Player Drama

Player Drama

How to deal with some common problems between players.

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You left out things like wanting to punch a dude in the face because he talks over you while you're attempting to role-play, nothing shits me more then trying to debate the merits of some quest with several members of the group while someone else on the other side of the table is talking LOUDLY about his new iPhone or something.

tkioz:
You left out things like wanting to punch a dude in the face because he talks over you while you're attempting to role-play, nothing shits me more then trying to debate the merits of some quest with several members of the group while someone else on the other side of the table is talking LOUDLY about his new iPhone or something.

That one might merit a discussion by the players and the GM on handling distractions, if the GM doesn't already have rules in place. Things like:

- The first 15 minutes of the session is socializing/catch-up time, but once actual play starts, everyone should keep off-topic to a minimum. Or have a few breaks, and ask people, nicely, to "please save that for the break" when they start talking over each other about non-game-related stuff.

- Set all phones to vibrate mode (or off), and if someone must take a call, they need to go to another room. Also, constant sending/checking messages is distracting for everyone; just don't do it.

- If people have laptops or other electronic devices that they use for gameplay-related things (character sheets, campaign documents, or what have you), it's best to get everyone to agree from the start not to use it for web browsing, solitaire, "check out this thing", etc, once play starts.

I suppose this is more of a problem with people who play with others who aren't their close friends. I suppose im lucky that I am able to play with friends. That said it can arise in any group, our group dynamic is to basically not hold a grudge against each other after an incident has occured. Its not a formal arrangement but rather an unspoken agreement that we dont let stuff get in the way of the game.

Our current WFRP game which is a sprawling Game of Thrones style intruige/war game has had plenty of moments where tension has arisen due to this sort of thing. Our GM is good enough at what he does though to make sure that quiet players are able to contribute to the game. A problem we have had has been characters with different motivations who don't necissarily know each other all that well or have clear authority over one and other and no in characater reason to listen to the other person.

One example of something that has made me angry at another player was when I organised a daring raid on the enemy watchtower to steal supplies that we needed for the winter. I had discussed and forumlated this plan with NPC's as I had no in character reason to involve the other players in the planning. When the attack came I asked the players who wanted to join in. The attack itself was a sucsess and we started loading boats with supplies. In the tower was also a small cannon. The cannon required a significant ammount of manpower to move, took up lots of boat space when all the other related equiptment was taken into account and we had no one able to use it. Thus I ordered the cannon left for last as we were expecting reinforcements to arrive and cut our looting time short. One player point blank overroad my orders took the cannon and twenty fit men and marched them down river so that if reinforcments arrived the men weren't in danger of being attacked. Then when the option came to either take the men accross and leave the cannon or fight the cavalry and risk heavy losses he chose to move the cannon across.

What was almost a flawless raid to capture supplies that we desperately needed ended up costing us men and equiptment for a small cannon that was useless. Not only that but the player commited several acts that could have stained my reputation for being associated with them.

It is an incident that could no doubt caused alot of tension within the group had I decided to confront the player about it but it would have served no reason other than to create friction so I have made sure not to mention it to him. I realise that I was making too many decisions on my own that effected other people without consulting them.

I kind of went off track there and I don't quite think I made the point I was trying to make so sorry for that.

My main point is that as a group you should come up with your own methods of dealing with conflict within the group before you start playing together, if players know what system is in place to help them they are more likely to use it.

Kaihlik

I'll say that 99% of party drama can be prevented before the game begins, both in terms of problems with the GM, and with each other.

A lot of the problems with RPGs start when the GM just lets the players come up with whatever kinds of characters they think are cool and want to RP with minimal input other than to maybe guide things in the direction of a balanced party (making sure you have someone who can heal for example). Sometimes this works, but more often than not it leads to people going to the extremes of their personality types without looking for any middle ground or how these characters are going to interreact. While in a fantasy novel, clashing personalities among friends and comrade can be fun, in an RPG things tend to be a bit differant, especially seeing as there is more than a bit of interesting verbal interplay at stake, certain types of behavior can have direct repercussions on specific character types. Not behaving in a certain way, or doing something by consensus can lead to characters taking penelties, losing class abillities, and all manner of things.

To put things into perspective, if someone is playing a character like a Second Edition Dwarven Battlerager, or some of the warrior "specialty priests", a lot of RP is a foregone conclusion because it would be bad RP for these guys to negotiate much. What's more stealth and guile is likely to be a foregone conclusion because especially in the case of some of the War Priests, walking up and calling out their enemy is how they are supposed to behave, and dying is not viewed as being a bad thing. If someone builds a bard based around stealth, guile, and negotiation he's in for misery because he represents the anti-thesis to that school of play and both characters are going to lose out if they concede to let him to do his thing very often. On the other hand a more militant bard who also walks in the front door like a Skald or whatever might work, as would some kind of rogue mostly based on say trap detection and lock picking rather than sneaking around.

As a GM problems also occur when you have a specific type of campaign in mind, but don't give people much indication as to the theme, and the players wind up making characters that don't work with it. An anti-social dungeon crawling party with say Dwarven Battleragers and such is not going to work well in an urbane, intrigue based game, based around confronting a group like the Forgotten Realms "Night Masks". On the other hand really social characters based around the idea of RP and getting everyone to like them and give them information are going to be an unfun liability if say the campaign involves crawling through Undermountain in search of loot where the highest form of likely socialization involves what choice of curse word to use as you clear out the latest room with your attacks.

I know many people disagree with me, but typically the most functiona advice I give new GMs and those with problems (and have gotten praise for) is party planning. Don't let your players show up and drop a sheet on you too often if they have no idea about the campaign. Also give the players some indication as to what the focus of the campaign is (and if your doing it right, you should have planned it out somewhat) is it mostly set outdoors, in a city, does it involve heavy dungeon crawling? You don't need to be specific on the plot, but telling players that the game is based around certain elements or has a specific starting location can save a lot of headaches.

What's more, while you shouldn't assign characters, make sure the characters are at least somewhat compadible. You don't want to have a constant push-pull relationship going on due to character roles. Role-playing is one thing, but if you for example want your game to involve stealth and negotiation with enemies, chances are you should tell the guy who wants to play a Samurai, or a character who abides by something like the first edition D&D "Cavalier" code of honor to pick something a little more limiting, or at least something that won't risk losing their abillities if they don't scream "death before dishonor" and attack anything evil by running up to it directly as a true warrior should (and for those who argue that this is stupid, I will point out that this is how the books define these characters, and all those special abillities are given to them to help them survive that kind of idiocy). By the same token if someone is wanting to play a character like an "Urban Avenger" and you plan to start the game in an isolated hamlet, with the adventure largely revolving around battling ice trolls in their cave... well you might want to veto that one too and recommend something else.

I probably don't express this well, and make it sound a lot more draconian than I actually intend, but the bottom line is communication. Have everyone generate their characters together as much as possible, head off as many problems as you can see before the game starts, and you'll have a much smoother time of things. Not a lot can be done for player personality traits, or even character RP, but these things can be limited from becoming problems by at least removing problems that stem from issues tied to game mechanics. It depends on the game and edition, but basically a clerics have to follow their dictated ethos and the rules of their specific priesthood, paladins have to stay good, Samurai have to behave with honor and will not generally attack through the back door (history aside, the D&D version is usually written that way), Cavaliers always attack the strongest opponent and generally do not negotiate with the enemym in all of those cases violating those rules can strip a character of their special abillities (as mentioned above). Prevent things like this if they work against your game and the other players, and then it comes totally down to style and becomes much easier to deal with since your less likely to run into irresolvable conflicts where someone is going to get their character gimped no matter what they do.

I have only ever come across any group drama was due to one of the people poisoning her brother's and one other guys opinion of the host. Considering she was a massive bitch to begin with, it was not that surprising. Well, that and he joked on furries (which she was), but we joke on everything (up to and including the host's dead mother, which is not as horrible as it sounds in context considering he started off the jokes) and she usually participated in it, but when it turned to something involving her she copped an attitude. The group has split up, I am now in the host's Star Wars group and am enjoying it thanks to the focus on RP instead of straight up "Kick in door, kill things, loot, repeat"

Therumancer:
I'll say that 99% of party drama can be prevented before the game begins, both in terms of problems with the GM, and with each other.

A lot of the problems with RPGs start when the GM just lets the players come up with whatever kinds of characters they think are cool and want to RP with minimal input other than to maybe guide things in the direction of a balanced party (making sure you have someone who can heal for example). Sometimes this works, but more often than not it leads to people going to the extremes of their personality types without looking for any middle ground or how these characters are going to interreact. While in a fantasy novel, clashing personalities among friends and comrade can be fun, in an RPG things tend to be a bit differant, especially seeing as there is more than a bit of interesting verbal interplay at stake, certain types of behavior can have direct repercussions on specific character types. Not behaving in a certain way, or doing something by consensus can lead to characters taking penelties, losing class abillities, and all manner of things.

I agree with you. However, some GMs don't bother putting much effort even into what kind of game they plan running unless the game itself defines it for them. So they have no idea what kind of game it is going to be until they see character sheets and default on the player or character type they like.

Personally, I have the players collaborate on each others characters, both to reduce party drama and cover all the bases of the game (its always good to have a Social based character). The only issue is with those players who want their character to be super mysterious, which is a sign of a problem player right there.

What I'm saying is, if you want to be the game master, put the work into making a decent and hopefully good game and story. If you're a player, work with the other players to make an interesting team that you would like to read a story to any one them because they complement each others ablities.

The group I'm playing in at the moment had problems like this. One of our players was a powergamer bordering on a munchkin who flatly refused to roleplay (the DM had to make up his character background for him!), professed to be an experienced player yet did really STUPID things (threatened to torture captured enemies for information despite having a charisma penalty and no ranks in Intimidate- he reasoned that he wasn't trying to intimidate, because he really WOULD cut the victim's ear off if they didn't talk, so he didn't have to make a roll), hogged all the magic items to himself and chucked a snit if things didn't go his way. The worst thing is that he was just an outright douchebag. He was rude, arrogant and wore MASSIVE irony blinkers that made him treat everyone else like crap but chucked a literal temper tantrum and threatened to quit the group when confronted with the slightest criticism. And for someone who professed not to roleplay at all, he spent a LOT of time insulting every other party member (in character). It was never funny either- how many times can jokes about dwarves being smelly, stupid drunkards be funny? (In his case? Not even once.) Some members of the group were having problems with me too (I have a tendency to be unintentionally bossy because I can't resist the urge to try to help) but at least I was never unpleasant and backed down when anyone complained. This guy never apologized and never conceded there was ever anything wrong with his actions- largely because everyone was too afraid of his temper tantrums to challenge him (while most of us disliked him, he was an old friend of the group's most experienced player, who we DID like). He was the party wizard, so he was almost irreplaceable (even if he wasn't a very good wizard) so we didn't want to lose his character if we could help it. Eventually it got to the stage where I emailed the DM and told him flatly that I would not play with this guy any more. The DM said he'd see what he could do about it, but didn't get back to me. Regardless, when the next session came around this guy didn't show up, although whether it was because he simply couldn't make that session or because the DM had confronted him about his behavior and he'd quit is unknown. I still don't know whether he's still with the group, but I damn well hope not.

Frankly, I hope I never see the guy again. I outright hated him on a very personal level, he was the kind of guy I would be very blunt about refusing to associate with if I had any say in the matter. He sucked the fun out of every session and left me going home afterwards fuming about the latest bullshit he'd put us (me especially) through rather than cheerfully reliving the day's heroics. By the end I was literally dreading every session rather than looking forward to it because of the thought of having to pussy-foot around this guy's temper, restricting my own fun for the sake of peace in the group. It was the worst kind of roleplaying conflict.

Falling rocks and acid traps solves all problems. I think that might actually be in the DM's Guide somewhere.

LewsTherin:
Falling rocks and acid traps solves all problems. I think that might actually be in the DM's Guide somewhere.

Naah, the new DMG spends over half the book telling you to "enable" the players and not to stifle the poor little dears.

The DMG according to Chipperz mentions acid traps, falling rocks and silenced chainsaws wielded by level 20 Ogre rogues as possible tools in the fight against unruly players, along with spontaneous character regeneration when they shut up and the game gets back on track. I don't even say what happens any more, I just pick up a handful of dice, glare at the offender/s and roll :D It works every time :D

I've been blessed with a great group for my latest campaign. Four complete strangers, both to each other and me who, in the first group, managed to create the steampunk A-Team (The A-Steam, in fact). If there's any tension, they default to the group's elected leader, healer and frontline fighter (Clerics with the domains of War and Healing are fun...), who arbitrates. If there's a problem between the leader and another player... I have no idea what'll happen, but I doubt it'll come up.

I have actually never experienced a problem like this. That may be because I am pretty easy going and have a tendency to RP my characters are pretty laid back people that are in it for one of a few reasons:

1. The money
2. The adventure
3. The camaraderie

Currently I am playing 3 characters, 2 in fixed campaigns and 1 LFR character. My fixed campaign characters are an Elf Ranger (specialized in Archery, stealth, and perception. Scout basically) that really sucked until we got outside and an Eladrin War Wizard (is OCD, has very little patience, and like to make things go "boom"). There have been a few times where my characters actions have angered another player in the group (War Wizard attacking a statue/trap we couldn't figure out, and the Ranger staying tucked into the bushes stealthed as several monsters ran towards the party) but I just let them know, that it's completely in their character concept for them to act in such a way and that usually solves the problem.

There are two approaches, I think, that work well.

First I allow that how a person plays the game is their character's personality in the game. So if the player's a jerk, then their character's also a jerk.
So, unless the other players are somehow totally in love or cowering under the jerk's influence, they can do what they will. If they kill that character or run him off, then it's explained why. Hopefully the player will see the light on that.

Two, if for some reason the player's not getting the hint, then it's the GM's job to step in and be the gaming group's leader: Sorry, dude, it's not working out. Thanks for playing--see ya.

A good group of gamers will compromise constantly--it's part of what we love, that continual negotiation and the surprises it creates. When someone spoils that or takes advantage of it, it's in everyone's interests to make them stop.

Anyway, good article. There's a lot involved in managing a gaming group and all too often it falls mostly on the GM's shoulders. But in truth, every gamer at the table should be helping out with the social aspects (in every way)--it's the hardest job by far. But if it doesn't get done, then the group will not survive.

Chipperz:

LewsTherin:
Falling rocks and acid traps solves all problems. I think that might actually be in the DM's Guide somewhere.

Naah, the new DMG spends over half the book telling you to "enable" the players and not to stifle the poor little dears.

Where I come from, we play a bastardized mix of 2nd and 3rd editions. Not quite Pathfinder, but you get the idea. whoever is DM swings Rule Zero like a Holy Avenger of Flaming Badassery +16

One player in a game I run flat-out refuses to play anything other than a chaotic evil thief, and although he will cooperate if the DM says "You have to do this" or "you can't do this," that goes against everything I believe in as a DM. So instead the party puts up with his stealing from friend, foe, and party-mate alike, backstabbing anything with a discernable anatomy, and refusing to interrogate anything or take any prisoners.

And of course he's married to one of the most lovable personalities at the table. :-P

That's why I like Neutral Evil, Greg. I have legitimate reasons for killing my party members.

i meet a lot of problems when playing alien swarm(it's free steam 4 coop game, which you would know if you read RockPaperShotgun), especially when i'm the server leader, almost never they act according to plan(insane difficulty) or express dis/agreement to presented strategies(particularly on lower difficulties). worst of all is the game loading level every time we restart and it takes much longer than expected from this graphics. ppl are complicated bunch to play with.

I play a chaotic neutral changeling thief. LOADS of fun. I just do whatever comes into my head.

image

Normally if two characters clash, we just roleplay it out. I want to interrogate the goblin but Joe the barbarian wants to kill him? I better roll high enough to do something about his axe.

I love these articles! :)

I've been in two polar-opposite situations as regards conflict at the gaming table.

One was awesome because it was purely between the characters and was 99.9% good-natured in over a year's worth of weekly gaming sessions. As LG, CN and NE characters, we'd bicker furiously amongst ourselves but we always found a reason to stick together, and it helped that any two of us could justifiably gang up on the other if a decision needed to be made. If anything showed up and had the temerity to interrupt an argument, we'd turn around, unite like a well-oiled machine and deal precise and painful death to them for being so rude!

The other was awful. The game was run by my ex and ended up being me and one other player. My character was a rogue type with highwayman aspirations, the other character was a ranger with a charisma of 7 (not as low as the player's, unfortunately - he was pretty obnoxious). The other player had decided that his character was soooooo LG that it hurt. My rogue was, unsurprisingly, rather more flexible on the subject of laws and the following thereof. In other circumatances this might not have been a problem, but the player had apparently decided that low CHA meant low INT and WIS as well, not to mention that he would randomly use meta-game knowledge whenever it suited him. My character ended up leaving town in a hurry and faking his own death to get away from the ranger/player.

I also have a conflict resolution story. I was a LN cleric in a party with a paladin, a CG wizard, a CN rouge,and a NG ranger. Now then, we were in a town that was havving some slaver and thief roblems and had a strict curfue to 'protect the citizenry'. Now then, when the party aproached the local lord to gain permission to investigate at night, he refused not only to exempt them from the curfue, but from even investigating. Now then, the rouge and wizard became suspicious of the lord and wanted to investigate him and any connections he might have. The paladin of course felt appalled at the idea of going against the wishes of authority, and the ranger was uncertain if the lord was simply owrried about letting strangers interfier in the town in his charge, which the paladin jumped on in supporting.

This is when I launched my big compromise. The paladin would stay at the common house to watch our stuff and so that if any trouble occurs in that area they can rush to the rescue. Meanwhile, the rest of us would investigate the lord. The paladin pointed out that I was defying my religion (ST Cuthburt) by going against the law, and I countered with 'My lord is the lord of retribution, not mortal law. One that manipulates mortal laws for crule gains is worthy of retribution. If he turns out to be inocent, then no harm done. But if he is guilty, then it is important that we know, so that we may seek justice.'

 

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