I am a player in a group of 5 +1 dm. Three of them are wonderful, as well as the DM. They role play, provide commentary, and are great sports when it comes to the game.

The last two are a bit more problematic. They don't seem to know how good the game is when you actually act, rather than simply stating "I.. [generic action]" followed by an immediate die roll without prompt from the DM. Allow me to clarify.

The first one is energized, and is the kind of person that is always everything everywhere just because. Normally I don't have a problem with those who won't stop talking, but he will not stop cracking inappropriate jokes (usually on the subjects of porn and the like), even after every player collectively has told him it's an issue. Simply put; one who does not take the game seriously, and is rather crude.

The second one is a phone-looker. The ONLY time that he looks away from his phone is when it's his turn in combat. I'm not embellishing at all, most of the time, he's not even at the table. I talked to the DM and he agrees it's a problem, but the DM is far too shy and frankly a big pushover to speak up.

With the two types of players above, how do I, as a player, NOT a DM, shape them up to enjoy the game more via more serious participation? Please note I'm not looking for suggestions to give to my DM, but rather actions that I as a player can take initiative on. Answers involving both me and the DM are applicable, but they should hinge on an integral part by the player.

For reference, we're running Dungeon of the Mad Mage in D&D 5e.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch the dm agrees the players are both problematic, and he'd prefer more role play, but has no plan. \$\endgroup\$
    – tuskiomi
    Commented Jun 21, 2019 at 17:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jun 21, 2019 at 17:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related questions on How to get the players to care and RP more and How to introduce and encourage role playing in non-roleplayers. I do not think these are duplicates as those are for a DM addressing the issue and this question is generated by another player at the table. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jun 21, 2019 at 17:22
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Is this about encouraging rp or stopping bad behaviour? They both likely have different causes and solutions. Also trying to impose your own version of fun isn't always a good idea, but stopping bad behaviour always is. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Commented Jun 21, 2019 at 18:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Additional questions; do you know any of these people outside of the table? Are there any social groups around the table that you are not part of? \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Commented Jun 21, 2019 at 20:35

6 Answers 6


Leading by Example.

Usually, I'm the GM at the table, but sometimes I'm a player, most often at conventions when I don't organise or am invited as a local GM.

I try to lead by showcasing my enjoyment of roleplaying. Sometimes this works other times it doesn't. It tends to work at tables that are laid-back, and at tables that have young enthusiastic players who are eager to learn and who are easily affected by my positive attitude.

I try to show that you can find solutions to problems by roleplaying instead of purely utilising mechanics and if it is in-line with that GM's table, then they allow for that kind of play. They will see that roleplay is rewarded and that often is enough motivation for them to also seek that reward by roleplaying.

Talk about how much fun you have with your roleplay during breaks and finally respect that if there aren't interested in a lot of roleplay that it is a two-fold choice.

First, it is their choice and agency, and second, it is the table's obligation to set the framework. You are one player of that table, and you can address issues and encourage to have a new (or first) Session 0.

Establish a framework in a Session 0.

A framework will establish what kind of game you want to play. It will set guidelines, expectations, atmosphere and mood. You want to be on the same page with your group, and you care for roleplaying. Grab the initiative to pursue your goals, and confirm whether they are common goals for your table.

If you are the one who initiates the topic, then you will set the initial tone. So show your friends that you want to be on the same page to get a better experience overall. View my link that is meant for your GM and see the checklist about what to discuss during a Session 0.

If you have a framework that out-rules jokes about sensitive topics, then your table can evict a player that breaches that contract. During my years as a GM, I have done that (evicted a player for egregious conduct) 4 times with a 100% success rate in improving the game for all other players at the table. My decision was always discussed with the whole table, including the offensive player and backed up by all other players for which I was the spokesperson as a first among equals because I moderate the discussions in my role as GM (not DM).

Some people are blissfully unaware of their social incompetence because they assume that some behaviour is normal and when you make them aware they will adjust, most of the time. Ordinarily, it is enough to state that the conduct is a problem, point out why the conduct is a problem and how they can enjoy what they do without offending you. When you do that, don't initially accuse them of doing something wrong, instead explain how it is affecting you and why you perceive it as wrong (I have not once observed that the "you are wrong" approach solves an issue at any table).

For instance, establish in your Session 0 that rape, yes that includes jokes, is off-topic at the table or else you won't be able to enjoy your time at the table. Hold people accountable for breaching Session 0 contract, warn them and if they don't take the hint, evict them together as a table of players. If the table doesn't establish that rape is off-topic and that is a dealbreaker for you, then don't compromise, there are other tables. Try to discover your dealbreakers and when you are willing to compromise. I'm using the topic of rape as an example of a sensitive topic that is divisive for many tables (and is often carelessly joked about).

For the phone player at your table, it is the same process - is it a dealbreaker or is there are a compromise? Please read this perspective and solutions for players who are constantly on their phone.

Collaborate among equals.

Always remember that you are a table of equals and in some situations, the GM (DM rules in 5e; organisation in general) or an offended player (more harm done than joy gained by jokes) is the first among equals.

You have a DM/GM who is shy and not assertive, so they could use some help in preparing a Session 0 that may solve your issues, read how I GM a Session 0 and encourage and help them to organise the Session 0.

You can initiate the action to foster change at your table by talking to your group of players and your DM. You can set the course that will arrange the Session 0 in which you, the other players and your DM will work together to create a solution. As the one who initiates the action, you set the tone.

As a player, I have had success with arranging and helping the GM at a convention table by making him aware that some topics where uncomfortable for one of my fellow players which also affected my own enjoyment by association. He constantly made jokes about the size of the breasts of the assistant of the big bad evil wizard, and generally spent a lot of time sexualising her. I was annoyed by his insensitive behaviour, while the other player was visibly uncomfortable. So I asked to prepone the next short break and addressed that his behaviour made us feel uncomfortable and that we didn't exactly feel respected by his descriptions. He was embarrassed and toned down his language, making it less sexual, less objectifying while keeping his scene intact (she was still a beautiful woman who dressed confidently, but her breasts were no longer almost popping out of her corset and her glistening sweat pearls running down all places of her body no longer mattered as much).

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    \$\begingroup\$ How did I miss this before? Love this answer +1. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 16:48

Ultimately, you can't do anything other than express your desire to play in a specific kind of game.

Seems like your crude player like to hang out and be social, but doesn't see your game as much different than any other regular hang-out session. Your phone-face player is either shy, doesn't really like to play, or both.

Either way, the only way you can really do anything is to have a meeting about what this particular group wants their RPing experience to be. If you and the three other people all jive in your styles and desires, that's great. If the last two want to get on board, more power to them....but it seems like they don't. That's OK, too...but that might mean they shouldn't play with your group.

Check out the Same Page Tool for more info on figuring out the kind of game you want to play. It helps make sure you and your group all want to play the same style of game. I have started using it with my groups and, while I thought I totally knew what their answers would be, I was surprised by some of them. Just goes to show that you never know what people want until you ask.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you have any specific experience related to OP's problem/what you are suggesting? If so, it would make a great addition to your answer. Also, while the link might be useful, you should explain what is there, how it is useful, and possibly who it is by/why it is valid. (You should also disclose any affiliation, but I'm guessing that's none so not very relevant.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Commented Jun 21, 2019 at 22:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ To expand on what Someone_Evil said, always think about what would happen if the link went dead. (Annnnd, yeah, despite the Same Page Tool being I think the most linked resource here) \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Commented Jun 22, 2019 at 8:54

I like football, you like opera.

You can take me to as many operas as you like (and I’ve already been to many) but you are not going change my preference for one over the other.

You need to start from there: you will not change the way they enjoy the game.

That said, you have the usual 4 options for dealing with people’s behavior in social situations:

  1. Put up with it
  2. Challenge it1, or, for inappropriate joke teller, challenge it more firmly 2
  3. Disinvite them
  4. Disinvite yourself

These are not mutually exclusive - choose the least bad option(s).

1 Just like they taught us in kindergarten or diplomat school at the State Department “Stop [objectionable behavior] - I don’t like it.”

2 “I have asked you to stop [objectionable behavior] and you haven’t- if you continue the consequences will be [proportional response].”

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you elaborate on challenge it? Maybe give an example? \$\endgroup\$
    – tuskiomi
    Commented Jun 22, 2019 at 3:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have to partially disagree. It is nearly impossible to force someone to change their preference and trying is almost always counter-productive and can be offensive. However, preferences do change and it is not wrong to politely encourage the others to try your preferred method for a while. I used to hate coffee. I switched to it from soda for health reasons, and now actively prefer it. I encouraged my wife to try it instead of soda for health reasons, and while it took a while she now likes it too. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 24, 2019 at 16:32

A lot of what I would say has already been covered. The main points I would echo are that people enjoy the game in different ways, and sometimes you just have to accept that. There are numerous articles on different playstyles and it's worth looking into those (I wrote one but I'm not promoting it). That's always the first step, ask yourself are they a bad player, or just playing differently? One place to look at this are Robin Laws player types. There are a variety of quizzes etc. out there and you should have a look at "Robin's Laws of Good Game Mastering" if you want the details.

How I have this work in the past is to go through one of the 'player types' online tools with my players actually prior to, or at the start of session 0. Using it gives you a type either: The Power Gamer, The Butt-Kicker, The Tactician, The Specialist, The Method Actor, and The Casual Gamer. Once we have this we, as a group look at the players (and the GM to be fair), what our types are and thus what me mostly enjoy. In his book he also talks about getting players to tell you what emotion the players want to experience in the game. This makes it more personal for the players.

To give an example of this working we had a player who came out as the method actor type. This was helpful from the outset as it set the expectation that he would often talk in character, but we had another player who was very much casual. I was able to discuss with her that she didn't have to copy his behaviour to play the game as 'well' as he did. Likewise, the actor type player also knew that she wouldn't be playing the way he was and in the end they were both okay with that. In this instance setting expectations of each other early helped reduce where there could have been friction.

The next question is to consider if they are disrupting the game for others. You can't tell others how to enjoy the game, but you can talk to them about how they might be disrupting it for everyone else. Those that only pay attention when their turn to fight comes up can be irritating (to me as a player and a GM), but that doesn't mean they're not having fun, they may just not like the RP aspect of the game, and you can't force a tactical wargamer to get into the roleplaying side if they just don't want to.

My personal preference in recent years is to have a code of conduct for my games that all the players have to agree with. In that they sign up to respecting other people's playstyles, as well as agreeing that if they are disruptive then we agree to talk about it, but reserve the right to ask them to leave if they continually upset other players.

This came in useful for our group in the past when we had a player who tried to change his character class to be 'the best wizard'. Essentially he kept lecturing another player on how they had made their wizard badly because it wasn't optimised to the rules. However, the player had made her character to she would find it fun to play. While discussing with him why he needed to back off and let her learn how she wanted to play I was able to bring the code of conduct up, as he was in fact derailing many of the session by wasting time trying to show her 'the error of her ways'.

In balance, it's about you finding the right players for your group as well as the players finding the right group for them.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hello, it would improve your answer to add the sources of the tools you are referencing. It is fine to link to your product as long as you disclose it and follow this meta \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 7:27

First, you have to ask yourself:

How much of a problem is it?

Are your game sessions as a whole very entertaining despite those players? Are they terrible because of them? From the tone of your question it seems like overall you are having fun but would like to improve it.

Can they change?

Some people are able to change on some point, some aren't. It can be as easy as telling them to change, but most of the time it is more complicated. For both problematic players I would use a similar approach:

  1. make it clear they know you think it is a problem, make it clear what is the opinion of other members of your group on the topic.
  2. try to convince the wrongdoer that it is indeed a problematic behaviour and it would be better for everyone if it changed.
  3. take measures to make it not happen

The three steps have to be performed in order: if 1 solves the issue you can stop there, same if 2 solves it... And you may have to stop before the end if one step fails. What I call a failure here is not that the problem is not solved at the end of the step, but rather that the step wasn't performed until the end. If a step fails you usually have no choice left but either accepting the situation, leaving the group, or making the person leave the group.

The joke-teller case

This one can be very easy, or way trickier. It may even be a mental disorder you can't do anything at all about (hopefully it is not). The first step is to make that clear it is an issue but you apparently already did that. It didn't solve the issue but didn't fail (it would have failed if for example the rest of the group would have told you they actually like the jokes very much and don't consider this a problem)

The next step is to make the person agree that their behavior should change. If the person doesn't agree you can't realistically hope them to change without forcing them, and this will just make your game sessions worse. Maybe this will be enough to fix the issue, or maybe not.

For the 3rd step I would add a homebrew rule to the game system that make inappropriate behaviors have minor but direct consequences on gameplay (maybe the character has a penalty on his next roll, or looses 1 hp...). This rule would be clear and precise and would apply to every player, something like "when any player tells an out-of-character dirty joke his character will loose 1 hp that can't be recovered until the end of the session". As a player you can't simply enforce this rule but you still can talk about it with your whole group (not only with the GM). If everyone agrees the behaviour is an issue they should accept the rule and make it enforced.

If the person, even with the penalties, still keeps telling too much dirty jokes there is probably an issue too big for you to solve. Either accept things that way, leave, or make the person leave.

The phone-looker case

Here the first step works the same: identify the issue, be sure the person knows you don't like when they look at their phone. Talk to them, not to the DM. If your DM agrees you can both talk to this player together.

The next step is quite different from the previous case, as maybe there is a reason you don't suspect about this situation that explains why this player really can't leave their phone. Maybe they work at an hospital and have to check in case of emergency calls, maybe they have a very insecure boyfriend who would commit suicide if he wasn't called every ten minutes*... If the player has a reason they consider more important than the game you won't be able to make them change.

In the eventuality that phone-looker aknowledged this behaviour as problematic but is still doing it you can ask for measures to be taken. You can ask that the phones have to be turned off during the game session, or put in some box where the player won't be tempted to pick it up.

*despite this looking very stupid I already met such a person.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you had players like these and used these approaches? How did it work out? Answers need to be supported. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jun 24, 2019 at 16:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure what the second step is on the Phone-looker case. He's always on tumblr, What's the second step? \$\endgroup\$
    – tuskiomi
    Commented Jun 24, 2019 at 16:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I didn't apply this with the phone issue, but I did with the joke one (even if in my case the issue was not that the jokes were dirty but that they were interfering with the game). I made a homerule that players who interrupted the game had to spend a fate point (the system wasn't exactly fate but the points worked quite the same). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 25, 2019 at 21:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @tuskiomi At the end of the first step he knows that what he does is a problem for you. If that's not enough for him to stop you can simply ask him wether he accepts to try not to use his phone during your game sessions, because it makes the game less fun. You know him better than I do but basically at the end of the first step he should be on the same page you are concerning how problematic the phone is for the game. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 25, 2019 at 21:27

Leading by example is the best way you might get to accomplish this. That's not to say that it will definitely work however, and I think that really it's beyond your station.

Liaise with the other attentive players so they don't take the bait your putting out. This might actually be part of the problem. With 3 strong personalities at the table, it might be that the joker is trying to be a joker because it's all they feel they are good at, and phone-person might be struggling to feel like they're making an impact so they're taking a backseat and enjoying the show. So to make an impact, draw them in with pointed questions and bait.

Ask the other player in-character questions. Do this when there is nothing else going on. Take the time while on watch to speak with them, about their whats, whys, and wheres; play on your character's traits to draw them into it. If you don't have a trait you can use on them, try to develop one, using the following examples:

  • Your character is senile. Ask the phone person, "What? What's going on? Where am I? Who are you? What are we doing?" (I've actually done this with a new group of strangers when I was too stressed and tired from a new job to be able to pay attention myself. I would doze off, then when I awoke, I'd need to do this catching up, and I'd pick on the quietest person at the table to get them talking.)
  • Your character is religious. Ask, "Do you believe in {{Insert deity of choice}}? Hmm, maybe they aren't right for you. How about {{insert deity}}, or {{insert another one}}? You're not a devil worshipper, are you? I'm going to keep my eye on you... Feeling violent yet? Hmm, yes, definitely some form of possession."
  • Your character is a noble. Tell them, "You! You there. Do this, do that, do my laundry while you're at it. What's that backchat? Well, at least that shows you've got a backbone in there somewhere, but unless you want to feel the back of my hand I suggest you take that attitude else where."
  • This one's more for the joker... Take everything they actually do say seriously and in-character, have your character slap theirs when they make a crude joke (in-character - no LARPing), apologise to polite company for the lack of manners, and when not in polite company be offended in character.

However, most of these tactics I know are trying to bait people into a reaction. Be prepared for consequences, but I really do feel that it's beyond you as a player to be able to resolve.

You state that the GM is shy and a pushover. Well. sometimes you just have to be prepared to walk away to get them to act, and if they don't then you walk away.

Do what is best for you. If needs must un-invite yourself from the group, clearly state your reasons why, and give no more second chances. You might be surprised by the GM, who might decided to side with you, and take action and suggest the others find a different game to participate in.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Have you had these types of players in games you've played? Have you used these techniques your suggesting? Answers, even subjective ones, need to be supported and yours is not currently. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jun 25, 2019 at 13:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ I didn't -1, but provocation seems like the opposite of what I want. \$\endgroup\$
    – tuskiomi
    Commented Jun 25, 2019 at 17:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @tuskiomi Then what is it you want? Provocation, can be used to garner a positive reaction, which was my intent. You can encourage them to get into the game, but you've tried encouraging the inappropriate by asking nicely. I mean, you could try the passive aggressive approach, but that usually end badly. I have a suggestion for that if you like : Start a timer ever time they are inappropriate, refuse point blank to engage them while the timer is running. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 25, 2019 at 23:51

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