In response to Will's Fixer Upper challenge I decided that, not having a particularly strong grudge against any one specific game, that I would go about "fixing up" every tabletop RPG ever made. I realized that the times when I was not enjoying myself at the gaming table really had very little to do with the game itself, but rather the people I was playing with, and so, Meta Props™ was born. Meta Props™ are items that can be given out during a game to, hopefully, help moderate some problem behaviors.
Yes, they are farcical, but the concept is based on real pseudo-psychology that I made up, and humor can help take the edge off of what could otherwise be a tense situation. The goal of Meta Props™ is to depersonalize criticism and bring problem players back to being constructive members of the group, so everyone can get back to having fun. Below are the Meta Props I came up with, and a brief description of what they do, but I'm sure more of these could be created to address other problem behaviors!
Meta Props™: Pom Pom - Give this item to a player and they gain the ability to transcend the body of their individual character, and so can spend all of their time unselfishly offering advice to other players and cheering them on. The player no longer has control over their own character and so they are no longer burdened by making choices for themselves. This Meta Prop™ is useful for problem players that try to micro manage the entire group, responding to a solicitation for advice is one thing, but I have yet to see a game group that enjoys being told exactly what to do.
Meta Props™: Cardboard Wall - Sometimes the toughest thing to figure out in a game is exactly who is standing in the room with you. With Cardboard Wall (patent pending) simply separate groups of players from each other when they aren't in the same room, now there is no more confusion about who can talk to whom! This Meta Prop™ also has the added advantage of discouraging player groups that like to split up.
Meta Props™: Scenery Puzzle - Give your attention seeking players some scenery to chew on with the Scenery Puzzle! Now instead of talking for too long, they can put all their energy into building a pretty puzzle for the rest of the group to look at while they take their more reasonably lengthed turns.
Meta Props™: Red/Yellow Card - Confronting a dickish player is a stressful, but important responsibility for game masters. To take some of the edge off the situation Meta Props™ is borrowing from the sporting world. Simply hand out a Yellow Card as a warning, or a Red Card to eject a problem player from the session.