Last week, I got an interesting email from M. asking advice about dealing with “That Guy” in his RPG group. Contrary to the ones we discussed in that panel in Toronto, everything seems to indicate that M.’s guy is NOT one to get the generic “you have to be the flexible one to fit him in your game” answer. Quite the contrary.
I need some advice because I’m at my wits end.
Scene 1: The bandits who had attempted to extract a toll from the party for using the road now lie dead at their feet. The party naturally begins to search their bodies for anything of value to them. The gnome bard (brand new player, very first session with us) locates two rubies. He botches a thievery check to slip them into his pocket unnoticed.
The Half-Orc rogue (problem player) decides he’s going to march over to the gnome, lift him by his throat and intimidate him for trying to pocket the rubies. Tension begins.
See here, being the kind of DM I am, I would immediately stop the game right there and have a “players to players to DM” discussion about everyone’s personal thoughts on treasure sharing and willingness to explore thievery, intimidation and bullying as character development themes. I’m doing a little bit of BSing here because I’m 95% sure that “problem player’s” problem is that he’s an incorrigible jerk… but I’d give the bullying player a chance to realize what he’s doing and I’d give the players a chance to take say something and not let their DM do this alone.
Scene 2: The party are doing fairly well making their way through a goblin hideout in the mountains. They then locate a closet filled with items confiscated from the goblin’s prisoners. The bard finds a magic shortsword. He splits the rest of the loot, but decides to keep the shortsword for himself (which is fine, I intended it for him). The problem player begins to whine and complain that the shortsword is much better suited for him and even declares that the bard needs to watch himself because the sword will go missing.
Later after the goblin king is down, the rogue loots him before anyone can get two words in edgewise. And as soon as they locate the treasure hold that the key goes to, he cuts everyone off again and declares that he’s grabbing as much loot as he can. I try to fight this off by him discovering a holy symbol +1 to is clearly meant for their cleric. He informs me that it’s okay that the bard keeps the sword, he’ll sell the holy symbol and use the gold he found for a better weapon anyway.
All right, there’s no question your problem player is a acting like a jerk as such but you have another big problem I’ll go into later. For your more obvious issue, you’d need to deal with with it in a direct way. Talk to every other player between games and get their opinions on the matter, they’ll likely echo your feelings. After that, meet your problem player one on one and share, in a straightforward, assertive way, what you and the others don’t like about the way he plays.
No ‘Mr. Nice Guy roundabout, no vague but “obvious” hints. Go for the kill: “We don’t like it when you… When you said/did that thing, we all felt XYZ and so on.
I touched this subject in two previous articles that might be of interest to people with similar issues:
The Stages of a RPG Team’s Development: Norming: At the end I discuss dealing with selfish players, which acting like a jerks is a very common manifestation.
Friday Chat: Dealing with Aggressive/Jerk Players: A similar mailbag article where I share my very strong position on such players.
However M., your second case indicates something important I missed when I first answered your email. Your group has a treasure sharing problem that should be addressed real quick. All this talk of slipping gems unnoticed and “deciding”‘ that a piece of equipment is now the possession of X mearly by grabbing it first is a disaster waiting to happen.
In fact, I think that your socially disruptive player has honed in on that weakness. Troublemakers often have a knack at putting their fingers on what doesn’t quite work in a game and breaking it open for better disruption. Most of the hat-assery you relate in your letter seem to support that theory.
When the PCs who get magic items are determined by who rushes the bodies first, that’s a recipe for trouble. Modern “vanquish and loot” RPGs are about team play and that can’t stop as soon as the last breathing orc expires or runs away. This should be addressed, either informally or within a more formal agreement known as the social contract (as I discussed in the first document linked above).
But I haven’t let M. finish, go ahead friend…
I’ve had about all I can take of this player. Every character he has ever played has always behaved in a way the shows that he has to be bigger and better than everyone else. And when I confront him about it, he just argues it’s what his character would do and that I asked them to roleplay and that’s what he’s doing. I’m fairly sure there should be a jackass clause in there somewhere.
Yes, there should… but it won’t spontaneously appear in your group sans discussions.
In addition, he whines and complains if something doesn’t work out the way he thinks it should. He complained when the farmers that they were helping defend their farm wouldn’t fight more tactically to help him get into flanking to he can use sneak attack. Another character of his, paladin uses his divine challenge on a blue dragon, then he complains when the dragon is smart enough to focus his attacks on him. It just goes on and on and on.
Yup, selfish as hell… no doubt. Also, like Robin said in Toronto, some players’ core motivations in a RPG is to disrupt the groups social dynamics, all the time. Like those who always play ninjas or elven bards, some players always create bullying asocial brutes and blame the PC for their own acts…
Hey McBrain! You made the character, hello!
These are the hobby’s rotten apples, throw them away… If they’re a good friend of yours, now’s the time to have a good heart to heart about your shared social activities.
I’m at a lost as to what to do about this player. I feel like I put a lot of effort and time into planning these games and after each I go home wondering why the hell I even bother.
All tough talk aside dude, I really feel your pain. Here are my final suggestions:
- End the campaign, blame DM burnout if you don’t want to confront your problem player
- Start a new one, minus Captain Jerk
- Have players do a group character creation session
- Discuss common group values (both as players and as PCs), including how to deal with treasures
- Start having fun again
Anyone else had/have similar issues? How did you deal with it? Anything you’d like to share with M.?
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