Primadonna Gamers, Cheese, and why Campaigns Hurt: A Rant

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ArcticFox
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Primadonna Gamers, Cheese, and why Campaigns Hurt: A Rant

Postby ArcticFox » Fri May 09, 2014 5:26 pm

Haven't ranted in a while, so this one's overdue.

So, having failed to learn our lesson from the drama of last time, my gaming club once again embarked upon a campaign. This one is for Warhammer 40K and is, like the last one, based on official published rules.

Well, like last time, it wasn't a month in before the whining began. "Our faction didn't get enough access to special facilities." "Nobody's telling us what's going on (despite there being a page and several threads as resources within our site)" "The teams are imbalanced." At first, no major problems, but now, suddenly people are dropping out for various reasons.

One of them dropped because he wasn't expecting a tournament mentality in the campaign, but the first opponent he played was super competitive and fielded a cheese list.

For those who don't know, cheese is what we call something in gaming where the player leverages the rules to absolutely maximize the power level of his character/army. There's no fluff, no narrative, no sportsmanship. It's all about trying to create the perfect "I win" button. This attitude is mostly seen in tournaments, but does find its way into casual gaming as well.

And yes, we have a player or two with that mentality.

There isn't anything wrong with being competitive... That's what gaming is about... But there's a big difference between friendly competition and "win at all costs." One is fun, the other is stressful, in my opinion.

So we started up a discussion and even though no names were mentioned, the super-competitive player became defensive and started talking about how his play style was clearly incompatible with the group, and that it meant there was no point in gaming with us. I find that mentality utterly bewildering. Why is it so hard to play a casual game? Why does every single game have to be a struggle for ego dominance? Why does it have to be a test of one's self every time the dice hit the table?

I suggested to him that he get his chance for hyper competitive gaming at tournaments where that approach fits better, and be more relaxed and casual when gaming with us. Unreasonable? I didn't think so.

But apparently he just doesn't have fun when he's not at maximum throttle, being as full-on as he can be. Even that I think I could understand somewhat, but the way it's explained to us comes across as he just plays at a higher level than we do.

That mentality REALLY irritates me. Especially coming from someone who's idea of a good Warhammer player is someone who has a cheese list, as opposed to someone who uses strategy and tactics well.

Whatever game you play, whether it be Warhammer, Dungeons & Dragons, Magic:The Gathering... there's always a way to build an army/character/deck that's "broken," meaning it's incredibly hard to beat with no player skill required. If you play a lot of Magic and you have a deck that's a super killer tournament winner, and it's equally effective if a complete newbie can use it and get wins, then what you have there is cheese. If you have a killer Druid build for Dungeons & Dragons that even a new player can kill all the monsters with, or an army in Warhammer that steamrolls all opposition even if a guy who has never played Warhammer before is running it... Congrats. You've made cheese.

What that means is you might be really good at building a killer combo, but not necessarily good at playing the game.

I often gripe that my army in Warhammer (Bretonnia) is the oldest of the books and due to power creep is one of the weakest. The thing is, it's also an opportunity for me to sharpen my skill. If I have this old, underpowered army and I can beat you with your new, shiny, powerful list, then that means I played a better tactical game. This is my goal. And I can easily throttle that so I can play a new player and he will still have fun, or I can go to max power for tournaments and hold my own. I just find it to be an overall better way to game, but that's just me.

In any case, I'm left with a lot of frustration because yet again a campaign that's meant to be fun and casual has been turned into a steaming cauldron of drama.

Grown. Men.
"He who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a greater fool."
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Re: Primadonna Gamers, Cheese, and why Campaigns Hurt: A Ran

Postby ArchAngel » Fri May 09, 2014 6:01 pm

As a pc gamer, I have to admit the fun in putting together an overwhelming build. And even when I roll a d&d character, I'm hard pressed to spend my precious attribute points on based on role-play rather than what fits better with the class. Putting together a build is part of the play and it can be gratifying as playing it, too.

An OP build, of course, can ruin the game for others. And while PC game designers have the ability to put out patches to nerf these builds as they come, much to chagrin of some gamers, and while not perfect, it helps deal with these as they come, tabletops don't quite have the same luxury. How much errata can really be put out?

I sympathize with your position because that sort of mentality, Cheese and Munchkins as I've learned from you, can and does detract from everybody else's experience. At the same time, however, I do sympathize with the power gamer. It's really fun to try putting together a very effective build and, as opposed to cheating, you are following the rules. They've done nothing wrong, technically. Part of the fun is putting together a really good build.
It's possible that a person can say the same thing about tactics as well as builds. They are both two skills using the rules for an advantage to win, and yes, you play to have fun, but winning is very fun.

I'm wondering of the best ways to handle this. As a DM, you have leeway with rules and rewards, so you can scootch dynamics in certain directions. Bonus points for good roleplaying, etc. Is it possible to create certain house rules to encourage a more faceted play approach, whether it's for nerffing certain units to encouraging smaller and more limited armies for power builders. Some games allow you to take gameplay penalties for further bonuses later. There is always a danger when limiting players as it can really cut into the fun, but rewards really bode better, I think.

A dangerously sidetracking WoW example. For experience, you gain an experience bonus based on the amount of time you logged out. It helps keep the more casual gamers up to par with some of the grinders. Originally, I believe, it was an experience penalty for playing past certain periods of time. That didn't fare well and gamers weren't happy about it. Who likes penalties? So they literally just switched the verbage and UI on it. What was once penalized was the normal xp rate, and what was once the normal xp rate is now "bonus xp." Problem solved. Nothing actually changed, just perceptions.

So, I don't know the specifics of Warhammer campaigns, but is it possible to institute some house rules that can reward people doing more than just power building, or providing new challenge and subsequent rewards for those who like to power build by getting them to voluntarily take some penalties.

Maybe there's a way to make all these types of gamers happy and avoiding having grown men descend into squabbling children.
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Re: Primadonna Gamers, Cheese, and why Campaigns Hurt: A Ran

Postby ArcticFox » Fri May 09, 2014 6:16 pm

Yeah there's nothing inherently wrong with power gaming if that's your style... but like so many things, both sides have to be on the same page for it to be a rewarding experience. I don't mind playing the power game from time to time, because it is a different dimension. What I don't like is feeling like I always have to play that way if I want to be across the table from particular opponents. I just don't have the energy for that. I like to toss dice, tell a story (yes, even with tabletop games) and relax. Gaming should lower the blood pressure, not boost it.

Campaigns present unique challenges here because it means somebody's got to adapt to the group in order to participate. It's true that the GM can make adjustments to limit power gaming, but then the power gamer feels punished... and on some level, they are. Not really fun either.

In my perfect, fantasy gaming world, people play in campaigns for the narrative and tournaments to be competitive. This is my Nirvana. My Elysium. Mixing the two always leads to drama, and I'm getting too old for drama.
"He who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a greater fool."
—Brigham Young

"Don't take refuge in the false security of consensus."
—Christopher Hitchens

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Re: Primadonna Gamers, Cheese, and why Campaigns Hurt: A Ran

Postby Chozon1 » Sat May 10, 2014 8:01 am

I don't personally consider loopholing and rule nazi-ing (both attributes of "power players") to be following the rules, but rather exploiting them for your own enjoyment to the detriment of others.

I once played a match in Modern Warfare 3 where the opposing team used heavy machine guns with armor piercing bullets and infrared scopes; they set up covering all the spawn points, and just held the trigger down, wracking up kill points, and not letting the other team do anything but respawn and die.

That's not cool; that's not being your best; that's being a jerk. Completely within the "rules" though. And then there's that guy that will hold you to a single dollar in Monopoly, and if you can't come up with it, you lost. Correct rules, but bad sportsmanship.

Games are supposed to be fun. I don't even think power players are cool in tourney's. It's incredibly dull to play a game you cannot win. Sure, in principle there's a chance, but not in reality.
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