I have a D&D 5e game that I've been running for a year that is on pause because some players don't want to play online or go outside (stupid plague ruining my tabletop). So I offered my son and the player who still does small gatherings a filler game. My son picked Star Wars, I agreed. He told his adult sister, who wanted to come over with her boyfriend to join. During session zero I warned that Star Wars canon, for me, is the original trilogy and the original rulebooks from West End Games (1987).

In no time the boyfriend was saying his character is the cousin of Dash Rendar (who?) because that's his favorite character. He defends his expectation because he bought himself a Dash Rendar miniature. Then, 4 sessions in, he wanted me to replace his ship, despite my effort to give him stats, background, drawings and floorplan, with Dash Rendar's ship, because he bought a miniature for it (after having the other ship for a couple sessions). There is also the expectation that I make Dash a major NPC in my game, and give him Dash's guns and equipment, and something about a planet; I stopped listening. I've never had a player like this (in 35 years). He's not belligerent when I point the lines of 'few', 'minor' or 'cosmetic', or session zero. He just repeats the requests endlessly. And argues that they are still few, minor and cosmetic. And that's just the character he wants to play. And he doesn't see how making the game "enjoyable for him" should be such a hassle for me. It's completely poisoning the game for me, I don't even want to judge it anymore.

So to resolve it (dodge it entirely), I asked them if they would like to join my D&D game when social distancing stops or pauses or lightens or whatever. I thought it would help because they don't have history with Forgotten Realms, so there wouldn't be the crossed expectations. Since my son and his uncle are in both games, we could do some side adventures to level them up to toward the existing party, learn the rules and explain their characters' relationships with the existing party. They said yes, and made D&D Beyond accounts to join my campaign. The boyfreind made a Warlock Hexblade. I was stoked to have eliminated the problem.

But now he doesn't want to have anything to do with the Raven Queen, he wants me to replace her with some guy named Leoric from Diablo 2 because that's his favorite console game. And I need to modify Shadowfell to be more like Diablo 2. And ALL of his spells and features and feats need a necromantic effect that mimic his favorite spells from the video game. I don't want to hardline him, because I made concessions for every player, they just stopped demanding additional changes somewhere around 'totally reasonable.' And like my experience in the Star Wars game, a few concessions have already resulted in the expectation of more, more, MORE!

I pushed back, and he said that he wants to replace him with a Necromancer like Raistlin from DragonLance. Head:0, Brick Wall: Infinity

I am teetering on the edge of just telling him that I don't try to play his PC, so he shouldn't try to rewrite my game, and he's welcome to go find another table where he can play Dash Leoric or whatever. Am I actually wrong, does this fall under the umbrella of 'the judge's first job is making the game fun for the players' or is this guy hijacking my agency as creator and judge? If I am right, and discussing it does not work, what's the next thing to try?

It does NOT help that it was my own dumb ass that invited my daughter's boyfriend into my game in the first place. :)


7 Answers 7


DMs are allowed to have fun

And he doesn't see how making the game "enjoyable for him" should be such a hassle for me. It's completely poisoning the game for me, I don't even want to judge it anymore.

You have to tell him that and please do not beat about the bush. He needs to have that truth given to him: his behavior has already ruined one game (Star Wars) for you. If the judge/referee/GM/DM isn't having fun then there's not going to be a game. If everyone else can play within your boundaries, and he can't, he needs to be told that the invitation is no longer open.

You may need to generate the support of the other players on that - games are a social activity and RPGs are that to a larger degree than some board games or party games. So, get them on your side before it comes up again.

There's a related Q&A to yours here that may offer you some more points on where to fold in player ideas for D&D 5e world building. If a player has a good idea for the game world that fits into your general cosmology/game world, I'd say Embrace It. But if it doesn't fit then it doesn't fit.

For D&D 5e: the DM is the ultimate authority on the game world

The Players Handbook is pretty clear about that

Ultimately, the Dungeon Master is the authority on the campaign and its setting, even if the setting is a published world. (PHB, p 6)

Take out the book, and show him that page. Have him read it aloud to you. (OK this may or may not make an impression, but it's worth a try). Some people need to be "battered by the obvious."

And then simply tell him that his characters need to be within whatever bounds you have established. "No, just what's in the book and what I am happy with" needs to be repeated again and again and again as he keeps trying to beat the DM at world-building.

But now he doesn't want to have anything to do with the Raven Queen, he wants me to replace her with some guy named Leoric from Diablo 2 because that's his favorite console game.

Tell him no. And don't back down.

And I need to modify Shadowfell to be more like Diablo 2.

Tell him no, and don't back down. You are being pushed. Coolaborative world building can be fun, but it also requires consensus. If you don't want the world to be like Diablo 2, then this suggestion won't be adapted.

And ALL of his spells and features and feats need a necromantic effect that mimic his favorite spells from the video game.

Tell him no, and don't back down. And then tell him directly: "I don't like being pushed like that, it's rude" or words to that effect.

I pushed back, and he said that he wants to replace him with a Necromancer like Raistlin from DragonLance. Head:0, Brick Wall: Infinity

The come back I suggest is: "You want to make a Necromancer? OK, make a wizard, School of Necromancy. As you go up in level, your PC's story and adventures will be unique; Raistlin's story has already been written. Let's see what story comes out of {PC name}'s adventures."

This seems to have become a contest of wills. And here another appeal to the other players to keep the game fun for you also is not out of line.

"Being constantly harassed like this is not fun for me. I don't get paid enough for this" - is a sentiment I've seen numerous DMs and GMs express over the years. In some cases the players got the message; in other cases the games ended.

Or, turn the tables

Invite him to DM. Roll up a character. And then don't do as he did to you, simply play. Teach by demonstration.

  • This approach, if the offer is accepted, keeps the group you have gathered at this point playing together which seems to be one of your subordinate objectives: play with family + daughter's boyfriend.
  • I am going to guess that him leaving may risk her not being quite as keen on playing; if that's a concern there's an interpersonal issue going on that has nothing to do with DM. It may even be better to suggest "play board games with this group" as a solution.

Will it work? That's hard to say; I don't know this guy. I've seen being polite and truthful work on numerous occasions. It will depend on the personalities involved and what other social relationships are active in your small group.

Are you wrong?

No. DMs are allowed to have fun too.

A key thing to bring up is that (1) the game's structure is a case of incrementally increasing the power of the PC a bit at a time and (2) it isn't a video game. Make that a focus of your conversation.

It's your game world, not the game world of Blizzard Incorporated. I've played all three Diablo games and love them; but you aren't required to. Player contribution to world building can be fun, and can offload some of a DMs work, but it needs to fit within your overall scheme.

  • 17
    \$\begingroup\$ From OP: "It does NOT help that it was my own dumb ass that invited my daughter's boyfriend into my game in the first place. :)" From this answer: "This seems to have become a contest of wills." I feel like these two might be related? Obviously it's all but impossible for us to tell without knowing OP's relationship with their daughter and the boyfriend, and without observing the minutiae of the interactions, but it seems entirely possible that the boyfriend is (consciously or not) testing how far he can push his girlfriend's parent. \$\endgroup\$
    – Brondahl
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 10:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Plus, players can create and control their own characters. He can't change other players' characters, and the Big-Bad falls under the DM's purview. Unless, of course, he suddenly wants his Warlock Hexblade to be "Fluffy Sparklebutt the bright-pink, vertically-challenged, tabaxi klutz, out to prove he isn't a complete laughing stock". (Plus, if he wants to add Necromatic effects to spells, what aspect is he suggesting to nerf about them to maintain gameplay balance?) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 10:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ I wouldn't recommend the 'turn the tables' portion - this is more likely to either result in additional hostility, or just lead to them saying 'yes' and them playing a DnD game set in the Diablo 2 universe...which might be okay actually, but wouldn't teach this person any lesson. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 12:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Being constantly harassed like this is not fun for me. I don't get paid enough for this" - is a sentiment I've seen numerous DMs and GMs express over the years. In some cases the players got the message; in other cases the games ended. <- this, so much this. I have stopped GMing for a certain group because of one player. I stopped playing in another group because of a single player. If its not fun for everyone, people will leave. And you are one of those presons who needs the game being fun. \$\endgroup\$
    – Benjamin
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 17:43
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ About your second recommendation ("turn the tables"): given what we know about this person, if he were to DM, I suspect he would do a lot of heavy-handed railroading to force players to stick to his desired plotlines. And OP would have even less leverage because now the boyfriend "is the authority on the campaign and its setting". Take care if using this advice. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mage Xy
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 21:20

That player, from your description, is either a small child or shows the behaviour of one. As such, reason is useless.

Regarding the major NPC of his favorite character, I would have tried one and only one argument: "Look, here's the thing: That's a pretty cool character, that's why I keep him out of the game. Because like in a chess game, once he is on the board, he can be killed. If you want to see him die, I can include him, but I'd prefer to remember him as he was in the movies. Deal?"

Second, it appears that the player hasn't understood the basic concept of tabletop roleplaying. That these games are not re-enactments of the movies, but their own stories. That they allude to main characters if based on a book or movie, but rarely include them, the same way a spin-off TV series does. Maybe that was never explained to him or he didn't grasp it.

Third, if a player takes too much of your attention, energy and enjoyment from the game, drop him. For your benefit and for the benefit of the other players. Nobody forces you to play with these people, and if the game was volleyball and one player insisted that playing the ball with his foot is ok, he'd be out of the game in no time, wouldn't he?


Perhaps "Yes, and..."?

It's not clear to me if the player is introducing flavor text or trying to Mary Sue his characters with game breaking effects. It's clear that their behavior has made the game unenjoyable for you so I make this suggestion with some hesitation. What about "Yes, and..."?

  • Yes, PC's ship does look like Dash Rendar's and...
    • Dash Rendar's enemies mistake the PC for him, and he ends up hunted but without DR's skills and resources?
    • Dash Rendar ends up wanting to end this pretender?
  • Yes, the PC's magic has the horrid stench of necromancy, and...
    • He now is hunted by the daughter of the knight he reanimated?
    • The Big Bad is annoyed that some wanna-be necromancer is running around, so he decides to show this pretender the real face of evil?

You don't have to be cruelly vindictive, but simply use the players contributions to make the story more complicated, and making it clear that while they can invoke such references, they don't control the consequences.

It can be very annoying when players try to change the canon of your campaign, and you should not tolerate it. But players have the urge to create, too, and you might think about harnessing that urge to provide plot hooks in your story.

Doing so can be a bit scary. I used to have city maps with every door numbered so I knew what was behind each one. However, now (sometimes) I can say - "It's a rousing pub scene. Tell me what you see when you go in." If a player creates a grizzled old retired knight as the barkeep, I now have a hook into the story I had originally planned.

Some game lines encourage players to describe the special effects of their spells or actions. (The "How do you want to do this?" of the killing blow). You might consider allowing players to supply this sort of game detail. I have had this work well in my current game. I draw the line at details that affect the "crunch", the actual dice rolled and game effects. If a player wants their Magic Missles to look like flaming skulls, so that they're "Mephisto Lite," that won't hurt my game.

If you do this, do it with all the players, getting them to give you details about glow of their spells or emblems on their armor. You don't want a player pulling focus, you just want to encourage good roleplaying. If the player is truly a jerk, this won't help. But if they don't insist on the game effects, allowing them to specify the "special effects" can provide rich possibilities for your story.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Ι think this may be the better answer, if it can be done. But I think the OP’s problem might be that saying ‘yes’ at all ruins his fun. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 10:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Yes, and…" is a great tool that makes RPGs more fun, but only up to a point. He has expressed that he is not happy with the suggestions for his players and he has no obligation to follow them. Many of these suggestions go completely against the entire lore he set up. And from how he wrote it, it also seems like the player came up with major changes during the game, not in session 0. That's simply not okay and there is nothing wrong with saying No instead of Yes, and…. And a player has to accept that. The DM has expectations, too, and maybe more than anyone else should be allowed keep em \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 13:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ In general, "yes, and..." is a good RPG approach, but it won't work in this case. This player has entirely different problems. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tom
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 16:23

In extension of the other answers - it is important to remind the group of one very important thing:

The game is not all about one person.

There are other players in the group too. You have to work together, and play together, to venture down the path untravelled, together. Playing the game revolving around the plot points that one player chooses is not fun for everyone.

I would also recommend talking to the group about this as well. As it is a group game - everyone needs to be on the same page. Everyone needs to want to play the same game, and understand their positions in the group. You are the DM - you tell the story. The players interact with that story, and each other. It doesn't work if one player is the one say "We do this" or "I do that" (especially when disregarding everyone else's input.


tl;dr: You can tell him it doesn't sound like he is interested in playing in these games, despite having agreed to their conditions initially. He can find a way to participate in these games as you've designed them, or not participate. Those two options comprise the entire menu.

It's definitely possible that this player didn't understand what they were agreeing to when you described your setting restrictions. It's hard to grasp that Dash Rendar might be considered a part of the original trilogy, given that he's a retcon character from Shadows of the Empire, which was released decades after the original films.

But it's also clear that this player has specific ideas of what would be fun at the table, and has his heart set on some very specific scenarios and experiences. That's not really your problem, at least not entirely, especially when you make your restrictions clear prior to starting the games.

The best way I've found to deal with situations like this is to refuse to bargain in response to the problem player, explain why you will not fulfill their request (as opposed to cannot, which is unlikely to help you here), and (possibly, if you want to or feel it is necessary) offer a compromise of limited scope in the direction of the player's requests.

For the Dash Rendar example, that might play out like this:

Dash Fanatic: I want Dash Rendar to be in this game as a core element of the setting and plot!

DM: No. As we discussed before, only elements of the original trilogy are on the table for this game. Dash Rendar is not from the original trilogy, so he's not eligible to be in the game. If I did include him, it would immediately become unclear what details from Star Wars are operative in the game and I don't want to muddy the setting and story in that way. If you like, you can play a character based on Dash, even named Dash Rendar, but the rules and restrictions we've all already agreed to are what I used to build the story and I'm not going to redo all of that work over this.

You can be accommodating of this player's requests, but that's what they need to be: requests. He doesn't get to dictate whether or not the Raven Queen is in your game, or if she's reskinned as a character from another game, or if you roll your own character to match one from an existing fiction.

Reskins, and similar tactics, are fine in TTRPGs. But when you're playing D&D 5e, you are decidedly not playing Diablo 2. If a player wants to explore elements from another game you two can work together to make that fit. But you are 100% within your rights to tell him that the setting is already decided, the story is already written, and it is too late to demand that all of those change to match Diablo 2. Perhaps a future game could be centered around details from that Diablo 2, but this one isn't and will not be.

This sounds like a very difficult player to have at your table, and I think you've already given enough inches (and had enough miles taken) that negotiating compromises at his urging is not the best move. I suggest that you tell this player you're more than willing to help incorporate themes and elements he'd like to see into the games you're playing, but are not willing to throw away all of the work you've already done because this player has changed his mind about what he wants. If he persists in his demands, you can tell him that he is free to drop out of your game in order to find one that better suits his current preferences. Or he can play Shadows of the Empire, or Diablo 2, or write his own fanfiction in those settings, or anything else.

There seems to be enough of an expectation mismatch here that further discussion can really only occur after you've brought the hammer down. If this player can come to the understanding that he doesn't dictate anything outside of his PC within the rules of the system you're playing, and doesn't get to demand anything at all about the nature of the game, then it might be worthwhile to find ways to get him more of what he wants. At present, he's been demanding and unreasonable in a way that has soured two different games. Until he's demonstrated that he understands your and his roles at the table, he should not expect any more appeasement. The next decision he has to make is whether he gets in line with the games, or leaves them.


Worry less about the game and more about potential conflict with your daughter's boyfriend

Other answers have covered how to handle this as a gm, but I think the particular relationship here complicates the situation a lot. In my experience, the boyfriend/father dynamic is often awkward and strained even when both guys are reasonable people who might otherwise get along. This can be further complicated when the young woman gets involved and tries to broker a peace or picks a side. I don't know what your relationship with him has been like outside of these particular points of conflict, but I'd encourage you to reflect on it seriously as you decide how to handle this.

If you want to try to keep this relationship positive, I'd encourage you to be more accommodating and easier going than you would with a different player. By all means you can talk to him about the issue, but do so in as friendly and non-confrontational a manner as possible, and avoid saying anything that could come off as authoritative or patronizing. "I think this is a really cool character, but can we make some tweaks to make it feet in better with the setting" will work a lot better than "my table, my rules". You may not be able to rein him in as much as you'd like and it may genuinely make the game less fun for you, which is a bummer! Personally, this guy sounds pretty immature and not like someone I'd enjoy playing with, but you are at least a couple decades older than he is and I assume can just get over a little bit of corny character building in the interest of keeping the peace.

If you'd rather play the role of tough, mean dad and you don't care about your relationship with him, then I would just kick him out of the campaign and then fight about curfew and whatever else without these distractions. But be prepared for some fallout and drama if you do this.

  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ while I in general agree that he needs to be cognizant of the greater relationship, I don't think that I can agree with accommodating to all of his whims. it's not fair to the rest of the table to let one person do something that they have been told that they can't do. resolving the issues with the relationship are important but I don't think that the solution of just accommodating him is the right path here. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 20:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, if you can add some additional support to this regarding when you've given a player special treatment not available to others and how that went, it would improve the answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 14:11

If he's as self-centered as it seems, you could avoid playing role-playing games with him. Go for board games where the rules are clear, preferably non-confrontational ones.

Role playing games are great for the imagination, unless there's an egotistical player who wants everything to go his way... it can end up with endless arguing about the rules. I had to cancel a role-playing mechwarrior game because of one of those guys. Pushing the guy out and continuing to play without him is an option, but not the best one, that's a great way to ruin friendships.


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