I have a friend who's always late or doesn't come, and when he is in the game he doesn't roleplay well (no speaking, common actions, etc...).

I already talked with him and he said that he likes the roleplay and it's quite awesome, the whole group was also present, he said it's just his manner of playing the game.

The rest of the group doesn't like how he roleplays, because they feel like he's not even in the game.

What should I do with him?

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It's kind of tough to tell what's actually going on here, because the relevant person here is a) not you and b) not inclined to talk in the first place. So let me just start talking and we'll see if something I say turns out useful.

Also you haven't said whether you're the GM here or just a fellow concerned player, so I will talk about "the GM" like they're not you.

Dungeon World, by default, assumes everyone is there.

Anybody can write bonds with anybody else. When somebody doesn't show up for a session, that means that anybody who has bonds with that character has some fancy-lookin' blank space on their character sheet. They can't roll +bond to help out somebody who isn't there, and they can't try to advance the bond during the session to mark XP for it at the end.

Now, maybe your GM has pursued alternatives to that; there are some of them out there like the flag system detailed here. Or my own personal hack, which is basically you decide who a bond is with when you roll to help, and at the end of session you either clear names out of your bonds or save the name to write a new bond around it next session.

But, by default, when somebody doesn't show up, everybody feels their absence, and it's worse the more characters are involved with them. I realize that schedules are what they are and adding guilt to the mix might end up being counterproductive, but I wanted to get that out there.

If people are feeling resentful that this guy is making their characters worse for caring about him, you might want to bring alternate mechanics to your GM's attention that won't do that, to stop the numbers from making things worse.

Dungeon World doesn't exactly let you not roleplay, if the GM wants to push it.

So, like, at some point the GM has pointed directly at this guy and said "what are you doing?" That's the kind of thing Dungeon World GMs do all the time.

"Hack and Slash", or any other move name, is not an answer to that question.

Hack and Slash is not something that you're doing. It's something that happens as a result of what you're doing, specifically attacking an enemy in melee. And, like, can you meaningfully attack that guy? Can you get into melee with them? Maybe you need to describe those things too.

Now, one of the skills a Dungeon World GM needs to develop, or a GM of any Apocalypse Engine game, is to specifically define what's going on, so that players can talk more specifically about what they're doing. "Fightgar, the chaotic melee swirls around you, what are you doing?" offers much less to build on than "Fightgar, Wizzrobe has blasted the goblins back from you. You've got room to go help Clericsdottir hold the line against that ogre, but the goblins are just going to regroup in the shadows unless someone finishes them off. What are you doing?"

But ultimately if a player just offers up a move name, the GM can just say "Cool. How?" until they're satisfied. It might be that this player has a pretty clear picture of what's going on, and all it's going to take is a couple more questions to make it clear it everybody else what's going on, too.

Then again, Dungeon World doesn't demand you roleplay, either.

If "roleplay" means "talk in character", I mean. Fightgar doesn't have to walk through his battlefield advance one muscle flex at a time, only say enough to establish how he's defying the danger of the rain of arrows. Stringfellow doesn't have to walk through his impassioned speech to the duke about the value of honor one word at a time either, only say enough to establish that the impression of the duke as an honorable man is sufficient leverage for Parley. The dice, in both cases, will take care of the rest.

Again, it may just be that the problem player in this case thinks he's said everything necessary, everyone else doesn't think he's trying, and a couple rounds of "How?" from the GM will help bring everyone's perceptions a little closer together.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Vincent Baker has stated that Powered by the Apocalypse is a brand for games that have been inspired by AW and has nothing to do with the mechanics the PbtA game uses. Expect to see every new game from him be a PbtA, even if it's a party game. So, I guess "a GM of any PbtA game" is a misnomer for "a GM of any game using the AW mechanics". Sad, but true. \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Nov 1 '17 at 13:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have my doubts that anybody claiming the title is going to take significant steps away from story-scope resolution, but in the interests of rectitude I have substituted "Apocalypse Engine" \$\endgroup\$ – Glazius Nov 1 '17 at 20:45

If he's happy and he's not making anyone else unhappy, leave him alone.

You need to determine if "The rest of the group doesn't like how he roleplays" is a serious problem. If this is actually ruining the other player's enjoyment (which I doubt) then he needs to go.


There are two distinct problems here.

  1. Absence: Tolerated for everyone to the extent acceptable to the whole group, not tolerated past that point. The specifics of the enforcement depends on your relationship, but I should say that enforcing that presence should not be only your responsibility. You are a group of friends trying to do something fun together, and if somebody is spoiling it, you should do something about it together. You being the GM has nothing to do with it.

  2. Participation: I think your player enjoys being the spectator of the game. The way he plays according to your description seems to be the minimum required for the right to be at the table. If it is that (do ask him), then just let him be there at his own schedule and watch. It could still be enjoyable for all of you.

On a side note, there's a detail in your question that makes me think that you are not doing a key principle of Dungeon World right. That is moves flow from the fiction. A player does not make moves. Common moves or playbook moves or custom moves. A player describes what their character is doing, and sometimes moves are triggered and resolved as a result of that. A player may intend to trigger a move but it doesn't work just by announcing it. They have to describe something that triggers it without question from anyone at the table. If it isn't obvious, ask for details and clarifications until it is. If there's no trigger, there's no move. And if there's a trigger in the fiction, you have to resolve the move. Noticing a trigger is everyone's responsibility, not only the triggering player's or the GM's.


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