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Say that a player (she's drunk) has decided that a particular die roll is a no-win situation for her (she's really drunk), and is obstinately refusing to roll the dice. What options do I have for dealing with her?

She's not refusing to play, or threatening to leave the table. She's simply refusing to cooperate on one particular die roll. The rest of the group is sympathetic, but not getting involved.

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13 Answers 13

up vote 55 down vote accepted

There are several ways to approach a drunk and disorderly player.

  1. Standard drunk person handling techniques. Not really on topic for this site; Google it. Wheedle them, redirect them, you know, like you'd do with a kid. Go with it. "Roll the die, you get to take a shot!" Probably best if you're all drinking and just farting around. Some RPGs are called "beer-and-pretzels" games for a reason. I assume from the way you asked the question though that it's a "serious" game.

  2. Call the game for the evening. "I think we're all tired. Let's wrap up and pick up here next time." Might be best. My (now ex-) wife would sometimes game with us, and would usually get smashed when she did, and would for some reason always haul off and hit me in the process. It was best to just stop before it got to that point. Also see the first additional tip below.

  3. Bull on through. The player refusing to act translates to the character not acting, and whatever happens next is the result that unfolds in the game world. "You stand there paralyzed with indecision and, oh, the wagon hits you!" (or whatever it was that was going on). More appropriate for the ornery non-drunk, but can work here too if you're all Game Uber Alles.

Beyond those tactical at-the-table tips, you might consider:

  1. Set some drinking ground rules next time. My current gaming group drinks sometimes, and can get loud or a bit extra jolly as a result, but everyone understands that there's a courteous limit. Expectations are important - if you invite people over to watch a football game at your house, some might expect no drinking, various people will have different reasonable expectations - some might expect light drinking, and some might expect that sloppy drunk is expected. If the group hasn't clarified, then you can't really blame deviation from what the norm is in your mind.

  2. Double-check yourself. Now in this case there's hints that the choice the player was being faced with might be inappropriate in other contexts. Was it really her drunkenness preventing her from going on, or was she maybe just not communicating well being offended by the game itself?

The rest of the group didn't step in, which may mean that either a) they're standard passive-aggressive RPG players afraid of confrontation or b) they thought that her level of drunkenness was fine and you were just being overzealous about the game over the group experience or c) they also thought, regardless of drink being involved, that you were being inappropriate. If you had one or two, you might think you weren't being drunk and obnoxious, but maybe you were. Anyway, talk to the group and figure out not all what happened that last time, but what you all want to happen next time!

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Don't play with drunk people.

Seriously. If she's so blasted that she's being irrational and uncooperative, then--sorry, sister, thanks for playing, go sleep it off.

I have a very low tolerance for the inebriated, so I avoid hanging around them. Likewise, the OP might wish to define his/her tolerance for drunkenness at the table and say, in no uncertain terms, "Not past this". Being that drunk at the table is obviously disruptive, and it's clear that the OP doesn't enjoy such tipsy shenanigans. Ergo, don't play with drunk people, whatever "drunk people" means to you.

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Not sure if this is really constructive. Maybe altering the group's agreement that alcohol needs to be consumed in moderation, or something similar would have been a better way to word your suggestion. –  Pulsehead Nov 30 '11 at 20:19
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I don't think this effectively answers the question. –  wax eagle Nov 30 '11 at 21:38
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Agreed with both comments above. This is focused on the problem of unhinged drinking instead of an inebriated uncooperative PC –  LitheOhm Oct 30 '12 at 5:02

The best methods for dealing with drunk players are "don't play with drunk people" and "Don't let players drink at the game." But those are proactive.

Reactively, if the player is refusing to participate in a limited fashion (ie, making a particular decision or rolling a particular roll), put it to the group to decide their fate. Other players are usually far more effective at curbing future instances, and further, doing it that way takes the blame from the GM and shifts it to the whole group.

In the stated case of the die-roll, I'd say, "Since you can't pick up the die, pick someone to roll for you." If she refuses, ask for a volunteer. And then have them roll, in the open.

The alternative of scrapping the rest of the session isn't a bad one either, but again, it's a reactive solution to problem best avoided. Still, in a situation that's rare, it's not that big an issue.

There is also the issue of over-identification implied in the original question - people tend to be attached to characters, but characters are in fact disposable. Players who (even if only when drunk) overly identify with their characters to the point of refusal to play in a bad situation for the character are dangerously close to their character. Games sometimes result in losses; if they can't handle that, then it's an issue to be aware of. I've seen it lead to suicidal ideation in a couple people; neither succeeded, but one did try.

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Based on the Turkish proverb "Pinch yourself before you punch the other guy" 1

Upset player's perspective

You mentioned that she thinks that particular die roll is a no-win situation for her character. She may be protesting that she is getting robbed of her agency, and being railroaded into your story against her will, and that roll is just there to maintain an illusion of free will.

Re-assess the roll. Is it really fair? Is the target number reasonable for the situation, or did you assign a number based on how much you want her to fail(or succeed)? Be honest to yourself and adjust the roll if necessary.

It may be a good idea to ask her why she refuses to roll but you probably don't want to discuss this during the game. Save that discussion for later, but do ask her for feedback.

If despite your honest introspection, she seems to be the one stalling out of drunken stubbornness, then move onto the next perspective.

Strict GM's perspective

Roll for her and move on. She has no right to stall and ruin the game for everyone. She will probably realize her mistake in a little while and join the game proper.

If she makes a habit out of this despite your warnings, then gradually sideline her character and keep the game going with other players. She may be needing some "alone time" to reflect on the way she plays (or doesn't)

If this habit persists into other sessions, especially when she's sober, she either has the wrong idea about how this game is played and what the rules are (then just tell her the facts out of game), or she is aware and somehow doesn't want to play (it's a voluntary fun activity, one doesn't have to play if she doesn't want to). Figure out the problem and act accordingly.

1: İğneyi kendine, çuvaldızı başkasına. I'm aware that it's not a translation of the original. Just used poetic licence to get the idea across correctly. And it rhymes alliterates :)

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The game's meant to be fun. If the rest of the group is sympathetic towards her, this suggests they don't mind playing with drunk people so I think throwing her out would be a bit harsh. I'd suggest:

  • Introduce a random event so she doesn't have to make that particular roll, or
  • Introduce a "divine intervention" event so it makes it more likely that her roll will fall in her favour with, perhaps, a penalty at a later date (this obviously depends on the lore of your particular game), or
  • Work it that someone else has to roll her dice for her, with some penalty, (also depends on the lore of the game), or
  • Take a break from the game and recommence next session

I guess it depends how key to the story this particular roll is.

In the long run, it's probably worth having a quiet word with her between game sessions to explain that her drunkenness is causing you difficulties and to ask that she has fun, but tries to remember that the game needs to carry on. Pointing out that she's affecting the game outcome for other players might also help her realise she's being a bit selfish. No need to go over the top though.

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It's easy enough - if she's being uncooperative, all you have to do is roll the die for her. If she's as reasonable as you say, she'll accept the consequence and play along.

(In some games, like D&D, the GM could do all of the dice-throwing; but he usually doesn't, because it would be boring for the other players.)

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If the other players are sympathetic to the situation, I'm guessing that drunkenness isn't uncommon at your game table. There's nothing wrong with that, if that's the way your group enjoys playing. The point is to have fun after all.

So without criticizing the player, the solution is really pretty simple. In most cases (including yours, from the context of your question), a die roll is an attempt to succeed.

If she doesn't roll, her character doesn't try. She fails at whatever it is. Move on, no hard feelings.

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It seems that most of the answers are missing that the rest of the group is cool with her being drunk, which is a perfectly viable way of playing a game and having fun if the whole group's into it. +1 –  Cthos Nov 30 '11 at 16:36

I think the first question that needs to be answered is: From her perspective, is she truly in a no-win situation? Or is the alcohol dulling her ability to think of creative solutions to the problem she's facing?

As for refusing to roll, I'd pull her aside and talk to her. Why does she feel that there is no win for her character? She may have a legitimate gripe, or maybe she's just having a bad day. Either way, sometimes tabling the game until next time is usually the best way to go.

I was in a similar situation. My character was ambushed by another PC once. They decided that I needed to be killed since my character was the hero in a party of anti-heroes. I was very frustrated, and almost walked out of the session, since I felt that I had to ask one of the other characters if I was allowed to speak/act (yes, they tried to stop me from even TALKING IN CHARACTER a few times). In conversation, I brought about all the times when the group had stopped me from speaking/acting, yet they defended all their actions a "playing in character". I reminded them that my words/actions represented me playing MY character, and they started to realize how much it became the hate on my character campaign. In the end we decided to wrap up the campaign based on the current situation, and then shelve the story until we all played a few other games.

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I'm not going to discuss addressing the issues that are causing her to not want to roll the die - the other responses seem to have that down.

I assume that the situation is something along the lines of her saying "my character runs and jumps from this roof-top to the next, but I'm not going to roll the die for the Jump check." Alternatively, the situation might be that she is refusing to make a reflexive check, like a Constitution check or Spot check. The same advice is applicable.

Roll the die for her.

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If you're playing a game that has mechanics that support it (e.g. later D&D editions?), I recommend stating that the player has Taken 10 (if not under pressure, or taken 5 if she is), and then moving on quickly. Let them stew a bit, don't draw attention to them, indulge in a bit of exposition perhaps and wait for them to get drawn back in.

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my favorite D&D campaign was one where us players were never allowed to roll dice. the GM would always roll the dice, behind his screen. in an RPG, the DM is God.

you should just make the players rolls for them and keep it moving. RPGs are about plot and pace, hanging out and just having fun. the rules are only secondary.

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You know, I've never viewed the GM as "all powerful", but rather as the facilitator of a story. I think the job of a GM is to ensure that the game is fun for everyone (GM included). Since RPGs are a collaborative story-telling experience, all the GM should have to do is ensure the story keeps going. If the players throw you a loop, roll with it and make it awesome. If the players do something awesome, make sure it stays awesome. Do not railroad the players. That said, Diceless games can be epic fun, and this sounds like what you were doing in effect. –  Cthos Dec 1 '11 at 18:41

The person you have actually put in a no win situation is you. You have quite obviously put your player into a position where she does not feel was appropriate. Quite frankly I agree based on what information we have.

You can push forward potentially ruining your real life friendship(s) over a game, or you can back up apologize for being insensitive and find a new adventure path. While you think your other players are not taking sides they have probably chosen her side and are giving you the opportunity to correct a wrong that you perpetrated on the group.

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This sounds to me like "I don't like the GM's decision, so I'll cry/wine/protest and the decision will change. MUHAHAHA!". –  Vorac Nov 29 '12 at 13:15
    
@Vorac - You missed the edits and comment threads(now deleted) where it was all explained. The OP put a female player into a position where she would have to consent to sex or fail the mission. –  Chad Nov 30 '12 at 3:48

This envokes the idea of implementing a house rule that if the player refuses to roll the roll is the zero or the worst possible roll.

The downside to such a rule, see Edgerunner's excellent answer, may be a greater sense of non-partiscipation on the part of the player.

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