Running a game is a two-way interaction between players and GM. When the table is in sync, the game develops smoothly. There are times though when things fall out of sync and the game starts to slow down, eventually grinding to a halt. As the GM you try to spur the game back into action, but your NPC’s fail to draw the attention of players, or your plot hooks are too weak to pull them forward. That is when you tap your ace in the hole…that player. You know the one, the one that always gets things moving at the table: the Rainmaker.
What is the Rainmaker?
The Rainmaker is a type of player who creates action or drama (the good kind) at the table, without any prompting. They are the players who when the table gets too quiet or unfocused does something in or out of character to bring the table back together and get the game moving.
They are a great asset for a GM because they make things happen at the table, and often generate a more interesting story through their actions. They can also help with a job that is often attributed to the GM, which is to manage the group; helping them stay focused and helping the story to continue moving forward.
Types of Rainmakers
In my years of GMing and playing, I have identified three major types of Rainmakers at the table. There are a few others that do their work outside of the game, but that is a topic for a future article. In terms of those who act at the table, I am sure there are more types of Rainmakers out there, but these are the one’s that I have encountered the most.
This is the player who is serious about playing. They have their character put together with a backstory, motivations, goals, etc. They are knowledgable about the rules of the game. They are at the table, because they are here to play. If the game starts to wander into Monty Python quotes or Dr. Who episode recaps, you can expect the Alpha Player to get everyone back in line and start playing. Their deep knowledge of their character means that this player will always know what to do next. This Rainmaker keeps the players focused, and with their knowledge of the setting and rules they are a great resource for keeping knowledge of what is going on, and helping the other players. They are your go-to for figuring out what to do next.
This is the player or character (sometimes both, but not always) who is the leader of the group of players, characters, or both. They take charge of the game, they make decisions and delegate tasks to others, in order to achieve various goals. They may be martially-oriented being a tabletop general, or they may be the charismatic smooth talker. The Leader gets the group to move through the story and conquer the challenges that arise. This Rainmaker rallies the group to a common cause, and often makes the group a more efficient force.
The Chaos Maker
Leroy JenkinsÂ ‘Nuff Said.
Seriously, this is the player who has their characters undertake risky or dangerous actions because things have gone flat. They hike up their kilt at the orc chieftain during a failing trade negation, punch the city guard for blocking their way, or they pull the mysterious lever in the depths of the dungeon. Then they revel in the chaos created, which inevitably draws the rest of the players into the newly unfolding conflict. This Rainmaker makes things happen, things you never thought would happen, and they wind up getting the other players involved. They eradicate any slow parts of the game.
Cultivation and Control
While having a Rainmaker in your game is a good thing, there is some care that needs to be taken otherwise they could run amok and create more problems than they solve. If the Rainmaker acts too frequently, then they look like they are bullying the group or disruptive to the story;Â if they act too infrequently they are less effective.
Each type has their own negative connotations when they act too often or too intensely.
- The Alpha Player – will come off looking too intense by the other players, and be thought too serious.
- The Leader – will come off as being bossy and controlling of the game. Players will resent always being told what to do by this player.
- The Chaos Maker – will come off as a troublemaker and be treated like a child; under constant watch to prevent them from wandering off and getting into trouble. This will be made worse if one of their events got someone hurt or killed.
A good Rainmaker has their own sense of timing, knowing when to hang back and let the group move on their own, and when to to push the game forward. To help hone that sense of timing,Â you as the GM need to cultivate your Rainmakers. Give them praise during and after the game for spicing things up. During the game be aware ifÂ they do act too frequently. This may require talking to the Rainmaker after or between sessions. You want to make sure the Rainmaker knows you appreciate what they do, but that it always needs to be done in moderation.
Make It Rain!
The Rainmaker is a great type of player, and if you are lucky enough to have more than one in your group, you are blessed. Rainmakers help to keep the game interesting and moving along, taking some of that job off of the GM. Rainmakers also need to exercise moderation so that what they bring to the table does not overshadow or annoy the other players.
And a special shout out to two of my favorite Rainmakers: Myke (Alpha Player) who has contributed to many campaigns over the years, and to Tony (Chaos Maker) who’s Dungeon World Druid has summoned chaos time and time again, making every session a wild ride. Keep it raining.
Do you have any Rainmakers in your group? What types are they? Are there any other types you have seen? What are some of the best experiences your Rainmakers have brought to your games?