Managing New Player “Murder Hobos”

I am running a LMoP game for a group of new players, and everyone is having a great time. We are all very new to it all though - it's my first time running a prewritten campaign as a DM, (only had a few one-off games before now), but I do have plenty of player experience - and the Players are all new to it as well.

We're two sessions in, and it has been quickly established that one player is a pretty full-on Murder Hobo. While the player is new, and the enemies have all been pretty much one-hit kills (all goblins) - and let's face it, we've all been guilty of the occasional blood-thirsty trip - this player has gone off the deep end a little.

The player is running a pre-generated Halfling Rogue with a Shortsword and Shortbow, and so far has managed to take down nearly half of the enemies they have come across, single-handedly. They've got a taste for blood and it's affecting their gameplay.

Admittedly, they are a True Neutral Criminal, with the "loyalty to my friends, not any ideals. Everyone else can take a trip on the River Styx" Character Ideal. This could be a "My Guy Syndrome" situation (I do doubt it, however; none of the players have really gotten into character - simply made choices based on their abilities), but it's becoming a problem, regardless.

Not only are they not avoiding combat (the only reason they haven't been one-hit KO'd is due to poor dice rolls), instead charging into melee with nary a second thought... They have suggested any and all characters they interact with should be killed. The reasons being "because it's easier". A sort of "No muss; no fuss" approach.

This has included:

• A goblin, that survived an initial combat to provide information about the Goblin hideout.
• The plot-central NPC, held captive by the goblins.
• The same Goblin that was captured prior, after being tied up, and already admitting to "changing his ways", that had also been declared to have fallen unconscious due to being tied up, upside down for several hours.
• Other PCs (only a first thought on whether or not PvP was allowed, and I have stated that PvP is not allowed).

What I have tried so far is:

• Reminded the player that they are the small, sneaky one, with little HP. They excel at stealth and in combat, should do their best to sneak attack as much as possible - if the situation calls for it.

• Roleplayed the conversation between players as part of the PCs' conversations, so the NPCs are aware of the back and forth:

Rogue: "We should just kill him. He's obviously working for the Goblins."

NPC: "I can hear you." He reaches for a sword laying on the ground. He is clearly wounded and in need of rest after being tormented and tortured by the goblins, but he is obviously concerned for his own safety by your frivolity at the idea of killing him.

• Even roleplayed the scenario where they killed the captured and unconscious Goblin... Which led to a group exploding with protest at the player (not me, who made the decision), leading to a vote to confiscate the Rogue's weapons, only to return them when required (heading into dangerous territory or at the beginning of a fight - I will allow a free action to return the weapons at the beginning of a fight).

That is where we have left it until the next session. Currently, while it is frustrating me a little bit as the DM, the rest of the group is clearly getting agitated by it - hence the last situation.

I also don't want the player to fall into this "Murder Hobo" lifestyle, as it could lead to bigger issues down the track. Starting off with simple and weak enemies has allowed this to happen with little resistance. Later on down the track, with larger and more threatening enemies, this PC will likely struggle.

Is there any way that I could/should be handling this better?

• How tightly do you want to stick to the campaign as written? Some in-game options exist but would require making substantial departures from LMoP. Relatedly, is character death an acceptable outcome for this group? – Upper_Case Feb 17 at 16:38
• If you have warned the player previously that they've only survived thus far because they were lucky, they'll have no ground to stand on when their luck eventually runs out and they KO, with a party not so inclined to save them. C'est la vie. – Turksarama Feb 17 at 23:00
• Suggestion 1: mention that it is irritating the entire group more clearly/explicitly earlier on in the question. I didn't realize anyone other than you was irritated by it until I got to the part about the "group exploding with protest at the player". – mtraceur Feb 18 at 19:58
• Suggestion 2: Change "Not only are they not avoiding combat" to "Not only is this player not avoiding combat". Why? Because at the beginning of a new paragraph, it really helps to re-establish who the "they" pronoun is bound to. Otherwise (at paragraph boundaries especially) you are likely to get some readers who think you're actually switching to talking about the group (in this context, what the group is now doing as a result of this character's lead, which suggestion 1 in my last comment would also help prevent). – mtraceur Feb 18 at 20:01

"The way you are playing your character is ticking us off because ..."

Explain the behavior that you (as a group) find annoying. Explain where you think the boundaries should be drawn. Ask for feedback. Get (or fail to get) consensus. Play with (or exclude) this player.

Unless you tell people to stop picking their nose, they will keep picking their nose.

• Unless you tell people to stop picking their nose, they will keep picking their nose. I like this sentence, lol. – John Hamilton Feb 18 at 13:23

There are always only three general approaches, here:

1. Let the game world grind them down
2. Let the other PCs intervene, IC
3. Intervene yourself, with or without the players, OOC

It sounds like you've effectively done the second already, if they've confiscated their weapons-- that's a pretty drastic step to take! It also sets the stage very nicely for the third, but what you need to do in that case are:

• Figure out how far you want to go with that-- at the extreme end, are you willing to kick their player out of the game?
• Figure out how far your players will back you. In this case, it sounds like they will back you quite a bit since they are also already annoyed, but it's awkward to find out you've read the situation wrong.

Then sit them down and have The Talk.

• I like this answer, might help to give some options for step 1. I think the DM has all the power needed to avert this style of play with in the game world solutions. Harder enemies to start with. Maybe make them MUCH harder enemies, but there is something like explosive barrels that would make them much weaker. Without taking your time, it would be missed and become dire. – Just Another Guy Feb 17 at 18:36

Dont allow a free action to return the weapons at the beginning of a fight

This probably isn't a complete solution, but by allowing this small exception to the rules, you're undermining your other players. Stick to the rules.

The Player Character holding them can drop them as their free object interaction without affecting the rest of their turn, which will require the problem player to spend their first turn retrieving them before being able to participate in the fight.

If the murderhobo's behavior improves, or the situation is dire, the PC holding them could choose to use their own action to toss the weapons to the problematic PC. If they did so, I might allow the problematic rogue to catch them as their free object interaction, perhaps with a low-DC skill check, and get straight to fighting.

• While not a complete answer (kind of a wrong answer for the actual problem). I like this one as a way to up the ante for the players and put more pressure on the rogue. Because loosing a whole turn to fetch weapons when everyone else has them will be a big deal for some player. That being said, the missmarch of style should be dealt with out of game betwen players. – 3C273 Feb 17 at 12:52
• I agree, Dale M's answer (or similar) is best, but given that the other players have already taken in-game measures to deal with it, I felt it's worthwhile to allow their actions to have full impact. – Maaark Feb 17 at 14:11

This kind of problems are better solved by talking to the player, first as a DM, then as a group. Many would recommend a session zero as well, as there is one player that is playing a game which the rest is not. Maybe is not what he expected out of the experience? I've had this problem before and the whole group fell on him out and in game, and a not very beautiful situation followed. Try to find out what the player wants and if it's compatible with what everyone wants.

Just because not killing a Goblin would have made things easier, it doesn't mean that's the way they should follow.

But there is one section that irks me and that's

They have suggested any and all characters they interact with, should be killed. The reasons being "because it's easier".

Unless you are playing a game where the characters are over the common power level, killing has nasty consequences almost everywhere. Revenges are plotted, cases are investigated, and not all fights are doable. As another poster indicated, allow for the Rogue to feel the "pressure of the world" on them: Have player characters followed and questioned, captured for interrogation or ambushed by relatives of those who got murdered.

The player must understand that while killing may be easy, what comes after may not be.

• The pre-gen character has Flaws/Bonds involving their Aunt who lives near by. They don't want the Aunt to find out about their crimes. Having them behave so their Aunt doesn't found out would be in character. – Nick Feb 17 at 15:14

You cannot solve this in-game, no matter what the other answers say. I've had such players before and they won't take an IC solution and accept it. Even if their bloodlust kills their character, they'll whine about it for a bit and then make an new character who is even worse.

You must discuss this out-of-game with the entire group. Session Zero has already been mentioned, though I would make it more focussed and make it about this one point.

Don't accuse anyone of anything. Soft starts are a skill, use it. Tell the problem player you see he's enjoying the game so far, but you want this OOG discussion to ensure that everyone understands that the battle-focused, easy-kill goblin encounters were just to get started, and down the line there are three very important things to keep in mind:

1. There will be enemies tougher than the group where fighting is not the answer. Trickery may or negotiations or research to find their weakness, but those enemies will be intentionally designed to be near impossible to defeat in a straight battle.
2. There will be adventures that cannot be solved by killing everyone, because some NPCs are needed alive to solve the quest, be it for their knowledge, their abilities or their social connections. Killing is not always the answer and can in fact make it impossible to complete the quest.
3. When it's not goblins nobody misses, killing has consequences. Dead people have families and friends, murder is a crime and also that baseless murdering does not mix with a neutral alignment but pulls a character into evil.

Ask clearly if all the players (don't single out the problem player, you don't want him getting defensive) are ok with this. From what you write, the other players probably are. If he falls in line, watch if his behaviour changes and if not you have three pre-announced options to pull on him. If he does not fall in line, he is in clear opposition to the rest of the group and you can openly discuss if he should continue playing with you because it just doesn't fit. But the important part is that not you put him on the spot, he did it himself.

• If my players killed an NPC held captive who was clearly no threat, especially an important NPC, you can bet they'd get the Achievement: Wanted for Murder. Actions have consequences and, if they are caught, being arrested and thrown in a dungeon, if not hanged, is a reasonable consequence. You could probably even get away with just threatening it by having an investigator show up and start snooping around: "I've been tasked by the Duke to find, arrest, and eventually hang whoever has slain the fair maiden in such a ruthless manner." – TemporalWolf Feb 17 at 22:24
• "Even if their bloodlust kills their character, they'll whine about it for a bit and then make an new character who is even worse." +1 for this as justification for not dealing with this IC, I agree this must be an OOG discussion. – NathanS Feb 18 at 9:16
• It is not actually true that you can't solve it in game. There are a variety of in game circumstances that can give this player a wake up call: such as the dice turning a bit cold. The DM is also able to identify information paths where some NPCs would have heard of some of the rogue's murderous habits and react accordingly. – KorvinStarmast Feb 19 at 13:26

Rule 0: You must all agree to play the same game. If characters don't match, why are they a party? The other PC's should just abandon the character, or make it clear they will.

If they still don't see the problem, try and punish the PC only and not the whole party for his behavior.

• Present them with a few npc's, who don't appear special at first, but only reveal information if attacked, killed, or persuaded. If they go the murder hobo route you make it clear that they missed out on stuff. You can even say something like: "Killing this character gave you 0 xp, and you missed out on ...."

• Let his reputation get ahead of him, and refuse service from NPC's who know his murderous ways. While providing service to the regular heroes the other characters are.

• Gods and deities can always help heroes and punish the murderous types.

• Introduce stronger NPC's that will and can kill your rogue easily if provoked.

• Add a bounty to his name, put up wanted posters, make other adventure parties hunt this PC.

• Yeah, it sounds like that guy is absolutely NOT playing the "classic DnD adventure" which I'd assume everyone else (since they're new) is expecting – Hobbamok Feb 17 at 13:43

1) Find out why

The best characters have understandable motivations, a back story that explains why this character kills everything in sight may encourage your player to think about a reasonable explanation. I find it rare that, once you really know a fleshed out character, that wanton murder really fits the bill. If the player has created the backstory themselves then the hope is they'll stay true to it themselves. If you haven't got backstories off your characters yet you should do this now - if the player isn't sitting well with what they've already written then point this out.

2) Give them consequences

Rogues, especially early on, can deal out damage but not take it. This player is drawing attention killing so many lower level NPCs, making a higher level one take an interest before they're ready is one way to show them they can't win every fight - hit them hard and give them an out (perhaps a distraction gives the party the option to flee).

A second, non combative, option is to tie their backstory into this. Bring in NPCs who that character would have a problem with killing and show them how interesting a story can be when you explore options other than murder.

3) If so far nothing has worked

Point out that not all characters fit to all stories, their current tactics won't work with the story you're planning and you'd like them to either reconsider the character or create a new one for the next stage.

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• This answer has some good points in it, but you will need to review and revise it, I think based on this fact: the halfling rogue is a pre generated character from the published adventure. – KorvinStarmast Feb 19 at 13:29

Disclaimer: I don't know the specific scenario, so I don't know what the story dictates scenario-wise. I'm talking generally.

You can't force the Rogue's player to play to his archetype just by asking him/her. It's the player's perogative to handle situations in any way that he likes. Even in-game it's logical, why do a lot of effort being stealthy, possibly failing and exposing yourself (making you vulnerable), if it's not needed.

What you can do as a DM is up the ante: he's been getting away with being on a killing spree, because there were no real consequences to it. Add consequences.

One way to do this is have the Goblins stand on high alert. They will realize someone's killing off their peers.

• They know a murderous intruder is running amok, so have them increase patrol size, e.g. five goblins instead of just one or two.
• Have the Goblins set up traps. Getting unexpected damage left and right will teach caution.
• Have the Goblins set up an ambush. They could be waiting for the party in a dark corner with nets. Have them single out the perceived biggest threat, the Rogue. If he's in the net(s) he would be incapacitated until freed. That could be a humbling experience.
• Introduce a tougher opponent. Whatever makes sense given the surroundings. Like a battle-scarred Goblin Champion. Possibly even with a posse of trusted companions.

Again, I don't know what the boundaries of the scenario are, but you have the power to change/add to it if required.

If things have been going too easily, make it harder. Within reason. After the adventure you will have something to talk about and your player(s) will have learned to be cautious (hopefully).

• Familiarity with the Lost Mines of Phandelver module/adventure would help a great deal in making your suggestions (be edited to) fit the situation. That module has a number of touch points where the players are interatcint with NPCs, many of whom have things to offer if they stay alive ... – KorvinStarmast Feb 19 at 13:28

Let them handle it in-game

It's actually pretty easy: just allow PvP.

Your group is aware that MurderHobo cannot be trusted so they will (hopefully) just flat-out kill him, since he can not be relied on as part of the group. If your Party is kinda dense/doesn't want to be too hard, just wait a bit in the campaign [from the first goblin lair 1-2 more sessions max.]

[Spoiler for the Redbrands Hideout]

Have the Nothic in the cavern in the old Mansion tell the party that he is planning to backstab them whenever he sees a good opportunity and that he is not to be trusted. With this little creature you can just flat out make the party hunt him down. Due to its "weird Insight" ability it knows this secret, and since its evil it has a valid interest in the party fighting themselves. All you need is to pass a pretty easy Wis save (and you can autofail that since the Nothic probably has multiple rounds before it's spotted).

Then he rerolls his character and he gets to try again (you can now outlaw PvP again, or better: have a talk to everyone OOC how they felt with the whole happening, and if they want to continue this way.

If he continues his behavior with the new character, he is not fit for your table. Tell him that he can find and join a gritty PvP / kill-or-be-killed table if he likes but yours is not it.

Alternatively: Ask your other players [OOC and in private] if they are ok with joining you on this:

Just mess with him. Let him kill everyone in sight (except the party, but they'll just stop helping him); either he dies or he is in some rural village with NOWHERE to go. He knows nothing except how to get back to Neverwinter. And once there, the town guards arrest and execute him on the spot (let's say some farmer escaped). His argument for killing is "it's easier"; well, show him that that is almost never the case.

• Have you tried a solution like this or seen it tried? How has it worked in solving this problem? – V2Blast Feb 17 at 22:48
• Firstly, no. Since this is the rogue with little health facing off against 4 other players including 2 fighters with great weapons, a cleric and a wizard, that won't end well. Secondly, killing off other PCs never ends well. This does not solve my problem; it only creates more. – Ben Feb 18 at 0:02
• easily goes sideways, drives away new player – Jeffrey Witty Feb 18 at 1:49
• @J.Hirsch yeah, its kinda ment in "either he gets his shit together or he's gone". That player leaving is a high chance, but as I read it he doesn't really fit the group anyway and this MIGHT get him to think about his playstyle before actually leaving. Like don't take this approach if you think another solution will work, this ia my last resort kinda – Hobbamok Feb 19 at 8:22
• @Ben why is it not "going to go well" if they kill him? THat's teh point. If theres a chance that he'd win it'd be a shitty idea because then he'd never change! And no, it doesn't create more problems, because that player already is one, what is gonna get worse? – Hobbamok Feb 19 at 8:23