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I am playing with 2 players because no one else can, or wants to, play. One of the players feels like I target him. When he tries to do something that won't progress the game, I let him do it; if he fails, he then gets upset. I'll give you an example:

So the group was in a dungeon going against a hobgoblin captain and a group of 5 goblins. The hobgoblin makes a multiattack and rolls enough to hit and he wants to dodge the attack as a reaction. I don't know if that's possible. I looked it up; nothing in the Players Handbook, so then I say, "no you can't," because he already moved and used his action. But, he wants to look it up and he doesn't find anything; so, he is in a bad mood.

So, then the goblins try to make short bow attacks and his player is closer than 30ft and he says they can't attack because its below the minimum range. That makes no sense; if anything, it's a better chance to hit. I say whatever I don't care and keep the game moving. Then after the game I try to address it and tell him and he said that, "nope we're not gonna change it because you said it goes this way." Now I can't address him because he uses my words against me.

So, what do I do?

To all your answers: Okay so I've pretty much tried these and I'm taking a break currently letting us both take a break. Okay so I use D&D beyond and I asked some other DM and they told me what to do. So I show the player what they said and he still is defiant; I've looked up the rules showed him and he is still defiant. I'm thinking about just not playing with him but then I can't play because there would only be one player but thanks for all the possible solutions.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Please review the edit I made to your question. Did I guess correctly on what you are asking about? Use of normal punctuation and prose makes a huge difference in whether or not your question will be answerable. I think you have a good question in there about dealing with a problem at the game table; please take the effort to present your question in an understandable style. If the edit attempt made some errors, please edit the question again to make sure that what it is your are asking about, your problem, is clear. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 11 '18 at 13:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: Players argue and don't accept rulings to the point of arguments \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz May 11 '18 at 13:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ You can play with one player. If you can’t figure out how, it would be fine to ask a question about techniques for that. :) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 11 '18 at 14:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Willtech Using answers in comments to avoid downvotes still doesn't make it OK to answer in comments... kinda for exactly that reason among others. Here's our policy. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener May 13 '18 at 12:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just to clarify one thing: there is no "min range" on 5e ranged attacks. There is a "max range in which the attack happens without disadvantage" and a "max range in which the attack happens (with disadvantage, but still happens)". Above the second max range, he just can't attack. This is what the 20/60 ft (for throwing weapons, as an example) means, not a "min/max" range. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint May 13 '18 at 14:36
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What do you do? For right now, stop playing, stop DM'ing.

Neither of you seems to understand the rules of the game well enough to play without getting into an argument.

Then after the game I try to address it and tell him and he said that, "nope we're not gonna change it because you said it goes this way." Now I can't address him because he uses my words against me.

The game looks like it is turning into a DM versus Player game; that isn't usually a sign of a healthy relationship at your game table for this particular role playing game. Bad gaming isn't better than no gaming.

But I don't want to stop playing. OK, try this ...

Get out the Basic Rules(Free download). Go to page 3, in Chapter 1, in the section on How To Play. (It's on page 6 of the Players Handbook). Sit down with this player and go over these fundamental three steps before you attempt to play again.

How to Play

  1. The DM describes the environment.
  2. The players describe what they want to do.
  3. The DM narrates the results of the adventurers’ actions.

(Note: what the dice do is help determine success or failure of various attempts where the outcome is uncertain).

Ask this player if they accept that this is how the game is played. If they accept the fact, also, that there is no step 4:

  1. argue with the DM about what just happened.

If they don't accept that, go back to my original answer.

Learn the game together

Lastly: set up an after-the-game "how did this go?" period after each gaming session. If there were rules or rulings that this player, or the other player, or you are confused about or disagree about, then:

  1. get out the book,
  2. go over the rules together
  3. come to an agreement on how it will work from that point forward. The past is past.

    @SPavel puts it this way:

    There is nothing wrong about saying, as a DM: "I am not sure what the rule is, so I will rule thusly, and then will read the books so next time we know for sure if there was a rule." Don't retroactively change what happened, but next time you'll know the rule.

    Again, if you and your players you can't come to that agreement, you need to get another DM for this game or you need to let this game go for a while until you can agree on a more cooperative approach to the game.

If you all keep playing, take turns DMing

Since you have a small group, and you all seem to be new to the game, one way to get everyone more familiar with the game and the challenges of being a DM is to take turns being the DM. You run a few sessions, player A runs a few sessions, player B runs a few sessions. That will also help you "learn the game together" as a group.

FWIW: this answer has the elements of the action economy spelled out for ease of use. It might be worth going over those basics with your player.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Addendum: There is nothing wrong about saying, as a DM: "I am not sure what the rule is, so I will rule thusly, and then will read the books so next time we know for sure if there was a rule." Don't retroactively change what happened, but next time you'll know the rule. \$\endgroup\$ – SPavel May 11 '18 at 13:19
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Just play with your other player, minus the problem player

A late answer, I know, but given your recent edit/update, you seem to have decided that playing with this problem player isn't worth it, but now playing with only one other person won't work. That isn't true.

See this question: Small campaign to get us (1 PC and 1 GMPC) up to level 2 before starting Lost Mines of Phandelver - is this a good idea?

This is about there being only one player and one DM, and although it's specific to the LMoP campaign, my answer to it isn't. This plus the other answers to the other question may allow you to find a way to play without the problem player, but without "needing" to find a replacement.

In my answer, I describe how I use two DMPCs (neither of whom make decisions) and the player has two PCs, thus allowing for a party of 4 (although if you're happy to run for a smaller party, you could just have one player each, but still your DCPM will not make any decisions). My answer does also assume that one or both of you are new to D&D, so if that is not the case, just ignore the advice for new players that my answer contains.

Whether or not playing in this way would work for you and the remaining player is something for the two of you to discuss.

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A common approach to rules disputes is as follows:

  • When something comes up in the game, and you (the DM) do not know the rule, or a rule does not cover the action, make an ad-hoc ruling on the spot. This avoids slowing play.
  • Make a note to look up the actual rule later. This is important.
  • Ensure that the player knows this is an ad-hoc ruling, so that he is not too surprised if the rule changes next session to adhere to the official rule.
  • After the session, look it up in the rulebook. This issue is likely to come up and it's good to know the official rule.
  • Next session, preferably at the start of the session so that everyone is on the same page, inform the players of the official rule. Players generally respect the authority of the rulebook, especially if you can quote the rule verbatim.

Importantly, have confidence in your rulings. Certain player types will try to edge out every advantage from a DM who is wavy on the rules and what he allows players to get away with. From a certain perspective this is a valid way to play, but in most groups it's important that everyone has the same impression of the rules to avoid future disputes.

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Talk to the player about the issue outside of the game

It seems like the issue here is a lack of communication between what both you and the player feel are the roles of the GM. You have the idea that the GM is supposed to provide an adventure, and take the literal rules shown in the rulebook and use them in a way that makes logical sense. Likewise, your player believes that your job is to enforce the rules set in the rulebook. You should discuss with them how you intend to GM the game, and let them know that you are open to suggestions, but in the end it is your decision to make. If the the players wants something from you that you do not want, I would leave the game. Remember, you are a player too.

Let them know that you are new to GMing and that you are learning as well

Explain that often times when you disagree it is due to lack of game knowledge, and not a want to disagree. Explain that this is a learning experience for you too. If they don't understand that, ask for one of them to GM or leave

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Right now your player is treating this like a board game where they are playing against you - and they're struggling because it feels one sided. It feels like you have all the power - because you do. They are frustrated and acting out that frustration.

You need to do something to break them out of that mindset.

One simple option would be to try having a friendly NPC along (although make sure it is a support character so that the players can still be the star of the show). This might help show that you are on the player's side (although be careful as it may also breed more resentment, hence making it a support character).

You could try playing a more flexible system. Something that would allow the player to try and dodge the goblin's blow, and maybe something which is more story driven and less adversarial.

You could even try doing some co-operative games together without a DM at all. There are a number of board games such as Pandemic, or card games such as Legend's Untold, that allow you to play co-op vs the world.

Or you could go the other way and play explicitly PvP such as wargaming (i.e. Warhammer (Fantasy Battle or 40k), Magic: The Gathering or Blood Bowl.

Once you have got used to playing such games together you can then try D&D again.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ We do play mtg as well \$\endgroup\$ – Sultan Loucks Jun 11 '18 at 14:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SultanLoucks And do you have similar problems when playing that? \$\endgroup\$ – Tim B Jun 12 '18 at 8:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Nope none at all \$\endgroup\$ – Sultan Loucks Jun 13 '18 at 10:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SultanLoucks So it sounds like they're treating it as an adversarial game and then running into the asymmetry in power and getting frustrated. Try looking for more symmetrical or co-op games to start with and then reintroduce D&D once the idea that you don't need to play against each other has been internalized. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim B Jun 13 '18 at 15:35
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he wants to dodge the attack as a reaction... I say, "no you can't," because he already moved and used his action. But, he wants to look it up and he doesn't find anything; so, he is in a bad mood.

he said that, "nope we're not gonna change it because you said it goes this way." Now I can't address him because he uses my words against me.

Both of these situations are ridiculous. You checked the rules, and he's mad that he can't do the things he wants. You clearly understand that these situations are ridiculous. You want the ridiculousness to be fixed. But you do not appear to have analyzed why he is acting so poorly. Because that's really key here. A player who's having fun will not act in this way. A player who's already not having fun would totally react this way. So these situations are not the problem to be fixed. They are side effects of the fact that the player was already not having fun.

The solution here is to discuss this with the player. Not the fights over the rules. The player was already not having fun. Maybe it was just a bad day and you can try again. Maybe the player felt overwhelmed by the vast number of rules they didn't yet understand. Maybe they didn't like how hard the game was, or how hard it was to communicate properly while playing. Most likely, they have absolutely no idea why they were in a bad mood. Either way, Listening is the first step.

Maybe the player will feel better once you hear them out, and maybe you can change a few things and try again. Equally likely, the player had a bad experience, and will expect that in the future, and via self-fulfilling-prophecy, also have a bad experience with DnD the next time. That's fine, people are complicated. If so, try something else together. Rules aren't worth ending relationships.


Note:

I looked it up; nothing in the Players Handbook, so then I say, "no you can't,"

I say whatever I don't care and keep the game moving.

I show the player what they said and he still is defiant; I've looked up the rules showed him and he is still defiant.

All of these sound to me like "I'm right, you're wrong". This doesn't sound like listening, and this doesn't sound like fun. This doesn't even sound polite. I'm not saying you should do whatever they say, but try to have a respectful conversation. Looking up the rules and showing them to the group is fine, if it's immediately followed with the two of you having a discussion about whether or not your game will follow that rule. Listen to the players. Have a discussion, together.

On The Rule of Zero, "The GM has the ultimate say in all rules matters". There's two effects of this. Most people only talk about the first, but I think it is the second effect that's more relevant here:

  1. The GM has the authority to override all rules matters, and the players should respect this authority.
  2. The GM has the responsibility to override rules in order to make sure that everyone is having fun. (This includes you, don't necessarily let players do whatever they want).
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Having fun is the most important thing for you and the players. As the DM, rules can be changed to better suite you and the players fun. Identify the things that let you enjoy the game, but also, your players. Of course altering the rules too much will likely cause more conflicts like this one; So try to keep it to a minimum. In this case, I don't believe taking a break will fix any problems; Only prolong it. This is precious time you could spend having fun, instead of stressing over the rules. As long as everyone agrees on the rule change & is having fun, then just go with it. Just make a mental note or jot down the adjustments for your reference. Make it your own game, keeping it fun for everyone. You can just consider this campaign a homebrew of rules. The next campaign you run could go by the rules if everyone so desires.

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The player was raised a spoilt brat.

When he tries to do something that won't progress the game, I let him do it; if he fails, he then gets upset.

...

I don't know if that's possible. I looked it up; nothing in the Players Handbook, so then I say, "no you can't," because he already moved and used his action. But, he wants to look it up and he doesn't find anything; so, he is in a bad mood.

...

I say whatever I don't care and keep the game moving. Then after the game I try to address it and tell him and he said that, "nope we're not gonna change it because you said it goes this way." Now I can't address him because he uses my words against me.

...

So I show the player what they said and he still is defiant; I've looked up the rules showed him and he is still defiant.

This is the behaviour of a spoilt brat. Understanding this is useful because you are being stonewalled by someone who thinks that they know better and who is not prepared to listen. The player, in thinking that they know better, just wants to get their own way.

Your want to no longer play with said player is quite reasonable.

You have tried being constructive, tried working around the issue without confrontation and, tried taking in the advice of impartial third-parties all to no avail. It is quite reasonable to want to no longer play with said player.

Just try and make the most of it, as said player gains more experience there will be fewer challenges.

Since you seem to have made the choice to play on with the said player in the future, just try and make the most of it.

All new players are educated by the GM as they learn to play. As the player gains more experience, one thing that is important is that they learn to respect the GMs ruling so, be decisive and consistent. It doesn't matter if you have to look things up first to see if they are allowed or how they should be handled.

The player is not likely to keep trying actions that are not allowed if the GM keeps to the rules, if they have little play time then they are still learning how the game works also and, things should go more smoothly over time provided the GM is respected. Being stricter and clearer may actually work provided you are prepared that the player will be grumpy. They may eventually get over that response after several sessions.

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I think that you need to address two different things here. Using your examples:

In the case of the dodge, rather than challenging him, just have him make a roll. And have it fail each-and-every time. Flavor it. "You start to move aside, but the goblin is quick. He strikes."

If you must play with this player (and I understand your dilemma) I would try to bring up the rules as little as possible.

In the case of the bow range, you'll unfortunately need to make it explicitly clear that are in charge of mechanics related to NPCs. If he disagrees then he is welcome to discuss mechanics with you after the play session. But ultimately it's your right as DM to follow, change, and enforce mechanics as you see fit.


But try to keep it nice. And honestly I would avoid looking in the books as much as possible. The less you give him to challenge you on the better, and anytime you open a reference book you give him an opportunity to challenge you.


Alternative solution; offer for him to DM a session.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure allowing a "fake" roll is productive -- at some point they'll roll a 20 and expect (rightly) a successful dodge result. At that point you either have to grant the character this un-earned power, or admit it was all a sham and you're right back where you started, but now OP can't even claim to have been interpreting the rules honestly. \$\endgroup\$ – Gus May 11 '18 at 20:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ Tis true. Talk to the other player. Honestly if he has to play with this gent (as in, he has no one else to play with) and the other player is cool with it, give him the natural 20. My thought being that if the entire argument can be settled by stepping away from the rules and everyones cool with it, then you'll have the most fun just playing the game. \$\endgroup\$ – Bryant Jackson May 11 '18 at 21:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Gus 5e doesn't have 20 = auto success, so I don't see how they would be "rightly" expecting it to be successful. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint May 13 '18 at 16:11

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