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As I review the suggestions in the D&D 4E DMG (pg32), I wonder what other suggestions that are realistic.

I know that if a player is out of control (ie: killing masses for no reason) a DM would send Imperial guards (way above the party level) to execute the poor sap. Or place a high level monster in his path that gives him an ultimium, or kills him.

So what real suggestions do other DMs have?

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closed as unclear what you're asking by SevenSidedDie, KRyan, Ernir, MadMAxJr, Hey I Can Chan Aug 4 '14 at 21:01

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Is the problem with the player or the character? Are you looking for specific suggestions for the situation, or general suggestions on how to handle problem players? – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Mar 23 '11 at 1:47
Well both. How do you suggest handling problem players and problem characters. Let say that a PC is trying to control your campaign in-character and he built his character very powerfully (ie: insane diplomatic). – Caden Raikoujin Iyori Mar 23 '11 at 2:03
If the player is the problem, don't try to fix it through their character. That comes across as heavy-handed and cruel. Talk to them about how they're playing, and how you thought they were going to play. If it's just the character, same advice. I find this is easier to fix outside the game, when you can easily talk about what everyone wants and expects. Doing it in-game can turn it into a PC-vs-DM contest, and it sounds like you don't want that. – sprenge777 Mar 23 '11 at 19:31
This question falls into our "don't ask" category of hypothetical questions. There's no actual player misbehaving, this is just a GM fishing for "more" (a list of?) ideas. Voting to close. – SevenSidedDie Aug 4 '14 at 17:54
up vote 15 down vote accepted

[Edit] As commented by Rent_THB below, it may be a little unclear why I would chose such drastic consequences for the party. Let me explain:

  1. I'm assuming that the DM has already talked to the problematic player but for whatever reason it didn't work. The player didn't stop his behavior and for some reason or another the DM can't simply throw him out of the gaming group [right now].
  2. Avoid getting into a "player-vs-DM" fight. By making it the whole group's problem you not only show that you don't play favorites but also communicate that the group as a whole is responsible for what happens at the table. And peer pressure works remarkably well in the military, at work and in school to keep trouble makers in line so I can't see a reason why it shouldn't work at the gaming table.
  3. Don't do a "reset" or "dream sequence" or something like that. It's a direct way to Railroadland and sends the message that if the players do anything the DM didn't want or like to happen he is willing to invalidate their actions and efforts to get the game "back on track". Let the group live with the consequences of their actions - for good and for bad. [/Edit]

The problem with throwing high-level NPCs at the PC is that it is contrary to what the default assumptions of the world are. Unless you're dealing with Forgotten Realms or Dark Sun the chances are very good that the PCs are the highest level characters in the city (and even in FR or DS you'd have to be in a major and important city to find high[er]-level NPCs). If there's suddenly a level 30 paladin in town to beat up the mass-murdering PC it begs the question why said level 30 paladin wasn't around to stop the orc attack the PCs had to deal with in the last adventure.

The solution to the problem is simple: end the campaign.

Trying to get the PC under control in-game merely gives the player a stage where he can act out his disruptive actions. Don't allow the player to hog the spotlight even more and simply derive him of any way to use his PC again. Tell the players that the rampage killed an NPC that was central to the plot and that there's no way for the PCs to finish the campaign (this may even be the truth).

It's a sort of "rocks fall, everyone dies" but if the player can't see why his actions are disruptive then you shouldn't waste your time trying to babysit him. If the other players enjoyed the campaign the resulting peer pressure should keep the player in line in the next campaign.

If you still want to solve the problem in-game: let them feel the consequences.

Even when the PCs are the highest-level characters around there's still consequences, since the PCs can't do everything on their own. They want to buy a ritual or need a ritual to be cast on their behalf? Too bad they killed the only ritualist in town. They want a special weapon/implement enhancement? Too bad they killed the only weaponsmith on this continent capable of creating it. They need information about a certain monster/organization/NPC? Too bad they killed the only sage in town. If one of the PCs (not necessarily the mass-murderer) dies and needs to be rezzed? Well, too bad the Raven Queen is in a bad mood because of the mass-slaughter and prevents the resurrection.

Also, there's no reasonable way that the PC (or the group, if they helped him in any way during the massacre) were supported or trusted in the game world ever again (rumors, gossip and bad news spread quickly, after all...). They'd face the same stigma that convicted murderers and rapists have in our world.

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why punish the entire party for one guys need to disrupt a gaming session you could jest chose to not invite the guy to the next session and restart the game from right before the mass-slaughter use a cheese dream sequence or something if hitting the restart button feels wrong, but don't throw out the entire adventure because of it. – Rent_ZHB Mar 24 '11 at 3:12
@Rent_ZHB: Thanks for bringing it up, I should edit in that I'm assuming that the DM already went down the "hey buddy, stop that crap it's disrupting the game for everyone" road and for some reason it didn't work and the DM also doesn't want to dump the player. Also, I really wouldn't recommend using the "dream sequence" escape because it's the most lameass excuse that ever made it into the hobby. It completely invalidates the players' actions and efforts and sends the message that if something doesn't work out the way the DM wanted it will be changed/reset at will. – user660 Mar 24 '11 at 5:58
@Rent_ZHB: The reason why I personally would always hold the whole party responsible for both the good and the bad is that the players should really feel like a group. By making it the group's problem you avoid getting into a "player-vs-DM" fight. The disruptive player now has to deal with peer pressure from the other players and not with the DM. And peer pressure works remarkable well to keep people in line - it works in the military and at work and in schools, so why should it stop working at the gaming table? – user660 Mar 24 '11 at 6:02
I did say it was a cheese answer and i think it would only work once.(difrent topic) Peer pressure is a strong thing on most people, but sometimes (and most-likely in the case of out of control players) you get someone who ignores or even goes against the groups feelings. I took this as that case, the party would rather not kill the town but Fighter Mc. Smash dose it anyway. in witch case he is punished and the party has to deal with what goes with being his "friend" brings from the people. I try to keep that from completely Impeding their goals, but it will make things harder. – Rent_ZHB Mar 25 '11 at 3:11

Don't even bother with anything like that. Tell the player to cut it out.

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If the player wants to be a jerk, he will find a new way, if you quash this one. If he doesn't know he's being a jerk, he will apologize and change. In-game solutions are useful for recalibrating the game balance, but not (in my humble opinion) useful for jerk players. – rjbs Mar 23 '11 at 11:45
I think a warning is also the best way to go. Take the player aside and tell them that their actions are disruptive to the game. This way they don't feel like they are being attacked in front of their friends and it gives them a chance to correct it. – xanatos chimera Mar 23 '11 at 20:04

Figure out why the player/character is being anti-social. This is best handled outside of game. Is the character under the impression that some sort of mind effect would cause his character to go on a killing spree? (sociopathic IN character?) Or was he bored? (killing time!)

If the player is bored, maybe he's a hack and slash fighter in the middle of a large and talky intrigue story. Throw him a bone or 2. Have bandits attack the combat-useless diplomats in the party. He gets his combat, a chance to be a hero, and can settle down for a bit of in character dialog. If he's just pushing buttons, ask him to stop since it breaks immersion for the rest of the PLAYERS. If he's playing something "in character" (as he sees it), figure out what/why the sociopathy is caused by, maybe even make a sub-quest be to find the Priest of MacGuffin who can cleanse the demonic taint from him, while dodging the town guard (which the sociopath will feel compelled to kill).

Finally, if the player THINKS he's doing the right thing (isn't this ALL hack and slash?) set him straight. Ask that he either stop and act reasonably, or invite him to find another group.

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+1 Good suggestions, and they really cover the bases. – C. Ross Mar 23 '11 at 19:01

One option I've always enjoyed is to punish them with too much success. Someone really powerful notices him and recruits him. The character can't back down but is clearly in over his head. The Hollywood equivalent would be someone helping out and getting support from a mob boss, but being made uncomfortable by it and eventually being asked to do something he couldn't deal with. That example might work for you in heroic tier, but by paragon, it's probably a little too low in scope.

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Oh, it can work at higher tiers as well. Just let Orcus/Vecna "ask" them personally to help him complete a ritual that will transform all living creatures (except the PCs) on the continent into undead under his control. Since the PCs are apparently opposed to Good anyway... ;) – user660 Mar 23 '11 at 8:45
@Baelnorn, I meant the mob boss would be too low in scope, not the technique. I wasn't quite thinking of Orcus or Vecna yet, but they would definitely work perfectly at a higher tier. – valadil Mar 23 '11 at 14:20
Damn, serves me right for commenting while being dead tired. ^^ Sorry for the confusion. :) – user660 Mar 23 '11 at 20:45

(1) Powerful individuals are dangerous, and they're dangerous in a way that a roving band of goblins is not. Sure, enough goblins can also wipe out a town, but if you are the resident arch-wizard in a levitating fortress, you are immune to goblins. But you're probably in danger from powerful violent PCs. You might want to do something preemptively. So even though the goblins wiping out the town won't provoke a response, an individual wiping out the town might. (Especially since said individual could probably intimidate the goblins into following him....)

(2) The enemy of my enemy is my friend: if a PC obliterates a town, other entities that wanted to obliterate the town (or obliterate other stuff) will probably sit up and take notice. This can become annoying--goblins aren't really the most pleasant beings to be around--but if the PC is hostile towards them also, you may end up having the goblins and villagers band together to defeat them (effective especially when the alliance is first seen as part of a surprise attack). Alternatively, actual heroes from somewhere else may arrive to save the town, and take out the PC along with the goblins.

(3) Terrorism. You don't think every single person slaughtered just disappears without a trace, do you? Even if their friends aren't powerful enough to do anything to the character directly, they could make his life pretty miserable. (Endless attempts with contact poisons, pit traps, etc.. eventually start to wear on one.)

(4) Sympathy. A relative of the slain could, in great distress, show up and deliver a speech about his/her delightful memories of that person, explain how they were always wonderful and a joy to be around, and that life isn't worth living without them.

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If I had such a player, I would politely but firmly eject him from my game.

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+1 Harsh but fair. I would talk to them first but if they persisted, the boot is the right solution. Life is too short to wast. – Sardathrion Aug 10 '13 at 14:06

Yeah, I had an issue awhile back with a player. I was too inexperienced as a DM at the time to do very much about it but I know what I would do now. He was playing a cleric who specialized in rebuking unliving and controlling unliving. What I realise now is that he wasn't running all of the rules 100% correctly. It's something I hadn't checked. So I suggest to any DM to check all the rules for your player characters with a fine comb. Also, depending on what character he is playing try to find a justifiable reason for him to lose power/be challenged. Maybe his deity doesn't grant him powers anymore if he is a cleric not following the 'path'.

There a loads of simple ways that you can single out a disruptive player in a game. There are also repercussions to slaughtering entire towns that can be fun to think up. (i.e. Necromancers hear about it and want to use the deceased town for fun and games)

Most of all, don't let them ruin your game. If your really hassled by it, step back. Don't DM because it'll just end up not being fun for you, and your party.

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Talk to your player

Explain what kind of game you're playing. Explain what kind of protagonists fit in this game. Understand that a game is not just a physics engine - it is also about what makes sense for the genre or setting you're trying to create.

If the player isn't interested in playing that game, then wish them luck and play with other people.

If the player is interested, and agrees to play the kind of game you want, but chooses to still do otherwise, you know they're not playing with good intent and you can wish them luck and play with other people.

If the player does agree and plays the way you're expecting as a group, yay! Problem solved.

That said, very rarely have I seen these situations being a problem of failure of understanding as much as choices made by a player to simply play that way for a variety of personal reasons, so mostly it comes down to finding different people to play with.

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Always Give your guard NPCs some decent magic items and ways to subdue the party, and give them an "out of control hero" plan. It is part of making your world more believable, the guards 9 times out of 10 have prepared for something like this. If your players decide to kill a town, without guards, they should be met with the biggest strongest guys that town has to offer, the guys who kept the Orcs at bay before the party showed up, this dose not mean that the townsfolk will win, chances are they wont, but word will spreed quick and the next town they visit will react accordingly.

This is one time where I would keep it fairly simple and have a back up plan. Here is what I keep as a standard back up plan for "out of control" players.

  1. Deal with the story problem with a reasonable countermeasure. This is a mostly reactionary step the at the moment thing that really depends on how the player decides he wants to sabotage a gaming session. This will most likely be a fairly one-sided fight where the city guard prove to the character that they do indeed have more magic and bigger weapons then them. (I would probably have them throw the offender in prison for a time out, unless this is a second or third offense.)

  2. Pause. Put the game on hold after the character has been subdued.

  3. Find out why your players are trying to rampage through your "peaceful" villages and cities. It could be anything from the story being "boring" at the time and the fighter just wanted to crack some skulls to liven it up to them having a bad day and wanting to blow off steam. The players do have reasons behind what their characters do find it out and adjust to accommodate the issue in the future.

  4. Restart the game from just after the fight, now the story can continue with a new plot twist -- one of the characters just got his butt dragged off to jail. What is the rest of the party going to do about it? Can he clear his name? When is his hearing, or does he even get one?

I hope this helps you make a back up plan for when you have a character that has decided he is bigger than the guards and can take down the world.

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The guards always being more powerful than the PCs does not a believable world make! For example in Eberron big name warriors are only 10th or 11th level. You'd make 20th level guards the norm? Now the guards/town having a SHtF plan does make sense, and they probably would invoke it on an off the reservation character. – C. Ross Mar 23 '11 at 12:30
well that is more what i was getting at, they don't all have to have higher levels then the party if the captain of the guard has a resist 40 all aura effect that he gives to all his men in a burst 10 from a daily magic item "empowered guard crest" that only works inside the city at the cost of all his healing surges. (it is an item that is powerful for the guard to have and lets them stand toe to toe with everything shy of Orcis but is almost useless to the party if they manage to win some how.) – Rent_ZHB Mar 24 '11 at 3:01
@Zent_THB: true, never underestimate hundreds of low-level artillery minions. :) 300 minions * 7 damage per hit * 0.05 natural 20 = dead level 30 PC in 2 rounds unless he has some resistance against the attacks. ;) – user660 Mar 24 '11 at 6:27

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