I'm a new GM and am having problems with a particular character in my campaign. The character is very impulsive. I really like the character and tried building the world around the way they play. I have made many different ways to get information and advance the plot, so the player has a lot of freedom but is still having troubles progressing the plot. For example, towards the end of a dungeon, the player encounters a room full of equipment and notes, but before I even finish describing the room they decided to burn all the notes without reading any. They killed off a sleeping character and then burned the body when they saw it wasn't the bad guy, they have picked up they should use perception and investigation checks for finding traps but seem to always forget that that can be used for story elements as well. I even have an in-game NPC that has all the answers to the quest who they know is known for knowing things and they used her for information, but they still don’t really think to ask questions or for descriptions.

I have had to change a lot to sort of guide them to where they need to go but since they are so impulsive it is difficult for me to create ways in a game that give them the import story elements they need. Does anyone have ideas on ways to add important plot information that still allows character freedom? I really do want this character to be able to do what fits within their character and their backstory and personality is heavily worked into the narrative, but I’m having a hard time with their unpredictability. I’m running out of ways to introduce story elements. I've tried giving hits and suggestions too, but it's at the point where it feels like I have to tell them the different ways from them to progress and constantly have to introduce new NPCs or force exposition on them cause they killed off someone to burnt something or don't bother looking around rooms.

I want them to be able to find solutions and play in character but the dungeons are starting to just be encounters and puzzles without story elements cause they get glossed over. Monologues and descriptions are interrupted. They sometimes cut off NPC's dialogues. I'm just at a loss on how to make sure they have what they need to progress the story line.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. What RPG system/edition are you playing? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Apr 20, 2019 at 8:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you really mean 'character', not 'player' on your first sentences? They are often used interchangeably, but usually we differentiate between character and player. I'm trying to make sure so we don't misunderstand your situation. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vylix
    Apr 20, 2019 at 10:05
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ It would be a good idea to add which game system you are using for your game, since some systems have specific mechanics for this. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 20, 2019 at 14:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ How many players/PCs are in this game, including the one you're talking about? \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Apr 20, 2019 at 18:42

3 Answers 3


There are, in my view, two main issues you’re dealing with which are quite similar to issues that have bothered me.

First one is steering them in a direction. I think you’ve done most of the hard work to put in the clues and different ways for them to get them. As a last resort and while not being the most elegant of solutions, I sometimes borrow the Idea Roll from Call of Cthulhu, which is a mechanic mostly used to explicitly give PCs clues and progress the story if they get stuck.

I will usually ask my players to roll intelligence (or whatever attribute or skill seems appropriate in the particular system) and drop them clues before allowing them to do something stupid.

In the “burn it all” example that you cite, if any of them pass the test I’ll simply lay it down plainly:

It occurs to you there may be some information in the notes and it would be a good idea to read through them instead of burning them.

I’ve played Call of Cthulhu with my players before so we all know how idea rolls work and what to expect, so that usually gets them going in the right direction.

On the other hand, the questions remains as to whether your players and yourself are playing the same type of campaign and whether you are all on the same page.

Have a look at the answers to this question, as they address the other problem I was worried about: how to prevent them from actively fighting against the plot (knowingly or unknowingly).


Generally speaking, you might have to check whether your expectations and those of your players actually match. For example by using the same page tool.

So find a way to express your dissatisfaction and ask whether your players have fun, and how you could find common grounds.

Now, about the particular problem you're describing, there's an easy fix. If they don't seem to be able/willing to look for clues, just give the clues away. This is pretty much what the Gumshoe system does and it works wonder (the players still have to make sense out of it). So instead of preparing clues, you prepare information that will be delivered in whatever form fits what the characters are doing. It also gives you some room to control the pacing if needed.


It sounds like you have a tricky player/character with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Telling a story with the kind of character you described can be difficult, but it sounds like you're pretty happy with the character and are just struggling with molding the setting.

For a character that's so chaotic, you should use their unpredictability as a storytelling element. It sounds like their playstyle is one where they care more about the consequences of their actions then the reasons/motivations. Instead of relying on them to uncover the way, have the way be a result of what they do. Examples: What if instead of a room of notes to be read, they are instead paper talismans keeping an archon trapped. Instead of sleeping beauty needing rescued, burning sleeping beauty causes the players to be haunted by a ghost who demands they appease her. Instead of a wise npc known for knowledge to look out for, have said npc chase them around for their misdemeanor, forcing them to escape through the cave in the woods dungeon. etc start the story with their action and make the focal points the responses to those.

It could take some time, but you can allow your player to do something consequential, then in a session or two (giving you time to plan your countermove) determine what the consequence is. They burn the castle in session 2, a week later when they're in town, the town is beset by demons coming from the castle they burned.

As for dungeons, if they aren't listening to descriptions, make them shorter and more frequent. If details are important to the mood make ignoring it hurt or slowly knead in details into the descriptions of their actions. Describe the floor based off their steps, the door after they hit it etc. Try still giving the full description, but if they stop you early, well them not hearing around the yellow mold on the ceiling because they interrupted you is the same as their character not looking right?

For dialogue, if it's really a problem, then you have ways to deal too. If you want them to hear the bad guys in the dungeon, just have it echo around as they do puzzles or explore. Maybe a disgruntled imp familiar is invisible in the air and hurling insults and exposition while they struggle in to undo the portcullis. For npcs have them react to being cutoff, have them become angry etc. Make the players have to coax the npcs to resume talking. Give them reason by responding to interruptions with statement like "I guess you didn't want to cure your curse after all".

Just some ideas to help out, for players with energy, just go with it and see where it takes you.

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    – V2Blast
    Apr 20, 2019 at 19:21

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