Greatest Hits 2009: The Gaming Jerk

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on December 19, 2009

While the Dungeon’s Master team enjoys some well-deserved vacation time, we’re breaking out the greatest hits and shining a spotlight on a few of our favourite articles from 2009. We’ve searched for hidden gems that our newer readers might have missed and our long-time readers will enjoy reading again. Enjoy a second look at these greatest hits from Dungeon’s Master.

Ever since I wrote this article I’ve been keeping a close eye on just how “helpful” I am at the gaming table when I’m a player. I’ve realized that quite often I could easily be classified as a Gaming Jerk. There is indeed a very fine line between being enthusiastic and a Gaming Jerk. But once I realized that this was the case it’s been a lot easier to keep things in check.

My greatest challenge is when I’m at a gaming table with rookies. I have to really resist the urge to play their character for them. I’ll still help when I can; like reminding them to add their +1d6 when they roll a crit with a +1 weapon or reminding them that they have an action point when they try to do too many things on their turn. But I’ve stopped suggesting that thy use this power or that power in a certain situation. I want them to gain the experience that comes from playing a class and trying out their own powers a certain way.

When I’m the DM I’ve discovered a whole new way to tackle the Gaming Jerk problem. Some of the comments from the original article suggest that DMs side-step the Gaming Jerk by changing the monster’s statistics or simply creating your own monsters. With the release of the D&D Monster Builder this is easier then it’s ever been before. I think we’ll find that the Gaming Jerk who used to be confident enough to shout out all the monster’s powers and abilities is at the same time savvy enough to realize that many DMs no longer use the stats right out of the Monster Manual. Suddenly the Gaming Jerk is making those monster knowledge checks to see how much his PC knows rather than making assumptions.

From August 7, 2009, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: The Gaming Jerk.

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.

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