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This is part 1 of a 3 part question:

I'm a GM for 5e, running an online game. Most of the players are brand new to the game, and partially because of that, I've picked up a couple of... problematic players.

The newest-est player (only joined in the most recent mission) has two main problems with her behaviours.

  1. She's not very proactive in searching for information herself, and tends to get worked up and un-fun to deal with when she gets confused, for example when more than one person is talking while she's learning the rules, or when something she thought she understood was wrong. In the latter case, she directly accused me of letting her make the mistake before, when not only had she not explicitly done that thing before, but I had sent her a separate note describing the topic in question, that she apparently missed. Did I mention that she is aggressively defensive?

  2. She has, previously, claimed that an enemy was hers to fight (in a 3 v 6, players being the 6), and threatened that her character would yell at anyone who tried to help him. Not for any particular reason, like an IC personal grudge, just because she wanted to solo him. This was in her second session, but I'm worried about her continuing that behaviour.

What do I do to work with this player?

Booting would not be a simple matter, as one of her closest friends recommended her to the game. While the friend does see why I'm frustrated, I would much rather avoid causing either of them undue stress.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Does this player have previous experience with video games in the fantasy/rpg genre? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jan 8 '18 at 14:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ She has had experience in RP groups from DA, the Pokémon video games, and I believe a different tabletop as well. \$\endgroup\$ – Leafsw0rd Jan 8 '18 at 14:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are parts 2 and 3 really necessary for understanding this particular question? Shouldn't we remove the links and threat questions separately? \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Jan 9 '18 at 11:37
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Talk

First thing to check (the easy stuff about soloing an enemy) - is it My Guy Syndrome?

Maybe she thinks that her character would definitely solo that kind of enemy - Goblin, you say? My character sheet says I hate Goblins from the bottom of my heart. Gotta destroy it!

If she does something like that she might just try to get into a roleplaying feeling. It's pretty normal for some people when they start with roleplaying. Some like to do social encounters and speak from the characters point of view, while others love these kinds of backstory quirks that I just tried to demonstrate. Find out why she wanted to solo that enemy. Was is backstory? Did she think she would get more EXP and could become stronger/ more important?

Try to gauge it and steer her in the right direction when you are talking with her privately and don't blame her. Neither of the intentions behind what I just mentioned is bad - but it may be too much if she takes away the other players fun. But then again - if everyone is fine with this behaviour, why not let her be the solo destroyer? It's risky, but maybe she likes that sort of play. Just be curious and ask her

"Hey, just out of curiosity - why did you want to kill that thing so badly?"

Her answer will tell you a lot about her and how she perceives her character and the game in general.

Second thing - make a cheat sheet with the most important rules

DnD has lots of rules - keeping them all in mind can be extremely difficult. An easy thing to do is to give new players a cheat sheet that says stuff like: What actions does my character have in battle? What do my stats represent? If you put that down on a small card and give it to her it will clear up a lot of things.

And don't be too picky about retconning stuff. If she messes up because she thought she always had a Bonus Action and suddenly she stands in front of an enemy at the end of her turn - let her do her turn again. The same with forgetting about Opportunity Attacks and all that other complicated stuff. One or two times won't hurt and she will remember it. If she does it more often she will have to live with the consequences.

You are the only person who can always talk - others have to be silent while you are explaining stuff

It doesn't matter whether you are describing the dungeon, telling someone how Bonus Actions work or playing a discussion as the NPC - you are the one who the players should always listen to. When you see each other physically you could take a stuffed animal or something like that - the player with the stuffed animal is the one who is currently speaking with you. In a chat your software might help you to show the profile of others in different colors or therelike. (Thanks to @KasperVanDenBerg for pointing that out.) That is something that your other players need to learn.

It's unfair to speak when somebody is learning. And you are the one to teach, because you may allow certain houserules and you are the one who knows what's important in your campaign. The others wouldn't want five people talking to them, too - it's confusing and doesn't help. Everyone wants to help, but not everyone can help at the same time. (Of course another player could explain as well, just not more than one person at any given time.)

Being the newbie is difficult

Other people seemingly saying random stuff and rules that come out of the blue... That is environment that is quite weird at first. Far too many rules compared with most card or board games. Getting the hang of it is difficult and you may be a liability for quite some time if the group already got the hang of it. Getting your chance to shine is important. And if she thinks that she can defeat that single pesky goblin and show that she mastered the core rules - you may want to give her a bit of spotlight. Everyone deserves the spotlight, but especially completely new players need it to feel that it's a fun game and they can contribute meaningfully.

If she continues putting the blame for her mistakes on others - booting might be the only option

Talk to her about it if it continues, warn her - and then go through with it. Maybe she will get a grip at the last moment, maybe not. Time's too valuable to spend it with people blaming you for their problems.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 9 '18 at 7:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Wow, the stuffed animal idea seems really good for groups with interrupting problems. I'll try to remember this for the future. \$\endgroup\$ – Dragomok Jan 9 '18 at 20:07
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It sometimes can be difficult to catch up with complex rules while other people are talking. I personally find it even worse online where you can have microphone issues, a page that is not loading correctly... many things that generate stress. The obvious solution is to make her read the rules between the sessions, not during them. If she just joined last time she may not have had enough time to read them. Make sure she has access to rules. DD5 may be quite simple compared to, let's say, 3.5, it's still complex for someone who is not used to RPG at all.

Ideally you can run a pre-session for her before the game to make sure she got right the most important rules. It takes a lot of your time though so I don't recommend it in your situation.

About the glory-hunter behavior, to quote you:

she directly accused me of letting her make the mistake before

So she wants you to tell her when her character is doing a mistake. Taking one-on-one an opponent that is supposed to be fought as a group is a mistake, so just tell her so. Don't insist, just tell her clearly: "you know those foes are probably individually stronger than your character, and in this game fighting one-on-one is usually a bad decision. Are you sure you really want to duel them?". That's just being honest and doing what she asked for.

Then, if she keeps wanting to duel she will probably end up dying, or failing in some way or another. As long as it doesn't ruin you other player's game that's fine.

Also note that what you perceived as: "she (...) threatened that her character would yell at anyone who tried to help him" may have been her character bragging about how they could take that foe one-on-one. Miscomprehension is very common online as people either don't have video and can't rely on facial clues, or sometimes the video is in bad resolution, sound can be laggy, etc. Always ask for things twice when it seems strange.

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She has, previously, claimed that an enemy was hers to fight (in a 3 v 6, players being the 6), and threatened that her character would yell at anyone who tried to help him.

I believe that this point is part of your part 3 question of her wanting to play a character with an oppositional backstory. If her idea is to have her character move from this "do everything on my own" jerk to a more affable, cooperative character, have that play out in-game and allow the other PCs and your NPCs to motivate the character to change through their responses.

If she says her character would yell at anybody who tries to help him kill the kobold, let that happen in game. How does the party handle it? Does the other fighter ignore him and help anyway? Does the party pull back and let him go through the fight by himself, quietly placing bets on whether he gets out alive? Does the cleric pull him aside after the fight and have a friendly talk with him about why that would be a bad idea if they face something bigger than a kobold?

Show don't tell:

As a GM, I try to not allow my players to "pre-announce" their "dialog", especially if it's something that the other characters wouldn't already be aware of. Confronted with what your player did, I might say "You make the decision about what your character does, but the other players get to decide how they react. You can't stop them from engaging the kobold, but you can yell at them if they do and then we can see what happens."

I would also caution making the determination that it's MGS based off of one poor in-game decision. It may be MGS in the making, and there may be other examples you didn't share, but it's probably not there yet. Don't underestimate the ways that confronting this in-game early on can enrich your game.

Early on in our current campaign, one of the PC's made a decision, based on his flaw, to do something that the rest of the party thought was a bad idea. The consequences of his doing it have reverberated throughout the game, effecting the character relationship between his and the character that had to save him and changing his style of combat in a way that actually dovetailed nicely with his backstory. It also quashed his MGS playing in a completely organic way that didn't need to be handled out of game.

Make your expectations clear

For the first point of your question, make your desires known to your group. If as GM you want to answer questions before anyone else weighs in, make that known. If your expectation is that players will look for the information first, let them know that.

I would also suggest that you try to have the most favorable impression of this player that you can. There are a lot of moving parts to your campaign that she may not be used to. You say your players are from all over the world. If the language your campaign runs in is not her native language, she may not be aware of how "aggressive" she's coming across. She may also not be used to playing via text and her responses may not seem as abrupt to her as they do to you.

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She seems to have a personality problem

It looks like she likes to have conflicts. That you can't fix.

Kick her out and find someone who does not blame you for her shortcomings.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Even if I agreed with you, and I wanted to do that, the social situation is complicated and multiple things exacerbated the situation (I elaborate on some of this in part 3). A rash kick could ripple and cause chaos in the larger group. I have kicked someone from the DnD already, so believe me, I’m not adverse to the possibility. But it’d be premature for now, of that I’ve got no doubt. \$\endgroup\$ – Leafsw0rd Jan 8 '18 at 14:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Leafsw0rd, I would also talk with her first, but I had the impression you already tried that. \$\endgroup\$ – András Jan 8 '18 at 14:43

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