The most terrible thing about Tiggers is just how common they are.
I should explain. A ‘Tigger’ in this case is a player who’s deeply dedicated to having a super-unique character and making sure everyone knows it. Much like in the Hundred-Acre Wood, Tiggers can be memorable, but obnoxious, and their tail-springing antics can cause all kinds of destruction if you’re not careful to rein them in early.
For those unfamiliar with Tiggers, this might seem like an odd problem. “Unique and original characters are good!” you might say, “who wants the same rehashed tropes again and again,” or “I’m so sick of having four of the same cookie-cutter ‘rebellious drow’ in every game!”
Very true. The stated aim of a Tigger is a positive one: to stand out, to be original and never-before-seen. But Tiggers rarely succeed – in fact, most Tiggers create some of the most trope-fueled, unoriginal characters you’ve ever seen. And they do it while declaring all the ways their characters are truly, truly, truly unique.
Their rebellious male drow dual-wields rapiers and has a tiger for a companion – it’s completely different, you see.
Whether or not the Tigger actually makes a unique character is actually irrelevant – the issue with having a Tigger at the table is that they’re so invested in establishing how unique their character is, they will absolutely disrupt the game to make sure everyone, everywhere, knows it.
The drive for a Tigger is, I suspect, the same drive that spurns many of us toward tabletop gaming in the first place: the desire to be something above and beyond. By nature of the setup involved in most games, PCs are themselves uniquely important. They’re the only ones who can save the world / stop the villains / get The Thing – else they’d just report the problem and leave it to the proper authorities before going home and having a latte.
This shared uniqueness is plenty for most players, and they enjoy adding originality through their interactions with the world and the other players in play. For a Tigger, this is not enough. They must be uniquely unique. They must stand out from a crowd of stand-out performers.
And they must get validation that they have succeeded.
If you haven’t had a Tigger in your games, you’re extremely lucky. They can easily be as disruptive when unchecked as an optimizer dedicated to standing out numbers-wise. An optimizer typically lets the dice do the talking for them – a Tigger is their own advocate, and they are rarely quiet about it.
So how do you manage a Tigger in your game?
One way is to crystallize it. 13th Age’s “One Unique Thing” concept can be added to any game, and not only provides a window for the player to outline exactly what makes their character ‘the only one,’ but validates it immediately by having it actually impact the game world at large. Taking a slice of the shared setting for themselves will sometimes be enough to reassure a Tigger that their character has staked an ideological claim to their particular corner of the universe that no one else can take away.
However, if every player in the game is getting a One Unique Thing, your Tiggers who are more concerned with being unique among the players won’t be sated. Depending on the group, you may be able to give only your known Tiggers the One Unique Thing honor for their characters without annoying the other players, but that’s a fairly rare situation and requires knowing your players pretty well to begin with.
For more general cases (and more fair solutions), provide players a chance to let their uniqueness shine. Missions that encourage party split-ups where one ‘specialist’ has a separate task from the main group can often help on both fronts: the Tigger gets a chance to shine in their own special way, and the rest of the party gets a bit of a break from the Tigger’s constant need to stand out while in a group.
If you go that route, make sure that the ‘specialist’ has a task that differs from what the rest of the group is doing. A Tigger with a social character may have to be the ‘face’ who distracts a room during a formal ball without disrupting the goings-on while the rest of the party sneaks into the upper floors to get the clue they need.
A Tigger who’s more combat-focused may have to stay and defend a precious NPC, site or object while the rest of the party goes to find out why the contact they’re trying to deliver the precious thing to wasn’t at the prearranged meeting for the hand-off. While they’re avoiding detection and investigating, the Tigger is ambushed and must fend off several attackers.
Done well, the Tigger will get the validation they need that they’ve made a truly irreplaceable character that no one else ever could’ve come up with (even if that’s far from the case) while the rest of the party just gets to enjoy the game as intended: as a group.
There may be a way to train a Tigger to stop valuing being uniquely unique at the gaming table, but so far I’ve had no more success with that than training players who enjoy optimizing to value systems that don’t allow or reward it. For now, the best thing is to keep your Tiggers busy and bouncing around on their tails if you want them at the table at all.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to plan a MouseGuard game set in the Hundred-Acre Wood…