I am dealing with a new player who occasionally refuses to fight. He is playing a hermetic druid who is only concerned about threats to the forest. If an enemy is not harming the forest, he may refuse to fight. When his turn rolled around in said fights he said "I do nothing, this isn't my fight."

I don't want to force him to fight by making every enemy into a bio terrorist or by having every enemy target him specifically, but I also don't want the party to turn on him for not engaging in fights. They have been polite about such things so far, but I doubt it will last when a character dies due to his refusal to fight.

What do you think I should do about this player?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What does he do when an enemy is not a bio terrorist but they attacks his character directly? \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 20:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ What level is the player? What level is the party? How many encounters have they had so far? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 21:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ They just cleared their first dungeon and reached level 2. Of the numerous encounters he refused to fight in two or three of them. As far as I have observed he will retaliate if attacked, but if he refuses to fight then he stays out of range if possible. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 23:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not at all familiar with DnD, but you might consider how to implement (via spells or some other DM trickery) something like Rawls's "veil of ignorance" so that the PC can retain their self-interested stance, but is left in a position of uncertainty. If they value protecting the forest and are sufficiently risk averse, then a creative use of this concept within the constructs of the game could be an interesting and effective solution to the problem. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dennis
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 4:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Seriously, isn't this obvious? He doesn't want to fight anyone who's not harming the forest, so how about an enemy who is harming him. Just stab the druid, simples! \$\endgroup\$
    – AJFaraday
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 8:35

7 Answers 7


Have a Session 0

Seriously, have a session 0 and discuss what kind of game you're wanting to run versus what kind of game they're wanting to play. There's a clear stylistic mismatch between you and your player, and that should be talked out OoC, not with in-game incentives. No amount of in-game incentives are going to make me want to play Halo when I was expecting League of Legends, and similarly, no amount of in-game incentives is going to stop your player from playing Creative Minecraft when you're offering them D&D.

Be ready to compromise

Sometimes, its important to give a few inches here or there. However....

Be prepared to make demands

Some choices are deal-breakers. The Druid you described would be a deal-breaker in my game, but not someone else's. Where your player's goals conflict entirely with the fundamental premise you're using for your game, it is ok to demand that either they conform, or leave. And that's ok. Sometimes, perfectly wonderful players are not good fits for some games. It happens. Make the compromises you can, and then where you can't, make clear demands, with no judgement attached. If they pass, tell them you'll consider them for future games that are more fitting with their desired gaming style.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I like the idea of the GM making demands on the player's characters. It's not the GM's job to come up with a reason why five different characters would want to go adventuring together -> that falls to the individual players. If a player creates a character that just wants to go start a bakery, great, awesome, that character goes and starts a bakery. Now roll one that wants to do some cooperative adventuring. \$\endgroup\$
    – timje
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 12:57

As someone that is starting a first druid I recognized this before I even made it and came up with a simple backstory for myself. It sounds like this player is new and probably needs a hand in doing this.

For example the simple backstory I sent the DM word for word was:

I'm going to roll a druid. Thinking a simple backstory of the forest he lived in started rotting away. After trying all of the usual means to restore the forest the archdruids suspect an evil force is at work. They sent a few of the young and able men to investigate which is what I'm now doing.

I recognized that as a Druid I care about the environment but still need a story that allows me to fight with others and go on quests. I had to answer, "Why did my character leave home in the first place?"

That's the question it sounds like you need to work with this new player to answer. I think the "My Guy" syndrome will be fixed on its own when this gets answered. They may still have their own quirks but much less. Like I gave myself personal rules about how long I'll stay in cities and about what to do should a wild animal attack, etc.

It may also help to explain that while in D&D druids are often viewed as nature they are born out of Celtic Druids who were much more like regular old Clerics.

According to Julius Caesar, who is the principal source of information about the Druids, there were two groups of men in Gaul that were held in honour, the Druids and the noblemen (equites). Caesar related that the Druids took charge of public and private sacrifices, and many young men went to them for instruction. They judged all public and private quarrels and decreed penalties. If anyone disobeyed their decree, he was barred from sacrifice, which was considered the gravest of punishments. One Druid was made the chief; upon his death, another was appointed. If, however, several were equal in merit, the Druids voted, although they sometimes resorted to armed violence. Once a year the Druids assembled at a sacred place in the territory of the Carnutes, which was believed to be the centre of all Gaul, and all legal disputes were there submitted to the judgment of the Druids.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a very good insight. I hope you are right about it being revealed in time. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 23:29

Get everyone on board with the same page tool

As godskook answered, a session 0 is very very important to established what you, the DM, and what the players expect from a session.

The best advice I can give for this situation is the Same Page Tool. You need to fill this out and present it to the players so they're all on the same page. Personally I feel that you do have a "my guy" issue going on (and I don't understand why people make characters in a team based game that intentionally don't work with them), but the Same Page Tool should straighten out a lot of issues.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Great tool. I'll use it in the future. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 23:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the team based game comment. It honestly blows my mind seeing players create lone wolf characters. Its like joining a soccer team but only participating whenever somebody shoots a 3 pointer. Why are you here? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 23:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Honestly, in the case of this Druid, the idea could have been that the character would be reluctant to fight at first, but as they get more familiar with the party they get more willing. Still, that should have been talked about beforehand. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cronax
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 7:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Cronax, I really like that idea, but as you said, communication is key! I think that's one of the best things to make clear at a session zero--most things are fine but you need to talk about them beforehand. \$\endgroup\$
    – wzbillings
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 14:50

Don't make him fight.

This might sound crazy, but since this is a roleplaying game it might be possible to extrapolate from his refusal to fight. A few points:

  1. Alternatives to combat. In order to optimize player agency, when the player run into potential enemies, instead of saying "roll initiative," say "what do you do?" The druid might have some clever ideas that are nonviolent.
  2. Help, but don't fight. The druid could use the aid action, manipulate the environment, and grapple enemies, all without causing harm.
  3. Druid magic actually really helps here. Druids get spells like Guidance, Charm Person, Healing Word, and Entangle very early, and they can keep the player playing without fighting.
  4. Warn them, then put the pressure on. Advise the player to make tactical choices when possible, even if it means fighting. Eventually your player will be in a situation where he must fight or die. When that happens, let him choose.
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ You are assuming that OP is playing DnD 5e, yes? Your answer loses much if they are not playing that... \$\endgroup\$
    – Patta
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 19:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Patta his answer doesn't lose anything in 3.5/PF. Otoh, Robert, I'm against the idea of presuming the player's actions are compatible with the game that's being run by this DM. Your answer would, imho, be better if you gave guidance on how to come to the conclusion that "Not making him fight" is compatible, with the current answer providing guidance once that conclusion is reached. \$\endgroup\$
    – godskook
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 19:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, the "aid action" is not something I know from Pathfinder, and I am not sure about the spells either, but I get your point. But what if they play e.g. Dungeon World? There is tons of games with Druids in them, after all. - OP has confirmed it is 5e, though, so Robert was lucky after all :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Patta
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 20:09
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I have no intention of making him do anything. The only reason I would do so is if there was a heated argument between party members. I would have been fine if he attempted non-violent solutions, but he literally said, "I do nothing". I may be overreacting, but I want to be prepared if the most immediate consequence of not fighting is the other party members asking, "Why is he even in the party if he won't do anything in a fight?" \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 23:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ If he's literally playing counter to the group, it's time to talk to the player and consider retiring the character. But that's another answer all on its own. \$\endgroup\$
    – Robert
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 1:28

This character likely doesn't fit in your game

As others have already said, you need to have a "Session 0" using the Same Page Tool -- in this session people do not play or roll their characters, but instead discuss what do they expect from the game, what do they want to play, what is OK for them and what is not OK.

Playing without a good understanding what do you want to play is like inviting everyone to "play cards", while some of you mean "play Black Jack" and some mean "play poker".

If your Druid player wants to be such a peaceful guy, probably it will turn out that this peaceful guy doesn't fit in the group, and he will have to roll a new character. Probably you will find a way to play together. Probably other characters will catch up and reroll themselves instead, also becoming Druids and joining your "problem player" on his journey. Probably you will understand that you just don't want to play together because you expect too different things.

Just understand (and tell it to your players) that any outcome is OK. No one should play a game that is not enjoyed. If you can make a game enjoyable for everyone, so let it be. If you can't, so let it be too.

Just discuss things. Just talk to each other. It really helps.

Good luck.

P.S. Ah, it is also possible that when you suggest your players to discuss "a problem with that Druid char", they will respond with "What problem?" -- perhaps they are just totally OK with his behaviour. Or not OK, but ready to handle it in-character. Again, everything is possible.


First: Try talking to the player.

You mentioned that he is a new player. If he has never played before, he may not fully understand what is expected of him. You might convince him that his character actually values his companions enough to fight alongside them, even if the forest is not endangered.

Second if the first doesn't solve the issue: As jeanquilt mentioned, use the same page tool.

If the player does understand the requirements of working in a party, his refusal to fight might indicate some deeper issue within the campaign/ the player's perceptions.


I think the other responses are off base: you should alter your storyline a bit, to tie in the destruction of everything he holds dear. Don't make that clear all at once. Only reveal it to him a bit at a time, so that he discovers that his inaction caused the destruction of all species of plant of X.

Then finally, kill him off in an unwinnable battle.

You can attribute this story as an example of how heroes Don't behave, how it takes something special to be a hero, and how not everyone is a hero.

The most memorable campaigns are ones built around player actions, not just following a storyline. I'm surprised at the answers on here actually, not that they aren't level-headed or reasonable answers: but it is against the spirit of D&D. The only thing unacceptable is sideline stories where people wander off by themselves maybe.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE. Please take the tour and visit the help center to see how a Q&A site works, and in particular please read up on how to write a good, supported answer. I've edited your answer for format and clarity. Please review it, and please edit it again in case the edit unintentionally disturbs your intended meaning. That said, I'd be careful about answers that advocate "one true way to play" arguments. We support a multitude of playstyles here. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 21:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ While I would find your ideas interesting in a normal campaign, I hesitate to give an unwinnable scenario to a brand new player no matter the reason. I actually proposed that he and I do a separate session just for his character if he though leaving the party suited his character. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 23:20

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