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I'm looking for "out of the box" solutions and "how to debate this" techniques for a very "group and players" specific issue

Looking for experience backed advices, ideally.

I did search for similar questions on here, on the tags I use here. I searched on the matter a couple weeks ago looking for advice that I ended up using, which had some success. I thought it had worked, but apparently it did not.

The 'How to debate this' part of my question is due to the fact that I play an online game in English, while English is not my first language. Getting vocabulary on more technical gaming/RPing concepts and theories in English might help me . I know this isn't tackled in any D&D sourcebook.

The "out of the box" solutions part is because I thought I had dealt with the situation adequately over the course of the last 2-3 weeks. I did so mostly in-character and a little bit of it was done privately with the problem player and GM after a session. I thought we had reached an understanding. After that talk, we exposed "the understanding" to the rest of the group. It was well received.

The curren problem

Now we're 2 sessions after "the understanding" and I've noticed (and then inquired and confirmed privately with others) that there actually are more frustrations than before on how the situation evolved. 4We can actually feel the tension, even online :O

#More on the context

We have a very new group: 5 players with a GM. I'm one of 2 original players, but this is still a new game (we're lvl 3, almost 4 in D&D 5E).
Everybody but me, the GM and another new player are new arrivals in the game.

Others (and the problem player) joined midway through our game. We have a moderately experienced player that I brought in from my other online game, 2 new players that our GM started playing with 1 year ago: they're comparatively new players/GM.

The GM is often overwhelmed by the amount of stuff happening during the game, but he impressed me by the way he ends up managing it all in the end (even tho the flow of the game sometimes suffers for it, he's being patient and his rulings have been fun and were clever IMHO).

I am not quitting this game: I want to help a friend

This issue could be simply answered by "quit this game, find another one" but for the GM, I wanna stick with it and succeed at helping the group solve this issue and stick together. To my eyes, the potential is there.

Me and the 'problem player' both have over 30 years experience playing D&D. I played 50-50 DM/player, he says he's been a player for 30 years. I say that, since it kinda mattered at some point in our discussions, I do feel like he started listening to me when I mentionned my experience. I don't feel like that is a matter of pride nor a fact that would or should give us any power over others in or out of game, but here it is, needing to be mentioned since it apparently matters (aka the problem player brings it up, the new GM asks me for advices, yadda yadda).

The GM often admitted to me, privately, that he has issues with the 'problem player'. He says it is because others have issues with him, which influences him. At first, I tried defending the 'problem player', being a good mediator. I also defender other players' arguments, since they are valid too. When I tell the GM how I think he should deal with it (while also telling him it is not MY game nor MY choice to make), he ends up shying away from actually dealing with it. I have been told my suggestions were good with everyone by the GM himself, I also confirmed with other players privately, it seems true.

Yet, we're still having issues with the 'problem player' privately, which annoys me since I kinda put myself in the middle of it and this is really starting to ruin my fun (and others' fun too, besides the GM and the problem player who both seem content in the end).

More details on the very specific situation

The thing is, I think the 'problem player' is being brilliant and fun, but the GM and 2 other players are having a lot of issues with what he choses to do and can very well do, in character. The underlying issue which caused all the problems in the first, which I had thought I ended up dealing with perfectly, is the fact that we had to deal with his warlock 'Pact of the Chain' feature and his Imp familiar.

Long story short, when he first joined, he didnt know how to play his familiar (like me, he sometimes suffers from 'previous-editionitis').

We played the familiar's ability to attack in combat wrong on the first game, the Imp was basically an additional character that could act as any other instead of the lock having to use an actual attack action and the Imp using his reaction action to attack.

After 2 games of such shenanigans where the Imp actually was the strongest character on the board, I decided to intervene after I talked it out with the GM.
I decided to take 15 minutes before the actual start of a session, when everyone was online, to have the difficult Discord discussion we needed to have about how Warlock's Pact of the Chain familiar actually worked. At first, there was a lot of resistance, but when he read the rules and saw explanations from this site, his 30 years of experience as a player showed and he 'said everything right' and I thought the matter was settled.

Now, two games later, we play the Imp right but now we have come to realize that the Warlock is evil. He's been caught stealing loot from the party (which we knew of OOC, but not IC, since the PC is a Yuan-ti, doh!) and things have gone downhill since.

The fact we have another member of the party, a chaotic neutral rogue, who also steals from the party (he's a new player, but smart enough to realise he cannot afford to steal "a lot" at a time) created the whole situation. The rogue actually learned that the stealing was happening (he didn't even know OOC, since he often isnt paying attention).

Now, he started paying attention and things are getting worse. The Imp was our de-facto scout, but since the group doesn't trust it (IC) anymore, this role went back to the rogue, who has doubled down on him stealing from the group "to compensate for what I didn't get a chance to steal" being his OOC explanation of his IC actions.

I'm at a loss on how to proceed next, even tho I have ideas

We're playing an official module, leading to another official module.

I thought bringing up the technicalities about how characters are supposed to "scale up" in power, the amount of "value" they should have access to as far as magical items go, might be a way to put everyone on the same page, but I've been met with classic "IC excuse" for an "OOC issue in the group dynamics" like: "Well, my Yuan-ti is a power hungry exile that wants to amass enough power to go back to his people and exact his vengeance" to "my rogue character would not actually care about all that".

At this point, I'm thinking "in character solutions" are as viable as OOC ones. My previous character died 4 games ago and he was the soul of the group, able to maintain some kind of order in all this chaos. He also was the tank and strongest character of the group - which my new character also is even though he is not as efficient at it (both from his background and his features).

I'm used to dealing with this kind of issue as a GM and my technique is usually to "nip them at the bud" before it becomes a problem, finding a viable solution for everyone or being firm about the rules as written (or the Rules as interpretated by the GM, me) or coming up with other more unusual solutions to everyone's liking.


Additional conundrum: should I even bother with it ? Should I take that responsibility or will this cause more issues because I'm actually a player and not the DM ?

Can mediating work in the context of D&D group dynamics ?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Please add the specific tag for the game you’re playing. [dungeons-and-dragons] covers the whole franchise. Also, this is quite the wall of text; please consider streamlining it to the issue in question. \$\endgroup\$ – 40355 says Reinstate Monica Jul 27 at 0:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I reviewed the edits and since I'm also looking for ways to better express myself in english, I appreciate the efforts you put into it. Ty. \$\endgroup\$ – Catar4 Jul 27 at 1:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ A pleasure to be of help. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 27 at 1:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ It seems that the primary problem is that some PCs are stealing from and backstabbing each other, and rationalize their actions with "my guy" excuses. Is that the main issue? \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Jul 27 at 4:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ It is. Now I feel like I have not made clear enough the fact that the question was more about finding ways to help a new GM find ways to deal with his players having conflicting goals towards each other (I focused on examples, the general principle still applies, even tho it is a more personal matter in nature). The Gm wants to allow such realistic and 'grim' reality in his game, but is actually not dealing with the impacts of his choices. I want to enable him ... \$\endgroup\$ – Catar4 Jul 27 at 4:46
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Reading your question, it sounds like the problem is that some of the characters are stealing from the party, and it's dampening the fun for the rest of the group.

When I am the DM, I tend to solve this directly, by telling players they can't steal from the group. ("You find 100gp in the chest. Everyone mark down that you gained 20gp.") That works pretty well.

When you're a player, your options are more limited.

If something is making you not have fun, the first step is to have a conversation with the group and explain that you're not having fun, and ask if people are willing to change what they're doing. If that doesn't work, the second step is to leave the group.

In your case, that would sound like: "hey guys, this thing where you're stealing from the group is causing me not to have fun. Could we have a group agreement, between players, that we won't do that? If we can't, I think I might drop out of the group."

Obviously don't say that unless you mean it. : )

I don't recommend "in-character" solutions such as killing someone else's character. This just decreases group trust and make it even harder to have a workable team. Also, the player whose character you killed will get to bring in a new character, and the new character won't be any less annoying than the old one. (I've only tried this once but it went pretty poorly.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You have nailed part of the issue without a doubt. The thing is, forbidding to steal from the group is not a 'good enough' solution. This is something almost half of our group want to be allowed to do and since I'm not, personally, worried about "getting fictional loot" I dont want to suggests we should right out ban stealing. Maybe establishing a list of "what is ok to steal" might be part of the solution, though. \$\endgroup\$ – Catar4 Jul 27 at 1:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you help us understand what other problems you have, then? One problem is people don't like being stolen from, and the other problem is... people don't like being prevented from stealing? \$\endgroup\$ – Dan B Jul 27 at 2:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's about 'managin it all, together' even though I am myself unsure (or else I wouldnt be asking). Allowing the possibility for the group to have such complicated dynamics, which cause problems but mostly in the long run ? Part of it is me doubting my own assessment of the problem and "throwing it out there" to bounce ideas. I mean, I'm not even sure there's an answer for it. Your advice is one of many I'm looking for, I guess. \$\endgroup\$ – Catar4 Jul 27 at 3:08
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The DM needs to establish ground rules, or else these behaviors may continue and escalate.

D&D is one of those systems that assumes the players will cooperate. When the player characters turn against each other, they stop working together and mistrust each other instead. Left unchecked, this often leads to players not enjoying the game or unfriendly PvP combat, if not erupting into out-of-character arguments and hurtful personal attacks.

It seems that your conflict has escalated from in-character into out-of-character. Thus a strictly in-game solution won't suffice. These player compatibility problems must be handled out-of-character.

For some players, if the rules allow them to roleplay an evil character, then they may take advantage of this opportunity, and play antagonistically at the expense of each others' enjoyment. This isn't necessarily a judgment of the player themselves, as they may not understand the consequences of clashing playstyles and antagonistic in-game actions.

Your group needs an out-of-character discussion about the game you want to play, what rules you want to follow, and how the DM should enforce those rules.

When I ran games as DM, my #1 priority is to ensure the players enjoy interacting with each other during gameplay. So I would enforce the following table rules below. Enforcing them was simple: if a player can't abide by these rules, then they don't play. These rules still gave players plenty of freedom to play characters who were serious or silly, or morally grey or complex, and to interact using a variety of playstyles.

  • No stealing from other player characters. It's a breach of trust, and usually devolves into unfriendly PvP.
  • No evil alignments. People have different understanding of what "evil" means, and usually it just encourages them to antagonize each other, which leads to unhappy players.
  • Don't use in-character motives to justify antagonistic behavior. This is referred to as "my guy" syndrome, and it's a fallacy because players are generally responsible for their character's in-game actions.

Finally, note that while you are not the DM, you are still a participant. Your concerns are equally valid as any other participant's concerns, including the DM. So yes, you should absolutely raise these issues and have an out-of-character conversation about your expectations and the type of game you want to experience. And if the DM cannot mediate by themselves, then you can discuss with the DM about you taking up the mediator role.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1. We have established such ground rules. Here's what we have already argue about and clarified: 'No stealing from each other' is not enforced but we have an understanding that one shouldn't steal and hide a magical item that could be put to good use by another PC OR a quest item OR items that are 'very' valuable. I dont mind a garnet getting lost here and there, platinum pieces missing here and there (and then seeing the compulsive liar Yuan-ti pay everyone a round ;) ). The 'Don't be a jerk about it' rule is very live and part of the issue. Everyone is too polite, but silently fuming ... ? \$\endgroup\$ – Catar4 Jul 27 at 4:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ And yet ... it seems to be something different. Not about ground rules ... it's about finding a way to address those as if this was a purely academical subject. I was born when such things were not academically studied. Where such subjects did not have a web site where people could exchange ideas. My question is 'impossible' admittedly. I'm still asking, curious. \$\endgroup\$ – Catar4 Jul 27 at 4:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Catar4 I've edited the last point to be more specific. Character actions are ultimately decided by their real human players. Handwaving the character's habits as "they're a yuan-ti/tiefling/rogue/evil character, that's what they do" is just going to encourage that playstyle. Instead, enforcing rules should discourage and prevent those behaviors. \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Jul 27 at 5:08

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