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Background

Myself and a group of 4 friends have started playing Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition. Everyone is a first time player and the DM is a first time DM.

Both myself and the DM watch D&D streams while the others, to my knowledge, don’t so we have slightly more knowledge on the mechanics of D&D and how to play it well in comparison to the others. We are playing Lost Mine of Phandelver.

Now our two troublesome players are a Tiefling Wizard (named Q) and a Shifter Rogue (named Ajax), the former of the two being the worst.
The problem with the pair of them is that they are constantly derailing the campaign and getting our party into trouble.

Ajax can be a bit of a pain in the ass, particularly when he’s drunk, but as I said before, Q is the main problem.

This is all after only two sessions.

Q problems

Q has and will:

  • Pickpockets both NPCs and PCs, particularly my character, a Bard Gnome, named Pickett. She is constantly trying to either take money from Pickett or is trying to steal a Jade Frog we found in the treasure cave of Cragmaw Hideout. She will try over and over again to pickpocket Pickett and she only stops when the DM tells her that its not going to work anymore or when another character hits her, which starts a fight.

  • She threatens to eat Pickett or Kite (a goblin we kidnapped and then adopted from Cragmaw Hideout). Because both of the characters are small and she is a tiefling, she threatens to attack and eat them if they start to annoy her. She has also contemplated eating a tavern owner and a tavern server as well as a merchant.

  • Pickett can’t play instruments in Q’s presence otherwise she threatens to break the instrument or break/consume something else so Pickett had to stop playing her accordion otherwise Q would drink all the ale in the provisions cart we were escorting.

  • She loves starting fights with Ajax. They are basically at each others throats all the time, and their fighting almost got us kicked out of an inn, that we were staying at, because she attacked Ajax with a ray of frost and sent him flying out of their room, down the stairs and onto the tavern floor below, (it was only thanks to an extremely high persuasion role by our half-elf druid that we were able to stay).

  • She basically doesn’t want to play the game.

Whenever we have to do something important plot-wise, e.g. go looking for our missing friend/employer, take provisions to a trader, clear out a band of goblins because an important NPC asked us to etc. she doesn’t want to do it. She didn’t want to look for our friend (you know, the entire plot of Lost Mine of Phandelver!!), she wanted to take the provisions or steal them once we handed them over, and she wanted to leave the band of goblins alone and move on. It is infuriating.

There is more (so much more) but you get the idea, she cares more about creating chaos than actually playing the game. And for myself and the DM, it is starting to become annoying.

Ajax

Ajax, is slightly better, but he makes really weird decisions that result in us all getting into trouble. And he also responds to all of Q’s prompts to fight.

Combined problems

The problems they both share are

  1. acting without thinking,
  2. acting without consulting the party (like at all),
  3. creating chaos for entertainment and also a fair bit of meta gaming, and
  4. failed attempts at fudging rolls (particularly on Q’s part).

This leaves both myself and the druid to clean up their messes. Pickett has been reduced to a healer who is constantly using up all her spell slots to heal Ajax, Q or some poor bystander who got injured while they were fighting. And our Druid has been reduced to a negotiator who convinced people not to imprison us or kick us out because of their actions.

My personal frustrations

I can’t even play my own character properly. Pickett was supposed to be happy and bubbly with the belief that life is beautiful and as someone who doesn’t get irritated easily. Instead she is jaded, irritable and just a very good actor towards non-party members. It is really upsetting me that I can’t even play her properly because I can’t keep up her persona when they keep messing around all the time.

It’s getting worse. They got worse in the second session, to a point that I am here asking other people what to do about them.


Myself and the DM are starting to become very irritated with them both because we are no longer enjoying the game, which is rather upsetting and we don’t know what to do.

We want them to stop, or at least tone it down so we can actually play the game but we don’t want to hurt their feelings because they are genuinely having fun with all of it. And as I said before they are my friends, two very close friends, and I would hate to taint our friendship because of a game, but it is starting to become unbearable.

Giving them the benefit of the doubt, they are both first time players who know very little about D&D and about tabletop RPGs in general. But the DM has corrected them several times that meta gaming is not allowed, that we are supposed to be a team and shouldn’t be mean to one another and that this is not an evil campaign, and yet they still continue.

What can I do to get them to stop? Or tone it down at least?

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    \$\begingroup\$ The tour is a good start on how an SE site works, as is the detailed guidance in the help center regarding how to ask questions (it's an art) and write answers (also an art). What are the ages of the people in your group, and what would the social consequences be of not inviting one of the two troublel players to the next session? I suspect it would not be trivial, but I think that a bit of perspective on the "healthiness" of the friendships/relationships in this case may be more helpful in getting an answer that you can use. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Dec 23 '18 at 1:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you to the people who edited my question for me, I'll make sure not to write it up on my phone next time. \$\endgroup\$ – JackOfAllShades Feb 12 at 21:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ You’re welcome to post a comment or comments with how the situation worked out, but that’s not part of a question so it’s been removed from the question post. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 12 at 22:44
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JackOfAllShades. I recognize you're new to the community and to the hobby-- welcome to both, and I'm sorry you're having a bad experience with the hobby.

Here is something that might be hard to hear, but I think I have to say it up front: through no fault of your own you might not be able to get what you need or want. There really isn't a proven way to make people stop acting like this. But there are some strategies that might help, or might get you to a point where you know this isn't going to work.

Several things leap out at me from the description of your problem:

1) Q's player "doesn't want to play the game."
2) Q the character resists or rejects plot.
3) Q (and Q's player?) have pronounced anti-social and bullying tendencies.
4) Ajax follows Q, as far as causing trouble goes.


I'm not sure if 1) and 2) are meant to be the same thing or not. Specifically, I'm not sure if "doesn't want to play the game," is meant in a literal fashion-- the player wants to do something else with their time, resents the activity and may be sabotaging it-- or is just another way of saying the they reject the plot.

If it's literal, this is a huge problem and I don't think it's solvable. You can't make someone enjoy something they don't enjoy.

If it's not literal, it might be a clash of play styles-- GMs and players fall at different points on the spectrum between wanting plots directed by the GM (which is what you seem to want) vs wanting plots directed by the players. At the best of times, these different play styles don't mesh very well if the players and/or GM have widely varying preferences. This is where something like a Session Zero can be very helpful.

But be mindful that both these position can get pathological. GMs who prefer too much of a GM-directed plot end up railroading, and players who reject plot too much end up causing chaos very much like what you describe.

3) is another red flag for me. It is not something I will tolerate in my games as a GM, and as a player it becomes a he-goes-or-I-go situation if it does not resolve quickly. There are a lot of justifications for this sort of behavior ("That's just what my guy would do!" "That's just how that player has fun!") but they all ring hollow to me after a point, because in the end it is domineering, bullying behavior by proxy.

No one's role at the table should be to provide a target for the emotional outbursts of another player or character. Sure, some times there will be moments of real story telling drama when two PCs find themselves on opposite sides of an important issue, but petty thievery, fight-picking and vandalism are not covered under that aegis.

4) makes it sound like Q/Q's player is the real focus. If not, they are probably the larger of the two problems, and solving that might cause the other problem to resolve on its own.


So with that said, what I would probably do is this:

First, talk to your GM privately. It sounds like you are on the same page, but it helps to be certain, when you are trying to provide a unified front. If there's a fifth non-problem player (you description makes it sound like this game is you plus four others) you should probably see where that person is, too.

Then, have something like a Session 0, as linked above... although it would be a retro-active one. And you will have several issues to cover.

One of them is somewhat open-ended: How do we get to a game we all want to play in, on that spectrum of plot-driven vs open-ended? This is the one I would probably lead with, since (unless the GM or a player is hard core to the point of dysfunction) there are many valid view points, and therefore there is room for constructive criticism and compromise.

The other, for me, would be non-negotiable: No more anti-social or bullying behavior directed at other PCs, and preferably not at NPCs without reason. It's just not fun. It's not fun to be the target, and it's not fun as a PC to be cleaning up after the results when NPCs are the target. I am thinking that a reasonable compromise on the first issue will make a harsher stance on this problem - unhealthy behavior - easier to swallow.

But here's the thing: as much as I wish I had a silver bullet to make people stop doing things like this, I don't. No one does. And if nothing works, only you can decide if the game is still worth your time.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think your answer needs a bit f a frame challenge: Bullying aside (I agree with you there 100%) Q's antics are not 'a problem', but are specifically a problem for the OP. For example, one could just as easily take the position that the OP's insistence on railroaded narrative/avoiding sandbox-based play are a problem. I feel your answer would be improved by speaking to the expectations of all players, without privileging some kinds of expectations as the right ones to have. \$\endgroup\$ – Lexible Dec 25 '18 at 17:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Lexible with respect, that information is already in the answer as written: In the analysis, where I mention clash of play styles and railroading outright; and in the advice section where the first suggested issue of the Session 0 is, "How do we get to a game we all want to play in?" which is itself explicitly suggested first because it is the easier conversation with more give-and-take and less in the way of a right-wrong dichotomy. It's not obvious to me what more you want to see as an improvement. \$\endgroup\$ – Novak Dec 25 '18 at 18:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for the response. It's the opening few paragraphs with your list of problems that leap out to me: they presume Q's interests are the problem, and the OP's are not . I think a 'same page' type approach respects that all players interests are worthwhile (caveat: bullying a no go), even if those interests do not align. \$\endgroup\$ – Lexible Dec 26 '18 at 0:08
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Before you begin play next session, you need a Session "0"

You all appear to be playing the game with different expectations.

  1. The "Q" player needs to be told honestly and politely that what she's doing is making the game not fun for you. That player may be a bully, immature, selfish (not caring about other peoples' fun), or engaging in My Guy Syndrome.

  2. Your DM and you need to review your own expectations about 'playing properly' based on watching streams. Since you are all new to the game, it is natural to ask "how do we do this?" and try to have the answer ahead of time. The use of youtube / streams as a learning method has grown over the years. When using this resource, it is important to remember that the people on streams are not your group at your game table (and some of them are trying to make money out of this ...)

    • Here's a thought for you: I began playing D&D back in the 1970's and didn't need a stream to tell me how to play; none of our group did, and of course there weren't any streams then, although there was electricity. :-) We figured it out as we went along. I suggest that you and your group do likewise. It can be a lot of fun, that learning the game together approach.


Since you are all new to the game (or the edition) it is important to remember that the core conceit of the game is that a group of adventurers, each with different skills and talents, work together as a team to overcome challenges, monsters, and setbacks. The player-versus-player(PvP) mode is a viable one once everyone is comfortable with how the game works in its less complicated mode, but PvP as a style requires buy-in from all of the players to be successful. I've seen games (and a few times, RL friendships) break up when this kind of consensus is not reached as a group. Share this insight with your group.

Group Dynamics, Social Dynamics

Each RPG group will find its own balance point for how each person contributes to the game. All of you at the table need to talk about what you want out of the game, and you need to honestly share what you like, and what don't like, about how the first two sessions went. Each of you (all five) need to have a chance to be heard.

It might be that with this group of friends, you need to have fun together in a different way than playing an RPG, or even this RPG. If your friendship is more important than that game, then make sure you leave the following option open as an answer to your problem: we'll do stuff together that isn't an RPG, or this RPG.

Also leave open the option that when the next game session is arranged, Q isn't invited. That's an option that has social risks, given your friendship / relationship as described, but it is a way to deal with a dysfunctional gaming group. That takes us back to: "What is more important, the people or the game?"

Before the next session, have a frank and open discussion about how you all like to have fun. Right now, each of you is approaching the game differently, and there is no reasonable expectation of a change unless you all do something differently. There is no point in being upset or miserable in your spare time, your fun time. Bad gaming is not better than no gaming.

Step 1: talk to each other and come to a consensus on how you, as a group, have fun.

The steps after that are all contingent upon how step 1 goes.

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Basically there are four possible outcomes:

  • They change their behavior to your satisfaction
  • They don't change, and you find a way to live with it
  • You stop playing this game with these people
  • You all find a compromise where everyone changes a bit

Your question implies that the first outcome is the most desirable, and perhaps the only acceptable one. This seems predicated on the idea that you and the DM know the right way to play the game, and these other players are doing it wrong.

I think a better viewpoint is that these players are having fun by doing things differently than you expect. If they simply change to match your expectations, they may stop having fun. So then you'd have the opposite situation, where you are getting what you want, but they no longer are.

I think that if you want to continue playing with these people, and you want everyone to have fun, you need to look for ways to compromise. To do this, you need to actually talk with them. Ask them to explain why they enjoy this way of playing. Explain to them what you would enjoy more. Discuss if there is a way for all of you to get some of what you want.

Of course, this is easy to say but may be hard to do. You may not be able to come up with a workable compromise. But I think it would be better to have that discussion, and decide that playing this game isn't a good way for you all to have fun together, rather than to keep trying to force the issue.

Side note: You mention "metagaming" as part of the problem. From the details you present, I'm not sure why. But I think this term is meaningless as a critique, and you need to focus on the specific behavior and why you think it is a problem.

We metagame all the time, and gaming is actually impossible without it. Telling the players that they "are supposed to be a team and shouldn’t be mean to one another" -- that's metagaming, isn't it? Establishing rules for the characters' behavior based on the players' perspective?

And this:

She didn’t want to look for our friend (you know, the entire plot of Lost Mine of Phandelver!!)

What could be more metagaming than expecting a player to make decisions based on "the plot"?

The point is not that you are a naughty metagamer. It is that the term is overused and misunderstood.

In fact, metagaming is exactly what you want these players to do. You want the players to adjust their character's behavior to be more compatible with your goals. And I agree with you - I don't (normally) want to play in a group where the other characters aren't interested in cooperating with mine. This is normally part of the metagame agreement we make as players - the PCs will generally work together and not make life difficult for each other, at least without a specific reason.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That's a core conceit of this edition of the game, particularly for beginning players. "are supposed to be a team and shouldn’t be mean to one another" ... but this is still a good answer. The question is, did your answer offer the tools and techniques that will help them solve their problem, or, did it challenge the frame of the question? (Which is valid, and is what this answer looks like once I read it a second time). \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Dec 23 '18 at 1:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast thanks, and I agree that is not only a core conceit but a good one. I'm just saying, that in itself is a "meta game" statement, which is evidence that "metagaming" is not and cannot always be bad. (Angry GM helped me understand -- theangrygm.com/respect-the-metagame/.) \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Costa Dec 23 '18 at 1:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ We are in agreement and I was wondering if you had any other concrete action steps to solve the problem. If not, no worries. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Dec 23 '18 at 1:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Strange that you do not include "You change your behavior to their satisfaction." \$\endgroup\$ – Lexible Dec 25 '18 at 17:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Lexible - the question didn't indicate that the "problem" players are dissatisfied. "They don't change, and you find a way to live with it" seems to me to encompass the option you suggest. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Costa Dec 26 '18 at 13:48
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Here's the rough question:

Consider whether your dear friends feel the same way about you. If they care for you as much as you care for them, then they would tone it down and help you have fun. If they would ignore your concerns and create drama if you speak with them about why you're not having fun, then maybe one or both of those friendships are not truly a reciprocal two-way street. If that's the case, then your problem extends a lot deeper than a game. You might take a version of this question to the Interpersonal stack exchange.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is not actually providing an actionable solution to the question, emphasis on actionable. What course(s) of action do you recommend this person take? \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 24 '18 at 21:46

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