by Larry Peery


For a Dipper the thin line between self-esteem and self-obsession is a mighty fine one. Let’s walk that line together and see where it takes us.

Self-confidence in a Dipper is good, but arrogance could be your downfall. Here’s how to deal with people who are just too full of themselves.

Feeling brash and sassy as you head for your next DipCon, WDC, or other big Dip game? Self-confidence is a good thing but when you’re always the event know-it-all it can backfire --- especially if you are so full of yourself that you don’t care. The result: an arrogance that makes other players unwilling to work with you or, even worse, join up as allies with others who feel the same way about you as they do.

I started my research with Sigmund Freud’s “Das Inh und das Es” or “The Ego and the Id” (New York, W. W. Norton, 1923); which was even harder to understand than Henry Kissinger’s “A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace 1812 – 1822” (New York: Marine Books, 1973). Even my fifty-year-old college Psychology 101 textbook wasn’t much help since I wasn’t interested in the behavior of mice in mazes or prisoners’ on Riker’s Island. Still, a search of reveals many, many books in the History, International Relations, Biographies and Self-Help categories that have a lot to say about self-esteem and self-obsession in diplomats and Diplomates. All you have to do is seek them out. Or, if you like, look at some of the interviews or Con reports in past issues of DW or TDP, or even earlier hobby ‘zines or listen to some of the interviews and discussions on

Instead let’s turn to the answers some “real” Dippers (Initials have used and changed to protect the innocent.) to find out how they deal with an arrogant Dipper in the hobby or in a game. Here’s what some of them had to say.


“Arrogant Dippers need attention like all others need oxygen,” wrote AN. “They need praise and admiration like it’s the end of the world. Give it to them up front.” Otherwise, you could “walk away, or spend hours arguing (yes, arguing, because arrogant Dippers have no concept of a conversation or dialog), that will leave you exhausted.

But remember, SW, noted: “People who are truly great, don’t boast about it.”

I remember many years ago playing Diplomacy regularly with a group of University of California, Berkeley, students. Each of them in his own way was a genius. All you had to do was ask him. We all graduated about the time the Vietnam War hit its peak and most of them spent their last year at Cal trying to figure out how to keep their student deferments. One, the most self-obsessed of all, decided to join the Marine Corps as an officer knowing he’d be going to Vietnam. Years later, when I ran into him I expected to hear many a tale about his exploits in ‘Nam. Instead, he told me about how he’d managed to blow up 60,000 gallons of fuel at a supply dump while sneaking a forbidden Dutch cigar. That was JJD, the same in real life as he was in Diplomacy. AS, on the other hand, was totally the opposite. In our games he rarely talked to the other players and just stayed in a corner and wrote his orders.  I can’t recall him ever raising his voice at any one, but you could always count on him if he was your ally. Behind his back, we all called him “Goofy,” because he had a goofy look to him. AS also went to Vietnam as a grunt.  When he got home he never talked about his experiences there and it wasn’t until I got a chance to see his Diplomacy icons years later that I also got to see his collection of medals and ribbons from Vietnam. There must have been 20 of them, several with gold stars. Most of them I didn’t recognize but the three purple and white Purple Hearts stood out. Again, AS was the same kind of person as he was a Dipper.


Sometimes arrogance stems from intelligence and I can’t recall anyone ever saying that Diplomacy was a hobby or game for dummies.

Image of Napoleon's Retreat was supposed to be here.

“My experience has been that a lot of arrogant Dippers are either very intelligent (or think they are) or successful…or a combination of both.” wrote AB. “Dippers who think they are intelligent (rightly or wrong) struggle to understand why everyone doesn’t think the way they do. Those who are successful and arrogant also struggle to understand why others can’t strive as hard as they do to reach the same level of success.”

One of the hobby’s dabblers in amateur psychology wrote, “In the clinical sense, “someone who is arrogant has misplaced confidence and acts superior as a defense mechanism. They are in fact not confident.” wrote IW. “If you need to have a gaming relationship with such a person the worst thing you can do with their insecurities is to play games with or threaten them. Of course for this to succeed you actually have to take the time to understand what is driving the behavior versus just fuming about them or plotting your sweet, sweet revenge.”

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why is he even playing this game? He’s obviously not enjoying it.” Well, Freud had something to say about that but my topic here is self-esteem and self-obsession, not S&M.


But JL believes arrogance often stems from viewpoints that lack shades of grey. (Have you ever noted that there are no grey pieces on the Diplomacy board?) “Black and white thinkers often come off as arrogant,” he wrote, “It can be seen in anyone, certainly in many young Dippers who (let’s face it, we’ve all been there), think they know everything without any life experience!”

Let them spout off all they want, just look away, look down, walk away, and find a better ally.

Have you ever noted that there are no grey pieces on the <strong>Diplomacy</strong> board?

This person might “lack depth and insight”, he wrote. “Imagine the person is wearing headphones and binders and you are trying to instruct a class on how to do something. This is essentially the experience and, yes, it is so distressing to be in the presence of.”

He suggested three ways to deal with arrogant behavior:

    1. Step back. Let them spout off all they want, just look away, look down, walk away, and find a better ally. Let them know that you non-verbally disagree and you don’t have the time for a one way conversation.

    2. Simply say, “OK, then.” Smile and walk away as you mentally sharpen your dagger. It tends to diffuse the situation pretty quickly. If not, it will drive the arrogant one crazy trying to figure out why you just walked away.

    3. Make a joke. “I see EG knows everything one could possibly know about Diplomacy (fill in the blank). Now maybe we can have a real conversation about it.”


In some cases, an arrogant Dipper may not even realize how their words or tone of voice is affecting others.

He was always the fool who used hobby and game-related words he didn’t know or tried to explain strategy, tactics or negotiating concepts that he didn’t understand himself. (Have you ever listened to someone who’s never played a Dip game past 1907 try to explain how an “End Game” should be played?)

“I think the best way to deal with ignorant and arrogant Dippers is to be honest with them about how you feel,” wrote AS, who suggests that being diplomatic in how you broach the topic. Make it constructive by pointing out what the other player does well and what they could improve on, for example,  being “more considerate before they speak or maybe think what they would feel if someone said the same thing”.

There’s nothing that will destroy a potential alliance with another player quicker than standing there with a know-it-all smirk on your face and telling them that they need to do this and that just because you said so. I saw a perfect example of this a few years ago in Silver Spring, Maryland when, after being  harangued  loudly and lengthily in front of a table full of players, I made up my mind to attack the person, even though I knew he was  technically right.

Never did getting eliminated in a game feel so good!


If the other player keeps on doing it, then stand your ground and hold firm in your views and plans, suggested ZR who added “but make sure they’re backed with solid strategy, tactics and diplomacy; and a sharp knife wherever possible.”

“I’ve had several arrogant table mates that I’ve stood my ground with,” ZR wrote, “and, while they haven’t liked it, they have respected it, which had a massive impact on the way they treated me vs. everyone who tip-toed around them and, most importantly, in how the game turned out.” Over the years I’ve learned that being stubborn can be a great source of strength in a Dip game or it can also be a great source of weakness. Hopefully it will help your sense of self-esteem and not your sense of self-obsession.


When all else fails, have a good laugh. “Be amused by them,” wrote AJ. “I find arrogant people very comic, almost caricatures. They often betray their weaknesses to their disadvantage. For instance, I knew someone in the international hobby who used a lot of fancy foreign words. He was an arrogant fellow, especially a few beers, and often made fun of how other people spoke English, how unrefined they were, etc. He was pomposity personified.  He was really difficult to work with and we were all kind of intimidated by him; which I am sure is exactly what he wanted.

“One day we were discussing something and he wanted to say “You should expand this idea,” he continued. “Instead of using a simple language to communicate, he tried to show off his dubious language skills and told me “You must exacerbate this idea”. … The whole thing almost cracked me right up.

“After that I was never intimidated by him and we really didn’t care much,” he wrote. “He was always the fool who used words he didn’t know.


Many Dippers, particularly at DipCons and WDCs, appear to be full of self-esteem and their own self-importance. However, keep in mind that for many of them that is part of an act, a persona that they have adapted at the gaming table to intimidate other players and, hopefully, win the game. Only you can prevent it from happening.


I’ve tried to stimulate your thoughts and, with luck, some feedback on these two subjects, self-esteem and self-obsession. If you have any personal examples of either to share, please send them along to the ‘Zine letter to the Editor column. If you enjoyed this article you may enjoy the companion piece that goes with it which will deal with the topic of reading body language for Dippers.  Look for it soon.

Larry Peery

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