“Alright, Timmy. You now know where the horde of orcs is located. What do you do?” “I think I should go back to my party so that we can figure out how to kill all 100 of them!” I look at Timmy with a blank expression. “Roll a wisdom check.” “Natural 20!” Timmy exclaims. At this point, I remind the player that they were sent to scout the orc horde, report back, and that they are level 3.
“Ah your right, we should scout a bit more, but how should we do that?” This was the question that vexed the party for hours until they came up with the BEST solution. Dress up as a cow, and get close while Timmy puts on some woman’s clothes to seduces the orcs.
They looked at me with smug eyes and raised chins, proud of their brilliant plan, and I wondered how the party lived this long.
Have you ever had a player make a dumb decision that have no basis in human logic?
Have you ever been at a loss for words with how dumb your excited player’s plan is?
Has your group of players dress up like an animal to sneak up on an unsuspecting foe?
If so, your players may have playeritus!
What is playeritus In D&D?
Playeritus In D&D can be defined as “the massive drop in all forms of intelligence (except creative intelligence) that a person suffers once they sit down to become a player.”
Playeritus In D&D is sort of like the common cold, not everyone catches it, but the disease seems to claim about 40% of the people that it comes into contact with.
The disease is contagious, and when the symptoms show, some other players may catch playeritus. This is how the disease is spread, and terrible ideas like the one in the story above comes to be.
I know that this may seem like a drastic leap in logic, but how else can you explain a very intelligent individual, or group of intelligent individuals, coming up with such ridiculous plans?
Think for a moment about the dumbest plans players have come up with. Think about how dumb some players decisions can be. Has there been an intelligent person who has made a very, ridiculously, stupid decision? I know of quite a few, but let me give a recent example.
Player A, a graduate student in psychology who is on the cusp of getting her PhD, knows a lot of things and can talk about robotics and other advanced subjects. She sits down to play and what happens? She becomes the most chaotic character who could never hold down a job, fit into society, or be classified as ‘sane.’
To give you an idea of what I mean, Player A played a star wars game. She eventually betrayed or angered the empire, the resistance, the light side users, the dark side users, the gangs, the crimes, and pretty much the entire universe. That is right, they angered the entire galaxy!
If playeritus was not real, then how could you explain these ridiculous actions? Have your players ever done anything so dumb that your brain hurt? If so tell me about it in the comments. (but I doubt they can top this)
We all can laugh, or cry at these memories and stories, but playeritus In D&D is an unfortunate reality. So what do we do about this dreaded disease?
What to do when Playeritus occurs:
- Give your players a mentally stimulating task. This does not always stop the onset of playeritus, but it has a chance to bring your players back to non-asylum levels of sanity.
- Give the players a chance to re-think their stupidity. If an action is done, it is done and it cannot be taken back. Instead, possibly give their character a free wisdom check just to see if their character is as diseased as the player. If it fails, the roll itself was a subtle warning. You do not want to tell the players directly if the idea is stupid since this takes away player agency and they just might have a method to their madness.
- Embrace playeritus. Sometimes you just have to see where things go and your job is to facilitate, not babysit. If you do this enough eventually the players will learn and not make stupid decisions, but that could take years. The real reason why you go along with the idiocy is that you have to. The players make the decisions, not you. You as the Dungeon Master guide and facilitate, but you do not railroad the players to make them play out a predetermined story. If they want to go and burn down the town, let them.
How to fix playeritus In D&D .
I have some bad news, you cannot cure this disease easily, but you can cure it over time. First, you must let them see the consequences of their actions. If the players slowly anger the entire galaxy, they then have to deal with the consequences.
Make their mistakes ever-present.
Do not let the players forget about their dumb betrayal, arson, or ridiculous idea. If that means throwing in a random assassin from an angered faction, do it at a horrible time for the party. Preferably in a boss fight.
Make a joke happen, like a cult of the cow appear in the world if the players somehow succeed (lucky die rolls) and keep using a dumb cow costume tactic. Talk to them and joke about how silly the idea was afterward, but give credit to them since it worked.
Make your minions mock the players. Normally, the cow and seduction method described above would not work. Normally, you pesky bards and sorcerers! When the players fight the enemies just a sprinkled insult here and there will disway the players from acting without thought. “Why you dink cow fool us? We not dat stupid!”
This does not directly insult the players but lets them know in a joking manner that this whole idea was a farce. Normally, the players will laugh with you.
Have the players been evil?
Do the players want a reasonable price for items? Make the prices skyrocket unless they become evil tyrants. If they become evil tyrants, have actual heroes come to fight them and save the day.
Normally players do not want to be evil and suffer a moral dilemma when they realize who the bad guys actually are (them). This is of course, only if the players embrace evil acts and Don’t actually want to be evil.
Help your players realize they are evil!
If your players don’t want to be evil, give even more subtle hints like fear or bounty hunters. There is nothing like the players stopping an ‘assassin’ trying to kill them at night. After the assassin is dealt with, or while being dealt with, sprinkle in some accusations. “You monsters need to be stopped!” Or, “No one else will get hurt!”
These accusations are open-ended so the players need to find out what they mean. Playeritus In D&D makes a player more curious, but nothing else remember? Use this to your advantage and pique their curiosity. Use this time as a lesson for yourself and the players.
Always assume that the players are trying to do the best that they can. Never assume any negatives until you have absolute proof. If the players find out the horror they are causing and kill the man/woman, then they want to be evil. If there is repentance, you now know where the players truly stand.
Either way, you get the information you need to continue, what the players want. You cannot plan for something that the players will just destroy and not care about, so this helps you get information.
The second phase
Have your NPCs tell them how stupid they are in a non forced way. A great example of this is the old drunkard.
“What have you youngins been up to?” The party tells the drunkard because they don’t know how to keep quiet about upsetting the world and the drunkard responds, “Are you all just stupid? Why do you have a death wish? Back in my day, we didn’t piss off the whole freakin universe!” This is a comical way to tell the party, but a mentor or figure of authority can also tell off the party.
When doing this, you as the Dungeon Master must, I repeat MUST make this encounter natural. If you want to tell the players something, you have to do so when it makes sense for that NPC to tell the party.
The party cannot just meet the NPC and get scolded. Even if the players can get information from a mentor only to get scolded, it must be their idea.
The concept of ‘heavy-handed’ can be boiled down to something simple: “The person is being told what to do, and they didn’t think of it themselves.” That is it. Just make your players think of how stupid they have been. Have them think back and ask, ‘was I stupid?’ Once you do, the players can start moving forward since no one likes being told what to do.
Sometimes we as Dungeon Masters need to let more things go. If a player wants to do a sub-optimal plan, eh, let’m. Did the player do something insane? How would it play out? Just roll with the playeritus when it happens.
If you don’t do this, then you can very quickly be viewed as a ‘railroader.’ No one likes it when they are being railroaded. Don’t force the players to ever go down a strict and narrow path.
Our job is to facilitate.
Most Dungeon Master’s forget this simple truth. Our job is to merely facilitate the adventure. We can plan what might happen, we can even have backups, but we do not know. That is the beauty of these games, and something that Dungeon Masters forget. Players even get too focused on following the plot.
Are you acting out a book? I hope that the answer is no or this would not be a game of Dungeons and Dragons.. Even when Dungeon Masters use modules, the game changes. My current game is constantly changing. If you want to find out how this is happening, sign up for our newsletter to see week by week how players don’t follow the plot.
Seinfeld was supposed to be a comedy about nothing. The plot was based on nothing, daily life. Dungeons and Dragons is supposed to be based off what a person would do. What will your character do in x situation? Will they save the orphans, leave them to their fate, or become murders then cannibals?
Dungeons and Dragons, even with playeritus, is about what that character would do in the given situation. Let them be dumb. Let the players go and make a seductive cow for the grey ooze. The worst that can happen is that you have a funny story afterward.
When is playeritus In D&D bad?
We just discussed how we should embrace stupidity and that it will make a funny story, but there is a time when you need to help your players. Can they not form a decent plan? Is every plan suicidal? Are they just being dumb to get attention?
If the answer is yes to any of these, then you need to talk to your players. Find out why they are making these plans, or doing these things, and solve the issue together. Most of the time, the player just doesn’t know what to do. Sometimes, the player is not getting their fair share of the spotlight.
Whatever it may be.
You need to take the time to educate them. If the player is willing to learn, you can talk to them. No one is beyond help with playeritus, and you can get a functioning game going if you take time to understand your players and help them grow.
Playeritus In D&D is not the only thing I have thought of. There is another fascinating Dungeons and Dragons theory I want to show with you here.
This has been Wizo and keep rolling!