Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

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Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by ShadowLance on Tue Mar 03, 2009 4:09 pm

First off, I’m not posting this to single out anyone. If you’re reading these and thinking “what an asshole, he thinks that’s me”, stop. I’m posting this arbitrarily for information’s sake. Everyone has been guilty of one or more of these at some point. We grow as roleplayers by improving. I can tell you personally I’ve been just about every one on the list.

Below is a catalog of problem players and the various ways that you as a Storyteller might want to deal with them. Keep in mind that not every problem player will fall into these groups. Most players have a couple of faults that they exhibit to vary degrees depending on their mood, the situation and how easily you’re annoyed at the time. Really bad players can be so addled as to defy categorization and aren’t worth the effort of taxonomy, anyway.

The Star
Creativity gone out of control, this player creates a
tremendously detailed character. The character comes complete with detailed histories, biographical sketches, subplots, associated Storyteller characters, turn-ons, turnoffs, spring and autumn wardrobes and everything else that could conceivably be needed to portray the character as the focus of a Dickens novel. The player then wants you to become familiar with this material and incorporate it into your game. All of it. If the group is like this, it just means the game is immensely demanding to run. If just one or two of the players are like this, the game rapidly becomes their show, with the other characters as the supporting cast.
Solution: Dealing with a Star is harder than you’d think. Players who spend several hours a day detailing their characters generally want to see that hard work incorporated into the game. This is made more difficult by the fact that the material is often quite imaginative, it’s just that there’s too much of it to use without consuming the game. You’re left with the choice of either running large numbers of solo stories for the character (and thus rewarding the player for disruptive behavior by giving them a central role in the game) or else just resolutely ignoring the fruits of the player’s labor. This can potentially breed bad blood, but it’s very difficult to tell this sort of player to stop, because the output is often high quality, and the player is acting on innocent motives. The best solution is to hopefully steer the player toward a bluebooking effort or perhaps rewarding their diligence by giving them a few bonus experience points if they keep a detailed record of the chronicle.

The Prodigy
Players invest a lot of love into their characters. Unsurprising, given that the character is the player’s cool, supernaturally powerful alter ego in a fantasy world that exists just for the gratification of the players. When that character fails, the player sometimes experiences a profound feeling of disempowerment. Things like Willpower points exist to allow characters to succeed at the things the players really want, but some players are very sensitive about failure. These players generally either insist that you’re short-changing them or just get angry and sulk. In either case, it’s not good for the game, because it happens at critical moments.
Solution: Ideally, you would just say, “Grow the hell up.” If the player has no reason to complain, then feel free to say it. Sometimes, however, the player will have at least some reason to sulk. It’s essential that you not encourage players to throw tantrums when then don’t get their way, but don’t discount all player dissatisfaction as whining. Remember that as a Storyteller, you’re there to facilitate an enjoyable game. While it can be horrible for the game if you just ignore the rules, it’s just as bad to follow them dogmatically. If the game could be run straight from a book, you wouldn’t need a human Storyteller.

The Freak
Some people confuse horror and disgust. Other people’s parents didn’t know enough to just ignore Junior when he stuck out his tongue and showed the family what he’d been eating. In either case, the result is someone who confuses roleplaying that makes the characters uncomfortable with descriptions and situations that make the other players uncomfortable. Lesbian incest and detailed gore-romps lead the way in a parade of poor taste. Some players may do this to be “mature” (that is, say things their parents wouldn’t like), and others may do it just to creep out those unfortunate enough to bear witness. The end result serves no real purpose but to offend, take up time and be dumb.
Solution: Tell the player to stop, and refuse resolutely to get excited or offended. Because offensive things are almost always done to attract attention, the more you ignore it, the less the player is rewarded for bad behavior.

The Terminator
Be it with Feral-Claw-whirling, Celerity-boosted, kung fu action or with twin double-barreled twelve-gauges spewing Dragonsbreath hell, this player knows that the most important thing their character can do is kill things. In fact, almost any obstacle, real or perceived, will be met with a bullet or mighty blow. This is not only hard on the scenery, it’s also hard on the plot. Every interrogation is the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. Every Storyteller character, no matter how obviously powerful or critical to the plot, is beaten down and their wallet searched for clues.
Solution: Too many computer RPGs or hack-and-slash campaigns have left this player unable to tell the difference between storytelling and a first-person shooter. Generally, outside the sort of carnivals of carnage that are their native environment, these characters don’t last long. They normally make one brief, frenzied suicide run until the forces of sanity catch up with them, usually in the form of other players’ characters.
Unfortunately, the games that make up these players’ native environment have Chow-Yun-Fat-level body counts for players’ characters as well as bad guys. When their characters are killed, these players will happily have another go at things, immediately. Some may even make up several characters ahead of time in preparation for their untimely demise; not too hard, as they’re typically a carbon copy of the last character. On the good side, these players get bored easily. If you run things realistically and just have them automatically slay mortals in their path, they’ll either start roleplaying to get out of the center of the mess they’ve caused, get tired of all this boring character interaction and leave the game by the third session or get killed. In the latter case, just tell them they’re not suitable to the game or make the player wait another month until you get around to introducing their new character. By that time, they’ll be long gone.

The Rules Lawyer
Your every judgment and ruling is recorded and meticulously filed in the mind or notebook of these players. They will extrapolate from these rulings, and when they attempt to do something ludicrous and derail the game, you will be told the day and time of all rulings you’ve made pursuant to the subject. The end result of this proof is inevitably that you have already in fact ruled in favor of the matter, and it is now irrevocable. It is difficult to describe the degree of irritation experienced when you must make perfectly sound and accurate rules judgments on the fly while running a fiveplayer game.
Solution: If you’ve handled one of these players before, all the subsequent ones are a snap (assuming you know the game really well). To some extent, this player has a legitimate case. Yours rule interpretations define the way the world works. Players shouldn’t have to guess what’s going to happen when they do something elementary. On the other hand, these players are caught up in mastering the rules of the game and not in playing it. Reserve the right to change snap judgments after giving them some thought out-of-game. Reserve the right to contradict yourself. Reserve the right to change the way well-established things work if it’s required to keep the game from breaking down. The Storyteller exists precisely because of the need to have human moderation and intervention. Do your job and keep things running smoothly and enjoyable for all concerned, and rationalize the results after the fact.

The Chump
It’s inevitable that a player who has only minimal social skills will eventually decide to play a Ventrue ex-CIA interrogation specialist who was a high-society debutante prior to joining the Company. So what do you do when the slickest thing since Caine invented Presence is stumbling around in circles trying to introduce herself? This can be a serious disruption to a game, particularly if the group lets each character be unchallenged in their specialty.
Solution: If the player’s social ineptitude is only marginal or if the group is willing to accept a certain amount of abstraction, you can use the player’s attempts as an indication of general intent. Once you’ve determined the direction of their efforts, have the player make rolls using the character’s social Abilities to determine how well the character performs. After all, the players don’t have to shoot a gun with a certain amount of accuracy for their characters to hit in combat. Sometimes everyone needs to ask to make a roll because they aren’t as good as the character. These folks just need to do it more often than everyone else.
If the group doesn’t tolerate abstraction of social situations or if the player has more serious social problems (like severe shyness or no understanding of how humans interact), this approach won’t work so well. At the point where the bulk of the character’s social interaction is simulated with dice, you really have to steer the player away from social roles. Try to encourage them to take combat or planning characters, rather than acting as the group’s talking head. The whole reason for face-to-face storytelling is the interactivity. While using dice as a crutch is acceptable - that’s why the systems exist - having the party’s primary social character rolling out her every social encounter really defeats the point of the game.

The Dolt
Someone has to be the dullest knife in the drawer, and this player is that someone. Clues inevitably elicit mistaken conclusions. Interactions with Storyteller characters go in unexpected and unrewarding directions. These players usually learn about the plot via a slow, step-by-step explanation given to them by a fellow player roughly three seconds away from a homicide rap. Worse, these players are often very defensive about their lack of insight, and the tensions that develop between the group as a whole and its less mentally apt members can be very difficult to manage.
Solution: There’s not much you can do about dumb players. If you’re running a sophisticated or complicated game, it can be a real disruption to have one or more players unable to comprehend the point of the exercise. If someone’s just a little slow, have them make some Intelligence + Whatever rolls, and toss out some clues - everyone needs hints now and again. Couch your revelations in statements like, “You realize that the priest may have been lying to you,” to prod the player in the right direction. If you like the player, throw him the occasional bone of a non-mentally challenging situation where his character can shine.
If the player is dumber than a frog on a log, try to steer them toward characters who have similar shortcomings, but be subtle. People get defensive at phrases like, “You’re too dumb to play a Tremere.” Don’t kick someone in the ego without expecting a response. Leave your egalitarian ideals at home: You’re a Storyteller, not a social worker. Dumb players who are a serious disruption or a liability that a delicate narrative can’t afford should be cut out of the group.

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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by ShadowLance on Tue Mar 03, 2009 4:09 pm

The Wallflower
This is the player, often new to gaming, with a case of terminal shyness. Quietly, she sits in the back of the group and watches the game go by. During periods when your game shifts into high-gear, everyone-shouting-at-the-top-oftheir-lungs-to-be-heard mode, you may not even notice this player is present for 30 or more minutes at a time. This can be quite disruptive when the player timidly sits out several turns of a major combat.
Solution: Don’t confuse someone who is portraying a quiet character with a problem player. Not every vampire talks constantly. If it is the player and not the character playing her cards close to her vest, it can take a lot of work as a Storyteller to coax her out of her shell.
First, open up your game to a sincere, quiet, interested audience. A lot of really quiet players just want to watch the game unfold but can’t do that without a character. Save yourself the disruption of a character whose player is really just there to watch, and soak up the ego boost of having spectators at your game. Once you get used to the idea of having them around, spectators who are quiet and nondisruptive are no problem at all. Just think of your game as avante garde theatre and don’t get stage fright.
Second, make sure as Storyteller that you are doing your part. It is not intuitive to people raised with a conventional set of manners that the best way to make themselves heard in a shouting crowd is to shout louder. A lot of people become frightened or confused by the amount of talking out of turn that goes on in a game. Make sure you ask the players for their opinions and actions. You should already be trying to distribute your attention equitably. Assert yourself and let the quiet person get a word in edgewise over the loud-mouthed gumby telling you that she’s also going to study the Ritual of Smash the Major Antagonist.
Meanwhile, take the player aside and explain to her that she must be assertive or that she will get trampled. Obviously, people don’t just spring into a new social situation, but over the course of a few sessions, the player should start to express herself without prompting. Make it clear to the player that you won’t be there to support her forever. You may lose some players this way, but eventually you have to take off the training wheels.

The Veteran
It is a natural human urge to tell stories. Unfortunately, some people have problems restraining this urge. Any event in play (or any event at all, in the worst cases) is a sufficient excuse for this player to launch into an extended war story about a past chronicle, the player’s military exploits or any one of 10,000 other topics. This is made worse by the fact that the recitation is usually delivered with sufficient volume to drown out the voices of more focused players.
Solution: There is no game session without kibitzing. The average session will probably run between a fifth and a third digression, particularly if the players are part of a social group that doesn’t assemble very often outside of the game. Try to set aside some time at the beginning of the session for people to socialize. If the group takes a meal break, let it be a fairly long one to allow more time for socialization. During play, become familiar with the use of the words “let’s keep the game moving.” Like acting out, telling stories is a way to be the center of attention. If you and all the players stop dead, look coldly at the disrupter, sigh lightly and ask if you could please get on with the game now, you’d be surprised how many people fall in line.

The Loathsome Quoter
Compulsive digression is at least amusing when you haven’t yet heard the stories fives times each. However, you and everyone in your group may well have heard everything Yoda and those wacky guys from Monty Python have to say. Nevertheless, it is almost certain that you will get to hear it again (and again, and again) at the hands of the Loathsome Quoter. What exactly makes the abuse of flaccid, stock gamer humor such a critical part of some people’s storytelling experiences is unknown. Whatever the cause, you can bet that when a character rushes to the side of his former mortal love, now a withered and sickly old woman, a voice will echo from across the room “When 900 years old you be..” totally destroying the moment.
Solution: Tell the player to stop quoting Highlander at inappropriate moments. Dock her experience points if she doesn’t. Invite her to leave if she continues to do so. Quoting is a vile habit and encourages inbred thinking.

The Two-Fisted Coward
A more specialized version of the player whose character is too cool to fail, this player wants his character to be at the center of all the exciting stuff but not to take any of the consequences for being the person to press the button. He will insist on being at the head of any situation, until it goes terribly wrong, at which point he will inform you that he never took part. This will annoy you, and the resultant arguments can waste an awful lot of time.
Solution: Make sure you’re describing the scene well enough for the players to all visualize it in a roughly similar fashion. Make sure to ask everyone where their character stands when some critical event begins unfolding, and keep track of people’s location. Nobody wants to be told she’s in the killing zone after having taken special precautions not to be there. When it finally comes down to it, you’re the arbiter, your word is law. If you say a character was leaning over the crypt when the Tzimisce elder reached up to yank someone into the coffin, that character becomes so much dust under the elder’s fangs. End of story. Don’t abuse the powers of Storyteller omnipotence.

The Player Slayer
Any time in-character actions or relationships start mirroring out-of-character relationships, problems are developing in your game. They may fester for a long time before manifesting, or they may be as instantaneous as someone starting a new character to “get” the character who killed the slighted player’s last character. In either case, you’re going to have problems with game continuity.
Real-world stuff happens, and things like falling outs and budding romances among your players aren’t really your business as a Storyteller. However, when characters in a long-established continuity suddenly change attitudes to mirror the feelings of their players, that threatens the game, and that is your business.
Solution: This one is a potential game-killer. People are going to have lots of strong, irrational feelings. You don’t have the right to dictate personal lives and feelings, but you can damn well take the players in question aside and insist privately that they either play nice in-game or that both of them are going to hit the bricks. The words “grow up” might be employed to some effect. Do not, under any circumstances, play favorites. Other than this, all you can do is play damage control and figure out how to keep the game going with one or more characters suddenly gone or dead.

The Cardboard Character
Some people confuse playing a unique and individualized character with playing the last member of a dying race. Others have no intention of actually playing a character but have a staggering list of guns and swords listed on their sheet. These are the players who will beg you to let them play a Baali, a Cappadocian, a shapeshifting vampire alligator with true magic or a character “like the guy in Highlander, except he has twin silver katanas and a pair of Ruger Redhawks loaded with Glaser rounds. And an Uzi. Plus, he’s laserproof and invisible.”
Solution: The player may simply want kewl powerz or to be able to full-auto her way through problems that would otherwise require thought. More likely, she doesn’t understand that what makes a character unique isn’t the implausibility of the character’s backstory or some berserk capacity for martialry. While you should pretty much just learn to say no, don’t be too quick to pull the plug on your player’s creativity. Being a Lasombra antitribu or an arms broker isn’t going to somehow destroy your game.
The problem is when the character is either a collection of powers/equipment cobbled together for no reason but killing things or the personification of an improbable backstory, devoid of any real personality other than clan stereotypes and a two-dimensional persona ripped off of a syndicated cable science-fiction series. You can generally tell the difference between the monkeys and the players looking to do something interesting. Use your judgement, but don’t forget that you have the right as Storyteller to veto crud, no matter how long the player labored over cobbling together a list of Soldier of Fortune’s favorite models.

The Loremaster
This player cannot refrain from thinking of the game in mechanical terms. Any demonstration of supernatural ability will send the player scurrying through a stack of books trying to figure out precisely what power it could have been. These players are often Rules Lawyers and will generally use a plethora of proper nouns from other World of Darkness games; for example, “Why, every neonate in the Tremere clan learns that South America was once inhibited by shapeshifting bats called Camazotz that were tainted by the malefic supernatural entity the Garou know as the Wyrm!”
Solution: The amount of damage these players can do to the atmosphere of the game at critical and dramatic points is enormous. Compulsive taxonomists compete with the slobbering combat junkies and Monty Python quoters for the bottom-feeder niches of the gaming ecology. Tell the player to stop, penalize him experience if he won’t, and ask him to leave the game if he still refuses to desist. Nothing ruins a game’s mood like an obnoxious player rudely revealing the puppet’s strings.

The X-Factor
For this player, the scheduling of the game is a matter to be determined on a week by week basis based on the time that is most convenient for planning her day. She may arrive an hour or more late or may just never show up at all.
Solution: Attendance is not an optional thing for a storytelling game. While everyone has to cancel now and again, a player who can’t manage to show up on a regular basis is best told to just save herself the occasional trouble and not show up at all. One easy way to combat this is to make a player show up for two or three sessions of “observing” an established game before you let her create a character. If the player can’t make it through two or three concurrent sessions without an absence, she doesn’t need to bother with a character.

The Copycat
This is perhaps likened to a very peculiar form of hero worship or emulation. A player will find either another player or a character he really likes and admires and set out to have their character become like the other player’s. Either he will ask to create a new character in the image of the idol or else begin adopting more and more of the character’s habits. This also covers people who incessantly play characters from movies, comics, books or other sources than their own mind. Solution: If done because the player is conveying a character’s hero worship, this is tremendously cool. If done because the player is suffering from hero worship, it’s disturbing. It can mean a player is having personal problems or self-confidence issues that, if you’re a friend, you may want to talk to him about. It could just mean that he sees something he idolizes in that player or character. It can also be that the player isn’t a terribly original thinker or is convinced that he can’t have cool ideas, so he feels compelled to lift them from someplace else.
Personal issues aside, you’re mostly interested in the fact that one of your players is assiduously stealing the schtick of another. If that’s impermissible by the house rules of the game, you need to talk to the emulating player about it. A lot of these players flit from emulation to emulation, and there’s really no help for them, except to convince them that that it’s a bad idea to steal from movies or other players rather than making up their own material.

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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by Hydrogen on Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:00 pm

I myself is a Loremaster and a Rules Lawyer (though i try to restrain myself) Razz
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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by isador on Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:05 pm

Heh, great list mate. Some of these are hilarious (even though i know the subject is not)

Although, what about players who play malkavians in the worst possible way?

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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by Doe on Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:58 pm

Wow, good read.
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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by ShadowLance on Wed Mar 04, 2009 1:05 am

Although, what about players who play malkavians in the worst possible way?

Oh there's a special place in hell for those players.

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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by ShadowLance on Wed Mar 04, 2009 2:08 am

lets see... I've improved on a lot of things, but I still tend to be:

The Freak, especially when its Tzimisce and Malks.

The Loathsome Quoter.... yeah... I try not to....

The Cardboard Character. Still have to watch myself on this one.

and unfortunately the x-factor. Tough for me to stick to a schedule

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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by Aero on Wed Mar 04, 2009 7:38 am

Sorry I do not follow. We have to choose one of these character classes?

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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by ShadowLance on Wed Mar 04, 2009 8:40 am

Oh lol, no...

These are OOC problem players. Its kind of framed in that context though, as if you were talking about characters.

But no, its from the storyteller's guide about potential problem players that join your game

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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by Trogers2 on Wed Mar 04, 2009 2:03 pm

The Loremaster yeah thats me, haha.

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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by Aero on Wed Mar 04, 2009 2:17 pm

OK, now I read the whole article. .
I find myself a combination of more than one category.
Thanks for posting that. It is helpful.

Arguing with the ST is a sure way of ruining the game.
I will try to avoid these stereotypes, and will listen more carefully to the ST.

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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by ORi on Sat Apr 25, 2009 11:22 pm

Wow you do read the right books
Im abit of a Rules Lawyer and Loremaster though I restrain myself and try not talk about these things mid game usually as to not ruin the atmosphere, I will voice my concerns to the ST using whispers if I its so bad I cant help it though.

In ages past(like 8 years ago or so when WON was still up and VTMR going strong) I think my coterie thought I was The Dolt because they suggested I play a gangrel or a brujah =P, I was kind of a newbie to PnP back then

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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by Aero on Sat Apr 25, 2009 11:56 pm

I think that most of us perceive see ourselves the same way that the STs do.
I may think I am leaning towards one classification, but the STs may see that I am totally playing another classification.
The best solution is to ask the STs for positive criticism, and accept the feedback and learn from it.

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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by ShadowLance on Sun Apr 26, 2009 12:23 am

Hah, yeah, the good ole early days of VTMR...

I'm sure I was "The Terminator" most of the time. But also "The Cardboard Character".

Probably my two biggest sins, gotten over them though

((Yeah I know I already listed what I was, but thinking more on it, I think those two are my worst))

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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by isador on Sun Apr 26, 2009 10:37 am

I'm a huge Loremaster/Rules Lawyer in Tom's games Razz

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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by Gast on Sun Apr 26, 2009 6:51 pm

Im the wall flower :/ but i try to better myself Very Happy

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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by Vampirella.Lover on Sun Apr 26, 2009 10:08 pm

I am quite possibly the definition of "Wallflower."

Also, in VTMR-specific RP, I'm also the "Typodemon." Smile
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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by Doe on Thu Apr 30, 2009 6:32 pm

Yes Typodeamon thats me too haha

I dont really know which one to put myself into. I do know i dont like it when the game comes to a halt and you end up clueless as to what to do next.

Perhaps someone could put me into one?#

EDIT: Actually, im easily a The X-Factor as since i work shifts, i cant always make certain games. I try not to be though.
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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by Gast on Fri May 01, 2009 3:43 am

meh


Last edited by Moepy on Tue May 05, 2009 11:30 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by vtmrxtc on Tue May 05, 2009 10:00 pm

From now on I expect sts to whisper to me 'Stop being such a (one of the examples) and fuck off' Then I will know to behave and stop being whatever example from the list I was being.

I will also whisper that to players that do it while i st because I think that we're all a tight knit enough community to accept these types of criticisms and be okay with it and learn and grow from it.

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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by Aero on Wed May 06, 2009 1:12 am

Well said, V

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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by vtmrxtc on Thu May 07, 2009 4:23 am

I'm really glad I got to read this. A lot of good info here that can be used to help us grow as rpers.

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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by Aero on Sat May 28, 2011 8:38 am

*Bump*

Some threads are too good to be wasted by being buried under tons of other threads...

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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by vtmrxtc on Tue May 31, 2011 8:47 am

Aero! Shadow and I were just talking about you a few nights ago. go on hamachi network Krasburg, password vtmr. i'll be on wed jun 1st after 10 pm EST, 7 pm PST.

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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

Post by Aero on Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:45 am

Hey I didn't expect anyone to be still checking the forum. Nice to hear from you, V
I have a new computer now, nothing VTMR-related is installed. Is it still Hamachi 1.0.3 or do you use the latest 2.0.3 version (or something similar)?
Do you still use MSN Messenger?

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Re: Problem Players (From the Storyteller's guide)

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