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About six months ago myself and 2 of my friends started showing an interest in D&D. We would see funny memes about the "Murder Hobos" and imagined the funny stuff we could do. I took to it very quickly and learned a lot of the rule and gameplay mechanics. We were lucky and another one of our friends (Larry) let us know that he has been playing D&D for years. He DM'd the first session for us and it was super fun.

As with most first time groups can be, we were not super into the RP as it was often a little embarrassing for us, but by the end of the session most of us were pretty immersed in the adventure. We have one friend (we will call him Bob) who plays with us that did not. He is a little socially awkward and while the rest of us were doing voices and conversing with each other he often took a backseat claiming that "his character is a quiet type".

For transparency "Bob" is a great friend of mine and likes playing with us. I want to try to keep him with us at the sessions.

We were in the middle of another session but half of our group went on vacation (we play on Roll20). Wanting to play in the meantime I begin whipping up a dungeon myself so I can try my hand at DMing. Bob, a new friend of mine (John), and Larry were the players. I spent a lot on time in this one-shot dungeon and had everyone make a new character for this. Larry and John have been great, really getting into the RP of the dungeon along with the combat portions as well. The problem is that Bob is not. He often plays the Jokester, making jokes out of the situation and breaking immersion. After they finished a combat round he squatted and pooped in one of the deceased NPC’s mouths. I'm all for PCs doing as their players see fit, and honestly any RP from him is better than none, but the problem is that he is a level 2 Paladin. Next level, that is coming fast, he is going to have to take his oath. Paladin is a class that requires a lot of RP to satisfy his god and I'm worried that I'm going to have to start punishing him for basically doing nothing, which I believe will turn him off of the game.

Any advice to try to get someone like Bob into the RP aspect of the game before the DM hammer has to come down?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome! You can take the tour as an introduction to the site and check the help center for further guidance. Good luck and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz Jul 17 at 14:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related questions on Are paladins required to follow a god? and What is the source of a paladin's spellcasting ability? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jul 17 at 14:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ "I'm all for PC's doing as they see fit... I'm worried that I'm going to have to start punishing him for basically doing nothing, which I believe will turn him off of the game." You're the DM and nobody's forcing you to punish your players. If you're still concerned about Bob's character, what have you tried so far? Have you spoken to Bob about roleplaying his character more seriously? \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Jul 17 at 14:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ The ages of our group are 22-25 so we are all old enough to understand what is required of our characters. I Suppose the use of the word DM hammer was not exactly accurate as I don't bluntly "punish" players. I only mean that when his character seeing a young girl getting dragged away and does nothing, that will directly violate his paladin code. \$\endgroup\$ – King0rr Jul 17 at 14:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Would it be more accurate to say your question is more about Bob's behavior/choices and less about whether or not he roleplays? \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Jul 18 at 16:35
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This player isn't the problem: your expectations mismatch is the problem

It looks like you each are looking to enjoy the game for slightly different reasons 1- your enjoyment looks to favor immersion and in-character play. You feel like you have to force the issue ...

I'm worried that I'm going to have to start punishing him for basically doing nothing

and so you ask:

Any advice to try to get someone like Bob into the RP aspect of the game before the DM hammer has to come down?

I answer: change your attitude as a DM.

This is a friend of yours, as you say, and you have taken the position that you need to force him to have fun the way you think it ought to be. This may be unintentional, but that's the signal that's coming across the wires.

Stop yourself, and step back a bit.

Before your next play session, convene a Session Zero.

The four of you may need to get on the same page about what you each want out of this game together. A Session Zero is where you all make an input regarding what you hope to get out of the game (details at the linked Q&A). You may find out that each of your players have somewhat different expectations than you do -- which is fine. Talking to each other about it and arriving at a compromise goes a long way toward curbing your current frustration.

On-line RPG has some obstacles that 'in the flesh gaming' does not

I love to play in the flesh RPG games, but my current set up has me playing more over Discord or ROll20. I have found some significant obstacles with the on line tools, even though they are a great way to play with friends who are all over the world/map.

  1. You lack the immediacey of the "at a table" social context
  2. Visual cues, and some subtle vocal cues, are often missed.
  3. Play is a bit slower than in the flesh
  4. People can tune out or wander off and it takes a while to figure that out. At a table, getting up and leaving is rather obvious.

    All of these drawbacks amplify the disconnect between your player and you in terms of how much engagement with the fictional world that you expect (more) and he expects (little). It is easier to get and provide feedback in person since all cues are available.

Paladins are driven by their oaths, not by gods, in this edition.

I'd suggest that you take a look at the PHB and this Q&A to better understand how paladins work in this edition. You are however correct from an "in universe" aspect: choosing an oath will inforom the PC's RP from that point on. Where you may be making a mistake is in trying to force it.

Let the player grow into RP at their own pace

Forcing RP is a real turnoff. (This from experience in both direction, as GM and as player). Trying to force immersion just doesn't work. Encouragement of both is the better approach.

Related Q&As about encouraging Role Playing

How to get the players to care and RP more?
How to introduce and encourage role playing in non-roleplayers?
How can I encourage my D&D Encounters group to do more role playing?
How do I transition my players from roll-playing to role-playing?

Immersion can be a tricky thing

You mentioned in a comment:

I'm rather imaginative and tend to try to push people when I fell that they are not participating. Really what the problem boils down to is that I want to try to get him more immersed in the game, but need advice as to the best route to do that.

Each player will seek, and enjoy, immersion in-game at a different level. Your encouragement to increase immersion will be improved in play by asking questions of the character when they take an action, and by describing how the world reacts to the character's decisions:

  • Example: the paladin does something, and you ask:

    • What's the motive behind that?
    • How does that fit your character's personality, background, and profession?

    And then ... listen to the answer.

    • Make sure you put effort into describing the world, and the reaction of the NPC's to the things that the player does. Let them see through your narration how the world responds to them. That will help a little with immersion, I have found.

You may find some more usef techiques for encouraging "in character" behavior in this Q&A.

I'm all for PCs doing as their players see fit, and honestly any RP from him is better than none, but the problem is that he is a level 2 Paladin. Next level, that is coming fast, he is going to have to take his oath. Paladin is a class that requires a lot of RP to satisfy his god and I'm worried that I'm going to have to start punishing him for basically doing nothing, which I believe will turn him off of the game.

In my experience, you believe correctly.

If you want more RP out of this characer use the carrot, not the stick. Encourage this player to engage more "in game" and above all ...

Be patient

You can't force fun.


1Notes on play styles and how people engage with a role playing game:

  1. There's a summary of Robin Laws' fine description of player styles here
  2. You will also find in the Dungeon Masters Guide (p. 6) a breakdown of ways that players have fun by engaging with the game. Not all styles mesh perfectly.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Could you touch on the subject of the player pooping into a dead character's mouth? Some of this players' behavior is contributing to the problem. I think your answer is comprehensive enough to prevent me from making my own answer just to touch on that little part. \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Jul 22 at 18:55
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Well I think you can see why he is reluctant to RP. He doesn't understand how to do it. Perhaps because he's just not familiar with the overall culture or because he has a tendency to misread cues.

I suggest introducing an NPC as his mentor. Create a high level Paladin that gives him specific challenges tied to cool armor/weap upgrades. Make that NPC teach him how to play his class. Most importantly make the NPC someone that all the PCs are impressed by. Have that NPC elevate your player rather than diminish him.And don't be afraid to make it so the NPC can show up anywhere at anytime.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you back up the suggestion with some more explanation about how successful it has been in your experience? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 17 at 16:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ah I see. Well ok. I'll just stop contributing then. I'm never gonna get past that level of gatekeeping. so long. \$\endgroup\$ – Quickdraw Jul 17 at 17:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Quickdraw: The thing is, a suggestion is not very useful if we have no way to determine that it's a good one. All answers need to be supported by citing evidence or (more likely in this case) experience. An unsupported recommendation could work phenomenally or it could totally backfire - but we have no way of knowing which is which unless you can either describe your experience doing this or your experience seeing this done, or cite someone else's experience with such a recommendation and how it went (or similar). \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 17 at 20:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @quickdraw We're not saying that parallel life experiences aren't valid here, we're just saying that answers need to be backed up. So if you have had good experiences with what you suggested in your answer (or doing something similar as a theatre director), include that in your answer. Show us how your answer solves the problem stated in the question. We're not gatekeeping, we're just asking you to back up your answer with evidence or experience, as one would any other argument. \$\endgroup\$ – xanderh Jul 21 at 10:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Quickdraw I think you've made a massive leap towards a conclusion. We have rules about the content of an answer, not about the person answering. Theater directing is certainly a life experience that can lend itself towards RPing in an RPG, but your answer includes none of that. So put it in there. Don't think of an answer as a forum post or a comment, think of it as a short essay you're submitting to be graded. I think you've done us all a disservice by labeling us as a bigoted boys club when we are anything but that. All because you didnt read the rules. \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Jul 22 at 18:46

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