The Gaming Jerk

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on August 7, 2009

During a recent D&D game at my Friendly Local Gaming Store (FLGS) I got stuck next to a gaming jerk for four hours. Being the nice guy that I am I didn’t say anything at the time, but the more I thought about it afterwards the more I realized that gaming jerks need to be singled out and reprimanded for the good of the game.

So there I was, sitting down getting ready to play an LFR module. I knew the DM (whom I’d played with before) and one other player. The other five participants were faces I’d seen around my FLGS but never gamed with before. Since it was a level 4-7 module I knew that everyone had at least a dozen adventures under their belt so the likelihood of having any rookies at the table was pretty low. As we went around the table and did introductions my assumptions were confirmed. These were hard-core gamers. All of them had clearly cut their teeth on previous editions of D&D and were 4e converts through-and-through (like me).

It wasn’t until mid-way through the first encounter that I started to take note of the gaming jerk. The gaming jerk is a nice enough guy. He’s very pleasant, funny and friendly. He’s a very experienced gamer and really knows his D&D. And therein lays the problem. Not only does he know a lot about D&D, but he felt that it was his obligation to share this information with everyone else at the table.

At first this seemed like just a few helpful reminders. But I realized that the gaming jerk wouldn’t back off. Everything needed his input. Whenever someone announced what power they were using the gaming jerk would describe what it did along with its subsequent conditions. This got annoying pretty fast.

Up until this point I figured that the gaming jerk was just trying to be helpful. Based on his actions thus far I wouldn’t have even classified him as a gaming jerk. If we had some rookies at the table his assistance would have been greatly appreciated. However, none of us were first-timers so his input was unnecessary and redundant.

Now I can forgive the player who is just trying to help. Although his methods are overbearing and obnoxious, his motives stem from the best of intentions. However, the gaming jerk earned his moniker when he started sharing his real-life knowledge of the monsters with everyone.

I haven’t really had many opportunities to DM 4e yet. As such I’ve avoided reading the Monster Manual and Monster Manual 2 as much as possible. I want my first encounter with 4e monsters to be fun and exciting. When I encounter a new monster for the first time I don’t want to know any more about it than my character would.

As soon as the DM placed the minis on the map the gaming jerk started announcing everything about the monsters. Had his character made the appropriate knowledge check (which he probably would have succeeded in anyway) then his actions, although taken out of turn, would merely be good role-playing. But he didn’t even wait for that opportunity. Before anyone could ask him to stop he had accurately described all three monsters including their resistances, vulnerabilities, special attacks, ranged abilities, rechargeable special powers, approximate hit points and defense scores. My first time fighting wraiths was ruined thanks to the gaming jerk.

The funny thing is that I don’t think the gaming jerk realized he was doing anything wrong. I think he believed he is being genuinely helpful. I get that and I applaud his desire to help others. But I don’t think I was alone in my classifying this guy as a gaming jerk.

So what should you do if you find yourself at a table with a gaming jerk? What should you do if, after reading this article, you realize that you are a gaming jerk? First and foremost remember that D&D is a game. We’re there to have fun. If your actions ruin someone else’s chance at having a good time then perhaps you should take a second to think before you act. There are different kinds of players and different styles of play. Don’t assume that because your core gaming group does something a certain way everyone else wants to do things the same way.

With any luck at least a few gaming jerks will read this post before GenCon next week, realize that they’re not as helpful as they think they are and will tone it down. If you find yourself at a table with a gaming jerk remind him that although he knows all the Wizard or Cleric powers his character most likely does not, likewise when it comes to describing monsters.

If you don’t feel comfortable calling out the gaming jerk or he doesn’t pick up on your subtleties, look to the DM for assistance. Most DMs are pretty sharp and even if the gaming jerk doesn’t realize what you’re saying the DM will most likely pick up on it and take charge. It’s up to each of us to do whatever we can to make every gaming experience enjoyable.

So to all the gaming jerks out there I say thanks for trying to help, but let me play my own character. If I need help I’ll ask for it. And when it comes to monster knowledge keep your comments in-character, from one PC to another.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 scorpio August 7, 2009 at 9:36 am

Currently, I’ve got a Gaming Jerk Lite in the group that I DM. To be completely honest, besides myself, he is the only player at the table for who isn’t a first-timer in some way. All the other players are either completely new to the hobby, or have played previous editions. Because of this, he generally helps out the other players with explaining rules and such whenever I’m busy. I really appreciate his assistance because it helps makes the game move more smoothly.

That said, he does often step over the line of being helpful into the territory of being a jerk. More than simply helping other players understand their powers, he also tends to convince other players which power they should use and will continue ‘convincing’ them even after they say that they would rather use another power. This was very close to coming to a head in last week’s session, and tomorrow before the game, I’m going to have a brief talk with the Jerk-Lite before we start so that, hopefully, the problem can be gotten under control.

Like your example, my Jerk is a nice guy, but I think that he just lacks some social graces that would allow him to see that he is overstepping his bounds.

2 Tom August 7, 2009 at 10:49 am

Wow. If a player in my group decided to announce monster stats prior to any knowledge checks, DM fiat would instantly change those stats to their detriment. “No, sorry, those Zombies have resist 10 to radiant damage”

3 Tim August 7, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Yeah, way back in my D&D days (1e), I got called out by the DM for being a gaming jerk. I used to pour over the Monster Manual between games and pretty much had it memorized. I just liked the critters and the descriptions. Anyway, during one very heated dungeon crawl, the DM kept bringing out new and interesting monsters. I must have wanted to show off my knowledge because, with each new critter, I immediately began spouting off every ability, weakness, and stat I could recall. I didn’t mean anything by it – I was just kind of proud I recalled all of these details. Unknown to me, the DM was getting more and more pissed off. So the next creature we encountered was one he made up on the spot – a “grabnict”. A creature made up of fiery tentacles, spider eyes, lobster claws, etc. And apparently grabnicts have an insane hatred of all clerics (yup, that was me). I was slaughtered on the spot. After the massacre, the DM pulled me aside and explained that – if I ruined any more encounters – there were plenty more monsters he could create on the spot. And they ALL would have a hatred for whatever class I was playing at the time. Snapped me out of it right then. (He also began creating his own monsters to keep any of the other party members from pulling what I did.)
.-= Tim´s last blog ..Dangerous Encounter: Green Thumb =-.

4 Brett August 7, 2009 at 2:34 pm

The difference between a Jerk and an Enthusiast can be hard to spot sometimes. I try to assume someone who is doing that sort of thing is an enthusiast who can’t keep their enthusiasm in check. I ask them politely to curb it, and chide them mildly if they can’t. They cross the line into a Jerk when they continue this sort of behavior when it clearly bothers the others at the table, it has been explained to them, and they continue right on with the behavior. I have been lucky so far and haven’t had anyone proceed from Enthusiast on to Jerk, but you do need to start working on helping them curb the bad behavior as soon as you see it start up.

5 Wyatt August 7, 2009 at 5:49 pm

This is part of the reason (the other part being that I find most D&D monsters to be crushingly uninteresting or annoying [at-will daze at-will daze at-will daze at-will daze at-will daze at-will daze...]) that I usually change every monster I use from the monster manual (and these are relatively few) to be entirely different from what players expect, and homebrew most of my encounters. I didn’t consider that trait to be a gaming jerk before reading this article (though now I kind of do), just a product of the current trends in gaming where information about everything is exceedingly easy to acquire. But the information you pull out of your rear will never be easy to acquire.
.-= Wyatt´s last blog ..Clerical Hierarchy in Eden =-.

6 Ameron August 8, 2009 at 12:17 am

@scorpio
Sounds like you’ve got the situation well in hand. I suspect that as soon as you say something to him things will change. After all, he’s just trying to help. If something unexpected comes out of it, let me know. Thanks for the comment.

@Tom
This is exactly what I plan to do if I’m the DM and he’s at my table. Unless of course he tones it down.

@Tim
Hmmmm, grabnict you say. Interesting idea. I’ll have to keep that monster up my sleeve just in case I run into this kind of problem in a home game. The problem with public LFR games is that you’re expected to conform to what’s written in the adventure. But that’s not to say that I can replace a monster in the book with a grabnict if the situation warrants it. :)

@Brett
I agree that there is a very fine line between a Jerk and an Enthusiast. I wanted this post to show that this guy isn’t trying to be a jerk intentionally (I hope); he’s just very enthusiastic. I suspect he reads this blog so there is a good chance he’ll recognize himself in my article. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t depicting him unfairly. I think that his behaviour will change if someone calls him on his over-enthusiasm.

@Wyatt
In 3.5e D&D used to make up most of my monsters (partly to avoid the pit-falls we’ve been discussing). But I find with 4e I just don’t have the time or the desire for this extra work. Although the new monster builder may address the time issues. Making up monsters on the fly often makes for lack-luster or unbalanced encounters so I prefer to use the monsters as printed or take the appropriate time to make them properly before hand. If I choose to use monsters from the book then I have to be ready for gaming jerks.

7 skallawag August 10, 2009 at 2:49 pm

There’s people like this everywhere and most likely in every experienced gaming group. People like this can be brash and overbearing, but a good DM should be able to adjust and provide leadership to the gaming environment.

If all else fails, you could tell the gaming “jerk” to go start a blog :D

8 Ameron August 11, 2009 at 10:01 am

@skallawag
I absolutely agree. It’s situations like this that truly separate the good DMs from the great DMs.

9 Elton August 12, 2009 at 12:24 pm

I think, for all your helpfulness in pointing out a gaming jerk, is just as bad as the jerk in the first place. If you had walked in his shoes, for a second, he’d probably think that the monsters abilities are common knowledge. Or maybe, he felt some sort of stress. He hasn’t met you or gotten to know you very well, so he had probably made a basic assumption.

You have a choice to make when you come up with this situation again. You can either let it ruin your gaming session, or you can’t. Fun can be had in any situation, think about that the next time you play with a jerk. After all, we are all potential gaming jerks. :)
.-= Elton´s last blog ..The Known Lands Journal =-.

10 Ameron August 12, 2009 at 1:28 pm

@Elton
You’re absolutely right, I’m a Gaming Jerk for so many reasons, this one just being the tip of the iceberg. As I mentioned in my article a couple of times, I don’t think that the Gaming Jerk I describe is deliberately trying to cause anyone any grief. I believe that he thinks he’s just being helpful. My point is that experienced gamers (myself included) often want to share their extensive love and knowledge of the game beyond what’s considered acceptable. I think all of us Gaming Jerks need to take a deep breath and tone it down.

This situation taught me that I need to address problems like this as they happen and not let them bug me days later. Although I don’t have an issue with this kind of confrontation I know that some gamers are a lot more shy than me and may not feel comfortable calling the Gaming Jerk out in this kind of scenario. That’s why the DM really needs to keep this kind of “help” in check if it seems to be too much.

Thanks for the comment.

11 Lord Inar December 1, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Sometimes I think one of my gaming groups needs a Gaming Jerk to remind them of what they can do, so it’s not always the DM (me!)

12 Ameron December 1, 2009 at 11:45 pm

@Lord Inar
Be careful what you wish for… I’ve found that I’ve come to see the Gaming Jerk in my example as genuinely trying to be helpful. But I have been a bit more forceful (more so when I’m the DM) to remind him to stay in character, especially with regards to what his character knows about monsters.

13 donalbain November 21, 2011 at 4:23 pm

im sorry to say that ive only played 2 games and are barely relising that im that player but im dm now adn are makeing a great zombie campaigen and a couple of classes but i hope that being a dm take me out of that rut.

14 RunAGame August 12, 2013 at 10:11 am

In second and first edition, monster knowledge was represented by player knowledge. Some groups still play this way; mastery then is not building an optimized character or knowing where to slide a wraith to… It’s knowing the wraith’s stats. In 3e, mastery became about optimizing build. In 4e it became about grid tactics. But some players and their troupes are still playing in a first/second ed mindset where this behavior is encouraged (if not required) the same way planning your feats and PRCs is in 3e.

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