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My D&D group is currently playing a campaign. It went smoothly for the first half. And then, by request, I allowed two of the current players' friends to join the campaign, all of whom have no prior experience in roleplaying game aside from what this player told them about D&D.

The few next sessions, one of them started to make me and few fellow players uncomfortable by describing explicit sexual actions. His reasoning was "because my character is chaotic evil" - even though I told him privately that one of the rules in our session zero agreement was that there would be no explicit sexual activity in this campaign.

I even took the initiative to redo the session zero so he can participate in it and so I could hear his reasoning and expectations. From my side, I explained the usual about the tone of the adventures, what I expected from players, and my restriction on "you can flirt with female NPCs to get information, and female PC can go for a little skinship if you want, but no explicit ones. Also no descriptive gore".

And from his side, he said he understood what I wanted, and as long as he can do what he expects his character to do (we did another private talk about how would he handle the story, what the "endgame" of his character is, and how does his character would die if necessary), he said that he would do his best to react accordingly. He said he doesn't mind the agreement, and wants the story to run smoothly and wants his character to have a great time.

But the very next day, he did the same thing I told him not to "because his character has nothing to do in the night before we do a long rest".

Is there any way to get around it, or should I give a possible "punishment" that have a lasting effect on his character? Or is it my fault as a DM for not being stern enough with the session zero rules?

I want to make kicking him out a last resort.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "wants his character to have a great time." ? Did you type that right? surey he must have said "wants to have a great time" or "want's everyone to have a great time.", if not then that is a really odd (and kinda worrying) point for him to be taking. Characters do not have fun, players do. \$\endgroup\$ – Lyndon White Feb 27 at 8:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ yes Lyndon, I did type that right. He did said that he want the good story for his character. But now that I think about it, making his character "having a great time" at the expense of others worries me... DocWeird, I realize it was a mistake on my part. I was convinced because he initially said about not turning against the party (which he does a good job so far) and read the situation to "surprise me at the end of his personal story arc". But I didn't see the constant description of inappropriate sexual jokes coming \$\endgroup\$ – Yoko Msps Feb 27 at 9:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note: Comments aren't for answers or extended discussions. If you want to respond, post it as answer. If you want to discuss, either discuss it in our chat room or have the moderators create a room for this question. \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Feb 27 at 10:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ [Related] How to stop players from making the game X-rated \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 27 at 17:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ Why would you allow him to be Chaotic Evil? I've never come across a game where the PCs could be CE (except in one "evil campaign" where that was the point) - It not only gives him licence to screw up the game, but almost mandates him to do so. Others might talk about "My Guy Syndrome" but if a PC is CE then you can't really expect him not to do Chaotic & Evil things. \$\endgroup\$ – colmde Feb 28 at 12:48
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It sounds like you've done a great job handling this thus far. You have talked to the players individually and in a group setting, collaboratively created a set of play guidelines, and made sure that expectations are clear. Good job! While these strategies tend to catch about 90% of interpersonal issues, it's clear that they aren't working in this case. I have a theory about why that may be. It's something that comes up fairly frequently with new players.

RPG Confusion, aka "Is This a Video Game?"

My suspicion is that your player is unaware of the differences between a collaborative storytelling game like 5e and an RPG video game (Assasin's Creed, Grand Theft Auto, etc.). In a video game, the creators have made the world and handed it to the players. They typically no longer have any direct control once the players enter the scene. They have pre-defined the type of interactions that are permitted and placed bounds as they wish. If the game makers allow you to kill NPCs through a variety of gory means, then that is clearly meant to be part of the game and no one will get upset with a player for playing that way. If the game allows you to sexually assault characters, steal from them, etc., then those things are a valid form of play, and everyone can expect that players are consenting to be exposed to that sort of content.

Story-telling games are great because they don't have the restrictions that video games have. You can, quite literally, "do anything you want." However, that freedom requires boundaries that the players have to set to make sure that everyone is having a good time. You're obviously familiar with this concept, but I think the issue with your player is that he doesn't comprehend the difference. He is used to being able to do whatever he wants as long as the game physically allows it.

How to Talk About The Issue

My recommendation is to have another 1-1 talk with him and cover some of the following points openly and honestly:

  1. He is preventing the other players from having a good time - This game is collaborative. The number zero rule is that a player cannot do anything that takes enjoyment away from anyone else at the table. His actions are violating this rule. Give a specific example of something he did or said that made someone else uncomfortable. (get their permission to use the example first)
  2. He is in charge of his character's actions and personality - Saying "but that's what my character would do!" is a cop-out. He is choosing to make his character an asshole. If he wants to play an asshole, that's fine (maybe). But he needs to do so in a way that doesn't violate rule number 0.
  3. You are happy to help him brainstorm in character actions - If he is having difficulty thinking of things to do that wouldn't break rule 0, he should ask for help! There are so many ways to be an asshole. Surely you or someone else at the table would have some ideas for more interesting things that a chaotic evil character can do.
  4. He is welcome to roll a new character - If he feels like it is just in his character's nature to rape and murder, then maybe that character should be caught and face justice and he should play as someone else who doesn't want those things.
  5. You want him to have a good time - What is he hoping to get out of playing this game? Probably fun time with friends? Maybe make new friends? Emphasize how playing within the group's rules will help him meet those goals. If his main goal in being there is having a power fantasy, then this just isn't the game for him.
  6. Video games vs co-op story-telling games - For another example of this, see the "Minecraft example" below.
  7. You want him there, but if it isn't going to work out, you may have to ask him to leave - be upfront with this possibility. Tell him that you are confident that he can be a positive influence on the group and that you're sure he has a lot to offer. Mention an example of something good that he did. An actually funny thing he said, a piece of creativity, etc. as evidence that you know he can contribute in a positive way. However, be clear that if his presence is making other people have less fun, he won't be able to keep playing. That would be a huge bummer for everyone since they'd lose out on him being there.
  8. Ask him to think about it and get back to you with any questions - Let him know that you are happy to talk more about it if he wants, but that the ball is in his court, and it's time for him to commit to having fun. Tell him you'll see him at the next session, and mention that you're excited to see how the party will (handle lots of enemies, get the secret from the minister, face the dragon, etc.). Leaving on an anticipatory note will encourage him to look forward to the future.

The Minecraft Example

I teach at a technology summer camp, and I often play a simplified version of 5E with my overnight campers (age 10-17). With the younger kids especially, they can have trouble keeping in mind appropriate behavior and understanding co-op games, just like your player. I talk about Minecraft to get them to start thinking about how to help other players have fun. You're welcome to use this directly (with maybe more adult language), port it into some other game, or ignore it.

Nearly everyone has played at least a little bit of Minecraft. It's a really great game. It's most fun when you can play with other people and build together or compete against each other. But playing together can require a lot of trust too. It opens up your world, a place that you've spent hours building and making just so, to people who could come in and destroy it.

We're doing just that. When we play a game like Dungeons and Dragons we are all creating a world together. Everyone contributes and has opinions about what the world is and what it should be. In Minecraft, when we play together, we establish ground rules to prevent anyone from destroying the things that someone else has built (like no TNT) or to set when destruction will be allowed (maybe you can kill someone if they agree to it). When we play this game, we do the same thing. When you hurt someone else's character without permission from them, when you act in ways that the group has agreed are not allowed, or when you ignore what other players want, you are no longer working as a team. Instead, you are destroying parts of the world that those players have built. And that makes the game less fun for everyone, even you.

His Response and Some Further Thoughts

I'm not sure how he will respond to your open discussion of the issue. While we hope that all adults know how to cooperate and how to take constructive feedback, it's not always universally true. There's a possibility that he might rage quit. There's a possibility that he might think about your words and make real change. Who knows. But if he gets angry when you tell him the truth, then you really didn't want him in the group.

In the best case scenario, he thinks about what you say, realizes that you're right, and changes his behavior. You will likely still have to remind him periodically or cut him off if he crosses a line, but that's okay. If he's trying, then you can work with him.

In future situations of this sort, it may be useful to consider not letting new players play characters who are chaotic or evil. I find that it just never seems to go well for their first game. I'm sure that some GMs don't have an issue with it, but I personally do so I just have that policy. As a note, I also never let a player play as a character that is inherently cruel. That's just not a character trait that I'm interested in exploring.

As you guide players through character creation, feel free to limit their ideas in these or other ways. In my experience, doing so will actually help push them to be even more creative and craft more interesting characters that are not simply stereotypes.

Good luck! I hope that everything works out!

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    \$\begingroup\$ also, Minecraft is roughly translatable to 5ft squares! (2x2 is 6.5 feet) \$\endgroup\$ – goodguy5 Mar 5 at 19:48
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No getting around it, and no need to work with in-game punishments. In-game punishments make the problem just another part of the game, and this is more serious than that.

You've got to be blunt here: you have an agreed code you expect players to follow. If the player starts hurting your game like this, you can and should inform them that they're no longer welcome to your game if the behavior doesn't change. In other words, an ultimatum. It's one of the more difficult parts of friendship giving this kind of feedback to someone you might like otherwise, but they just have no right to make others uncomfortable like this.

If they get defensive and point out that it's their character's personality, calmly remind them that they were aware and agreed to the rules in which case a Chaotic Evil character was probably a very bad idea (as it often is). You can always offer them to have a fresh start with a new character, or retcon their current one, if the player thinks their current character is a hindrance to playing by the agreed rules.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yep. Relevant: What is “my guy syndrome” and how do I handle it? He made the character - he can't use "this is what the character would do" as an excuse for how he chooses to play the character. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Feb 27 at 5:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ This whole situation reminds me of several of the geek social falacies, mainly "Friendship Is Transitive" and "Friends Do Everything Together". \$\endgroup\$ – Reinstate Monica Feb 27 at 8:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @YokoMsps - That sounds like an in-game punishment (taking his character away and making it an NPC) to me, but I could be misunderstanding you. Either way, in-game punishments do not solve out-of-game problems, which was the point of this answer. "Retconning his character" in this case means working with the player to develop a different personality, set of goals, etc. for the character, so that the player can continue to play it without also continuing to cause these problems. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Sherohman Feb 27 at 10:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ I find the comparison to a friendly sport-event helpful. Imagine you have a regular basketball game with friends - and a newcomer pulls down the pants of someone in the game to distract him and get the ball, or touches a player in a sensitive area. Of course this would be a foul in the game and the point is not awarded to his team - but the important part is not to bench him inside of the game rules, but to tell him he can search another group of friends if he does this again. \$\endgroup\$ – Falco Feb 27 at 12:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Important: For an example as serious as the question's, interrupt the person in the middle of their violation and do this on the spot. I don't know whether it would be better to do this at the table or put the game on pause and pull them aside, but don't let them finish and do it later. Deliver the ultimatum immediately, if for no other reason than to stop making people at the table uncomfortable at the moment. \$\endgroup\$ – jpmc26 Feb 27 at 23:00
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While @kviiri's answer is probably your best bet here, it's the nuclear option. There is a step you can take before going there, based on your description of the problem. You said:

one of them started [...] describing explicit sexual actions

You're the DM. You can, and have the authority to, put a stop to this by wielding your DM powers to fade to black and cut to a different scene. If the player starts narrating something that makes you or the other players uncomfortable, interrupt him with:

Okay, you're doing that. Meanwhile, over at the tavern...

And immediately move on with whatever's going on in the other area. Don't pause - make sure you have your narration ready, don't give the player a chance to interrupt. You will have to be very firm with the player as they're likely to do everything they can to get the scene back. Handle this by repeating, as many times as necessary:

That's happening off-screen. We're going to focus on what's happening in the tavern now.

The key here is the repetition. Remain polite but absolutely firm. Never give the player more description of his desired scene than "that's happening off-screen", and don't allow him to describe it himself.

This takes away any gratification the player gets from describing these graphic scenes, without you getting drawn into futile arguments about Session 0, or the player making empty promises to stop. Instead, you're training the player that there is nothing to be gained by trying to push this on the group. They don't get the pleasure of imagining these scenes out loud, they don't get pleasure from watching everyone else squirm, they don't get to be in the spotlight.

This tactic effectively counters the "my guy" argument by allowing the player to be the "my guy" guy, without allowing him to disrupt the rest of the group's fun. His guy is CE and likes to do twisted, depraved, graphic things? Fine, but it's always off-screen and never (allowed to be) described in detail. It's never given attention, it's never able to get detailed enough to upset everyone else.

If the player is a reasonable person, eventually they'll get the hint and stop trying. If not, they'll likely remove themselves from your game, which also solves the problem.

This tactic generally works best on people whose "my guy" syndrome (MGS) comes from a place of innocence, such as being too new/young to understand table etiquette. MGS players who are deliberately using MGS as an excuse to get away with bad behavior are less likely to respond to this tactic, and may even escalate their behavior in retaliation. If a player does escalate, then it's time to boot them. Your job as the DM is to make the game fun for everyone, and that includes the sometimes difficult task of kicking out a disruptive player.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Just wondering: have you tried this before with good results? I tend to mercilessly cut my-guy sufferers from my groups because I consider them inherently unreasonable after having had some bad experiences. If this is strategy has worked for others in the past, I might have to reevaluate. \$\endgroup\$ – DonFusili Feb 27 at 7:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DonFusili I agree, while this likely could work for some players, it feels like with others, this could quickly devolve into a running battle where the offending player now thinks it's part of the game to try and shoe-horn their bad behaviour into every scene, just to see how the DM will get out of it. \$\endgroup\$ – delinear Feb 27 at 12:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DonFusili I've had to do it a small handful of times, and was in a group where a DM had to do it once or twice. Each time, the "my guy" case was mild and the player got the message. I agree with delinear that this tactic has the risk of backfire, which is why I pointed to the other answer first, but wanted to put this out there since it is an option. \$\endgroup\$ – thatgirldm Feb 27 at 14:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've done this lots and it always works fine for me. You're missing an important part, though, which is telling the player 'no \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Feb 27 at 15:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ This will probably be a competition of assertiveness and will require some leadership skills from the master. But sounds good if one can pull it off. It might even turn "tavern" or "meanwhile over at the tavern" into a running joke. \$\endgroup\$ – Džuris Feb 27 at 15:33
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Welcome, Yoko Msps.

First, it is a personal declaration of principles for me that no one should be made to feel uncomfortable at my gaming table. This means, among other things, we're going to keep the tone of the game at a mutually acceptable level. I say this to make this point: I agree with your instincts here that something is wrong (due to your and the other players' discomfort) and that it needs to be fixed.

Second, I think you've gone at least an extra mile with this player: You've laid out your guidelines, you've backed up and re-run your guideline process to include him, you've gotten an agreement from him, and he's violated it again. These do not sound like minor infractions.

Third, his justifications are a pure "My Guy" defense, of a variant which just covers for anti-social behavior. If your instincts are to disregard that defense, those instincts are also good instincts.

But in my experience, punishing players almost never works. It mostly leads to an adversarial stance between the GM and player. Indeed, the bigger the infraction, the bigger the punishment tends/needs to be, but this just tends to deepen the adversarial positions. I can't easily recall a situation where a GM successfully broke another player's will, and I can't imagine it would be that satisfying anyway.

You could, I suppose, let the game world punish the character (rather than you directly punish the player) if the character is taking in-game actions that are criminal, anti-social, or otherwise questionable. But I have to be honest, this usually works on the first shot or it all goes sideways in my experience. Given that you've warned the guy already, I don't see this as having a high chance of success.

The only thing I can think of, if you really want to give this guy a second (or third) chance, is to let him ("let") make a new character that isn't so disturbing. At some point, though, you do have to prepare yourself to follow through on the last resort of booting the guy from your table.

Finally, to answer your question, no, I do not believe the fault is yours by lack of stern-ness. You shouldn't have to come across like a tank just to make a basic point about civility and table standards.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I wish I could upvote this answer more than once! \$\endgroup\$ – Greg Martin Feb 27 at 18:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ As usual, high quality answer from Novak Productions(LLC). \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 27 at 18:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Convincing my downvoter to rescind the downvote (or at least inform me why) would have the same effect! Why, downvoter, why? \$\endgroup\$ – Novak Feb 28 at 0:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 Downvoter negated even if unrepentant :-). \$\endgroup\$ – Russell McMahon Feb 28 at 13:44
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As the DM, you have a great deal of power over what happens in your game. One specific thing you can do is you can say: "no, that doesn't happen -- you can't do that in this game".

I use this for PvP. If one player character tries to attack another player character directly, I just tell them: "you can't do that, sorry, this isn't a PvP game." Not everyone loves being told this, but generally people will tolerate it and keep playing.

You might feel reluctant to do this because it feels like it's interfering with player agency -- shouldn't players be able to do anything they want with their characters? This is a legitimate concern, but I find it's the least painful way to get rid of bad behavior like the sort you're describing.


It sounds like you also have a more general problem, which is that your annoying players are friends-of-friends. You've written:

by request, I allowed two of the current players' friends to join the campaign

and now you feel awkward removing those two people because they're friends of your current players.

It seems like it might be worth having a conversation with your current players and saying: "hey, these new players aren't following the rules, do you definitely still want to have them in my game even though they're being disruptive?".

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