation in the region and how it couldn’t possibly be like that in the game).
    For those players I have absolutely no respect, and they will be out of my game quickly if they don’t behave (I do give them a few sessions to do so).

  5. Ok but why you need to kill the player “in” game,while you can simply talk with him?
    C’mon,we all know that a DnD player is completely different from a DG one,but why I need to kill him in my game instead of talking with him about his fellings over the game?
    Ok he’s a pain in the ass, but I don’t hit the point ruining an RpG experience or fight fire with fire…just talk and say him he’ s not right for the game set.

    • Because, first and foremost (and forgive me) that is what the game is ABOUT. In each case, I simply ran the rules as they were written, the players killed themselves. That’s the mechanical truth of the game: it is not balanced. It is not SUPPOSED to be. This is why it has lasted as such a fundamental force in gaming, it was the first game to reverse the formulae of a fair fight — there are no fair fights in CofC.

      I have no time to educate someone who does not wish to be educated, or worse, actively works against me. A game has an implicit agreement at its start: the group agrees to act together in a manner which will manufacture fun.

      The people we are speaking of, do not enter into the agreement (and choose not to). Instead, they are off on some solipsistic “fun” where they amuse themselves with stupid and ultimately disruptive behavior. Honestly, I have neither the time or the inclination to “talk of their feelings”, doubly so if they are a pain in the ass. Either they “get it” and recover when their Agent is ripped to shreds using the D&D method of investigation, or they don’t come back.

      In either case, problem solved with a minimum of annoyance. 🙂

  6. I just read this in Colonel Jessup’s voice. 🙂

  7. Always remember that Call of Cthulhu is basically Paranoia with shoggoths. If you aren’t doing total party kills at least every second or third session, you’re doing it wrong.

    “STV L-Z-1-S shakes his head gravely and says ‘You’re only an Infrared clearance clone, yet you were found in possession of Delta Green level material. Report to the food vats, Citizen.'”

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