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I am a beginner to D&D. I chose to be chaotic neutral for the freedom of basically doing whatever I want. I was wondering if I was starting to be "that guy"... By that, I was hoping you know that people could tell me what counts as "that guy".

One example of a problematic incident was when I walked into a magic shop; the shopkeeper has no powers, and seems to be well fed and moderately wealthy. My character suggests tying him up and taking his stuff (including a bag of holding, the cause of all this). I want to let him go afterwards with about half his stuff. I was planning to blame it on the rising number of cultists who worship Tiamat and desperately need to arm themselves.

The other PCs are either lawful or good and are mostly okay with the actions, but the other players don't like my plan and seem irritable when I talk about it. They say they don't really think that that is the point of our campaign, so it really isn't a good decision.

How do I fix this issue with my group?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related on What is “my guy syndrome” and how do I handle it?. FYI, I'm not saying you are, but this is a good repository on what it means. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 20 at 17:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ At the same time, one of the other characters somehow comes up with the assembly line so I don't really feel like my actions are the worst in the party. It really just feels like its more violent than their actions so they are rejecting the idea a bit more. \$\endgroup\$ – NEWB Mar 20 at 17:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are the other players also beginners? How many players total, not including the DM? And what do you mean by this comment: one of the other characters somehow comes up with the assembly line so I don't really feel like my actions are the worst in the party I am not sure what that means, or is intended to contribute to your question. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 20 at 20:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. Are you playing the Hoard of the Dragon Queen campaign? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 21 at 2:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ From my reading of the question, I definitely see some disagreement about what you should do, but not really any tension. Are you just unclear about how to decide, as a group, what to do, or are there also problems with people feeling uncomfortable with other players (not just their characters) because of the in-game disagreements? \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Sherohman Mar 21 at 9:47
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Consider the tone of the game.

The first thing to do is make sure everyone is on board with the tone of the game. You said you wanted a character that could do whatever they wanted. Sometimes that is perfectly appropriate. IN a light-hearted game meant to have plenty of comedy it may be appropriate to do truly random things because they are funny, or silly, or just amusing. That can be great, as long as everyone is on the same page.

Similarly, in a "villainous" or "evil" game, deciding to rob a shop-keeper may be completely appropriate. If the entire group is not "villainous" or "evil" though such an action could be expected to create intra-party tension and should either be avoided or done in such a way as to avoid the conflict with the other players.

Consider the impacts of your actions on the group and the world.

In any game, you should consider the impact of your actions on your group. That is the main way you avoid being "that guy". That doesn't mean you avoid all intra-group disagreements. Intra-party conflict can be a story in itself. But it means you do things thoughtfully, keeping the impact of your actions on the group and the story in mind. Depending on your group dynamics, it may mean discussing possible ramifications out of character before you do something in character.

Also, in a game meant to be played seriously (not all are), consider the way the world will react. Robbing a shopkeeper that has enough connections and resources to hire a mage to use divination to help with the investigation may mean that your character is wanted, while a less well off shopkeeper might prove a far safer target. Again, this doesn't mean you necessarily need to avoid doing it. Sneaking in and robbing a target is a time-honored part of many RPGs for characters with certain moral persuasions. But it does mean that you need to plan for both the likely later consequences as well as the immediate security needed to accomplish the robbery. It also means you need to consider how that fallout could affect the larger team if they are not all of the same moral persuasion.

Consider the spotlight

Also, when considering the impact of your actions on your group, remember to consider how the spot-light is shared. One possible approach to resolving the particular problem described might be to handle the robbery as a solo operation or with a smaller sub-group. But if you do that during the main group's gaming time that means that, unless handled with enormous care, you will be taking most or all of the spot-light for an extended period. It isn't always wrong for one player to have the spot-light for even an extended period, but it needs to be balanced out in some way for the others and it should be handled with the impact on the others in mind.

Even if you convince the entire group to come, it still means that the focus of the game at least for a while is on your chosen side-quest rather than the main plot. If the others aren't particularly interested in that side-quest it still shifts the focus in a way they may not like. That could be part, possibly the main part, of why they get irritable when you fixate on the plan in question. For busy people, and everyone at least thinks they are busy, game time can be precious and even having it side-tracked in game can be annoying.

Don't let alignment be a straitjacket.

Remember that alignment is meant mostly to be a description and not a straitjacket, especially in later editions like 5e. A lawful good character may be able to justify stealing under extreme circumstances and a chaotic evil character may well find charitable actions appropriate under some circumstances. Alignment can be changed and even without formally changing it, it should not be viewed as something which constrains a character's particular choices in a moment.

This especially applies when you think playing out your alignment in a certain way will lessen the overall fun for the group.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I might also add something about the role of alignments with regard to deciding what is fun for the group (eg they shouldn't be important and such things often lead to My Guy problems) since OP seems to be fixated on that concept (And indeed it was actually the original focus of the Q before we changed it to something answerable) \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 20 at 18:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Don't let alignment be a straitjacket." Pretty much where the terms Lawful Stupid and Chaotic Stupid come from. Your character still has an INT score, so don't let your alignment make you do dumb things regardless of consequence. \$\endgroup\$ – Michael W. Mar 20 at 23:42
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Listen to your fellow players

Unless you all agreed ahead of the time that internal party strife, or PvP, is part of how your gaming group will enjoy this game, going out of your way to create internal conflict will detract from, not add to, the fun you all have at the table as a group of people playing a game.

You are the new player. You want to be chaotic neutral, disruptive, and do "anything you want." This is a symptom of My Guy Syndrome.

The other PCs are either lawful or good and are mostly ok with the actions but the other players don't like my plan and seem irritable when I talk about it. They say they don't really think that that is the point of our campaign so it really isn't a good decision.

That bolded part is a pretty good clue that something needs to change. You are, to put it bluntly, a fish out of water as both a player and a character.

So what do I do, Korvin?

First step is: be a better team player in a way that also progresses your character's in-character goals.

  • Alternate first step is to create a different character that isn't an "I do what a want and you all deal with the consequences" person in a party mostly full of people working as a team.

Second Step is: after your have all adventured together enough to get into Tier 2 play, you may find that some intra-party disputes/conflict is OK as a group, and fun. PvP can be fun. Work that out with your fellow players rather than dropping it on them as a fait accompli, which is what you are doing now.

The game's core assumption is that a party is a team

D&D 5e's tacit assumption is that (particularly at early levels) the party is working together during adventures. Tier 1 (levels 1-4) is even described as being undertaken by apprentice adventurers. (Basic Rules, p. 12)

In the first tier (levels 1–4), characters are effectively apprentice adventurers. They are learning the features that define them as members of particular classes, including the major choices that flavor their class features as they advance (such as a wizard’s Arcane Tradition or a fighter’s Martial Archetype). The threats they face are relatively minor, usually posing a danger to local farmsteads or villages. In the second tier (levels 5–10), characters come into their own ...

Bottom Line Recommendation

Be a better team player, at least until you are no longer a beginner. Work out a mutually agreeable phase of the campaign where more PvP style play is acceptable, or if it ever will be with this play group.

Optional recommendation

There are some other games, like Paranoia, that are explicitly Player versus Player. Maybe one night you can all take a break from D&D and play that game to have some PVP fun.

Why do I advise this as your course of action?

Because we play games to have fun, and creating player-on-player conflict in a cooperatively based games frequently wrecks the fun. I have even seen some friendships ruined IRL from friction created during a game.
Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, please do not let it happen to you.

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Be Careful with a "Do Whatever I Want" Character Dynamic.

On the one hand letting your character dictate everything you do is problematic and means potentially giving up all decision making as a player, which starts to become more an acting exercise than a game. However a character who acts with no personality beyond what the player feels like doing at the moment is hardly a character at all. There is a reason the whole inspiration mechanic was introduced to reward players who make a character-based decision that is suboptimal as a game choice: it makes for a more immersive and interesting game experience through good roleplaying, at least theoretically.

It may be that, due to an inconsistency of behavior, your group is finding your character underdeveloped and having trouble investing in him enough to accommodate his wishes, or just objecting to a somewhat "powergame"-ish move or a "murder hobo" playstyle. I am not trying to criticise or mischaracterize your playstyle (your fun is not wrong!), but simply draw attention to how it might not be meshing with this particular group.

If it is a matter of them just not liking this dynamic in your character there are ways you might be able to persuade them otherwise. You might try to make your character's audacious behavior as entertaining as possible, or make him a sympathetic person trying to do good but forever drawn to temptation. It may even be that playing up the "do whatever he wants" to the hilt will work for them just fine if you just provide compelling enough character reasons for why he thinks and acts the way he does.

You also seem to have a conception of a chaotic neutral alignment that many people, including perhaps your group, would find dubious. It is hard to argue that robbing and holding captive an innocent person for pure personal gain is not evil (if that is what you are doing). Although moral neutrality has a lot of leeway, a person who frequently does evil things is evil in many people's book whether they do good at other times or not. Reasonable minds vary wildly in how they think alignments should be defined and applied. This may be rubbing other players the wrong way or just not something they think their characters would reasonably participate in (even if they would tolerate you doing it solo).

The group might feel different about the plan if there is a greater good or at least some greater adventure purpose behind it (ie: "We need these health potions to survive our showdown with a legendary dragon!"). It sounds like there isn't, or they don't think there is. Bear in mind that there is a substantial risk of the group becoming wanted criminals if they pursue your plan, and although your "blame it on the cultists" scheme is clever (and fun!), it may well come down to passing a single deception roll, which is no guarantee of it working. Many DM's like to come up with complications for this sort of thing because it generates more adventure. This may be a simple matter of the risk v. reward not seeming worthwhile to them, in which case the best angle might be to figure out ways to eliminate (or at least persuade them that you have eliminated) the risk.

Once again I am not trying to suggest that you are playing "wrong" or that you can not have many rewarding experiences playing with this group even if they play a little different than you. Nor do I really know much of anything about you or your group and the social dynamics that actually have arisen therein in or out of game. But I do think you have to account for the possible issues above, which may strike with or without anyone realizing. You should talk with them about what is going on out of and/or in character to make whatever precisely is making you and possibly them unhappy with how things are going. You don't necessarily need to make a big deal about it, some groups need only a slight sharing of perspectives to come to a quick compromise.

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Your party needs a reason not to dump you for being more trouble than you're worth. By breaking group cohesion, you will become "That Guy." It's up to you whether or not you want to test their flexibility, because ultimately D&D is about everyone having fun.

This was the conclusion that my personal group made when we were discussing the drug abusing habits of our Dragonborn Druid in our current campaign. Our Dragonborn player, for whatever reason, really wanted to roleplay a drug addict that constantly needed her fix. This of course came at odds with NPC interaction, where the drug use, relapses, and other 'quirks' became a big pain point when the party was trying to get things done. The drug addict wanted to do drug addict things; the party wanted to go on quests and make allies.

Ultimately, we had to talk amongst ourselves and basically tell that player that the party needs a reason why they wouldn't kick this person to the curb immediately. Outside of IRL connection, there's no sane reason why a party would want to quest with her. And this is going to be a key point you're going to have to face.

Neither of you are in the wrong for what you enjoy, but it does need to be cleared up so that this does not become a point of contention. You must talk about it with the other players and come to some sort of agreement about gameplay desires.

If your fun is that at odds with the group, you will be better served by finding a new group, and they would be happier off as well. If this is not a possibility, you must consider adjusting your playstyle.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is an often overlooked point - why would the characters associate with that individual? This is especially true when you have lawful good characters and a chaotic evil character (which the OP is) - the LG characters should restrain the evil character and turn them over the to local lord for punishment, else they need to drop the pretense of being LG and accept that, as a party, they are all evil (neutral is a stretch as they are aiding their companion who is committing explicitly evil acts). \$\endgroup\$ – pluckedkiwi Mar 21 at 13:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Dump the player or dump his/her character? The "party needs a reason why" paragraph seems to be about character, the rest mostly about the player. \$\endgroup\$ – Benjamin Olson Mar 21 at 16:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BenjaminOlson It's referring to the character, and this is reflected in how we handled the situation with the Dragonborn character - we told the player that there's no reason why we would work with their nutjob of a character if she weren't our IRL friend. That being said, most of the post does refer to the player, since that is how we addressed the issue. We still love the player, but we had to reconcile that there was no reason why we would play with her character. This may not wash for OP's group - their bond may not be as tight-knit as ours; his group may dump him as a player. \$\endgroup\$ – Nicbobo Mar 21 at 16:46
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Take responsibility, apologize, and move forward collaboratively.

Recognize that the players make the decisions.

Role playing is essentially:

  1. The DM describes the environment.
  2. The player decides what to do.
  3. The player role plays that decision by describing what a character does.
  4. The DM narrates the results of their actions.

Each player is responsible for the decisions. The characters are just some text on a page that are a tool for role playing. Recognizing this helps avoid my guy syndrome

Apologize if you feel it's appropriate

It's no small feat to recognize when others are irritated or uncomfortable.

the other players don't like my plan and seem irritable when I talk about it. They say they don't really think that that is the point of our campaign so it really isn't a good decision.

A simple, honest, and straight-forward apology in the event misstepp (even without wrong doing) can make a big impact. E.g. "I'm sorry. I didn't read the room as well as I thought I had."

Collaborate and listen

Make decisions that are copacetic with the other players and characters. Allow your ideas and plans to be flexible.

Be tempered by your companions.

Have the character remark what their initial impulse is to do, but reflect that their party probably wouldn't like it. E.g. "My ol' uncle would 'ave jus' tied the plump hawker up an' taken the lot... but I guess we can not do that this time."

Maybe make the initial desire to do wrong and be reined in by the expressions of the other characters a running gag, or perhaps a chance for character growth. Likely, a time will crop up where the party will want to leverage the nature of the scoundrel character.

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Step one to solving this issue is figuring out the underlying reasons for it. Alignment is probably one of the worst mechanics in D&D just because it always leads to so much trouble. So lets start there and work our way up to your table.

Free Will 101

The first disconnect I see is in describing your character's alignment as "Do anything I want". The fact is, every character can do whatever they want already. That is literally the whole point of the game. All alignment can really tell you is how your character behaves in the broadest sense possible.

Law vs Chaos - Chaotic alignment does not mean you are a spaz that does any random thing that pops into your head. It means that your character believes personal freedom is more important than being constrained by a set of boundaries. Those boundaries can be personal beliefs (I will never steal), man-made laws (stealing is illegal), or divine mandate (my deity loathes thieves). Lawful characters are more likely to apply those rules to the situations they find themselves in, Chaotic characters are less likely. What actions a character takes is very broadly and generally affected, but it is not an absolute determinant.

Good vs Evil - The second axis for alignment is a lot harder to really nail down, since what constitutes Good or Evil in any situation is subjective (probably). But very broadly speaking being kind, generous, honorable, and peaceful can be considered Good. Being mean, greedy, dishonorable, or needlessly violent can be considered Evil. Again, it is all going to be super specific to the situation you find yourself in. Neutral characters do not feel strongly one way or another. This is the most important point to make as it applies to your character. Unfortunately it means you have to take an even closer look at every single situation to figure out how you would react.

You Are Probably CN (or close enough)

You, the actual person reading this and playing the game, are most likely to be True Neutral with maybe a bit of a lean towards one axis or the other. And that isn't a bad thing. I am sure that you think murder is wrong (Good v Evil) but also don't mind jaywalking or speeding on the highway on occasion (Law v Chaos). This means that you are close enough to your character as far as alignment goes that you can make an informed decision on how they feel in a given situation. Your character can have different motivations and driving forces, but from a pure alignment perspective you can go with your gut and be close enough.

In-Game Consequences

Alright, now that that large digression on alignment is over with lets look at your actual actions in game and why you would or wouldn't do something. The scenario you described was the party walking into a shop and you debating the merits of assaulting and robbing the shopowner.

Now, as previously explained, your character is free to make any choice they want to in any situation. So on the surface this plan is feasible. You are stronger than the shopkeeper and could use those nifty magical items. But lets look at why you might not want to do so.

Societal conflict - Assault and robbery are pretty big deals in a city, especially if the merchant is well known. So going with your plan has a chance of bringing the local police after you. You mention blaming the robbery on Tiamat cultists as a way of deflecting this. But I would suggest that its just as likely this backfires and your party gets branded as cultists. Now you are doubly in trouble with the law.

And even if all of that pans out there is still a chance for ripple effects making things harder in your future. Maybe other merchants close up shop or hide away their expensive (high quality) gear for fear of being robbed. Maybe the cultists step up their timeline because of the increased pressure on them. Every action has a consequence and you have to balance whether they are worth it in the long and short term.

Intra-party conflict - It sounds like the other PCs in your party are a little more uptight about doing Good and obeying the Law than your character. They are very obviously going to have an issue with this plan. In their eyes you are breaking several laws and harming an innocent merchant just because you are greedy and have the power to do so. That sounds a lot more like Law Evil behavior than Chaotic Good (even though PCs aren't strictly aware of alignment in those terms).

This is going to be fairly obvious to your character, so the question then becomes is it worth the hassle to upset other people in the party just to get a few shiny artifacts? Whatever reason you have to be in the party probably outweighs the short-term gain and would be a big factor in how you act in a situation.

Intra-player conflict - Finally we come to the big issue, the fact that what you want to do in game is causing friction with the other players. Balancing why a random assortment of PCs are working together is always a bit of chore. It becomes an active pain point when things like alignment and actions cause people to butt heads.

Players don't want to break up the game, so someone has to justify why their character would put up with another character that they feel they would normally never associate with. Eventually someone has to reach a compromise or the group as a whole is going to suffer. That compromise can be anything from finding a middle path everyone agrees with, a character sneaking off to do stuff offscreen, or someone grudgingly accepting an act and holding a grudge about it (hopefully in-game only).

Free Will 102

To bring it all home, you have just as much free will as your character. In other words you can make any choice you want in this situation, as long as you are willing to accept the consequences. It sounds like you understand that some of the in-game behavior is causing problems at the table (which is kind of rare) so here are a few suggestions on ways to progress.

  • Talk it out - This is the most important point. Tabletop games like D&D are collaborative experiences. So, talk to your group about what your character really wants and how you want to achieve that. "My guy is pretty greedy and is going to look for ways to make money. He also wants to stay in the party for X reason, so I will try to balance those two things."
  • Pick your battles - This is an extension of the first point. Sometimes you are going to want to do something and you are going to be in the minority at the table. Figure out how important that action is to you and then either accept it isn't worth it, or explain why it is important and continue to push for it. Robbing the shopkeeper in your case is probably in the first category.
  • Think about the long-term - A big point I make above is that your actions have consequences. You should not let that stop you from having fun in D&D, but you can use it to justify why your character doesn't do a thing which would cause problems with the other players. This way you can still get into character without it being an issue. "Normally I would seriously consider robbing this place blind out of principal. But I don't think Johnny Dogood would appreciate it, so I just quietly case the place instead".

TL;DR

Wow, this one kind of got away from me, size-wise. The super abbreviated version of all of the above is: Talk it out with the other players, and don't ever forget that the game is about everyone having fun. Doing whatever you want is selfish, and it is good of you to recognize that. It is just as true for you as a player as it is for your character. And just like your character you have the power and the incentive to choose less selfish actions in the short-term, if it means you get more benefits in long-term.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I might avoid the editorializing about alignment being " probably one of the worst mechanics in D&D", when your real point is simply the much more objective one that, whatever its merits, it causes a deeply problematic amount of confusion, debate, and conflict. There's plenty of people who love it. But that's a minor nitpick; +1 anyway. \$\endgroup\$ – Benjamin Olson Mar 21 at 16:10
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Just be honest with them and apologize if you think you're causing hard feelings. Tell them you were trying to role-play but took it too far and will try to be more considerate in the future. Even if they aren't truly offended they will appreciate your candor.

A rule of thumb I always follow and would suggest most players follow is to remember that getting along with players is more important than role-playing your character with 100% fidelity to what you think they would do.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 21 at 20:41
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Honestly, this is something your GM should have handled/headed off when everybody was creating characters by stipulating what classes/alignments are going to be allowed in the game. Most seasoned GMs know that having a thief/chaotic type in a group with lawful and good characters is never, ever, ever, ever, ever, going to work for the very reasons you describe.

"Talking it out" with the other players is not going to work. Consider re-rolling another character, or tweaking this one so that will fit in with the group norms.

Leaving the group and finding another one to play with is your other option if you really want to play this kind of character. (A "den-of-thieves" campaign can be fun if you don't mind dying a lot with a knife in your back)

Good luck!

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    \$\begingroup\$ Why are you so certain that "talking it out" won't work? \$\endgroup\$ – Benjamin Olson Mar 21 at 16:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 21 at 17:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Because I've been in situations like this at least half a dozen times over the past 35 years of playing RPGs. There is a fundamental problem here about party composition that cannot be resolved by talking it out. The group will never be happy with this kind of tension. In the "real" world, the group would, at a minimum, kick the guy out. Assuming they ever let him into the group to start with. Gaming groups never do this and instead will let stuff like this continue until everybody gets bored and frustrated and the game falls apart. \$\endgroup\$ – Gerald Mar 25 at 12:24

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