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So, I'm running my first ever dnd campaign - and I'm having a blast doing it. I've found a really great group of players, who are really accomodating to my newbieness, and I couldn't be happier with them going along with my crazy schemes. Overall, I feel that all the players are relatively happy with how my campaign and the plot is progressing so far.

Except for one.

Now don't get me wrong - this player (we'll call him The Druid) is quite easygoing most of the time - he generally doesn't argue too much, and goes along with the plans about as well as the other players. However, he's a little bit of a stick in the mud. Again, I like the guy, but he just insists on certain matters.

The Druid used to be part of another campaign - and he CONSTANTLY tells me about it. "In my old campaign, all the characters were really diverse and interesting." "In my old campaign, flanking was a hard rule." "In my old campaign, we only had sessions every other week." "In my old campaign, the plot wasn't laid out for us, we had a bunch of little side things we could work on." "In my old campaign, we weren't railroaded at all." "In my old campaign, we were railroaded at the right times." And so on and so on.

Again, I can appreciate that this is what the guy is used to, and it can be jarring going into a new campaign, especially one with a DM who's so new to the art. However, the campaign has been going on for a few months now, and not only is he still going on about how much better his old campaign was, I feel that I've gotten better at DM-ing, and I've really been trying to follow The Druid's suggestions on how he thinks the campaign should go.

Now The Druid says that he's considering leaving the campaign unless things shape up soon. I just don't know what he wants - he says he doesn't want railroading? I give the plot multiple branches. He says he wants it back down to bi-weekly? I make it bi-weekly. I do everything I can to make him feel at home, but he still keeps saying how he doesn't like how the campaign is going. All I can think to say is how this just isn't his old campaign, and I sat down and spoke with him about it after my last session. Even so, he still isn't happy with how things are going, and as a result, I'm not so sure about the campaign. I don't want The Druid to leave - I never want people to leave the group, especially when they've been in it since the beginning - but at the same time, I'm running out of options as to how to convince him to stay.

In addition, at the same time, I don't want to change my entire campaign just to please The Druid. Like I said, I have other players in the campaign, who I truly believe are enjoying it, and who have said that they really like how things are going.

All this said, here are my questions: How do I change the campaign to please the druid, without changing it so much that it affects the other players? In addition, should I change the campaign at all, or just resign myself to having the druid leave? Please keep in mind, I'm a new GM, and I'm simply not capable of doing things as well as they presumably were in the druid's "old campaign". I'm just wondering how I can convince the druid to stay. Finally, if possible, how can I convince the druid that this isn't his "old campaign", and never will be his "old campaign", because I'm not his previous DM and as such I don't know exactly how to make a campaign that's a replica of his previous one.

I know this is all very situational, and I apologize for that, but I'm kind of at my wit's end with trying to please The Druid, and I don't know what else to do.

TL;DR: I can't please one player no matter how much I try, even though all other players enjoy the campaign. How can I change my campaign to suit that player without ruining it for the other players?

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    \$\begingroup\$ RE: "I never want people to leave the group, especially when they've been in it since the beginning." Is this the only the reason to keep him around? I mean, does the player have anything else going for him besides him having been there since the start? Is he hilarious? Does he role-play well? Does he bring beer? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 4 '18 at 2:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Does this player make these comments during the game or just outside it? Have you discussed the situation with the other players? \$\endgroup\$ – Joel Harmon Feb 4 '18 at 5:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ "I never want people to leave the group, especially when they've been in it since the beginning." Why? If never is meant literally rather than as casual exaggeration... why? That's extreme, and seems like the key to a good answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Novak Feb 4 '18 at 8:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ ♦ Reminder: comments are for clarifying content, not posting small or incomplete answers. Comments do not support features like proper voting and the wiki-style editing that allow us to vet, correct, and improve the content, as we require of answer material. Prior comments containing answers have been removed. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 5 '18 at 19:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Before posting another answer, please consider whether you are saying the exact same thing as another answer (or, in this case, 8 other answers). Just upvote if you’re just going to say the same thing. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Feb 7 '18 at 11:45

12 Answers 12

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Let your player leave.

D&D is a game. The primary reason anyone plays D&D is to have fun.

You and your player are not having fun.

Your question title is a leading one: of course you shouldn't change the "entire" campaign to please just "one" player. So yes, you and your player should part ways. Your player has told you that he's not having fun, and you're not having fun. In the absence of a fix, the only solution is to go your own separate ways.

The only reason you give for not letting him go is that you don't like the idea of losing a player, and he's been there since the beginning. But as anyone who's been in a bad relationship (romantic or otherwise) will tell you, you can only look forward. Is keeping your pride about no players leaving really worth it? Can you tolerate not having fun while playing D&D forever?

Finally, it's important to know that this situation doesn't mean that you failed. I'm in a group that's cycled through DMs. None were bad, but some were better fits than others. Parting ways with a single player does not make you a "bad DM," especially if your other players are enjoying the game. Instead, it just means that you and your player were looking for different games. From what you've told us, you've made a good faith effort, and if that's not enough to satisfy this player, then the only other solution is to let them leave.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Excellent answer. I would only add that the OP might want to have a plan in place for what to do in the event that The Druid doesn't actually leave of his own accord. He may just hang around complaining and threatening to leave without actually doing so, and that would presumably continue to annoy the OP long after he has stopped trying to satisfy this guy's arbitrary demands. \$\endgroup\$ – Steve-O Feb 6 '18 at 21:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with Steve, I suspect this guy isn't actually going to leave, but is trying to use that threat as a bludgeon to make you change your game. He may not even have a goal or end-state in mind, it's just a way to exert control over another human being, in particular one who has some modicum of control over him (in that you are running the game). This does not sound like a player who is trying to address problems in good faith, so I have a feeling it's a manipulative threat more than an actual intent to leave. I'd say you should warn the other players, and then stop trying to accommodate. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Feb 6 '18 at 22:05
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I have to say that, assuming your description is accurate, you already have tried changing the campaign to please this one player, and he refused to be pleased. I'd let this one go.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In particular, you cut the frequency of sessions in half. Presuming the others all liked weekly sessions, you've essentially cut their weekly fun in half for this guy, and he's still complaining? Not worth keeping. \$\endgroup\$ – Ray Feb 5 '18 at 14:37
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If you took out the parts about D&D and asked this question on Interpersonal skills Stack Exchange, you'd get a bunch of answers about leaving an abusive relationship. (I'm not saying it's abusive, but it could be.)

Let's summarise: you're trying to accommodate someone who isn't helping and constantly criticising. You've tried, it didn't help. That's basically the blueprint of a relationship that's not working out.

Be it a D&D group or anything else in life, if its unbalanced and both parties seem to be unhappy and reasonable tries to make it work haven't helped, then by all means, don't try to put a nut on a nail, that's not were it belongs.

Sometimes people just don't fit/play/work well together. It happens.

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As far as I know, your campaign is your campaign. Every DM has their own style. Every DM has their own house rules. Every DM runs the table as a player, having fun with the other players.

Now, obviously, if there are any issues, they should be brought up, but if he is the only one that has a problem, and you've already tried to bend a bit, you should just let him go. What he is doing is the equivalent of you talking about how much better the druid player from the last campaign was. Just like no one should tell someone else how to play their character (once again, unless there is a problem), no one should try to force one DM to be another DM. If he wants to play with the other DM, he should go do that.

Now, keep in mind, constructive criticism is a very important part of becoming a good DM. After every session I have a little chat asking about what people felt, what they liked, didn't like, etc. But if the gist was "your style isn't this style" my response would be "well, that's true".

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Should I change the entire campaign to please one player?

Will it make you more or less happy to change? Will it make the druid's player more or less happy? Will it make each of the other players more or less happy?

Answer those questions, balance the competing answers and decide if you "should".

How do I change the campaign to please the druid, without changing it so much that it affects the other players?

Well, if you change it it will, by definition, affect the other players.

That said, it appears that your have changed the campaign and it hasn't pleased the druid; so, whatever you did there, it didn't work, don't do that again.

You need to work out what changes will make the druid happy and then [see above].

In addition, should I change the campaign at all, or just resign myself to having the druid leave?

Yes, you should change the campaign or resign yourself to having the druid leave.

For option 1, [see above].

For option 2, consider how this affects [see above]. One point to remember, its a DM's market - its much easier for a DM to find players than for a player to find a DM.

I'm simply not capable of doing things as well as they presumably were in the druid's "old campaign".

Don't assume that you aren't doing this as well. DMing is not something with an objective scale of "good" and "bad". DMs are unique and just because your style doesn't suit a given player doesn't mean you are not doing a good job. For example, if you are a DM who loves crafting highly tactical combats that push the players to make the absolute best use of their resources to win you are going to be an absolute hit with players who love min-maxing PCs for combat and you'll drive the role-players up the wall.

Unless you're in Australia because "In Australia, ... same."

Finally, if possible, how can I convince the druid that this isn't his "old campaign", and never will be his "old campaign", because I'm not his previous DM and as such I don't know exactly how to make a campaign that's a replica of his previous one.

"I'm really pleased you enjoyed your last campaign and I appreciate the feedback you've given me that flowed from it. I feel it has made me a better DM. However, we are now several months into the campaign and I and the other players are happy with how its going. I would really appreciate it now if you would shut the f*&^ or p#$% off!"

You might want to tweak the last sentence, ... or not.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1, also rotfl:[Unless you're in Australia because "In Australia, ... same."] \$\endgroup\$ – ntg Feb 7 '18 at 10:28
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A good GM is open to constructive criticism. That's the only way to learn how to improve. And you always have room for improvement, no matter how seasoned you are.

But before you implement that criticism, make sure that everyone, including yourself, agrees with it.

So when you have a critical player who advises you on how to improve, that's a valuable resource which helps you to become a better GM. But before you blindly follow every critique, make sure that the critique actually aligns with the rest of the group. So do not just discuss your GM style with this one player. Some players prefer more of an open sandbox environment, while others prefer more GM guidance. Rule interpretations and application of optional rules are a matter of opinion and personal preference. And session scheduling depends on everyone's lifestyle.

So discuss such questions with everyone in the group and come to a group consensus regarding how you want to run the game. When it turns out that you simply can not compromise on something, then it might indeed be time for one or more players to leave. But that isn't necessarily the one who brought up the topic.

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Let The Druid go.

You tried to please this player and it didn't work. You can't please everyone and life is too short for either of you to play games you don't like.

If you still want to have The Druid as part of the group, have a chat about how you feel about the comments regarding the old campaign. It might be that The Druid misses the old group, not only the old campaign. Maybe bringing it up every session is a sort of coping mechanism for not meeting with that group regularly anymore. The hard part here is to express that stories about the old campaign are welcome — complaining is not.

Another possible tactic to explain that the old campaign is not repeatable is to bring up examples from media you are both comfortable with, comparing, for example, two movies or authors that are both recognized as good but have totally different tone (my example: Terry Pratchett and JRR Tolkien). The emphasis here is that even very experienced and talented people in the same area are not copies of each other.

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I had a very similar player, not the same type of complaints, but constantly disruptive with unnecessary critique of my GMing. I was very new (barely even fully understood the system) and was just trying to run something for my friends and have some fun. This ruined my confidence and made my game worse overall. The game died before any solution was found, only partly because of this player.

I doubt full on interpersonal moderation is within the scope of this SE but in hindsight here's the gist of what needs to be communicated.

"I am new to this, although I'm making an effort and the changes you're pushing for are outside of my scope, you can choose to wait until I get better or find a new game, but the way your are treating my game is ruining the fun of GMing for me."

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Don't Change the Game

...and stop trying to

The Druid used to be part of another campaign - and he CONSTANTLY tells me about it. "In my old campaign... In my old campaign... In my old campaign..."

It sounds like the Druid has played in only one game before, and had a great time. So great, that it set the Druid's expectations for what a game should be. Every time your game fails to match that game, it fails to live up to the Druid's expectations, which yields disappointment.

By trying to modify your game to match the Druid's expectations, you are reinforcing those expectations. But your game is unlikely to ever meet them - because the other game wasn't yours. Every table is different, and every DM runs a different game.

If you want to keep the Druid, shatter those expectations. State clearly that this game is not the same, and never will be. This gives the Druid an opportunity to consciously set aside those expectations and enjoy your game for what it is. Of course, the Druid might still choose to leave - but in that case the two of you were never going to enjoy D&D together anyway.

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You are the DM. From what I understand of Role-playing games, that makes you the ultimate arbiter of what goes on in the campaign.

I think that your 'Druid' is a chronic complainer, and should be told that his actions are not in the spirit of the game, and that if he cannot comply, he will be removed from the game (and not asked to return).

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Part of the fun of these games for players is not getting everything they want, although you'll probably find few people that appreciate the fact when they want something enough. Being different is good. If you seek only to please, the player will be missing something and might not realize what it is. Don't be walked on.

Of course, the players should get some stuff they want, at least some of the time, but too much and it's no longer fun—the Druid might as well be the GM.

My advice would be to have the Druid make suggestions primarily (not exclusively) when the game isn't in session (ideally before the campaign starts), and then you can talk about them. Reject the suggestions you don't like, or that would be more work than it's worth. At least then, the other players don't get annoyed and stressed out by this, too. Or, have a meeting afterward where all players who desire to do so can discuss suggestions. Then it won't interrupt the game. Don't feel compelled to accept every suggestion.

If you don't allow any in-game comments for improvement from the Druid, the Druid may feel targeted, since you may want other players to be able to suggest stuff at least once in a great while.

It sounds like you've been very accomodating. I don't know that I've seen another GM so accomodating as you describe yourself. I have a hard time imagining that his previous GM was.

If the Druid leaves, it's probably not the end of the world. He might come back some day.

Disclaimer: I don't play the specific RPG you're asking about, and I have little experience as a GM, but I do have experience with playing a few similar roll playing games.

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I've been looking at your story from a non-dnd perspective but more from an interpersonal perspective because I think that's a way to approach this situation.

Looks like you have an unhappy person. The reason this person is unhappy may not even be your game but it is impacting it. He might think his unhappiness is because the game changed but that's often not the case.

The problem is that you really can't make those players happy because the root for their unhappiness is not within your control. Maybe this guy has things going on in his life or maybe he only likes playing DND is he's the DM.

These are things outside of your control.

So what you need to do in such a case. Like when someone complains is tackle it as fast as possible. The pattern is really easy to recognize : someone is unhappy about something, you fix it, the person finds something else to be unhappy about, rinse repeat.........I've seen this go on for long long times of cycles of fixing issues and people finding new issues.

You need to put a stop to that because it will drain emotionally and take up a lot of your time.

A very effective strategy to cut this short is to get everything that's wrong on the table. Sit with him down and invite him to talk about all the issues he has. Make a list of it, write it down. And then when you have that list say the words: "Is this all?" And tell him you ask this because you don't want any new things coming up in the future. You want to be done with it.

After that you can work with him on the points that came out of that chat. Like, sorry, point A,B,C I will not change, point D: ok let's try having bi-weekly meertings and point E we can meet in the middle.

Now when he's unhappy again (and he will be) you can call him out. You made a list of things which he "signed off" and now he's coming with something he didn't say before. Now you can actually say: "I don't think I can ever make you happy. I'm done with your complaints. I've tried to work with you but you keep coming up with new problems after I fix the previous ones. I won't listen to them anymore."

And work from there. He can choose to keep playing with you and if he doesn't like it not. But at this point you know you've done everything reasonable to accommodate him.

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