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I am a fairly new Dungeon Master playing Waterdeep: Dragon Heist (D&D 5E). I play for 7 people currently (all friends). We have been running for around ten 2.5-hour sessions. For most of them, this is their first campaign, though one or two have done it before (not the one I will ask about; this is his first).

We have fun mostly, but quite often inappropriate jokes are made by a few people (I talked to them about this and it has lessened some). Early on, I realized that interruptions stop the campaign from going anywhere, so I invoked a hand-raising rule.

This works for the most part, but there are two people who interrupt quite a lot (one who keeps making jokes about doing “stuff” to the female member of our party and makes jokes at others' expense). I don't know if he thinks this is okay (I have talked to him about it). He also keeps going to brothels (all of this stuff is in game), so I tried to put a ‘natural consequence’ system in (so anything bad he does has a natural consequence such as getting too drunk and missing the transport).

(By the way, everyone hates him doing this including me.)

That didn’t stop them, so I gave them a temporary suspension. I know them well as a friend so I don’t want to kick them but what other things could I do. Short of kicking him or killing his character, what should I do about players like this?

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    \$\begingroup\$ @iaminsensible Even partially answering (or making suggestions on how to solve the issue) should be done in an answer and not in comments. Please see this meta post for details. \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz Jul 3 at 10:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ Did your group have a "session 0" or something like that before you started the campaign? Is it just you that's bothered by the actions of these two players or do others in the group share your frustrations? \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Jul 3 at 10:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ You're new to DMing--are you new(ish) to playing? Are the other players? I ask because my answer'd be fairly different if I knew you were all new to the hobby versus a bunch of ten-year players. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jul 3 at 12:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your friend is sexually harassing your other friend, using your game as an excuse and cover. You will lose one or the other: will you lose the abuser or the victim? Here’s a relevant question, involving a more extreme example of harassment. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 3 at 16:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is kinda two questions, about interruptions in general and then the inappropriate behavior. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Jul 4 at 1:12
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Social Norms

A D&D group is just like any other social group in that it has (usually unspoken) norms of behaviour. These norms are circumstantial and may be subject to external constraints: for example, the way you behave with your friendship group is different in church from at a football match (external constraint) and different from when you gather to watch a movie or play D&D (circumstantial).

When someone breaches these norms they make us uncomfortable, upset or even angry depending on the egregiousness of the breach and the frequency of such breaches. A friend talking during the movie once is different to talking repeatedly and different from that same person throwing a punch.

The point here is that "inappropriate" is contextual - a joke that is inappropriate to tell in front of your mother might be quite suitable to tell at an open-mike night at a comedy club.

What are your norms?

It is unclear from your question if the behaviors you are talking about (except for the interruptions and probably the one about going to brothels) are happening within the role-playing or outside the role-playing.

These are different contexts and, as stated above, different norms may apply - some groups like exploring dark issues of questionable morality within the role-play and, alternatively, some groups expect that the social norms that apply to the players will also apply to the characters. Because these norms are often unspoken, some parts of the group may not be on the same page about them.

This is a group decision - its not yours alone, however, as DM you clearly have a lot of influence.

Inappropriate Behavior

So, if your group is comfortable with him playing a sleazeball, misogynistic, sexual harasser who insults his friends, frequents brothels and misses appointments in the game then that's fine. Of course, its also perfectly fine that the game world will react to such a character appropriately: that is, in-game actions have in-game consequences.

What is not fine is:

  • him doing that if its not acceptable to the group,
  • him using that as a cover to be a sleazeball, misogynistic, sexual harasser who insults his friends, frequents brothels and misses appointments in real life,
  • him actually being a sleazeball, misogynistic, sexual harasser who insults his friends, frequents brothels and misses appointments.

If any of these things are happening then you need to consider if you want this person as a friend: that is, out-of-game actions have out-of-game consequences.

Interrupting

This is in a different type of inappropriate behaviour and is entirely concerned with the player not the character.

To be honest, I'm struggling to see how a strict "hand-raising rule" would actually work but if that's what your group wants then all power to you.

The breach of this "social norm" is clearly not as egregious as the other but it will be annoying if it is persistent. Approach it with more tolerance.

Handling

  1. Establish your social norms - including appropriate sanctions for breaching them
  2. Enforce these.
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the help Dale! Also a bit of a misunderstanding but he visits brothels in game (A lot) - He's under age for the real thing. \$\endgroup\$ – LividPlanets Jul 4 at 20:05
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I've had a few sexually harassing players at times in my games. They can be pretty frustrating. What helps a lot with these people is extremely firm rules. There are generally two types of players. There are socially unaware ones who don't get that they're being dicks. There are socially aware one who don't care about the feelings of others.

For both, what is needed is a session zero.

You need to establish early on a few clear ground rules. A few that have worked well for me are:

  1. The GM and players are not masturbatory tools. Don't make sexual passes against them or make sexual jokes about them.
  2. Don't interrupt other players during key actions. You'll get your chance after.
  3. Don't be overly negative about other players or their plans. We're all trying to have fun.

Then, when any of these happen, explicitly address it out of character. You mentioned you have in-game consequences, but from experience these don't work well. Stat debuffs don't mean much, and they just look like the GM being a dick for no reason. What you need is explicit OOC talk.

For example:

Player one: "I wrestle with the bow of destiny, trying to get an arrow into the sky king's chest."

Player two: "I want to get my arrow all over your chest."

GM: "Remember, no sex rule. Stop it. You agreed to not do this shit."

Being very firm like this, from experience, tends to discourage socially unaware people. It works especially well if the entire table agrees. A round of booing at an interruption or some inappropriate sexual come on is powerful Being explicitly told to shut up or stop doing something is a very clear experience, and if they agreed to the social rules early on, it's a very strong social rebuke.

You can also use humor to deflect it, if you don't want to escalate things. Saying things like "No, I do not want to enter your magical realm" can de-escalate a situation without causing social awkwardness.

If they don't care about other players, from experience, they'll often apologise, but they'll keep doing it when they next get a chance.

If they keep doing it after being told not to, you gotta kick them. People like that don't tend to stop.

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