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A few days ago, I took a look at the player archetype called Timmy. To continue the mini-series, I’ll discuss the second of three gamer “stereotypes” I present you in Labeled Boxes!

As you know, these stereotypes are derived from the trading card game Magic. A big part of every collectible game is the customization, and finding ways to tweak and improve your strategy. However, some players see that share of the experience as the most important one and devote most of their time in their “deck garage” to enhance their combos and their odds of winning. Back when I played, we called these guys Johnnys.

They actually devoted a card to him...

They actually devoted a card to him...

I guess every GM has met at least one Johnny. It’s the kind of player who creates forty different drafts of his character sheet before declaring one of them his “finished masterpiece”. Also, a Johnny likes to spend his time reading sourcebooks and online articles about the game he plays, and tweak his character based on the information absorbed from them. He’s the kind of player who has an Excel sheet on his laptop to calculate the odds of an exceptional success when firing his Beretta while driving a car and being gnawed on by dire rats.

This sounds like a Johnny is a kind of munchkin, trying to use loopholes in the rules to his on advantage. However, this is anything but true. A Johnny does not improve his character to “win the game”, as far as anyone can win in role-playing games. Instead, the Johnny devours rulebooks and forum discussions on his character’s class because he wants to improve his personal experience. Like the Timmy, the Johnny just wants to have fun. Unlike his brother archetype, he finds this satisfaction in rolling enormous crits and finally getting that +3 flamestrike bow.

The danger a Johnny presents is that his knowledge of the rules and the amount of specialization his characters went through might overshadow the other player characters. Sure, Timmy’s sorcerer knows some good spells, but Johnny’s multi-classed sorcerer / wizard / paladin knows about the same arcane mysteries, and can wield a magical sword at the same time. This might cause a feeling of redundancy in the other characters and their players, making them feel useless in comparison to Johnny’s well-tuned expert.

A simple pre-emptive remedy against this, is simply putting the Johnny and his character up against a situation in which his “killer combo” doesn’t work. So he thinks his well-trained gunslinger, fine-tuned with the necessary merits and equipment is the biggest mother in the Wild, Wild West? Let’s see how he’ll survive a buffalo stampede his six-shooter’s noise caused. These challenges should be moments where the other, not so “perfect” characters can shine, giving them the opportunity to see what they’re worth.

So, now you learned everything about the Johnny. Later this week, I’ll end this series with an article about the power-hungry Spike. Stay tuned, dear readers!


We all know them: player archetypes. As humans, we try to categorize every part of our daily life, and so we also try to put gamers into different “boxes”, based on their behavior at the table. Players who fine-tune their characters are often called power-gamers, and those who like to really live their second identity get the title of “method actor”.

There are many ways to identify certain playing styles and preferences, but my favorite way has its origins in another geeky hobby: Magic – the Gathering. I’m not an active player of that far too awesome and expensive card game anymore, but I still remember the Timmys, Johnnys and Spikes. These three archetypes will be the focus of my mini-series “Labeled Boxes”. In this series, I will clarify these three categories, and tell you how to handle them at the table. Today, we’ll start with Timmy.

Well, this might be the wrong Timmy..

Well, this might be the wrong Timmy..

Back in the days, I loved to play Magic just for the fun of it. My decks were anything but highly efficient, and when they harbored a logical combination of cards, it was by pure coincidence. Losing was no problem for me, as long as I could play with these beautiful cards, and see what my adversaries had up their sleeves. Back then, I was an archetypical Timmy.

A Timmy plays the game purely for the fun and the whole experience. In role-playing games, a Timmy doesn’t care about maximized statistics, effective multi-classing or picking the right magical items. All a Timmy wants is to see his character in action, and see how the world around him reacts to that.

For the most part, Timmys don’t tend to cause trouble at the table. They’re no attention-seeking players who demand more screen time, or number-crunching munchkins who get bored when they can’t show off their awesome skills for five minutes. However, a Timmy can annoy a party on a whole different level, simply by not caring enough about stuff. Losing against the vile necromancer? Oh well, just a minor setback. I mean, we all had fun…right?

In a party filled with players who care about achieving things, a Timmy can cause quite some drama. On the other hand, it is a Timmy who brings that certain amount of tranquility and easy-going attitude to a group. It will be your party’s Timmy who cheers up the rest of the group after an elaborate plan didn’t work out as intended.

So how can you challenge a player who is there for the fun? Well, give him stuff he considers “fun”. Many Timmys enjoy combat, especially when it contains flashy stuff. Let a Timmy fight against an undead orc sorcerer who shoots his magic missiles out of his eyes, instead of letting him clobber Goblin number two hundred and forty-five. Other Timmys consider it the pinnacle of joy when they witness some fantastic location that seems too unreal to be…well, real. Just make sure your Timmy has something that keeps his attention where it should be, and you shouldn’t have a problem with your fun-lovin’ criminal.

Well, next up: the Johnny. Stay tuned!