Wednesday, October 14, 2009

PC Wrecking Balls

I've been reading a lot about GMs spending a lengthy time developing a campaign only to have it so dear to them that it was unplayable. There is still a strain of GMs out there who consider it a 'me against them' game. That there is a winner, and for him to win he has to annihilate the party. These GMs want you to walk through their worlds and marvel at what they have created, but don't touch anything. It's not to be played with. They spent too many years developing it to be tarnished by any actions of the PCs.

Let's talk about the flip side, PCs who want to destroy what the GM has built. Some players are like that all the time, I shall dub them the wrecking ball PCs (or if you're into MMORPGS you can call them griefers). Class and alignment don't hinder them from their goal of causing destruction where ever they go. There is always some degree of this in players, but most will play along with the society you have developed and explore the world first then change the things they don't like. Wrecking ball PCs will target things they know that will bother the GM. Maybe a shop owner NPC the GM seems to be having fun playing or a village that the GM was up last night mapping because the week before the players said they wanted to explore this area and wanted a map.

The easiest solution is to weed out these types of players. There is no sense of spending time developing something of interest if the player goes out of his way to make sure it gets destroyed before anyone can enjoy it. This player is making it personal and is the same kind of person who will scream the loudest if a call goes against him.

If the player is working within the confines of the world and using the rules and laws to his advantage that is just good game play and the GM should encourage it even if it drives him nuts. These two should not be confused. The first guy would try to burn down the palace where all the nobles are gathering. This second player will use skullduggery, blackmail and maybe assassination to bring down the nobility.

GMs need a way to handle this kind of player. Any fantasy world has some type of law whether it's the King's Law or Law of the Jungle, some type of structure is in place and anytime anything that gets disruptive there are consequences. Keep the consequences within the game. Another possibility is to get the other players involved. This is what usually happens, they will police themselves or deal out the consequences themselves.

The important thing is to allow the players to alter and move through your world. Allow them the freedom to change and destroy parts of your world. GMs cannot be so protective of their world to deny any PC influence on it. That is the fun of the game. Guiding the players through your world and see what parts they stop to admire and see what they want to change or part of your world they want to become a part of. PC wrecking balls, their joy comes from making sure no one else has fun. Each GM has to decide how much they are willing to tolerate and whether the player is worth the struggle.


  1. Written way better then my posts on the topic. Great Job!

  2. If the player is otherwise worth gaming with, perhaps switching to something other than role-playing games would be in order.

    RPGs demand a level of cooperation between the players and the DM, while war and boardgames generally assume competition. If the person delights in playing the wrecking ball, give him a gaming session when everyone gets to do that, including the erstwhile DM.

    Smashy smashy.

    Word Verification - spocit: A new Star Trek dance.

  3. I've never played with a smasher (fortunately) although I know a couple of DMs who have and found it very frustrating.

    I like the final paragraph in your post.

  4. @Paladin
    Great idea.

    Which leads into my belief that PC Wrecking Ball is a subset of a larger issue. "That a group of gamers (DM+players) need to be roughly playing the same style of game". If there are 5 smashers it works. 4 smashers and a role-playing Paladin not so much. A hack'n'slash sandbox DM with a bunch of white wolf angst players is gonna end badly.