The pain of GMing a perfectionist player

An RPT Reader asked for tips on how to deal with a perfectionist player. Someone who “enjoys really thinking out moves and plays to make sure they picked the right one.” The player also has the “classic new player fear of doing it wrong.”

“The new player part is not what I’m worried about. I have introduced new players to the game before and my introduction to roleplaying games is still recent enough to know how it feels. I’m the opposite of perfectionistic though, so I was hoping to get some advice on how to help the player enjoy their first experience of roleplaying games without the game going too slow. I’d like to stress that the player seems to enjoy doing things right and thinking about them a little longer, so ideally I wouldn’t want to take too much of that away from them and if I do I’d want to do it in a natural way that won’t bother them.”

Before I put this out to you for any tip ideas you might have on dealing with a perfectionist player, I thought I’d chime in with a bit of advice:

Communicate expectations up front. How long do you think a turn should last? Should they chat with other players or can they only talk with people who have characters in the scene? Is what the player says what their character says?

Also chat about gameplay. What is a great move versus a bad one? What things should they factor into their decisions? Should they collaborate?

Try to frame things up for the player so they feel more comfortable amongst their peers during play.

Create a simpler character. Run one without a million options. Avoid techs and spellcasters, for example. If possible, play a simpler game. Try not to make game mechanics part of decisions, and instead put the focus on the roleplay.

Railroad. In the first few sessions, remove pressure of tyranny of choice. Make it easy for the group to see what must be done next to further the story.

Avoid combat. Phase in learning the game. Run roleplay and puzzle encounters to start. Get players roleplaying with each other.

Set a turn timer. Understand there’s a difference between analysis and analysis paralysis. One likes to think through each option, understand it, and make an informed decision. The other gets overwhelmed with too many choices and too much information. Figure out what type your player is. If the former, use a timer to curtail long turns. Explain to the player you do this out of fairness so everyone gets equal screen time.

Create cheat sheets. Make rules and game information easy to reference. Use simple character sheets for the same reason.

Run a GM NPC. Have an NPC in the party who stays in the wings most of the time, but comes up with helpful hints or suggestions when you need to insert your voice into the roleplay. A guide, henchman, intelligent pet.

Provide options. When you finish talking and transition gameplay to the new player, end with three suggested choices. This gives the new player ideas to work with. Sometimes it’s a lifeline when beset by analysis paralysis. Sometimes it helps stage fright.

Those are some quick ideas from me. How about you? Have you GM’d a perfectionist player? If so, how did you handle it?

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