So you find yourself with a player who has come under the attention of the local club, and not in a positive way. They are often skirting the rules for their own benefit, taking actions that are questionable OOCly in their source and use and behavior, and many of the members have brought this to your attention. However, there is no clear indication that the rules or Code of Conduct are being broken, instead the player seems to always toe the line, walking up to but not quite breaking any rule. They are leaving the rest of the players unhappy and you are left with the decision on how to handle the situation.
It may be hard to determine just what behavior to look for, but you will quickly find a pattern: the player in question always quoting the rules or Code of Conduct on why they have not broken any rules, questionable behavior that is routinely being marked as an issue with others, players reporting problems with the same offender again and again…
What is the Harm?
The question arises, why is this harmful? If no rules are broken, is there really an issue? The answer is yes. For one, a single player can dramatically affect the entirety of a domain’s enjoyment, driving players to not only not wish to deal with this person, but also to avoid the domain entirely if they are a prevalent source in multiple venues. Likewise, it can affect how the domain is seen by neighboring groups, who would begin to wonder if such behavior is not only tolerated, but acceptable? And finally if this sort of behavior persists, then the only person enjoying the game would be the problem player in question, leaving others either unwilling to interact or simply not desiring to participate anymore, which could reflect poorly on the club overall. The following are some behaviors you should look for, or could signal a potential problem.
What behaviors can be signals of problems?
On an “in character” Player Character related level, it may seem that there is little that could be found as warning signs for this kind of behavior, when in fact there are several. These kinds of players may consistently argue vague rules solely for their own benefit; sometimes switching their stance on the same rule depending on which side of the argument they find themselves on. They may have obscure character reasoning to back poor or questionable behavior even if the behavior is out of place, and refuse to amend their stance on it. In the same vein, they will often be unwilling to concede their points, despite evidence or discussion to the contrary. Overall, they will come across as far more antagonistic than would be normal.
Outside of PC related behavior, other actions to look out for would include some of the following: utilizing the Code of Conduct as a weapon, or focusing on the letter of the law when the spirit of the law is not being upheld. Other times mediation or other such tools are used not to resolve situations, but halt such resolution. In this way, these players do not consider the others in the venue or club, and are unwilling to think of enjoyment outside of their own. Frequently, they leave others with a poor experience both in and out of game.
What are some solutions?
The best way to avoid the issues on a character level is to sit down with the player and discuss matters at hand, specifically the larger issues within the domain and potential good or harm that their actions are causing not only for the venue but for other players. It may be that the potential issue is simply a case of ignorance to the gravity of their actions. It is important that they understand that while some decisions may be wholly legal within the scope of the games rules, including approvals, but ultimately may bring to negative an impact on the venue. Help them find a reasonable alternative rather than simply beginning with a “no,” and try to find a way for them to still find enjoyment without detracting from others. In the end, don’t be afraid to say no; your responsibility is to far more than a single player in these situations.
If the matter is more a player than a character dilemma, the situation can be a bit more problematic due to personal feelings. In the case of the CoC arguments, point out what the spirit behind the CoC is, rather than the strict lettering of the document; it simply cannot cover every situation and in many cases it requires an understanding of what the overall goal and intention of the club is. Direct their attention that while again, no action they are taking is wrong… per se… the result of their actions is the game has become notably worse for others; it is a time when we should all enjoy ourselves, not only a select few. If mediation or other tools are being abused, explain that it is not a tool used to force a desired outcome nor should one expect to “win” through mediation. Both sides should be amiable to the conclusion, but it requires flexibility and concession on both sides. Overall, you will have to be prepared to offer discipline to the player in some fashion, following the guidelines within the Handbook for their behavior; while this is a course of action no one enjoys, remember that we try to promote safe and fun environments for these games. If a single player is actively impeding this for others, you need to be prepared to take action.
At times, after speaking with the member, an officer may find that they want to clearly document and explain the conversation they had with the member. In this case, they could use a Letter of Counseling. A Letter of Counseling can be particularly helpful when a member hasn’t broken any specific rule, but is bending or breaking the spirit of the rule. As the Membership Handbook says on page 15, “We will use common sense and maturity when involved in club matters. The spirit of the rules is more important to us than the letter of the rules.”
Addressing or correcting this behavior cannot be overstated; it may make for an uncomfortable situation in the short term, but it will ultimately be good for the club in the long term. This kind of behavior is toxic, and has and will lead to players of your domain and others viewing your game in particular as allowing this kind of intrinsically poor experience. By addressing the matter before it becomes a greater issue, you can provide a much more enjoyable experience not only for your current but future players as well; along with this you set the example that such actions will not be tolerated. Focus on the spirit of what our Code of Conduct wishes to put in place, rather than solely on the letter. It will offer a much more rewarding experience not only for the current game, but ones you would wish to host in the long term.