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All Hail The Rainmaker

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.

Alpha Player

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.

The Leader

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 Jenkins [1] ‘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; if they act too infrequently they are less effective.

Each type has their own negative connotations when they act too often or too intensely.

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, 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 if 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?

7 Comments (Open | Close)

7 Comments To "All Hail The Rainmaker"

#1 Comment By Walt Ciechanowski On July 3, 2014 @ 8:54 am

Great article!

I’d add ‘the Socialite’ as well. Many of my campaigns have had personal plot threads attached to various PCs and NPCs. If the action slows down on the main plot, I can count on my Socialite to pick up one of these threads and drag the other PCs in with her.

#2 Comment By Blackjack On July 3, 2014 @ 3:15 pm

Great article, Phil.

In my experience rainmaker players are relatively uncommon but not exactly rare. Maybe about 1/4? But what is truly rare is a rainmaker who routinely helps the game with standout creativity.

I remember back to one such player. I’ll call him Mark, because that was his name. 😉 He was in my game in 1992. Yes, that’s how rare players like Mark are. 😉

– Mark played a character who had a memorable personality. At times he was heroic, at times tragic, and at times comic relief. Oh, and at times he was quiet. One mistake a lot of strong roleplayers make is hogging the spotlight.

– Mark saw that the rules engine I was using didn’t quite fit the setting. He didn’t care about the rough edges; he liked the game concept and played along. Some other players got too tied up in trying to exploit the rules.

– All players ask questions about the setting, and some of the questions are so wide ranging that they’re hard to answer. But Mark would ask questions in ways that proposed an answer. For example, when the party was hauled in to speak to the local duke about a family matter they’d suddenly gotten involved in, Mark said, “I’ll bet the duke’s audience chamber is decorated with things that represent what’s most important to him, his family, and his ancestors. Probably hunting and trade with the Northlands. What do we see?” Where other players would ask questions and wait for answers, Mark was engaging in collaborative storytelling.

#3 Comment By Blackjack On July 4, 2014 @ 9:34 pm

Oh, one more important point: Mark, as a constructive rainmaker, actually inspired everyone else in the group to do better. Players saw how cool what he did was. As a result they roleplayed more. They focused more on the setting and story than the creaky rules engine. And they contributed to creating the story rather than being passive consumers of information. Mark’s effect on the whole group is why I still think about this campaign 22 years later.

#4 Comment By Angela Murray On July 5, 2014 @ 1:49 am

I love the players that fall into this category. I can always count on them to take the plot threads I throw at them and run with it until everyone’s involved and the whole thing unravels into awesomeness. 🙂

#5 Comment By CapnCrit On July 5, 2014 @ 11:58 am

I’ve found that this often isn’t so much a type of player as it is a role that good players often step into. The same person can often become any one of the rainmaker categories depending on what the game calls for.

These players are extra valuable when the party is a mix of experienced gamers and those new to the hobby. They help show just how much power the player really has in the outcome of the game.

#6 Comment By Edward G Haggerty On July 6, 2014 @ 11:21 pm

Good article. It is surprising how few players meet one of these criteria. Most are cautious and happy to blend in with the crowd. Perhaps some are overly polite and don’t want to be rude.

#7 Comment By Shelby Dawg On October 5, 2016 @ 8:37 pm

These are facets of player participation, roles taken by different players at different times. My Chaos Maker of the 8os is a serious progress ratchet that forces the story forward today. Multiple Leaders have come and gone, sometimes in the same session. Alphas and list makers are anything from obnoxious to treasures. The real trick is to not discourage their evolution and to help their progress.

I failed once and ruined a perfectly solid campaign by getting my back up to a player that shifted from Chaos to Leader. He was right and playing to a need in the party (no Leader and 4 chaos makers), but I was allowing out of game stress to interfere with my role at the table. The fact that he had been a major disruption for years was no excuse for my getting upset by his growth.