23
\$\begingroup\$

I am a relatively new DM. I am running my first campaign, which started about a year ago, with some close friends from college. We have all played D&D before, but this is the first time I’m DMing. My group is very roleplay-oriented. I’ve had a ton of fun planning out dramatic character moments and building tension for my friends. I’ve also gotten some really nice feedback from some of my players which has made me really pleased.

Over the past few months, there has been some conflict surrounding one of my players. On the one hand, the other players and I noticed she would derail or take over sessions (which I talked about with her awhile ago). On the other hand, she has complained a few times about another player having too much of the spotlight. We took this to heart and thought up ways that we can engage other players in roleplays, and I have made sure that each character gets arcs equally tied into the main plot. She seemed satisfied with our solutions.

Since these conversations, I’ve reached out to her a few times about her character. At one point she said that her character may want to travel solo later in the game and if so she would roll up a new character. But since then she hasn’t said anything to me about leaving or where she wants her character to go.

Over the past few sessions, she’s been acting pretty recklessly with her character. She (as the PC) has said that she doesn’t care if she dies, that she will go on suicide missions even when other PCs don’t want her to, and that she is uninterested in the main plot. This has been a little jarring for me, since she has not directly approached me about leaving the campaign or rolling a new character. Previously in conflicts, she seemed reluctant to talk to me, and I had to push her a little to communicate to me about the issues she was having with the campaign. This whole situation has been hurtful and upsetting for me, not only because she seems to dislike my campaign, but also because her character leaving would disrupt a lot of future plans, which were made specifically because of feedback she gave me.

I know that I will have to approach her and directly ask what she wants out of her character, but I’m putting it off because I have a lot of other stressful life things going on, and I’d rather not add new stress to the mix for now. I guess I just want an outside perspective. What can I do to keep her from leaving, and if she does leave, how can I smoothly transition the campaign? Any insight would be appreciated.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 9
    \$\begingroup\$ Remember, remember, Good Subjective November, the FAQ expectations and Whatnots.... but really, please remember the Good Subjective guidelines when answering! \$\endgroup\$ – G. Moylan Nov 15 at 16:16
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ How many total players are there? (not including you, the DM) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 15 at 18:38
24
\$\begingroup\$

The first step is to ask your player if she still wants to be in the campaign

Tell her to be honest with you; but it is important to not attribute motive to her. She might be being reckless because of disinterest in the campaign, or there might be group-dynamics issues, or even problems that exist outside of the group that are influencing her behavior.

As someone who has been on the receiving end of this situation, I think it is important not to assume your player wants to leave the campaign but to ask first; assuming her motive will likely make her think you are trying to get rid of her and also may hurt any friendship you have with her outside of the context of the game as well; I certainly would have thought that my GM didn't want me around if she had just approached me asking how I wanted to leave the game when I was just suffering the side-effects of depression.

This is the best suggestion I can give.

\$\endgroup\$
2
\$\begingroup\$

As a female player who has behaved the way you're describing in this post at times before in my DM's campaign, I'm sorry to say, my first thought while reading this was, "Is this my DM writing this?!?"

My second thought was, "I feel terrible. I hope my DM doesn't feel confused about me!"

My third thought was, "Heh, he just might. And it would be appropriate."

So I wondered if hearing things from my perspective might shed light? Don't know.

It's all kind of sad because my DM is like me. He's one of my favorite people in the world. A fellow gamer, afterall. We're a special kind of people, don't you think?

Well, I guess I used to feel that way. Maybe after decades of playing, I've suddenly gotten my feelings hurt. Weird.

But here's the scoop. My DM and I were pretty open and honest about the game. We've been playing for years. Plus we take turns DM'ing. And the bottom line is that I truly enjoy D&D, truly enjoy playing, and truly enjoy my gaming friends. But he has ruined the game for me, at least in the past several months and probably for the next several months.

The game has come to represent a hobby and social activity that could be fun but isn't.

And the reason is, while I enjoy being with everyone, the game itself is frustrating, and represents a way that my friend has damaged my trust in him.

Probably gender related but there it is. I felt much more friendly toward him, more able to relax around him, a year ago.

I'm still hanging out now, still laughing, but really? All I'm doing is waiting for the DM's seemingly endless campaign(s) to end. I would be happy to have my character die in some gruesome and spectacular manner. It would be fitting.

You see, I knew nothing about dnd 5e but my dnd 3.5 friend, ultimately my dnd 5e DM, had a small dnd 5e party, and he and I had separately been playing dnd 3.5 with other players. He talked with me about filling out his 5e party in a rush because they had no dnd play experience and weren't doing well. Since I'd wanted to try 5e, I said okay.

Here's the rub. We discussed types of characters thoroughly and then, with very little knowledge of 5e beyond our discussions, I made a 5e character in a rush. I trusted my friend / future DM about the character's abilities and limitations.

The very first time we played, the DM, my friend, triumphantly informed me of severe limitation after severe limitation I hadn't known about my character, things in other books, things subject to interpretation, and so on, like we were in a competition and he was pleased he had won.

I felt like I was wilting.

So, I tried to rally. In between games, I bought extra ed 5 books and began studying, watching You Tube, asking questions about ed 5 in groups at the library and the bookstore. Still, at each game, I couldn't keep up when it came to my crippled little character. And I'm a Dnd veteran, more so by decades than my DM. AND I knew what was going on in the game. I wondered if I just had a bad attitude, so I talked to people about that. And at each game, I kept finding my own character increasingly restricted and weak.

By the third gaming session, my character was so weak, I was primarily repeating the same two moves and doing nothing otherwise all throughout the game. I complained to The DM.

Since I was a very experienced D&D player, though not in ed 5, he had started me at level 4. I was still level 4 and he said he didn't see how he could modify such a high level character without "writing a new arc" in the campaign. I wanted to kill her off. He acted extremely disappointed but I rolled up two alternate characters.

But he said to keep my "main" (crippled, useless, pointless, joke of a) character. So, I did. And I did a few suicidal things with her that shocked people. For months. Now we're level 8 or 9 or something.

I told him again I feel my character is broken so he wrote a new campaign with a gigantic part for each of the other four players and, around level 20, "an arc" that's "a character fix" for me. It feels insulting.

And how is that worth it? It would basically take about 11 or more long levels to get there, and he levels up very slowly, so it's about 45 to 60 five to seven hour gaming sessions to reach my max level and then find my character supposedly no longer broken in the eyes of my DM / friend-I-thought-I-could-trust. That's a lot of hours hiding in the background, doing the same two, boring moves.I

I'd rather go out in an explosion of glory and leave the campaign And let the boys have their fun.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Bleh. I think you should let the DM play that character for you. It's so limited, there's no creativity needed. They created this situation, let them deal with it. It feels like a control play by the DM to have done this--have you considered putting it that way to the DM? (I realize you probably have considered this and rejected it; but, man, reading this as a person outside the situation it looks like he needed to feel like he had power over you and you are unhappy with it and expect to continue to be unhappy with it). \$\endgroup\$ – msouth Nov 16 at 21:30
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ You know, I've decided to quit that character. Why bother continuing? It's a game, afterall, and I'm thoroughly bored and miserable playing her.. There really is no reason to continue. \$\endgroup\$ – Jamie Watts Nov 24 at 5:09
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ There are enough situations in life that unnecessarily curtail our agency.--we definitely don't need any of that artificially added to our recreation. I'm optimistic enough to hope that the DM learns something from this, but realistic enough not to hope too hard :D. For you, though, even though it's in some sense trivial, it can be a touchstone for the future--anything that maps onto this scenario is a situation you want to discontinue. As a person who has an irrational desire to know how every single situation ever turns out, I also want to thank you for the followup. :) \$\endgroup\$ – msouth Nov 25 at 5:20
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you! I agree completely! I talked again with my DM, who again is a friend and has been for years. I told him frankly that I was dropping out and leaving my druid as an npc unless: 1.) we could negotiate my bringing in one or two level one chars and starting over with some level appropriate material so they could hit level three quickly and work with the other players well; or 2.) We could re-negotiate my land-circle druid's capabilities. Otherwise, it's not worth it to me. Just no \$\endgroup\$ – Jamie Watts Nov 26 at 19:08
2
\$\begingroup\$

Sing along with Darius Rucker ...

Let her go, let her walk right out on me And if the sun comes up tomorrow Let her be,

Note: This answer is current as of about 9:45 PM Central Time 15 Nov 2019. If you provide more context this answer may have to change.

I know that I will have to approach her and directly ask what she wants out of her character, but I’m putting it off because I have a lot of other stressful life things going on, and I’d rather not add new stress to the mix for now.

You can't force fun, and you seem to not need the stress. What you can do, at the moment, since you find the next conversation to be too much stress for you to deal with right now is ... stop trying to believe that you control this decision. She does. You are being given signals that she's feeling that this is a bad fit.

Previously in conflicts, she seemed reluctant to talk to me, and I had to push her a little to communicate to me about the issues she was having with the campaign. This whole situation has been hurtful and upsetting for me, not only because she seems to dislike my campaign, but also because her character leaving would disrupt a lot of future plans,

Learn from my old Tennis Coach

My tennis coach taught me to never change a winning game plan and always change a losing one. Trying to control this outcome looks like a losing game plan. Change it.

Focus on the other players and their engagement. Listen to her input, if she makes any, and accord it the same amount of weight as the other players offer. If she sticks around, fine, and if she leaves fine.

The whole table's in on this - if other players won't step up, prospects are poor

It's unfortunate that situations like this arise, but they do. The only successful approach I've seen, from being at a table and seeing this kind of dynamic, is when the DM stops trying to force it. (And I've seen this from both sides of the table). If the other players want to keep the frustrated player around - for any number of reasons, be they social, game, both, family, need them to drive - they'll tend to step up and encourage that and find ways to make the player feel like this social activity is worth continuing.

And if none of them do, then they won't miss her that much if she leaves. And, if she leaves and in so doing triggers a player exodus ... then that tells you something you needed to know as well. But if the other players stick around, focus on their engagement with the campaign.

Which brings us to ...

If she leaves, what do I do?

The PC becomes an NPC if that character is integral to the plot/campaign/adventure/story. This gives you all, the party and the DM, a few sessions to slowly disentangle that character from the plot and allow them to retire somewhere. For a while, at least.

Leave The Door Open.

Your player is a person you know socially. Leaving a game for a while is not grounds to cut off contact with them. Thus the recommendation to retire, rather than kill off, the PC.

If some weeks from now she wants to rejoin, then the PC comes out of retirement, or she can roll up a new one. But - and I've seen this turn bitter - if the player leaves for a bit but then misses playing with the group, and the DM kills off the PC, the "return to play" decision has turned sour more often than it hasn't when they are faced with that outcome.
So don't kill off her PC!

Bottom Line: you've made an effort, focus on the engaged players

She'll make a decision; accept it with good grace. Leave the door open for a change of heart.

\$\endgroup\$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.