I'm directing a 5e campaign and I have a party of three: A Tiefling Warlock (eloquent, rational type), a tiefling monk (rash, impulsive and danger seeking) and a half-elf rogue (his personality is not that well defined). We're all adults: I'm 26, the warlock and the rogue are 25, and the monk is 29.

I had this devil trapped inside a magic circle, and a puzzle involving a talking severed head and riddles. As a reward for freeing him, the devil drops three rings (one blue steel, one red iron and one orange copper) to the floor and says "Pick one", before disappearing.

The three stare at the rings, and the monk (who solved the riddle) said: "I will take the blue one first, you can get the others if they are still there."

The warlock was silent, staring at the rings and thinking.

The rogue asked the warlock to identify the rings before touching them (not possible).

When the monk heard that the warlock could not identify the rings he said "I reach for the blue one and I take it!" The other players did not react and I rushed to say, "The other two rings dissapeared!"

And then it all broke down. The player who plays the rogue wants to stop the monk from touching the rings. I make them do a dex throw and the rogue won. But I had already said the rings disappeared, so in order to keep the narrative going and not allow them to meta-game with the knowledge, I ruled that the rogue was able to stop the monk from taking the ring, but he touched it with a finger and the other two disappeared.

The rogue starts complaining, claiming its not fair, and gets mad (the player). He takes it personally and starts to put away his things, really angry. I told him I already said the rings disappeared, and I'm not getting them back, and that I already gave him the chance to fight for the remaining ring, even though he has been getting all the magic items lately, and the monk has nothing yet.

He says he wants me to pause before narrating the consequences of the players actions and ask everybody if they want to do something, so that everyone can react to everything. He starts making threats, saying he cant play with us if we can't play like he wants.

And when I explain to him that he has to roleplay that anger in-character, against the monk, he says "from now on my character is going to do the opposite of what the monk does and wants. And if he does something like this again, I'm killing him, and it's not my fault because I warned him".

It took me a while to get him to calm down a little, but the session ended a bit on the cold side.

For the record, the other two players side with me, and agree that events should flow naturally, even when it's not totally fair to the players.

What do you think? I don't like this behavior, and being called unfair touches a sensitive string, because its been multiple times now that I've done things to keep this player happy, including talking to other players individually and telling them to tone down their arguments with him and giving him a good amount of the loot and letting him get away with some power-gamey stunts.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking how to soothe the player after the fact, or are you looking for GM techniques to avoid this sort of thing all together? \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 15:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ Both, maybe. LOL \$\endgroup\$
    – Fritz
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 22:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Franz, if that's the case, please consider making your question(s) more explicit. We're not a discussion forum; we do best with well-defined questions that have objective answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – thatgirldm
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 23:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok, next time i'll make my question clearer. I got good anwsers eitherway so, thanks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fritz
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 20:40

6 Answers 6


Not your fault. It sounds like the rogue's player doesn't really get that it is a game and/or that he has not really grasped that he shouldn't act like a child anymore. He clearly wants to control, to pause the narrative to argue and complain to his own character's advantage. The word that springs to mind is "petulant".

That doesn't really help your group except that you personally should not feel bad, it is everybody's responsibility to behave in a way that supports a fun game and narrative and it doesn't look like that player is keeping up their end of the bargain.

He is not understanding the difference between the players and their characters, the difference between players talking together (telling the story) and characters talking (part of the story).

I would suggest that the point at which you lost a lot of your, errr, authority over the situation was the point at which you backtracked and allowed the rogue's actions to effect the past:

And then it all broke down. The player who plays the rogue wants to stop the monk from touching the rings. I make them do a dex throw and the rogue won. But I had already said the rings disappeared, so in order to keep the narrative going and not allow them to meta-game with the knowledge, I ruled that the rogue was able to stop the monk from taking the ring, but he touched it with a finger and the other two disappeared.

You have already identified this as the point at which "it all broke down". The monk had already succeeded and "The other players did not react", so here you succumbed and let him in.

The one thing I (all of us by agreement actually) am quite strict about is once something has happened it has happened. If it is unfair, sometimes that's life, sometimes it is "repaired" by other things happening... but we never go back once is has happened and we have moved on, even when it is a clear mistake. We write it into the story and move on, and we all have an equal responsibility to accept it and gloss over/ignore any issues and not worry too much about it. If we haven't moved on yet then there is some flexibility, but in your case you waited for a response and then the other rings disappeared, you had moved on and he wanted to change the past because he was to scared to make the first move and then lost out.

They trust me, and each other, enough to not do anything deliberately unfair that is not an expected part of their characters or the set up of the game, and they respond respond to in-character things in-character, and don't take things too personally. They also trust me to be very fair over the whole game in terms of opportunity and to listen at an appropriate time if someone is not enjoying things and try to make it enjoyable again, which is, after all, the point. Even the rules aren't that important, apart from to allow players to have realistic expectations regarding their character's actions.

Setting this situation up takes work by all, not just you. Looks like you have already spoken with him about it and have come to an impasse. The bottom line is this:

"He starts making threats, saying he cant play with us if we can't play like he wants."

If the rest of you don't want to play like he wants, which sounds like a un-attractive way to me, take him up on the offer...

By the way this is a very typical response (seen it before, done it myself) for someone who is taking it all too seriously and can't deal with the feelings and consequences of their actions when it goes wrong. Again it is not your fault. When my children do it, it's called a tantrum and is all very excusable and understandable (if inconvenient and sometimes upsetting) as they aren't mature enough to deal with what they are feeling. It's made better not by giving into their out of control emotions (that just leads to more of the same, through positive reinforcement, which is not good for their emotional development), but instead by making them feel safe and allowed to be upset and have the feelings, but standing firm in the face of them. it means they develop some control and are better able to make decisions about their behaviour. It's a different story and expectation when a twenty-something adult behaves this way and they are often not open to an emotional intelligence based discussion, nor is your relationship with them often one that makes it appropriate to counsel them.

Sorry about the long winded answer. As you may read into what I have written I've encountered this and thought about this quite a lot and have a precarious balance between compassion and lack of patience for adults who don't have the self-awareness to do anything about behaving this way. And I'm not innocent of it myself, though hopefully I left it behind in my early twenties.


It is not your fault

The player in question is acting irrationally here. He is arriving at conclusions, which are simply not true and getting emotional about them. I have met such people and have faced your dilemma: who is the one at fault here? Am I doing something wrong? It took some time and the assistance of third parties to shake it off. No. Some people can be irrational to a point where arguments can't reach them.

The situation

Lets look at the scenario you shared rationally. Standing in front of the rings, there are two questions:

  • Which ring should we pick?
  • Who should get the ring?

The first is actually a non-decision. Since they have no way of telling what the rings do, they are all the same to them. You could actually have only one ring in your notes and give it to them in the color chosen and they would not know it.

The second is a group decision. Whether the ring is on the floor with the others or in their possession is irrelevant. They could agree, for example, after the ring has been identified. It is not decided by any of them taking an item.

What to do

Tell him outright that his behaviour is unwelcome. Even if there could be dispute about how you run the game, his response was way out of bounds. Him leaving the group is an option and remember: not your fault.

It is on him to change, but if he decides to stay and calm down, you can help the situation with some mechanistical decisions. Regarding reacting to other PCs, I recommend the Angry GM article "Ask Angry: I Stop Him from Doing That!". If you allow such interruptions as described in your post, make it clear how it will be resolved and stick to that. An initiative roll is the most obvious solution.

About a player hoarding items, there is a mechanic already in the rulebooks that can help: attunement. A character cannot attune to more than three items at a time. If you make most of the items require attunement, the lure of grabbing all of them could lessen.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. I'll think about it. In the end, the rogue player was asking me to change the color of the ring that remained so that the monk did not have the one he liked. He actually just wanted to win the argument. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fritz
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 8:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Franz letting him win the argument (again) will not help him changing his attitude. I would kick him out of the group. \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 10:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ I know. I'm not backing down on this. I may have failed to consider the situation fully at the time, but my ruling was not wrong. I don't like losing a player, or fighting with a friend, but I've invested a lot of time and work into this campaign, and i have other players who want to keep going. If we have to, we'll go on playing without him. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fritz
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 19:45

It sounds like your group needs to agree on a system for loot division.

There are many such systems in the world. The D&D 3.5 PHB has a recommended system in which players bid gold pieces for loot the party has found, and the winner's bid gets divided among the party members. The minimum bid is equal to the sell value of the loot in question. (This works better in 3.5e where money is a tightly regulated resource, but you could probably do something like it in 5e.)

Other systems include "the character that has the least loot currently gets first pick", "the character who hasn't received any loot for the longest time gets first pick", and "characters vote on which character would benefit the most from the loot, once it is identified".

But the point is, your group needs to have an agreement in place for how this should work.

(Not having this is a failure of roleplaying, by the way. Would adventurers really be out hunting treasure together with a rule of "whoever grabs it first keeps it forever"?)

For my 3.5e and Pathfinder games, I used to handle this by DM fiat: I would tell them they were using X specific system, and I would handle the bookkeeping for them. That prevented arguments and drama very effectively.

You'll probably do better by sitting your players down, talking through the available options, and having them all agree on one.

Other answers have made statements about whose "fault" the drama is. I think none of the people involved have acted perfectly. You put the group in a situation where most of the outcomes would be unfair to most of the group. One of your players acted to force an outcome that was unfair in his favor. Another player was unhappy about getting an unfair outcome and expressed that unhappiness very badly.

I recommend against trying to resolve the situation by putting all the blame on one player.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I expected everyone to act like grownups. I'm giving loot to the players equally and i dont want to set up a system, i want them to roleplay the situations. The problem wasn't really about who gets the ring, but about one player not liking the way another player roleplays his character. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fritz
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 18:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ If i have to, i'll set up such system, but nither the warlock or the monk want such thing, they are capable of separating their characters from themselves and have fun playing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fritz
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 18:06

Stop, and re-assess the situation first

You imply that the Rogue player has irritated you. In that case, there is a chance that you may not be reporting the events of that session with 100% neutrality. And his actions seem to be awful and childish, yes, but we are seeing your session through your perspective, which is not impartial. This makes me doubt the extent of the childishness of the actions of the Rogue player, though I believe he did something that was childish.

You know your Rogue player better than us. Consider the situation from his perspective. Does it make sense? Can you put your irritation aside and fairly and rationally reconsider his actions?

Pull the players aside, out of the game

You need to talk to the Rogue player and the Monk player separately.

For the Rogue player, since he threatened to leave the group, keep an open mind about letting him leave. This is because he seems to be using his participation in the game as a bargaining chip ("he cant play with us if we can't play like he want"), but as the DM, you cannot be blackmailed by that. If he wants to leave, let him. This disarms him of his threat. You cannot have a sober conversation if one side is trying to strong arm the other in bad faith.

For the Monk player, just gauge his irritation and his willingness to keep playing with the Rogue player. You present him as the "victim" of this mess, so it's important to know how the "victim" feels if you're going to strike a balance.

The goal of your talks with them should be a discussion of:

  • Their behavior and etiquette during the game. What did they do that was not OK? Lay down the problem you want to solve.

  • What they wanted, and why. Why did the Rogue player freak out the way he did? Why did the Monk player immediately take the ring without consulting with the party? Understand the motivations that led up to the problem.

  • What you all can agree with, if you want to keep gaming together. This could end with someone leaving the group, or a compromise forming, or an actual apology coming from the offending party. Seek a solution for your problem.

As the DM, this responsibility unfortunately falls on you. Try to keep a level head, try and remove your initial irritation, and talk to your players giving them the benefit of the doubt, and try to understand the problem before fixing it. However, be open to the possibility that your table may fall apart if the differences are really irreconcilable (but I doubt they are), and that's OK. If so, just start a new group.

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    \$\begingroup\$ True, the whole problem irritated me. After sleeping on it, i am a little more calm. The monk is not really angry or troubled by this, besides the obvious downer that was the discussion. His character has a very defined personality, and he enjoys playing it out. Sometimes he goes too far, but when warned, he reacts well and tones his behaviour down. The rogue on the other hand, always makes things personal, and gets offended when characters in-game make things he does not like. It's not the first time things like this have happened, but this time he blames me. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fritz
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 18:48

This reaction is not your fault but mainly an indication of a selfish and not very grown-up personality of your rogue player.

I had situations like this one where one player would turn against one or all other players (or threaten to do so). The time until this frictions were resolved was stressful and down-right horrible (I was in the Position of your monk player). The only way of resolving it in our case was that one left the group which was me.

So, unless you want to potentially lose your other player(s) or completely start an iron regime against all player misbehaviour, it might be best to directly address all these issues with your rogue player in a serious discussion between the two of you. If he cannot see the problem his behaviour causes or is unwilling to change it, you should better get him out of the group before there is no group left to continue with.


What you have here is a frustrated player, and is NOTHING to do with loot

To you this is just a player throwing a tantrum at not getting their way, to them this is most likely yet another example of a player taking away their freedom of choice. In this situation the rogue player wants to have some time to think about the situation, the monk player is doesn't like that style of play and just does something.

You will probably find that this happens a lot, in many other types of situations. Conversations being cut short by the monk player. Fights being started by the monk player. Basically the rogue player want to take time, but the monk player uses their agency to cut that time.

This situation is that boiling over, because the rogue player has been holding frustration back for too long. Yes the actual confrontation in person was unnecessary and childish, but the problem likely goes far deeper than "waah I wanted the red ring", it is really this person feeling like another person is removing their ability to choose from the game because the monk player is always taking some form of action and not stopping to think.

I keep highlighting person and player, because that is the crux of the issue. This is an out of character problem, and likely either misaligned personalities or certainly misaligned expectations within the game.

I actually feel for the rogue player in this situation, because on both real life, and with most of my RPG characters I like to take time, assess the situation and then decide on a course of action. Even my rash characters who might make wrong decisions will do so slowly from an out of game perspective, and then I might say to the DM "I quickly grab the ring without really thinking".

This lets the other players at the table have enough time to think about what they want to do, and narratively I can grab the ring just as impulsively and quickly, but I haven't stopped any of the other players around the table from having enough time to think about their actions.

Characters who are impulsive and quick to act destroy roleplaying groups if the player is not considerate of the other people around the table, because to act rash is to act on your first thought, which in real like comes quickly, but to act sensibly is to put thought into things and your players around the table are not 20 INT wizards in real-life, they need time to formulate thoughts and options about situations which have no real-life precedent for them.

You as a DM let the monk player take their action quickly, and narrated consequences which could not be changed. I don't think you did nothing wrong, unlike all the other answers here. I think you made a mistake by imposing irreversible consequences quickly, when actually you could have reversed them if you weren't so stubborn, or could have been slower to impose them.

More specifically, I think you will have failed to notice this happening time and time again.

So what do I do?

You talk to your upset player, not "I can't believe you are such a child!", but "What caused that reaction? Are you ok? Is there anything I can do to help?" and you will probably realise that what I said above is correct, about them being frustrated and having it boil over. They probably thought they couldn't say anything, and from your question it sounds like they maybe feel they can't approach you, or are not emotionally mature enough to do so anyway (some people just try and avoid conflict by keeping things to themselves until it boils over, it is very common unfortunately).

Once when I was in school I was getting harassed by someone who would always kick my chair in lessons. I didn't want to complain to the teacher because I feared that would create conflict, then one day I had enough, stood up and grabbed my chair and threw it at them. My teacher, who knew my nature immediately knew that I wouldn't have taken such a drastic action without provocation, they just hadn't witnessed that provocation. 30 years later I know to nip problems like that in the bud, your rogue player probably hasn't learned that lesson yet.

Once you know the cause of the problem you can look at solutions. I think you will probably find that the solution comes from giving your players more time to think and stopping the monk player from having their impulsive character act too quickly.

If the players around the table sometimes talk about a solution and then someone says they are going to take an impulsive action if nobody can come up with a better solution, then it lets the other players see it in a better light, because they as people have not had their agency invalidated.

Of course I could be entirely wrong and you are just playing with someone who can't stand not getting their way, but I have never actually met anyone who acts like that without a reason, and mostly that reason is not getting enough chance to do what they want, so they seize the opportunities when they do get them.


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