Recently I have encountered some issues in my super hero game, where one of my players took exception to how I responded to one of his character's actions. Allow me to set the scene:
The team was at an auction, planning to bid for some magical item that would be key in bringing one of their own back to life. Hey, it's a super hero game based on comic books, characters always have a chance to come back to life; it all depends on the circumstances. The team's plan was to bid on the item and if they lost then try and convince whomever won to turn the item over. Or beat the crap out of them and take it. Again, it's based on a comic so violence is almost always a solution to any problem. Things grew confused. One player made an initial bid and another wondered if that was according to plan. Bear in mind that after a couple weeks memories can get a little hazy. I was not precisely sure what the plan was; I was going by a list of events I had planned out that would be triggered based on their actions. However, I gave everyone plenty of time to change their minds if they wanted to. Their item was the twelfth up for bid and I went over the first two items by way of providing the players an opportunity to scope out their surroundings, see the competition. They had some two weeks of real time two change the plan somehow if they so desired.
Things began to break down. A third party bid for the items, a potential ally or enemy depending upon circumstances. It was at this point that the player in question decided to threaten to use their magic to destroy the items if they were not given to the team. The auctioneer took exception to this and threatened sanctions against the character's magical clan if such an action were taken. The player decided to vent to me privately. They were upset that I did not give them enough time, that the implied consequences were too harsh. Finally, they were claiming my assertion that he could not carry out the implied threat anyway did not matter because his character was bluffing. I admit at this private e-mail I lost it. For the past couple months off and on I had been getting these annoying e-mails from another player on one thing or another. It was really calling my competence into question. And now I was getting this long e-mail suggesting I had gotten so many things wrong?
This player has quit my game. They might come back, I don't know. Right now I don't really care. I don't need that attitude in my game. They were wrong about the execution of the plan, they were wrong in regards to the amount of time I gave the players to change the plan, they were wrong where it came to the threats the NPC was making against them. And they were especially wrong when it came to the bluff. You see, the player did not tell anyone they were bluffing.
This is not the first time the player had run a bluff and made a mess of things. Months back, with another character, they had captured a wounded enemy. This player told another player to threaten to destroy their captive's knee, to cripple the wounded villain. Keith, the one threatening to cripple the villain, role plays Black Angel as someone with She Hulk's strength-
Black Widow's training-
and Wolverines psychotic attitude.
Black Angel was going to cripple the villain (Feldgrau, whom everyone thought was a Nazi based primarily on the name and the pic I chose, which has a woman wearing a leather military cap. Personally with her whip I saw her more as a dominatrix. But I guess Keith thought that hey, if she were a Nazi then all bets were off.) without a second's thought. This resulted in William, another player, role playing his character as strongly objecting to this torture. The result was a big mess with my contentious player claiming this was all supposed to be a bluff. The problem? He did not tell anyone he intended this to be a bluff. He had assumed everyone would be on the same page as him. The result was his character becoming unplayable because he was now stuck in the role of hero gone over the edge due to stress. It was a horrible mess because he did not do one of two things. The first would have been the most direct, and the would have been some means of in-character interaction suggesting this was a bluff. Keith's character could have easily made the threat of crippling the bad guy believable with Black Angel's training. The second? Internal monologue
Internal monologues are unique to PBEMs; they allow a player to express their character's inner thoughts, opinions and intentions so that the GM has a better handle on what the player has in mind. If a character does not say out of character what their intentions are then use of an internal monologue is a perfectly acceptable (In fact, I would say preferable) alternative in many cases, provided the intent's nature is not needed to be known by other players. This player did not seem to get the idea that if they are committing an action that seems ill-conceived or out of character, the other players and his GM are not telepathic and are unaware of his true intentions! The same goes for table top games; a player can't simply sit there, tell the GM his player said something and assume that the GM knows he is bluffing if that is his intention. One cannot assume anything is implied.
I hope this player comes back to my game at a later date. I have known him for twelve years and it would be a shame to end our friendship on this sad note.