What does The Best Winner want to play?

Started by Josh Porter, December 02, 2011, 11:03:12 PM

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Josh Porter

So one of my good friends likes to play games, but he likes to always be The Best Winner, a term I made up.  Here's what it means.  In every game (not necessarily RPGs) he must always be super cool and come out on top.  Here are some examples.

D&D: He is a ranged ranger who does a fuck-ton of damage.  Another PC goes down, the healer is out of heals, and he has the only healing potions.  He decides to let the other PC maybe die so he can drop his huge daily on the bad guy, even though everyone else is saying, Come on dude! Heal him!"

Dresden Files: He is a pyromancer who does a ton of damage, and he has used all his fate points.  He has the aspects "Anything Can Burn", and "Everything I Love Turns to Ash".  I compel his character to shoot the NPC they are all fighting and kill her with magic, and I reference both aspects.  He gets super mad because he can't buy off the compel, and just refuses to do it, saying, "My character is not that dumb!  He would never do that!"  We have a five-minute argument, including everyone at the table.

Magic Cards: He is playing a deck that he found online.  He spent 70 dollars or more to order the cards.  I play a deck I built out of boosters from a single block, and I beat him.  Wouldn't you know it, all of my cards are broken or OP, and at least one of them should be banned.  I shouldn't be able to beat him with a deck that I built from only boosters.

Fiasco: He is playing an old man who owns a shitty motel and hates everyone in town.  He plans to kill us all by tricking us all to the motel and blowing it up.  We are almost at the end of the game.  There are four dice left, and there are four of us.  He is slated to go second out of four, and makes a huge fuss about how he should be able to go last so he can get the wild die.  He has an awesome plan, guys!  He needs to go last!  We all refuse and he gets all huffy.

I assume all of us know a guy like this.  Maybe we're all not friends with him, but we all know him.  Though he may be a wonderful guy outside of a game, the second he starts playing he becomes a giant baby who must be The Best Winner or everyone hates him.

So the questions are: Is there actually a game that is right for this kind of playstyle?  And is there already a term for this type of player?  I assume there has to be, but I've never seen it.

I've been thinking on this for a while, so yesterday I wrote a game experiment.  It took 20 minutes.  My goal was to try and create THE PERFECT GAME for a Best Winner to play.  It's kind of also my commentary on how dumb it is to try and play that way.  Here's the link to it.  Who else has experienced such a player?  And if you have, how do you deal with him/her, other that just kicking him/her out?
I am playtesting Flawed and Caterpillar.
I am playing Dresden Files.


I would first recommend to your most serious contemplation the Gamism: Step On Up essay -- http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/21/

Respond with your reaction to it and perhaps we can move forward.

Ron Edwards

Good call, Roger. With the proviso that some people who like to win can also handle losing, and some can't. Or like me, they can handle losing in some kinds of games and not others, and are better off not playing the latter.

Josh, you might be interested to know that we've done a pretty good survey and study of what makes an RPG work toward these ends. I'll look forward to what you think of the essay .... umm, bear in mind it was written a long time ago, and a lot of the "GNS" talk in there was really, really still in development.

Best, Ron

David Berg

Just want to add to Ron's proviso: Not everyone who wants to Be Awesome wants to earn it.  My buddy John hates challenge in RPGs but loves escapist power fantasy.  To overcome his play hitches, our solution was not about facilitating functional competition (i.e. Step On Up); it was about establishing which domains of his character would be subject to GMs and mechanics, and which domains would be inviolable bastions of Awesomeness.  But maybe John's a better sport than your dude.  If he's really into Magic and is no fun to play Magic with, that'd strike me as a bad sign...
here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development

Josh Porter

David, that's exactly it but in better words.  He wants to be awesome but not earn it.  That's why I call him the Best Winner.  He's not a bad loser, per se, but he wants to win better than anyone else wins.  That is really good advice, and I think it will be useful.  My friend is actually quite a lovely human being, so whenever these weird outbursts happen it takes everyone a bit off-guard.  And as far as Magic is concerned, he gets in a huff when people build decks specifically to beat his super-good, super-expensive decks.  It's not all the time by any means, those are just some highlight examples.

Roger and Ron, upon reading the essay, I think he is almost this guy:

QuoteThe bitterest role-player in the world


  • His heavy Sim focus keeps away the "lite" Gamists who like Exploration but not Simulationism.
  • The lack of metagame reward system keeps away most Gamists in general.
  • Hard Core Gamists will kick him in the nuts every time, just as they do to Simulationist play.
  • Most Simulationist-oriented players won't Step Up - they get no gleam in their eye when the Challenge hits, and some are even happy just to piddle about and "be."
  • Just about anyone who's not Gamist-inclined lumps him with "those Gamists" and writes him off.

He's not exactly that guy, but pretty close.  He does dig on Simulation without knowing it.  Thanks for the prod towards reading the essay.  It's definitely good insight, and the Challenge/Step on Up distinction is something I hadn't previously thought about.  I'll get around to all of them in time.  One of the big reasons I'm here is to learn about what it is, specifically, that makes games work, and to figure out what I want out of them.   
I am playtesting Flawed and Caterpillar.
I am playing Dresden Files.

Callan S.

I wonder about the D&D thing. Okay, so he takes the option to not heal, perfectly within the rules and...you all get huffy about that. He doesn't go last in fiasco and...he gets all huffy about that. I don't know fiasco - does it have alot of handwavey, or is the order much like initiative and is pretty much set in stone? If so I don't know why he'd start arguing he should go last. But if it's all handwavey, I get why - because when you guys want handwayvey, it goes your way, but when he wants handwavey, it doesn't. But by the same terms, apart from some protests to heal then accepting the move, why argue the non heal and instead daily attack use?

In some D&D encounters I've played over the last few months I've seen an area of effect targeting of a in the negs character. I said "Aww, you can't do that!" and the other player said "I can and will" and killed the other players PC through AOE. It seems weak, kind of half assed PVP. I was the one to protest there saying you can't do that. But on the other hand, it's well within the rules (and seemingly, judgement lands upon the rules). And I held off arguing on and on because I knew that (I said my arguement against his move, perhaps like some people haggle moves in board games, then I let it go and up to him).

What happens when someone loses to his expensive magic deck? Do they go on about how he ebayed it all? Maybe it's just a mutual thing?


I have a friend who is quite similar; he likes to practice games then play them with us, so that he will be ahead. He doesn't care that he's setting up the playing field in his favour, he just wants to win. In fact, his favourite technique is to win once in the first game, when we're still learning it, then "go easy" for the rest, meaning that his awesomeness is beyond question.

For this reason, we only play games with him that are complicated and robust enough that he can't practice/purchase his way into repetitive combos or unbeatable tricks that invalidate the game on your side. It is a little childish, but in many other contexts he's quite mature.

How do I design an rpg for him? Haven't tested it yet, but my current idea is to use the idea of "going easy"; encouraging him to make his character vulnerable in return for effects on the world. Because he chose this vulnerability, to achieve some other end, he will be far more likely to take the blow, particularly if you emphasise the total invincibility of his character "normally". In game mechanical terms I'd do it with some kind of track like danger patrol; a paperclip on the side of a sheet that has "totally invincible" at the top, and more narratively effective things further down.

But there is one big difference with my friend; he is happy to be in the top three so long as other people are below him, ie he is in the "winning region". If your friend is not happy with that, and wants to be the undisputed top of the pile, then this technique may not work for him.