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My boyfriend is DMing a D&D 5e game for a good friend of mine and I. It's a pirate themed campaign, which I was excited about, and takes place in a universe where magic is not believed in by most (implying our characters might discover magic exists along the way.) That being said, I immediately wanted to play a pirate character because I thought it would be fun. I'm using the swashbuckler rogue with the charlatan background who doesn't believe in magic, but my friend's character is a scholar who is looking for evidence that magic exists.

I thought this would work out fine, but with the way the game has been set up it feels as though it's very catered toward the scholar character. Almost all the major NPCs joining the adventure have been scholar type characters and I keep losing motivation for why my character would care to be a part of the adventure. The one time my character would have seen magic to make them believe in it, they were doing something else and missed it, which means now I'm on a quest for magical items my character doesn't even believe in.

I keep having my character request payment for their sailing services in an attempt to keep them interested in what's going on, but my friend's character refuses to pay them anything and I feel like my character just has to do whatever the scholars want to do or else I'll just derail things.

I don't feel like my character can just walk away to do pirate things because I'm trying to be cooperative with the story, but when I bring up that my character is a pirate and probably wouldn't want to be doing favors for no reason, my friend gets upset and says I need to just go with the story and then continues to make all the decisions.

I talked to my DM and he said he was hoping to steer things in a direction that gives my character some more things to do besides being the one who just....has the boat. But we've played a few times now and I'm still feeling like my character isn't being utilized very well.

I told my DM that if it's easier I can just create a new character that's a better fit for the story since I thought we'd all be pirates and I could get away with more chaotic choices, but he seemed hesitant to have me switch characters.

I feel like this campaign is just not suited for my character even though I'm a pirate. I had the most fun in our one time in combat when we were fighting... pirates. The guys I should probably be allies with, haha. Combat has been the only time I've really felt like I could make some creative choices. In role-play situations, I feel like what my character wants doesn't have any weight.

How can I find a way to fit into the campaign in a way that makes my character feel utilised and me feel engaged? Would it be better if I just try to create a new character or to find a new motivation for my current character to stay with the scholar group?

I think I'd like to stay in the game with this group, if possible. If I'm doing something that needs to be changed that can fix things, I'm willing to do so.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for that info. Welcome to the site! Please take our tour, when you get the chance, to learn more about how we work. Feel free to ping other users by typing (eg) "@rubiksmoose [message]" in a comment in this comment thread if you have any other questions about how this site works. If you are confused or concerned about anything at all please see this post for how and where you can go to seek help/answers. Just remember, we are here to help and I hope to see you around. :) \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jul 3 at 20:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Pirates do not have allies. They have hierarchies, which are often fragile near the top, and they have fragile cooperation pacts. So, fighting between different groups of pirates makes perfect sense, and even mutiny may divide a crew and have them fight among themselves. (Of course, that's all just one view of fictionalized pirates...) \$\endgroup\$ – Jasper Jul 5 at 10:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Definitely providing a plus one for this very detailed question - does your character have any particular goal of their own? Not necessarily related to this quest, but in general? \$\endgroup\$ – Zibbobz Jul 5 at 14:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @zibbobz Yes, my character is a gambling con artist who ran a long time con that had to come to an end because the two characters involved in the con were caught as lovers and people were obviously suspicious and went after them. They separated for the safety of making sure their true identities weren’t discovered if both were caught and now it is two years after that and my character is attempting to start a new con and also find out what happened to her past lover/con partner. \$\endgroup\$ – Sasha Jul 5 at 20:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Sasha You might want to add that to your question - it helps to know what your character's background is to establish a reason for them to be doing something. \$\endgroup\$ – Zibbobz Jul 6 at 14:28

11 Answers 11

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Sometimes the game you are playing simply isn't the game you believed you signed up for. Happened to me few times, see first paragraph here for an example.

You talked to the DM and to the fellow player and it changed nothing. I believe they are trying; at least from your description we can assume good faith on the DM side. What you can do now is to talk to your DM and fellow player and tell them, without accusations, what you told us. You can dress it in words like this:

Guys, when I joined the game I thought we'd all be pirates and I could get away with more chaotic choices. I had the most fun in our one time in combat when we were fighting.... pirates. The guys I should probably be allies with. Combat has been the only time I've really felt like I could make some creative choices. In role-play situations, I feel like what my character wants doesn't have any weight.

This is not the game I believed I signed up for. And this is not the game I created my character for. There must have been a huge misunderstanding, and now it prevents me from having fun. I don't feel my character has any reason to continue doing what she is doing, and I won't have fun playing her if this will not change, so we need to have this fixed. I guess we can either change the story, or get me a new character, this time one that fits.

Note that I mostly used your own words - you are really good describing things without getting aggressive and accusatory, good for you!

What can happen is:

  1. Campaign will change. You will work something out to make your character relevant and give him reasons and goals that actually make sense, possibly with minor retcons. NPCs and encounters will give you opportunity to shine and affect the story. You are good.
  2. DM will help you create character that's relevant and fun for you to play. You'll roleplay transition, or just do it as downtime description of event. Your new character will have his goals and needs that fits the campaign you're playing. Great.
  3. DM will tell you 1. or 2. is happening, but nothing will really change.
  4. They will tell you that it's going to be better "later" or something like that. Remind them previous conversations and firmly state that "later" is now, and you do not accept any more delays or vague declarations.

Three is a sad part, but you probably should be prepared that it may happen. In my experience, this is the time your character just sails away* and you stop appearing to the sessions, at least for this campaign. If talking about the issue two or three times changes nothing, it is hard to believe fourth time will help.

I have told my players in Bastion RPG Club things like "Sorry, but I can't make this campaign fun for you while keeping it fun for other players, I tried but I failed, can't help it. Please accept my apology.". I had my character removed from adventures on my own initiative if needed be. Sometimes different campaign in the same group, or different gaming group, may simply be much better fit for you. If that's the case, you need to honestly answer very important questions:

Is it a good use of my time, playing a game that's no fun to me? Am I willing to do it? Why am I doing it?

If you decide it is not a good use of your time, you are not willing and do not have good reason, play your last session, let your character die or ally with pirates, thank other participants for playing. Be polite, but be firm - you have the right to have fun just like everyone else, and you have the right to quit if you're not getting it.


* Actually one of my characters simply retired, and I let two of them die, once even refusing DM "deus ex machina" to keep him alive.

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Given that the DM seems to dislike the idea of a change of cast, you are not feeling like playing this character like you're playing it now and your friend seems uninterested in changing his ways to let you have fun (but at least the DM seems cooperative enough), I'd like to suggest something that worked for me in a World of Darkness campaign I've been part of (WoD often starts with many characters not knowing about magic).

Decide that that very naive guy who believes in magic needs protection. Pretend to get your share of the loot for whatever danger you end up facing together (instead of character to character payment, which will only happen at the end of the campaign if you don't stumble in anything valuable) and be ready to decide on the spot, whenever you will see magic with your own two eyes, if this magic is something cool you want to use too or if it's just the next big thing you have to protect the scholar from.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That's a really interesting idea I may consider. thanks for this. \$\endgroup\$ – Sasha Jul 3 at 22:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Without pretending and with the agreement of everyone involved, you could recton the initial setting and decide that your character was truly hired by the scientist to help/protect him. Your friend doesn't need to pay you directly ingame because either you were already paid (and that's how you got to buy your boat ?) or maybe he agreed to pay you at the end of the adventure during the epilogue. That way your friend won't loose money because of your RP and you'll have a good reason to stick along. \$\endgroup\$ – Echox Jul 4 at 11:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Echox That sounds like it should be it's own answer \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Jul 5 at 17:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso Given that Zachiel already proposes to create background motivations, I feel like my comment is a complement of his second paragraph more than an actual answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Echox Jul 5 at 17:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Echox given that you propose a retcon (which I didn't, because I valued the consistency with what happened already a bit more than generating an even better situation now) it looks different enough to me. ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Jul 5 at 18:16
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The Real Problem: Your Character Has No Stake

  1. There is an open question about the game world (does magic exist?) which your PC and the other PC have staked out opposite sides of.
  2. The action of the game so far revolves around the investigation of that question (and genre conventions suggest the answer will be yes)

To be honest, this is not a good situation and not a good set-up for a game. But please note, I am not at all saying that you have made a bad character or are doing something terribly wrong. I am only saying that this set-up-- effectively X-Files, with your character as basically the skeptical Scully, but who also own key resources and yet is still dragged into things by the Mulder-- is not a good set-up for a game. What made for "dramatic tension" on a scripted television show come across very differently in an improvised RPG.

Those two factors have reduced you and your character's stake to near zero: Your character isn't doing what interests them, you know to near certainty that they'll turn out to be wrong, and in the mean time you get to follow along and provide resources.


The Solution: Get Your Character A Stake

Unfortunately all of my particular suggestions need some degree of GM assistance, or at least acquiescence. (And in this case, the Significant Other status of the GM can make things that much more delicate for all involved.) So I strongly advise you to go back to your GM (again) and say gently but firmly that you're not having fun because there is no earthly reason for your character to be going along on these adventures-- your character has no stake. Then you can get down to figuring out how to fix that.

  1. One way is a new character. Although it's been shot down already, I applaud your instinct here, and maybe discussing the issue in a new way will yield a different result. (As a GM, if someone comes to me and offers to scrap their character and make a new one for the good of the game, that is both a serious warning sign that they are unhappy and a sign that they are willing to sacrifice something to keep the game going. It surprises me that this fell on deaf ears.)

  2. Another way to have some other more pragmatic interest in what the scholar is seeking: You might believe the objects exist, but are not magical, and want to sell them. (But be warned, this sets up a delayed conflict with the other player character.) They might be your family heirlooms, restoring your family to its former grace. Or perhaps they have some other political or religious significance your character wants to exploit. (These require GM buy-in, though.) The objects might be wrapped up with legends of more mundane treasures. ("Yeah, sure, mystic orb of the whatevers-- wasn't that supposed to be part of Queen Whatsername's lost treasure?" Again, requires GM buy-in.) Any of these things can give your character a stake in the adventure. These of course are just suggestions/examples.

  3. The easiest solution: Have your character convert or converted into a believer. You do not need the GM's permission to change your character's mind like this, but it does feel a little... unsatisfying. The more you as a player care about the history and internal consistency of your character, the less satisfying it will be. But, you also mention that once your character was near to or in the presence of convincing magic, but was distracted or otherwise occupied. Ask your GM if that can be replicated so that your character has a reason to change their mind, and get everyone on the same page.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I really like the thesis of this answer! But I might add, you can develop a social personal stake as well if that feels more fun - have your character get an inopportune crush on one of the scholar NPCs, develop a personal vendetta with someone who's also seeking the magical items, or otherwise find a character dynamic you enjoy that would motivate you to come along \$\endgroup\$ – RSid Jul 9 at 19:55
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I'll start from the position of "how can I get my character into this plot".

And I'd suggest set your character up to fail.

The key here is that you aren't your character. By using player knowledge you can arrange it so that your character's motivations and knowledge set the character up on a path the character wouldn't want to go down.

Instead of asking "what would my character do", you are asking "is there a way I can get my character to do this?" That is a fundamental way to get around "my guy" syndrome.


You, as the player, know that there is magic in this world. The character doesn't believe in it. The other PCs know there is magic, and their PCs believe in it.

So, have your PC make a deal with their characters.

"You are looking for a magical item, right? I don't think it is magical, and this is all nonsense. So, here is the deal; if we find the artifact, and it turns out not to be magical, just some gold-encrusted object, I get to keep it. If it turns out that it is magical, well, then you get to keep it."

To your character, this is a slam-dunk deal. I mean, there could be conflict with these loonies afterwards where they claim the non-magical doodad is magical, but you'll consider yourself free and clear just taking it and keeping it for yourself.

To them, it is also a slam-dunk deal. They are interested in the possibility of magic, and are convinced they are on the right trail.

And meanwhile, you get to keep debunking the existence of magic, and going along with these fools who know where some treasure is, confident that you'll get to cash in when they get it, because it isn't like it will really be magical, right?

You get to play up the skeptic. You can even conspire with your DM to make it hilarious -- have an excuse for you not to be there/not to be looking/etc whenever blatant magic happens.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I added a link to this other question in case OP or other viewers are not familiar with the term. If you don't like it that way, feel free to roll by my edit. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Jul 5 at 17:36
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In case you decide to stick with the character and find a motivation to go along with the plot:

which means now I'm on a quest for magical items my character doesn't even believe in.

Your character is a pirate. Aren't pirates interested in finding treasure?

Your character might not believe in magic powers. But your character might believe that there are gullible fools with too much money out there who will pay a fortune for these supposedly "magic" trinkets these superstitious scholars are looking for. They are useful tools to guide you to that booty.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Particularly fitting for the PC's chosen Charlatan background, which you may wish to include in this fine answer. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 5 at 17:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is definitely the direction I was attempting to take my character the last time we played. It was pretty much the only reason I could come up with at the time to keep my character engaged. The idea of trying to take the items people thought were magic and then pass them off as something more valuable than they are to sell to people my character felt were too dumb to know they’re not that valuable. \$\endgroup\$ – Sasha Jul 5 at 20:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sasha And? How did it turn out? \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Jul 5 at 20:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Philipp when I made this decision it was near the end of our play for the day. I’m probably still going to have another discussion with the DM before we play again to sort everything out, but since my character is a con artist and we just found out a Noble family is also looking for these items I’m considering having my character try to steal the items before the family and sell them to them at a higher price. Not sure if it will work considering the rest of my ship’s crew are the scholars, but I figured it would be a step in the right direction for character motivation. \$\endgroup\$ – Sasha Jul 5 at 20:31
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So your character would probably rather walk away to do pirate things, but you don't want to pursue that direction because it would derail the campaign.

It wouldn't necessarily derail the campaign. If your character walks away to do pirate things, but the scholar character feels compelled to tag along, then the direction of the campaign would shift so that now you're the one making the creative choices, and it's your friend who has to go along and be cooperative with the story.

For example, once you decide to leave the scholar group, you might search for buried treasure! If your friend's scholar character has reason to believe the treasure has some magical significance, they might feel compelled to tag along.

Or, you might leave the scholar group and start privateering for a wealthy aristocrat or foreign ruler! If your friend's scholar character has reason to believe that your employer is a clandestine magic-user, they might feel compelled to tag along.

There are myriad possibilities. Of course, any of these options depend on whether your group wants to go along with them, but, from a story perspective, there's no real reason that your character shouldn't be able to walk away and take charge at the same time.

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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 Jul 4 at 7:52
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Have you watched Firefly? Malcolm Reynolds and Simon Tam have a relationship that could be a good inspiration for your character.

Mal thinks Simon is ridiculous. He puts the entire ship at risk just by being there, his sister is unpredictable at best... sure, he's a great doctor, but for the most part he makes living on the wrong side of the law much harder. Nonetheless, when push comes to shove, he has Simon's back. Why? Because Simon is part of his crew, and he's loyal to his crew.

Your characters have probably been through a lot together. "Alice finds Bob ridiculous, but they go through some stuff together and form a strong bond, even if they never really find a common purpose" is a tried and true storytelling technique.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I haven’t seen Firefly before, but I may check it out for the character dynamic to see what you’re talking about. I don’t think our characters have been through enough yet to have a bond, especially since my character has gotten progressively more annoyed at my friend’s since they refuse to budge to my character’s wants haha, but if I keep playing this character it may end up developing to that technique. We’ll see I guess :) \$\endgroup\$ – Sasha Jul 5 at 20:41
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I feel like my character just has to do whatever the scholars want to do or else I'll just derail things.

That misconception, for me, is the easiest way to fix things. Although most people do not like it, inter-party conflict is a natural (and sometimes fun part of RPGs). Put the question like this: would your character, if real, really go along with the foolish scholars without payment? No. In that case, as a player, politely excuse yourself by saying:

"Sorry guys, but there's just no way my character would agree with that."

, and as a character, say something along the lines of:

She looks like she's had enough of your shit. She takes out her pistol, clicks it in front of your temple and says: "I'll count to ten, and if, when I finish, I don't feel like you've given me enough of a reason to continue allowing you dress-wearing pantsiyes on my boat, I'll shoot. 1..., 3..., 7...".

Don't, however, do something like randomly shoot someone in the group. They should already know that you're character is slightly unhappy. The PC acting like she's/he's not happy is expected. Then it would be up to their characters to try and convince you to put down the gun. It's part of roleplaying. And it may bring your character's motivation/spark back.

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    \$\begingroup\$ While this method is a potential resolution, it partially relies on how well the players know each other, and I feel like it's unclear how well OP knows the other player in this situation. This could be improved with some more information about how to peaceably set up a scenario like this without the other player's actually thinking you're about to go PvP on them. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Jul 5 at 17:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, as much as I’d love to just spice things up with an action like that, I tried something similar before and the other player ended up getting frustrated and saying they “didn’t know what to do.” I threatened to take the ship and leave the other pc and npc on a island unless they paid me for the journey because they told my character the item we’d find on the island would be worth a lot and we didn’t find anything of value to my character. Let’s just say the pc refused to budge on this and I had to take them back anyway, which was not very in character for me. \$\endgroup\$ – Sasha Jul 5 at 20:52
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A long time ago in a distant galaxy known as "AD&D" I played an elven fighter/thief who was a pirate and I found myself in a situation very similar to yours.

I was as helpful and supportive to their mission as I could possibly be. I hired on, at my own expense, a solid crew of strong and capable sailors with strong backs and good sword arms to help with both protection and with physical labor as needed. And after we eventually hit the mother lode and my crew had finished loading all of that valuable treasure into the hold of my ship, I made them all "walk the plank" and kept everything for myself. I was a pirate, after all, so they should have seen it coming.

It is not necessary for you to actually follow through with exactly what I did, but if your character has something planned along these lines then it becomes a whole lot easier to justify having the character play along with their story line. You can always role play that your character decides the other player is not so bad or maybe the other player saves your life at some point so you choose not to betray them.

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Focus on your character's motivation

It sounds a lot like you're trying to come up with an excuse for your character to be in this situation, when in fact you already have one in your backstory.

A good backstory makes for a good reason for your character to be on an adventure - in your case, your character is trying to escape a situation and not be noticed by the authorities. He may not believe in magic, but he has a stake in making sure this trip continues to go well.

Don't underestimate the value of a skeptical character

Your character is the one character who doesn't believe in any of the hookum going on - play into that. Cast doubt on the party's beliefs and goals, while remembering that you very much want to continue their adventure. Despite what some questions may suggest, having some inter-party conflict is good for role-play, so long as it doesn't halt the campaign or become out-of-character conflict between players.

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Hindsight 20:20 ... Your GM should have kicked off the campaign by having a scholar NPC heading up a research expedition. You would be boat they hired, and pay you weekly for your services (part of which would be them not getting taken advantage of by other pirates), and the scholar player would simply be a protoge / underling under the scholar NPC. This would give the GM a way to help guide both of your characters in the adventure (the NPC scholar overseeing things) and also give both the characters a real reason to be there until some kind of party cohesion could form that doesn't simply revolve around "let's focus only on what motivates me". (Because it takes a while for characters to go from "me me me" to "party party party" mentality.)

Problem solved before it started.

But, since that didn't happen....

Your GM needs to find some way to make you feel relevant. And they're dropping the ball. Telling you to start a new character is not a good suggestion, because it's basically saying "you're the weakest link, and we're not going to accommodate you."

The biggest issue with this situation is that it can turn poisonous VERY fast.. because as you feel left out and without motivation, you will start to dream up ways to a) add motivation in-character, b) may start to have it also be a way to be an a-hole to them out-of-character.

EG: as a pirate.. you get sick of not having any money.. so you have your crew ambush the scholars at night, tie them up, and start making them walk the plank.

That would immediately give your character some motivation in the game, but would be a major FU to the other player .. and the GM.

I think the only thing you can do is simply stick to your guns... you're a pirate. If this guy isn't going to pay you to sail him around.. then you simply sail him around in circle son the ocean for weeks at a time to jerk him around. His character has no idea; they're not a sailor.

Or, you sail them to the roughest, toughest port you can find.. and drop their butts off and let them experience some of the local "wild life" (ie: pirate bars, etc). When they get their butts kicked in bar fights or get threatened one too many times and are BEGGING to get back on the boat, that's when you hold your hand out and say "how much are you going to pay me per-week to keep sailing you around?"

You ultimately get to decide what kind of pirate you are (a "dashing rogue / heart-of-gold" kind or the cut-throat kind.)

It sounds like you've been very accomodating, but ultimately you're playing a character.

The goal of the GM is not to cram a story down your throats.. but to be the game world that reacts to the story YOUR CHARACTERS MAKE.

So, start making some story. Stop being a passenger. It's your boat. You're a pirate. Find a way to make this guy pay, or make him sleep with the fishes.. Make HIM draw up a new character.

The other issue here is that the GM is your partner... so that is very dicey. You don't want to come across as the needy gf that wants all the attention. But, it sounds like you've been very patient. Your GM is dropping the ball. You spoke with them about things, and they seem to have given you a very dismissive choice about it.

It's been my experience that people in relationships have to be very mature if they want to RP together (especially in a GM vs. player role.. b/c it's easier to get along in player vs. player roles.. The GM has a lot of power, and can be seen as abusing their power for favoritism, or ignoring someone too much).

It's situations like these that can make a player upset.. feel like they were lied to about what to expect (so created character that doesn't seem to fit), and then feel unimportant when told to make a new character.

You want to find a mature way to handle this, but the immature ways are so tempting (eg: threatening to not play going forward, using your character to throw a wrench in the GM / Party's plans, etc).

Sounds like you've been very mature.

I think the most mature thing you can do is simply dock the boat and tell the scholar to get off. And if he thinks you're balking about taking him, simply tell him "look, this boat doesn't run off fairy dust. We've exhausted our rations and supplies, and I've got a mutinous crew on my hands, because they haven't seen hide nor hair of bounty since we left, and I haven't been getting paid in order to pay them. So, this is the end of the line for you."

With that.. retire your character and create a new one.. or just have them head to the nearest watering hole and drown their sorrows while the scholar characer tries to figure a way out about this. Ultimately, a good character finds a way to help get other characters involved.. you want to find ways to party together. Sounds like this other character isn't doing that. So, give them a reason.

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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 Jul 5 at 19:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the suggestions. I definitely think that would’ve been a more helpful way to start the campaign considering it started with the npc scholar talking to the scholar pc and then trying to convince my character to take them to an island. I ended up having to procure the ship through gambling. When we got to the island there was nothing of value to my character as they told her and she attempted to leave the island without them unless they paid her off for her trouble. The other pc refused and I ended up having to take them back to port anyway. It was a bit frustrating. \$\endgroup\$ – Sasha Jul 5 at 21:09

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