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Time to round up my mini-series, and finish with the last of three gamer archetypes, namely the most vile, vicious and dangerous Spike!

To reference back to Magic once again, you knew that if you went to your FLGS that there be someone who would urge you to play a match against him. Most of  the time, these were fat, snobby kids who got far too much money for their hobby from their parents and who didn’t mind to skip gym class in order to get their favorite chair in the store.  This excess amount of money and time gave them the tools to build vicious decks with the most exotic of combos, and only another deck with the same degree of efficiency could stand tall against them. And should they meet such a deck and even lose to it, these overweight high school pranksters would break into tears and tell you that you cheated or that you had luck on your side. Enter the world of the Spike.

I just hate Spikes, especially when theyre gloomy, emotional vampires in some 90s teenie show

I just hate Spikes, especially when they're gloomy, emotional vampires in some 90's teenie show

Now, I will be dead honest with you: nobody likes a Spike, especially not in a “non-winner” genre like tabletop role-playing games. This is because of two things. One, a Spike ALWAYS wants to win. Two, should a Spike lose he will blame every other player at the table for his most terrible failure. Witty readers will have noticed that a Spike meets a basic problem in an RPG: you cannot win alone. The “victory” in a role-playing game is to experience a thrilling story together, and beat down some evil badasses. Should the party succeed in this, a Spike will claim that it was all due to his magnificent insight into the rules and the world. Should they fail, a Spike will declare his fellow characters AND players to be incompetent tools with the intelligence of a rotten hamster, annoying everyone at the table with his grim visage he keeps intact for the rest of the session.

Most groups will try to either change the attitude of a Spike towards the game, showing him that a role-playing game is more than a lone wolf endeavor. Luckily, most Spikes will understand this after some time, and will soon become more enjoyable fellows. It is not uncommon that a new player starts his “career” as a Spike, until most of his colleagues pull him down from his Throne of Duchebaggery, converting him into the environment-friendly Johnny. Sadly, this does not happen to all Spikes.

So, what do you do with a Spike who just doesn’t want to change his mind? Well, the only “true remedy” would be removing him from the game, for the sake of everyone else. A die-hard Spike in your group is like poisoning your village’s well: sooner or later the other players will stop to show up, infected by the more than irritating attitude of the Spike. And I guess you, my fellow GM, do not want to run a one-man show, right?

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!