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As both a player and GM I play with my group of players (and close friends) on multiple occasions and they will often make fun of either my characters, NPC or a specific situation and won't stop punning it. For example I played a Minotaur Paladin (I loved that character concept a LOT) and players just made fun of it all the time calling me a cow at the table.

They do this also when I'm the GM. Sometimes the name of an NPC will be turned against me (the GM not the NPC itself) and I find it annoying because now I have to watch both my character concepts for their game and also my NPC name because they'll just make fun of it all the time.

So how do you deal with immature players? How do you make them understand that their humor is a form of metagaming (by this I mean...you know that I won't start a PvP combat, but your character sees a Minotaur ready for combat and you insult him all the time).

Edit. I forgot to mention one of my player insulted a Drow Matron and it basically brought all the attention to him and he died because the Matron decided it was enough and wanted him dead. The player whined for 2 weeks that I (the DM) killed his character. So when you insult a Chaotic Evil NPC level 12 you expect to live to tell the tale?

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Is the problem that "they don't take things seriously" or that "they are offending you"? They're very different problems. –  Adriano Varoli Piazza Jul 18 '12 at 15:40
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Some players are deeply uncomfortable with stepping into the spotlight, and to cover that (only human) cowardice, they switch to a form of spotlight-hogging that is comfortable: cracking jokes about everything that makes them uncomfortable. You can tell if someone is doing this, if when you ask them to be more serious, they only double down on the jokes or get defensive about it. The only option then is play with different people who aren't scared of roleplaying, or give up playing a serious game with them. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 18 '12 at 16:14
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I'm not sure this is good enough to be an answer, but if you are playing life and death serious scenarios non-stop, throw in a few light-hearted scenes/adventures. I find in very serious stories, I almost need to let off steam every hour or so with a few goofy jokes, and if you give me the Tremere Chantry of Ceoris I'm going to refer to it as Cialis (yes, this happened once accidentally, then became a meme in our group for that game). –  Pulsehead Jul 18 '12 at 19:11
    
We have running gags in our group too. My player never actually buy horses because they are "cursed" (I often target the horses by bear or random predator) –  MrJinPengyou Jul 19 '12 at 0:31
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Even Chewbacca got called a "Fuzzball". Maybe you need to laugh along with them. –  ChargingPun Aug 24 '12 at 18:24
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6 Answers

up vote 31 down vote accepted

I see several options here:

  • Get over it

  • Embrace it

  • Talk about it

  • Change it

Most likely you will have to implement several of these methods to come up with a true solution, but here are my recommendations for each:

  • Get Over It As a player (but more a GM) you're putting yourself out there a bit. Yes it'd be nice if your players respected your NPCs a bit more, but if you are enjoying the game why is it a big deal? You may need to examine your expectations here. Maybe your group is looking for a lighter play style than you are.

  • Embrace It Pun it up, make your NPCs fit their puns. Make your ridiculous character all the more ridiculous. This may not work if you're looking at a more serious play style, but even those have room for humor. Or maybe your Minotaur has a complex...Maybe it's no metagaming, maybe it's really an insult. Maybe your character really is a cow?

  • Talk about it This is the hardest of my recommendations, but is probably the most useful. Most likely your group doesn't see an issue. You've got to actually dialogue about how your expectations are different from what plays out at the table and talk about how you guys can come to a solution. This is cooperative gaming, it should also be about cooperating to have a good time so everyone can have fun. This is especially important if you feel offended or if the jokes have crossed the line. There is no reason to sit and stew when if you asked them to stop they would likely stop.

  • Change it Come up with a different character concept, do a better job roleplaying/naming/characterizing your NPCs. This isn't to say that you're not doing fine right now, just that if it's bothering you, use it as motivation to get better.

It sounds to me like your expectations and your groups' expectations are kind of on a different page. Really most of this boils down to aligning those and continuing on. If you're group is looking for beer and peanuts to relax after work and you're looking for serious theater, you might have to all adjust your expectations and find different outlets for the sentiments that are no longer welcome at the table.

Personally I think it's important to have fun at the gaming table and if something is impinging on your fun you should let your group know. I'm pretty sure they'd be happy to help you fix it, even if it means they have to pass on the cow jokes.

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I can suggest also that mockery can be followed through the other way, in-game. The NPCs feels the characters disrespect him, and berates them, or does not help them. This can be justified not because the characters are explicitly mocking him, but because he notices a look of arrogance, for example. The Minotaur refuses to fight, or drops to its knees in mid-fight and moos, costing the group a combat. This last suggestion goes against the particular race, though. An offended minotaur should properly attack. Or else, come up with a labyrinthine plan, if I remember well. –  Adriano Varoli Piazza Jul 18 '12 at 16:00
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Perfect answer. I would add that in an extreme case if none of those work then finding a new group might be appropriate. But generally those techniques would handle it and it is important to have a thick skin, especially if you are the GM. –  TimothyAWiseman Jul 18 '12 at 16:21
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If you do the "Talk about it" thing, talk to them individually (maybe whomever you trust the most first). They'll tell you if you're overreacting, and if they agree, they can help sway the others. There's no reason to get ganged up on if you can avoid it, plus you can avoid the mob mentality. –  Marcus Adams Jul 19 '12 at 21:23
    
Step One. Smite Their Character with Godly Wrath. Step Two. Don't Aplogize Step Three. Talk. Step Four. Change. –  Novian Nov 8 '12 at 19:40
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Well, it's complicated. The problem is that the line between acceptable and unacceptable is pretty blurry, and difficult to parse from a brief forum post.

Step One: Are you overreacting?

To begin with, a certain amount of mockery is pretty much standard practice. Calling inhuman characters the names of domesticated animals is extremely common (cow, kitty, pup, etc.), to the point where I'd expect a certain amount of it.

At best it's a term of endearment. At worst... Well, there are crueler barbs that can be passed around.

One thing that seems problematic is this quote:

You know that I won't start a PvP combat, but your character sees a Minotaur ready for combat and you insult him all the time.

This makes it sound like you expect the other players to be too scared of your character to joke with (or at) him. That's a big no-no. No matter how big, scary, monstrous, serious, or powerful your character is, the other players are your peers. Even if you think you can take them in a fight, the assumption is that all player-characters are equal on some level.

Step Two: Communication

If it's really bothering you, talk to the players about it. Ask them if they could try to tone things down a bit. Most likely they just think everyone is having a good time... Reasonable groups will check themselves (a bit) when asked.

Step Three: What else can you do?

So, what are some triggers for bad group behavior that you can avoid?

  • Derivative characters

    PCs or NPCs that are knockoffs of Drzzt, for example. Or even certain archetypes like the "brooding loner born of tragedy in his past." Players can recognize the one-dimensional nature of these characters ("really, you never laugh?"), and usually respond in kind.

    Remember that the other players only see a very limited amount of the character's back story. Even if your history is unique and beautiful, if the outcome of that history is "brooding loner" that's all that matters.

  • Tone mismatch

    A relative of the above point. If players expect a Star Wars - style adventure, but get something grim, dark, and gritty, they'll be more likely to pick at its flaws. Vice versa is true as well.

    Playstyle mismatch could factor in as well -- If the group is expecting a hack-and-slash dungeon cawl, and gets an elaborate political game, they'll have difficulty engaging with it.

  • Excessive exposition

    Remember that role playing is a collaborative process. If the game is spending too much time on one player trying to elaborate their backstory, or the DM trying to tell the history of the world, the players will begin to lose interest. When is it their turn to fill in?

  • Boredom

    Players that aren't engaged with the story (due to tone mismatch, lack of interactivity, or simply not being interested in the plot) are likely to amuse themselves in other ways.

  • Unpronounceable names

    There's a long tradition of using made up names in fantasy. If you do that, make sure your names are simple, and easy to pronounce out loud. Stick to phonemes within the other players' native languages.

    Even if the other players aren't malicious, their brains will still simplify things to something they're familiar with. That usually won't be something flattering.

  • Lack of in-game consequences

    Every once in a while, it's a good idea to call the players on their shenanigans within the game. Not every time... But every once in a while planting your feet and refusing to follow the plan until the players stop calling you a cow can help.

    Be crafty in your reaction. Not every slight deserves a fight to the death. Pick your battles and your responses to be appropriate and effective.

  • It may be something they're looking for

    Sometimes, it can be fun to just have the villain get really angry and frustrated at having the heroes continually butchering his name. Weave it into the plot, and have fun with it.

Step Four: Are they making fun of you directly, or just your characters?

This is the last point, because it's an uncomfortable topic. Sometimes a group of people will have someone that's singled out as a pariah. The butt of all jokes. The whipping boy.

If that's you, and talking it out doesn't help, then you need to start adding distance quickly.

Step Five: That last point was kind of dark, wasn't it? Let's not end there

Here's some comics that show utterly toxic DM/player relationships. See if you can spot where things went wrong:

DM of the Rings

Darths and Droids

Chainmail Bikini

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These players are not interested in roleplaying in a way that's compatible with you, and you should probably find a different group with whom you'll actually enjoy playing.

Some useful questions and answers on how to gracefully leave a group:

  • How do I quit a game gracefully?

    I've been in a game for a while and I've been distracted for several sessions because the game simply hasn't been very interesting to me. The setting and story set by the GM aren't very gripping and the other players have some coherency issues that makes teamwork a little troublesome. I'm just sort of burnt out on the game. The group consists of friends I've had for about 12 years now. How do I back out of game gracefully?

  • Bad group, how to leave?

    I have sometimes joined groups whose play style didn't work for me. At some point it became clear that as much as I wanted to enjoy the game I couldn't. And I was probably undermining the fun at the table for others too.

    What is the best way to leave the group? Quietly or with a few explanations? Announce it in person or by email/phone/forum? Is it ok to recruit players from the group for another game?

Since these are friends you might consider staying with the game but only playing occasionally as a drop-in player. That way you can still hang out and game with your friends, and since you'll be getting your serious gaming elsewhere, the shenanigans will be way more tolerable.

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I very much like this answer. Not everyone gets the same things out of gaming. Work out what you want, find a group that wants similar things, and treasure them! –  MadHatter Jul 18 '12 at 18:15
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There's a survey PDF I did up based on this article on the different metagame rewards people value that could be helpful in figuring out where play differences lie, or just figuring out personally what you value in RPGs. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 18 '12 at 18:28
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While there's much to be said for the other answers, I want to propose a different reaction: mockery can be followed through, in-game.

A quick example: the NPC your players mock in meta-gaming feels the characters disrespect him, and berates them (very important: the NPC must berate the characters), or does not help them. This can be justified not because the characters are explicitly mocking him, but because he notices a look of arrogance, for example. I've done this when I felt my players' characters were making fun of NPCs in delicate situations.

Another example, from your situation: the minotaur refuses to fight, or drops to its knees in mid-fight and moos, costing the group a combat. This last suggestion goes against the particular race, though. An offended minotaur should properly attack. Or else, come up with a labyrinthine plan, if I remember well.

If the players are bullying you, there's not much to be done, the healthiest thing to do would be to leave for better groups. Of course, you could also stand up to them. If they are mocking your characters, but causing you to lose the fun you could have, these strategies of "fighting back" could help.

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There are good answers already, but none mentioned the last option :

  • get a humorous and not serious game, and play it from time to time. Your friends may enjoy it. I could recommend paranoia.
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I think what you need to understand is that you have absolutely no control over what others do. Until you realize that, you will constantly be stressed over issues such as this, that in reality are not issues whatsoever.

When you play a video game, and I mean any video game, the first-most important thing that should come out of that game is fun. Fun, however, can take many forms, such as owning players, helping them out (quests, etc), or following the storyline and not even playing multiplayer.

If you are the type of person that lives for role playing inside of video games, then you should look for others that share your level of passion, instead of focusing your attention on trying to make others act a certain way just to make your enjoyment in the video game complete; in the real world doing something like that is called being selfish (which I don't think you are).

With all that being said, I think that you should either play with friends that share your passion and similar ideas for having fun, the other option is to force people to do what you want them to do, and I don't think personally that that's very rewarding at all.

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This isn't a video game stackexchange. This isn't bad advice, but it slightly misses the mark because you're assuming a completely erroneous social and game-organisation context. You might want to read our FAQ to see what I mean, and edit your answer to suit. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 18 '12 at 20:13
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"absolutely no control over what others do" It is rare to be able to really control what someone else is doing, but you can often influence people's actions. Most of the other answers, especially Wax Eagles include suggestions on ways to productively influence but not control how the others are acting in situations like this. –  TimothyAWiseman Jul 18 '12 at 20:15
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I agree that the context is off here. These are people you are sitting in the same room with, if you can't talk to them then you probably need a new group... –  wax eagle Jul 19 '12 at 0:34
    
@wax eagle: Not all RPG's are played around a F2F table. I play exclusively online. –  NeoFax Jul 23 '12 at 17:48
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