I am a GM and I really need advice regarding one of my players.

I play with my group a campaign with FATE rules in a postapocalyptic dark and gritty homebrew world which is mainly horror based, written by a good friend and myself about 2 years ago, which I also GM'd for another group. I give my group a lot of freedom what they do and how they handle the stories since this is my main goal with telling the story of the world itself.

I play with with 5 players (soon 6) while 3 of them take the world and the lore seriously, made beautiful characters and gift me with their own creativity and ideas for the whole plot, I have 2 players that are pretty hard to handle.

One of them is completely passive when he is even present in a session and almost doesn't listen to me as well. He only plays and brings himself into the game when I especially talk to him and ask him what would be the best idea for the sake of the group in the current situation. It is pretty hard to handle this player cause I feel like I talk to a literal brick wall. But he is not the hardest thing.

One of the other players doesn't take anything seriously at all, while I don't mind one joke or too, since I myself make sometimes references as a GM for a little laugh to enlighten in some situations the gritty atmosphere, this player completely overdoes it.

He literally wants to hug and seduce literally everyone, may it be a bandit, or mercenary, mutant or zombie. Or even something bigger I made up. He brings the group into a really dangerous situation and then runs away and lets the other players handle a dangerous situation he himself made up. He asks me the whole time if he can befriend a Mighty Mutant I made up in the lore as one of the dangerous and most hostile thing in the whole lore, and even if a NPC said to him that this is one thing that is impossible, if not completely suicide.

I tried the last session to give him a little kick. I made up a really big threat, a lore heavy mutant that is for the group in their current situation impossible to handle or even to fight. The group saw this mutant and this one player approaches him directly, I gave him several warnings like "a long forgotten instinct that warns him from a mighty predator" and several NPCs that scream to him that he should run since he is literally killing himself. He wanted to gave the mutant a handshake, and well I have to do what is more lore appropriate, the mutants head split like a lotus blossom and literally bites the player in the whole arm, infecting him with a dangerous Curse.

But well you guess it, even that he didn't take seriously, not even gave any sort of "damn, I messed up" he played it out like it was nothing. And literally shrugs at me when I tried to tell him the danger of his actions.

The group's meeting with this mutant was supposed to be a lore heavy and important for the later story, and it got completely messed up.

I grow tired of this hot mess. Because I made this work and it gone like this, even if I asked multiple times "Can we please concentrate and take it more seriously", this one player completely ignores it and I literally don't know what I can do.

I thought to confront this player outside of session and ask him to take it more seriously 'cause I grow tired, but I also don't want to loose my professionality, if you understand me.

I really thank you for your advice, 'cause I'm desperate and I don't know anymore what to do.


8 Answers 8


Let This Player Know You Aren't Happy With Their Character's Behavior

There's a second side to this issue - you as the DM need to make it clear to this player that you is not having fun with this. You constructed this whole world for the players and explicitly told them to take it seriously, and you feel like this player is not doing so.

Now, this might just be how their character interacts with the world as a whole, and if that's the case you might need to delve into some player-character separation discussion, but it's also possible they're just not aware that you're looking for the character to take things more seriously.

Adding some real hard consequences to their constant attempts at diplomacy might help - but the reality is, you probably aren't going to be happy with the way they play their character until you tell them that you aren't currently happy with how they're playing their character.

You should also take the advice of other good answers here and make sure he's still interested in playing this game - he might not be, and that would be perfectly fine. Be open to the idea this game might just not be for him. Not every game is meant for every person, and it's perfectly fine to admit that.


You should have killed his character

This player believes that nothing they do will have consequences because you'll never be willing to narrate that their character is dead.

You wrote:

I gave him several warnings like "a long forgotten instinct that warns him from a mighty predator" and several NPCs that scream to him that he should run since he is literally killing himself. He wanted to gave the mutant a handshake...

And then you didn't kill him. By not killing him, you reinforced his belief that nothing in your world is really dangerous. By not killing him, you reinforced his belief that you weren't serious when you said: "this World especially is nothing to joke with, that every missstep can bring fatal consequences."

You really, seriously should have killed him.

(It actually could have made a really good scene which impressed your other players.)

It's also probably worth pulling him aside before the next session and having a quick conversation. "Hey, I feel like your character might not be the right fit for the game I'm trying to run. Are you having fun here? Are you definitely sure you want to stay in the game?"

Maybe he'll say yes, but it's possible he'll say no. Sometimes you get players who don't really like the game, but just stick around because all their friends are doing it, or because they've got nothing better to do, or because they feel like it would be rude to quit.

I think it's surprisingly common for players to say: "I'm not having fun here, so I'll see if I can get my character killed off so that I can quit the game." It's possible that's what you're seeing here.

  • 31
    \$\begingroup\$ Like in many things...as a DM it's generally important to follow through on threats made to characters. If you build something up as incredibly lethal and your player pokes it anyway...then let things pan out as they realistically should. They'll take you more seriously next time. I had this happen during a horror campaign where a player decided to spit in the face of the final boss very early in the game, after some substantial warnings from me. Four dice rolls later (2 attacks, 2 damages), that player needed a new character. Next one was a bit wiser. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 24, 2020 at 14:08
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ "It's also probably worth pulling him aside before the next session and having a quick conversation. [...] Sometimes you get players who don't really like the game, but just stick around because all their friends are doing it." Yeah, maybe OP should bring the other, "talking-to-a-brick-wall" player into that conversation too. Both seem like they are not really interested in the game, but in spending time with their friends. \$\endgroup\$
    – walen
    Commented May 26, 2020 at 6:39

Ask him if he still wants to play

You can't make anyone take things seriously, if they don't want to.

At session Zero he especially said nothing even when i asked him

When you ask "what game do you want to play" and that guy says nothing, perhaps he doesn't want to play at all. It is possible he don't want to quit only because he thinks this will be unfair for the group, or for you, the GM. The only way to know this for sure is talking to him out of the game.

Alternatively, end this campaign and start a new one

If you don't want to talk, or the talking didn't give any results, you can always end the campaign. Then gather only those players who were really interested and start a new one.

A side note — It is possible you should consider changing the game. Fate characters are "highly competent individuals" who supposed to be proactive, thus "taking risks and overcoming obstacles to achieve their goals". This doesn't work very well with the horror genre. It also could be the reason for discrepancy between what was players expected and what was the game about.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ You might want to upvote my answer if you feel it is useful, but wait for a day or two before accepting, since a better answer might appear. By accepting my answer you reduce the chance of other people answering. \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented May 24, 2020 at 13:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not seeing the need to end the campaign. Removing characters (and, if necessary, their players) from a campaign in progress and then carrying on without them is also an option. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 25, 2020 at 8:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaveSherohman that was my first suggestion. Do you want me to remove the second one? \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented May 26, 2020 at 17:51
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor I think you should reword it to clearly show that this is a "last resort as a result of not wanting to communicate". At the moment it seems like these are both ideas that you feel are good. Having the second idea there weakens the first IMO \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 27, 2020 at 5:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor - Remove it or emphasize that it's an extreme measure, I guess. It's not clear from the question how long the OP has actually been running the current campaign, but they initially developed it 2 years ago and there are three players who are into it, so there appears to be significant investment in the campaign on both the GM and (the majority of) the player side. Considering how difficult it can be to get solid engagement in a new campaign, throwing all that out and starting over from scratch isn't something I would suggest lightly. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 27, 2020 at 7:09

Be the firm one.

Sounds like you are suffering from several of the well known Geek Social Fallacies.

This guy is disrupting and injuring other people’s leisure despite being asked to stop. This is unacceptable behaviour. The correct social response to unacceptable social behaviour is “There’s the door; put yourself on the other side of it. We’re playing a dark and gritty RPG. You’re fooling around. Do that where we aren’t.”

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ I think it's also worth checking that the other players feel this way. I think there's a decent chance that it's only the OP that's put off by it, and the players might enjoy having more of a "court jester" type around. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 25, 2020 at 16:35

Session 0

The first step is to make sure the group has clear expectations about the game. Maybe you’re the only one griped by this. Maybe they all are. Often it can be helpful to have a “Session 0” when you start a new game/campaign to talk about expectations. There’s not a an objectively correct or expected tone for a game and you need to realize some of this may be all in your mind but not be a common expectation clearly shared amongst all the players. It’s not too late to do this, but don’t think of it as a confrontation. That’s setting yourself up for conflict. Just have a discussion (with “quiet guy” too).

While this is a group activity, you as the GM do have a “super-vote” because you’re the one running the game, but make sure it’s the game they all expect. There’s various other questions on this site about running Session 0’s and using things like the Same Page Tool to facilitate it.

Once there’s been a clear expectation set, then you can also have the group and not just yourself be reminding/encouraging people during the game to stick to it. It doesn’t have to be all you.

In Play

And then assuming you’re running that gritty game - don’t pull punches. You go to hug a super mutant, you get your head ripped off. You set up the rest of the group for trouble, maybe they leave you behind or dust you or whatnot. Don’t let people get away with things they wouldn’t get away with in a gritty world, that’s on you, and if you let then then you’re the one spoiling the tone not the player.

Example 1 - GM

I made this same pivot with a game I ran back in the day. We had a group doing casual gaming. I said “Hey - I want to run a serious game. I’ll run a casual game on day X of the week but then I’d like the group to talk about rules around a very in-character, realistic game on day Y’s.” We set it up - you had to do a special gesture for out of character talk, we did 50 minutes on and then 10 minute breaks, strict information compartmentalization and no metagaming.

Most of the group said they were into it. Including two guys I knew were going to be a problem. Good guys, but probably not going to be able to be serious. So we started. First or second session in, they decided to interrogate some random villager in an inn, threatened violence, when he ran they chased him out into a field and shot him. The local part time constabulary rolls up and arrests them. The rest of the party healed the hurt man but weren’t going out of their way to cover for these folks they’d pretty much just met. I then try to give them an out and make this a warning. “The mayor’s a hard man - how about you pay a fine, half goes to this guy. If you’re short you can work it off in my carpentry shop.” One guy says OK, the other is like “never, you’re ripping me off, I can shoot who I want.” OK, so he’s held till the next morning and brought before the mayor. “You see, I thought he might know something, so I chased him out into the field and shot him,” is the character’s plainly stated defense. “Two months hard labor in the mines. Next!” The player looks shocked as his character is dragged away. I say “well, you can roll a new character, or run a NPC for the next two game months...”. They decided to just play in the casual game after that.

It's a bit harder if there's not another game for them to immediately go to, but excluding is OK.

Example 2 - Player

Similarly, I was a player in another game. It was a serious game, we had to keep a strong cover at all times. We had a new PC join and he was playing, I guess, a totally insane gnome. Whatever happened he would just say stuff like “Turnips whee!” So we kept him in the dark as to our goals and abilities for a while, realistically getting to know each other (our cover was a travelling circus so insane gnomes are semi on point). But eventually there was a problem and he saw us bust out our hidden powers and stuff. Afterwards we sat him down and said “Look man. This is very serious, if it gets out we’re all dead, you need to not say anything.” “Turnips whee!” I said “Here’s the deal. If you don’t start making some Goddamned sense right now we’re going to tie you in a sack and throw you in the river.” My character was not willing to put all their lives in the hands of some insane gnome and if he had to smoke a witness, their being a PC didn’t give them some magical plot immunity. The gnome got it together enough to nod. The GM didn’t have to take any action because we the players were on board. So enlist your players.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Of course, sometimes people don’t have time to plan and run two separate games as GM. But other than that, this is an excellent answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 26, 2020 at 9:21

Ask what the group thinks.

In the end, you are not running this game for a single player. That means, you probably are not the only one who might find their actions disruptive. Ask what the rest of the players think and make them confront the problem player. You are not the only person at the table and game ethics are there for everyone to enforce.

When he does something disruptive, turn to the table and ask: "Hey, what do you people think about this? Do you all think that this is appropriate for the kind of game you came here to play?"

If the group thinks it's wrong, try to make the player understand that:

  1. You enjoy them and do want to play together.
  2. You would prefer it if they played in a way that the whole table would enjoy.
  3. If they don't want to, they don't have to play this game at your table.
  4. If they want to play a specific style of game, they can step up and try to GM a one-shot.

There's plenty of other games you can play together as friends. You don't all have to play this particular campaign. But that's if the group also finds this disruptive. What's the other option?

In case the entire group thinks that this behavior is fine, you should have a conversation about the game you are running vs. the game they want to play.

Based on that, you might want to follow enkryptor's advice and end the campaign. Or, at least, make substantial changes to the campaign if you still want to run for this group and they just want a different game.

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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. Good first answer! \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented May 24, 2020 at 23:35

For the first player, the quiet one, you might consider the possibility that he has some kind of social inhibition and would really like to participate but is uncomfortable for some reason. Talk to him at a time other than your game, when you can have a quiet private conversation about role-playing in general and why he likes it. Don't push too hard, but maybe you'll find out something that you can do differently to engage him more.

My personal similar story turned out to be a player with Aspergers. I pushed him a bit too far during a game session and he broke down, and that was how I found out. I've wished ever since that I had been more sensitive.

For the second player, I agree with earlier answers -- check privately with each of your players individually, and if even one of them agrees with you, show the annoying player the door. Be honest and straightforward but kindly -- remember, he thinks he's being funny, not annoying.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already and see the help center or ask us here in the comments (use @ to ping someone) if you need more guidance. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Commented May 26, 2020 at 12:53

I think that you handled it pretty well, up until the lore-heavy mutant didn't kill him. It was the expected thing, no? But, the PC is now infected by a Curse. Make that count. maybe he smells delicious to rugose horrors from cthonic dimensions? Maybe, just maybe, he occasionally blanks out and goes on killing sprees (between, say, sessions)? Who knows? Powerful curses do all sorts of interesting things in fiction.

There's also the possibility of a redemption arc, where the PCs collectively try to lift the Curse.

Or, if the player is genuinely not interested in continuing, prep for a set scene where the character transforms into a slightly less lore-heavy mutant?


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