I want to start this by saying that I am very new to D&D as a whole. This is my first campaign and I am playing a Lizardfolk paladin (it works in this story); the problem player is playing a gnome or halfling bard (don't remember).

I think my biggest issue with him is that for example when we fought a Horned Devil, he was saying that we killed the devil because he had looked up the stats and counted the damage - even though the DM said the devil was still alive.

A different time, we were fighting hill giants in a castle and the giants were in a big hall. When we had killed 2 giants and the last 1 was running away, the Bard was arguing that the giant's movement speed should be halved since it was a gargantuan creature moving through a small space. This is one of many examples where he brings up rules when it is an advantage to him.

In general, I also feel like he metagames a lot. We had to charge up a teleportation circle with life force, and he immediately asks who has the most health instead of who would be willing to do it (my character would not agree to help). I have already talked to the DM, and he said he had already talked to the Bard.

My questions:

  1. Am I overreacting? I am new to D&D, and maybe this is not a big deal.
  2. If it is a problem, what should I do during the session when this happens?
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi, and Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour when you get a change to find out how things work. No problems about the grammar and and spelling, I've fixed that up for you (in fact, I don't think there were any spelling errors at all). I've also added the problem-players tag, since I'd say the Bard you're describing sounds like a problem player to me. Have fun and hope you enjoy the site! \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Sep 19, 2018 at 13:29

6 Answers 6


Are you overreacting? Yes and no.

Keep in mind that while all of you are at the same table, you are not all playing the same game. It sounds like you are a story player. All you care about is the narrative flow of the story, and what your character should logically do in that situation. Your "Problem player" is an achievement player (usually called rule lawyers, as they are more focused on the game mechanics than the narrative). He is trying to "win" at everything, and to fail when the mechanics are in their favor is like being killed by an enemy in a video game only because your hitbox is larger than your visible character. (AKA, it feels like being cheated)

How much you enjoy the game will depend on how much you can tolerate this other player playing a different game from you, so the more you tolerate it, the more you will have fun. At the same time, this behavior is disruptive and should be kept to a minimum. After all, he is not the only player, and it is important that EVERYONE have fun.

In the case about asking about HP; You are thinking "narrative, who is willing to do this?" He is thinking "Who can take this hit with the smallest chance of getting killed later because of it?" This is ok. You can mix meta-knowledge with in game decisions as long as you keep the game moving.

To flip this around, assume that a powerful entity makes you an offer you can't refuse (you can, but in character, you wouldn't want to); and as part of the deal, you have to kill the bard. So you murder the bard in his sleep. To the bard player, you are the problem player because you did "What your character would do" over what is fun for the rest of the players. (This is a bit contrived, but hopefully it illustrates what I mean about how playing in any way other than "lets all have fun" can be problematic behavior. Meta-gaming isn't the problem, it is just the form the problem has taken)

As for what you can do about it...

1) Ask yourself what the problem is.

Telling the DM that another player is meta-gaming isn't going to solve anything. The DM knows this, and everyone is doing it to some degree. If you want to fix the problem, first you need to determine why you are upset about the behavior. What part of it is making the game not fun for you? (In this common clash, it is usually because the meta-gaming slows the progression down, followed by breaking immersion by characters acting on things they don't know about)

2) Come up with solutions

The best way to get results is to suggest measurable/actionable changes that will allow all parties to still have fun. The less that actually needs to change, usually the better. You will almost inevitably need to compromise on this, but this gives you something solid to start negotiating on.

For example, you could suggest that the player can only challenge the DM x times per session/hour, or for so many minutes per hour.

3) Talk to the DM and Player

I suggest talking to the DM first, because they can help you though steps 1 and 2, and help you craft your argument for 3 to the player. The DM wants everyone to have fun, so feel free to talk to them. Let them know what you enjoyed, and what you aren't enjoying. (I recommend starting with what you are enjoying to the DM, because he is a faulty human. If you only tell him when you aren't having fun, he will think you are never having fun. Or at least doubt how much fun you are having. DMs like to be appreciated too!)

When talking to the player, don't make it immediately about them. Putting them on the defensive will make them dig in to defend themselves. Start with why YOU aren't having fun. The player can defend his own antics, but he can't refute how you personally feel when nothing progresses narratively for 30 minutes. This is where talking to the DM first shines. You want to be clear about why you aren't having fun, and work with that player to remedy it without directly attacking him. (easier said then done, but with practice comes mind control... I mean persuasion)

4a) Assuming 3 went well, and the other player actually cares how you feel

Don't let it happen in game. Telling the other player not to argue mechanics is like telling someone to stop cursing. It's habit, and the only way to break it is to address it while it is happening. If you address is after, it will have an extremely diluted effect, especially as more time passes. In general, give them 5 minutes to debate, than remind them that the story must go on! Hopefully over time the behavior will improve.

4b) Assuming 3 didn't go well, or the player is a jerk

If a player is toxic, and won't (at least try to) correct themselves, it is better to boot them from the group, than to deprive the rest of the players of their fun. Usually this should be agreed upon by everyone in the group beforehand, but sometimes this is the only feasible solution to problematic players.

0) Make sure everyone, including you, is having fun

At the end of it all, everyone is there to have fun. Everyone can be the problem player to a degree from time to time. Try to understand what others enjoy of the game so that you can help them enjoy it. And share what you enjoy so that they can help foster those elements. Forgive your fellow players every now and then, just as you will sometimes need to ask forgiveness from them. This isn't about you, or him, or the DM. It's about all of you coming together to have fun, so remember to foster that.

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    \$\begingroup\$ By "rule layers" did you mean "rule lawyers"? \$\endgroup\$
    – Laurel
    Sep 20, 2018 at 1:07
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Laurel Looks like my keyboard stole a 'w'. Thanks for the catch X3 \$\endgroup\$
    – Tezra
    Sep 20, 2018 at 12:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's sometimes a case of phrasing rather than play style. The bit about "who has the most hp?" could also be said: "Forsooth and withal, whom among ye, trusty comrades, is the doughtiest, indeed, the most hale, that yonder eldritch signs, supping upon thy very vitality, wouldst trouble ye the least?" \$\endgroup\$
    – tex
    Sep 20, 2018 at 17:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @tex Talking in vs out of character, is itself part of play-style. (Just like keyboard vs game-pad) Sometimes talking in character is cumbersome/indirect. In this case, asking "who has the most HP?" out of character is quick and to the point. Talking/thinking out of character is more productive sometime. For example, when solving puzzle rooms. It depends on your group and what you all enjoy. If you prefer the banter, in character always is better, if you prefer the story, resolving things quickly out of character is better. Again, the point is "is everyone having fun?" The rest is just fluff. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tezra
    Sep 20, 2018 at 17:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Speaking in bad archaic english doesn't equal roleplay any more than picking your most damaging spell equals rules lawyering. \$\endgroup\$
    – user47897
    Oct 12, 2018 at 20:37

Talking to your DM was a wise move

So, from what you're describing, this player of the gnome/halfling Bard character is showing some disruptive behaviours. Looking up stats and arguing with the DM over them is metagaming and is not friendly to the narrative, especially since the DM is free to tweak the stats of any monster they include anyway, and the Bard player might have misremembered damage dealt or forgotten about resistance or something. Regardless, this behaviour also implies to the DM that they are making mistakes, which I would find quite insulting if I were the DM.

It sounds like you've already done the best thing you can by raising your concerns with the DM. Since it sounds like this behaviour is affecting the DM as well as you, hopefully the DM will be as invested in you as resolving this problem, so hopefully your DM should find a way to resolve this with the problem player.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Oxtrooo I'm glad you like my answer, but usually it's best to wait a bit longer (people here tend to wait about a day) to accept answers, since questions with accepted answers tend to discourage others from adding their own answers, and someone might come along with an answer you like more than mine (or at least, different insights that might be useful in addition to what I've said, even if you end up accepting my answer again anyway). \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Sep 19, 2018 at 14:34

The key word here seems to be "arguing". There is nothing wrong with pointing something out to a DM or asking whether a rule applies, but after having done that, it is up to the DM to decide. The DM is not perfect and may not remember every rule or active spell. However, if a player is arguing with the DM, that's an issue - but one that can be fixed.

It is simple to pull a player aside and discuss behavior. The player may not realize this is inappropriate. However, it would be better that the DM do this than you, although there is no harm with saying something if they start arguing with the DM in the middle of a session.

Asking who has the most HP is not really an issue. It could be better if the player framed it differently (e.g. "who's the toughest in the group?") instead. It is not unbelievable that the characters would know a barbarian has a better chance of surviving an injury than the sorcerer. As long as it is a discussion and not an order, it is not a big deal.

The example of arguing that a monster should be dead is a much more glaring example of metagaming. And worse, it is metagaming that does nothing but detract from everyone's enjoyment. The DM has access to information the character does not; you can't know if a creature had a spell cast on it, or possessed a variant ability, a god's blessing, or a just a hearty meal. Every monster of the same type is not the same. Each creature is unique, especially when dealing with intelligent ones like devils.

Honestly the best thing a DM could do with such a statement in the moment is smile say, "Yeah, that's weird isn't it?", and keep going. This seems like a player who does not understand the difference between a narrative-driven game and a mechanic driven game. D&D is not a video game; stats and mechanics are just rough approximations of what is occurring. With something like this, it may be beneficial to, as a group, tell the player that it's not OK, and that they are ruining your fun by constantly dragging you all out of your immersion. It might even be worth asking if they even want to play the same narrative type of game that everyone else is playing.

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    \$\begingroup\$ On your second point, I think playing history is relevant. I tend to avoid metagaming to the best of my ability, but I may ask who has the most HP as shorthand because the barb or fighter are most likely to have it opposed to my squishy magic user. On the other hand, someone who consistently metagames is asking this then it's just another example of metagaming imo. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 19, 2018 at 17:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ On the HP point, I think it is worth noting that there are a lot of things your character knows, that you the player don't. Like who in the group is toughest or most sociable. It doesn't make sense to talk about it in character, because everyone's character should already know the answer, because they have been together days/months/years already. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tezra
    Sep 20, 2018 at 19:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Don't signal your edits in text. Your answer should stand as if it were always the best version of itself. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Sep 22, 2018 at 6:25

This is not a metagaming problem

This is a rules lawyer problem from a rules lawyer who doesn't know the rules as well as he thinks he does. Not only should the DM call him on it, but all of the players at the table need to be encouraged to ask this player to stop being a detriment to fun.

Rules lawyers thrive when good players do nothing.

I dislike “Rules Lawyers” intensely. I regard them as the enemy.
~ Dave Arneson, co-founder of D&D (and thus of role playing games as a hobby)

You, as a player, do not have to put up with this. But you do need to speak up (be polite, but be firm).

Don't dump this all on the DM. You are all there to have fun, DM and players alike. This is a case where having your DM's back is a necessary thing.

How do I know this?

Bitter experience. When all of the players used peer pressure to get a rule lawyer to back off, it was very effective. When it was only on the DM, it then often became a running source of discontent that did damage to the whole table's fun. I started seeing this dynamic in 1977, and on varying occasions since.

You do not have to put up with this as a player. It really helps if you stand up and be counted. The other players, and the DM, will appreciate it.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This is not a rules lawyer problem, this is a toxic player problem. There is nothing wrong with playing a game differently from what the creator intended (that is why there are variants and home-brew). The problem is when a player takes any antic to the point of denying others fun. I think it's important to emphasis that any behavior can become toxic. This is why group talk/cooperation is important. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tezra
    Sep 20, 2018 at 19:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Tezra Interesting distinction. I see habitual the rules lawyer as a subset of toxic player, of which there are many varieties. Thanks for making that point. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 22, 2018 at 14:20

Any tabletop game requires that the players and the referee all have a roughly equivalent understanding of what's in the scene.

We use several kinds of tools to achieve that: Rule sets that determine which object gets to behave in what manner and when. Statistics that let us compare relative qualities of different creatures and items, etc.

When the GM says you peer into the clearing ahead and see two giants, does he mean 8 feet tall? 10 feet? 100 feet? Monsters have standard descriptions so that the game doesn't get bogged down detailing everything about everything you run into. He can just give a name and you'll instantly have a picture, a description, and a rough physical and mental comparison with other creatures so you can frame the scene accurately in your mind. Whether the character necessarily gets to know all that information or not depends on the game and how well they do on their monster lore roll, but whether he knows or not everyone is picturing close enough to the same scene that the game can progress.

Nothing is perfect though and the scene in your DM's head is going to occasionally differ from the one in yours, and yours may differ from what other players are envisioning.

Different people also react to noticing these discrepancies in different ways depending largely on what they're getting out of playing the game. (Story driven, victory driven, I've even played with one fellow who's primary motivation was causing as much chaos and confusion among everyone else as possible and loved surprise twists for their own sake.)

From the situations you've described, your DM seems to be throwing in some non-standard monsters. That's fine. It can get kind of dull if everything you encounter are all carbon-copies of each other. But for the sake of keeping everyone's scenes in-sync, the players need to know that such variations are going to happen and should be allowed some kind of opportunity to notice the differences. Depending on how good the character is at appraising opponents the result could range from a subtle hint (This horned devil looks tougher than the ones you've seen in the past) to giving out the revised stat block. Once your problem player knows that there might well be a nilbog hiding amongst the goblins and that such things are to be expected in this particular game, he'll either be ok with it and stop arguing about the details of monster attributes, or he'll find a different game to play.

The same goes for movement rules, etc. Nobody's perfect and it's easy to forget details of the rule set that don't come up often. There's nothing wrong with pointing out a possible discrepancy to the GM because knowing how the rules are going to be interpreted is fundamental to keeping the scene everyone is drawing in their heads consistent. Players who are highly motivated by "winning" the scene may get extremely agitated upon noticing a rules discrepancy if it disrupts their strategy, as will players who are just generally meticulous about the mental image they are creating. The key is to resolve it with a minimum of disruption to the fun parts of the game. How you do that depends on the setting and tone of the game. In D&D you might take a quick flip through the rule book to see what the canonical method is. In Paranoia it's against the rules for the players to know the rules and their characters will be punished accordingly. There are lots of methods in between that work fine too as long as they let everyone get back to having an equivalent understanding of what's going on without taking up half the session. If the GM is consistently using surprise exceptions to the rules and only one player has a problem with that, then that's something they'll have to iron out between themselves with regard to the kind of game being run and what expectations should be and the only thing you can do is point out that it's detracting from the experience of the other players and could they please hash out how they're going to handle it between sessions. If it's just an occasional dispute about the rules that's settled quickly, that's normal, don't worry about it.

Finally with regard to talking about hitpoints and such, that's not really metagaming, that's just a matter of how far "in character" the player likes to get. Yes, characters in most campaigns are not explicitly aware that they have "18 strength and 62 HP". But that doesn't mean that they're entirely ignorant of their own attributes and how those attributes stack up compared to other characters and various challenges.

The in character question would be "Which of us is the toughest?" Ok, so the characters have been around each other for a while and probably have a pretty good idea of who's the strongest, or toughest, or smartest both in comparison to the group and to creatures in the world at large just like you probably do in the real world looking around the table at your fellow players.

But how do you figure out what the result of that in-game mutual assessment is going to be? Well, you're going to have to compare the characters' attributes, which means asking who has the most HP. For roleplaying reasons you might even want to figure that out before the in-character discussion takes place as that knowledge will be crucial to determining what suggestion your character would be likely to make. If you want to go for extreme realism, then you all hand your relevant numbers to the DM who fuzzes them a bit for each player depending on their character's skill at assessing people and passes them out secretly and let the in-character discussion ensue, but that's a lot of extra effort that doesn't really add anything to the game unless there's going to be intra-party conflict and people want/need to keep secrets from each other. (evil campaigns are particularly notorious for this kind of thing being necessary.)

Also metagaming isn't inherently bad. Metagaming is why the party trusts the wanderer who mysteriously shows up in the middle of nowhere at the entrance to the BBEG's super-secret lair shortly after they lose a member instead of the much more realistic reaction of assuming the wanderer is an agent of the enemy and splitting his skull. Metagaming can shape the story for good or ill and there's nothing wrong with using it to keep everyone on the same page in cooperative games. It's competitive or semi-competitive games where you need to look out for it because bringing the conflict in the game out into the real world is a good way to ruin relationships.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 just for the reminder that metagaming itself is not bad, its what you do with it. \$\endgroup\$
    – John
    Sep 24, 2018 at 2:35

I Have had players that try to win at any cost, however they often failed. My advice would be to speak to the DM and maybe try and make them tell the players that the game is in a slightly different world to what is in the book and sometimes things are different.

Hope this helps, Lorian


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