The Munchkin is a Power Gamer gone bad. All power gamers want to “win,” but in the case of the Munchkin, that desire goes out of control. They’re intensely competitive players in a non-competitive game. They want their characters to be the strongest, the smartest, the most competent, most capable … well, the most everything. That means they can see not only the GM, but also the other PCs as rivals in a game only the Power Gamer is playing.
What makes the Munchkin so hard to deal with is that he’s selfish. While Power Gamers, in general, want to be the best, they usually view the other PCs as their support team and won’t (knowingly) try to antagonize the group. They can be clueless, but they’re not generally mean. They’ll usually back-off the intensity if the GM points out that they’re being disruptive.
Not so for the Munchkin. To him, everyone is a rival that must be overcome or done away with. That includes the other PCs and the GM. It’s impossible to approach the Munchkin as a co-creator: they seem to need to outshine everyone, including the GM. Indeed, the GM is the primary adversary, since she supplies all the opponents and challenges, but the other PCs come a close second.
In addition to min-maxing his character legitimately, the Munchkin isn’t above cheating to “stack the deck” in his favor. Three copies of his character sheet, each optimized for different situation? Can any one PC legitimately have all of those magic items? If you suspect a Munchkin in your group, ask the other players to keep an eye on his dice rolls. It’s a common Munchkin tactic to add or subtract a bit from a die roll, or to make up a reason they should be allowed to reroll the bad result (how many times can a die come down cocked on a flat surface, anyway?).
You’ll often hear the Munchkin cry “Not fair!” if something doesn’t got exactly their way. If they don’t come away with huge amounts of treasure from a PC cake-walk, well, the GM had it out for them. If you disallow their newest über prestige class with a ton of bonuses and laughable (if any) weaknesses, they’ll say the GM is out to keep them down. They are also extremely quick to accuse others of the misdeeds they, themselves, performed.
Unfortunately, the Munchkin has no remorse about his actions and, thus, no incentive to change. If you try to talk to him, you’re likely to get a “all fair in love and war”-type response. Or he’ll promise to change, but not actually do so. Or they just get sneakier about their cheating. In 30 years of gaming, I’ve yet to see a Munchkin “mend his ways.” In each of the (thankfully) rare cases, I’ve had to resort to booting the player from my games.
If you’re not yet ready to go that far, here are a couple of other things you can try:
- Let the Munchkin play the villians. They usually view evil characters and more fun to play and good PCs as “whimps”. Don’t, however, allow them to return to playing a PC the same game they played the NPCs. Munchkins don’t care about in-character/out-of-character knowledge.
- Make sure that there’s in-game retaliation for the actions Munchkins take. Let the ravished lord’s daughter be secretly training as an assassin. Make the teller of the bank he’s robbing be an undercover cop looking specifically for the Munchkin’s character. And when the PCs inevitably decide that the only left for them to do is to take care of the problem character “permanently”, think twice before stepping in on the Munchkin’s behalf. Let him face the consequences of his own behavior.
This is an excerpt from the GM’s Field Guide to Players, the up-coming book from rpgGM.com, due to be released this fall.
- I’m Getting Angry (dicemonkey.net)