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I have lately had a problem with some players in a campaign I am running. Basically, they don't get on well together, for various reasons. I don't really understand it, but then again, I am looking in from the outside (so to speak).

EDIT: The two players know each other from school, and don't get on well during the lessons they share. I don't share any lessons with them, so it's hard to be objective about who started it/who is at fault.

The problem crossed over to my domain when one player started issuing in-character death threats. He tells me he was only joking, but he continues to make them regularly although I've asked him to stop. The other player approached me and asked me to kick the first person out of the group. I understand that they don't get along, but how can I stop them from arguing during the sessions I am running? Their arguments sometimes ruin the game sessions (which are rather short but frequent) for the other two players.

Furthermore, what has your experience been in similar situations? I am looking for experience not opinions per the usual Good Subjective, Bad Subjective guidelines for answers on this site.

In case anyone needs to know, we play AD&D 2e, but it's not important to this question (afaik).

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Maybe harsh but find better friends. It is neither your responsibility nor duty to coerce people into behaving the way you want them to. –  Sardathrion Nov 19 '12 at 8:26
    
Kick one or both out. If only one, consider letting it be a vote with you and the rest of the party. –  Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Mar 10 at 10:43
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3 Answers

up vote 16 down vote accepted

I've had player conflict from time to time. Sometimes it can be handled simply, by talking to them. Be direct - as the GM, you're the leader, and it's your game. "Your fighting makes everyone else not have a good time. I'm the GM, and I'm telling you now to shape up and not bring your beefs into the game."

Look for opportunities to have them play in different games. Most groups I'm in end up having several concurrent games going on on different days or whatever, so people can stay "in the group" but not play with people that bug them. Once, to accommodate differing play styles among the group, I split the campaign and ran two different games on two different days for the two different groups.

Also, sometimes you can address it in game. I had a player who I nearly kicked out, because he would throw fits that were arguably in character but really boiled over to out of character very quickly. (This one time, he was so agitated at the group not taking the thousands of copper pieces from a dead orc tribe that after a screaming fit he just ran into a wraith and suicided.) I ended up giving him a reason to subtly spy on the other players and that sublimated his desire for conflict in a way that didn't have negative group consequences. Perhaps there's ways to sublimate their conflict in the same way. If you disallow table talk, for example, they will have to communicate in character, and arguments in character tend to get you ambushed by bad guys, tossed in dungeons, etc.

In the end, you may have to eject one or both players from your group. Geeks tend to Marty McFly about this too much and not address problems directly, read the Five Geek Social Fallacies for some insight into this (though bands, sports teams, etc. end up having the same problems frequently).

In my current group, we had a player who was just such a total goon that no one enjoyed games that he attended. People tried working with him, but finally we all got together and discussed the problem and ended up voting to disinvite him from the game. "He's making the game less fun" is more than enough justification.

In this case it's harder - is one person really the problem? Or is it both of them, but they're fine if the other isn't there? If they are both a joy to game with except when the other player's there, it's hard to decide which one to punt, but you can just leave it up to them. "Look, we like gaming with both of you, but it's unacceptable and fun-killing when y'all fight. Whoever starts it next time will need to leave." You can try giving people "time outs" short of punting them from the group - "You have to leave this session now because you're fighting." See if that shapes them up. I don't know how much you have invested in these people and how much work is justified to save the group vs. ditching one or more of the members out of hand. It's easy to be an Internet Tough Guy and say "throw them out, then ostracize them from your life!" because it's easy to say that when it's not you in that place. Don't jump to ejection before bothering to talk with friends, but also don't be afraid to pull the trigger once it's clear that's the only thing that will make the game fun again.

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+1 for incorporating their need for conflict into the game! Hadn't even considered something as wily as the spying on other PCs as a mission and thus handling it in game. Also liked the last paragraph –  LitheOhm Nov 18 '12 at 19:46
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More thoughts on this and related questions: geek-related.com/2012/11/18/player-conflict-in-rpgs –  mxyzplk Nov 24 '12 at 4:18
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Tell them they're both out of the group until they come to you together outside of game session time and tell you they've resolved their differences.

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Simple and effective. –  James Tomasino Nov 19 '12 at 2:31
    
It's often not so simple in real life though... –  Mala Jan 16 at 23:47
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Basically, they don't get on well together, for various reasons. I don't really understand it, but then again, I am looking in from the outside (so to speak).

There's part of the problem. Not that I am insinuating that you are the problem, au contraire, I imply that you have found a facet of the issue at hand. As dungeon/game masters, we're more than rulebooks - we are the arbiters, mediators and overall facilitators. Granted, this is a subjective statement mind you, but as far as I and several other GMs see it, it applies. If you can't/won't get to the bottom of the issue through compromise or collaboration, since avoiding isn't working you need to take an authoritative stance.

There's a piece of the question lacking, IMO, and it's what this conflict between them stems to. Since this isn't a problem solving site, I'll address that as follows - if they aren't willing to keep their fight out of your/their/the rest of the group's fun, then it's purely-and-simply spoiling fun. Don't bother with a campaign that's just being treated this way, just like you wouldn't bother with baking a cake for people you know will end up playing target practice with instead of eating. It's disrespectful to you, to each other and to those who aren't involved in the conflict. The point here is to have fun. Since they (or at least one, from what I understand of the question) are there to harass the other player and not play the game, boot them if they don't start being respectful.

The problem crossed over to my domain when one player started issuing in-character death threats. He tells me he was only joking, but he continues to make them regularly although I've asked him to stop.

Further evidence that they're disruptive to the game, and now not just to other players but to you.

I understand that they don't get along, but how can I stop them from arguing during the sessions I am running?

DM mandate is one option, discussed above. Seems it's the option you're being forced into through the problem player(s) actions. Will suck to do, but think of how much worse it would be if you lost all four players instead of just the one or two. I've abandoned games where this was happening and the DM avoided it.

Furthermore, what has your experience been in similar situations? I am looking for experience not opinions.

Run across this a couple of times as a DM and handled it rather bossily. On a do-over, I would have run a few less confrontational methods. Currently, two of my regular players who get into fights are playing together (exclusively) in an evil campaign so that they can openly quarrel in character and blow steam that way. So far it's working, but they don't sound as explosive as what you are describing.

Ultimately, it boils down to how much you're willing to bend, how much you and the other players are willing to tolerate, how well you know those involved in the conflict and how much you want to game with these people, specifically.

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