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I have been a part of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign for almost a year now (I am not the DM) and we have a player (in his early 30s) who has, within the past few months, quickly become very difficult to deal with.

  1. He is notoriously late, often an hour to an hour and a half regardless if we met online or in person. When he finally showed up, he would get on his phone to watch unrelated videos with the volume up loud, carry on conversations in the middle of a battle, and not pay attention until it was his turn. When it was his turn he would ask "alright, so what's happening?" and proceed to reiterate everything that happened while he wasn't paying attention. If it wasn't his turn, he would attempt to force the story back onto him.

  2. While we met online, we noticed was that this player suddenly starting rolling really high for someone in a single digit level and succeeding in everything that he wanted his character to do. When we met back in person, he started hiding his dice behind a "plastic bag fortress" and grabbing the dice before we could confirm the number and call out "Nat 20!" (which in our campaign is an automatic success and a 5% chance of rolling it per game, let alone an individual session). This made the rest of us annoyed because we couldn't prove it and obviously couldn't do anything against him. (but come on, players don't need to hide their dice!)

  3. His character is a gunslinger and therefore, before the rest of us got a chance to do anything, he would take out his gun and shoot anyone who disagreed with him, regardless if it was an NPC or another player. And his alignment would change with whatever he felt his character needed to do in that moment. This would naturally lead into sometimes an unwanted initiative where he would be unstoppable thanks to his suspiciously high rolls.

  4. Our DM's younger sister (she is only 14) joined us for a brief period with two young (female) characters, one a rogue, the other a sorcerer. This player decided that his character would take them "under his wing". In other words, tell the rogue she wasn't allowed to steal from people and tell the sorcerer to train to use a sword and not wield her magic. He went after multiple female NPCs (and a couple of player's female characters) to try and force in-game relationships that (while fun) were quite unnecessary.

  5. Despite his high rolls and ability to succeed, he constantly asked where his initiative modifier was located on his sheet, he didn't know which one was the six-sided dice, and refused to call characters by their real name (because he didn't try to remember them). He claims that the out-of-game arguments are "playful banter". Also, that he has been under a lot of stress (which is no excuse to cheat!). Everyone in our campaign uses D&D to de-stress and he takes the fun out of playing and ends up causing more stress to the evening. He has even caused two members of our group to quit.

Our DM has put up with his antics for a lot longer than he should have. While these are obvious red flags, he wasn't like this at the start of the campaign. It felt like once we started meeting online he took it as an opportunity to mess with us and it carried over when we met back in person. We don't know if he understands how much stress he is causing or is simply ignoring it in order to feel better about himself. We know that if we do confront him he will oppose the charges, or, if he does change, will only revert back when we become comfortable in our game-play.

We can't deal with his cheating, manipulative, disruptive behavior any more. How do we gently (or not-so-gently) tell him that he straight up needs to leave?

I do have to point out that we, as a group, have discussed this issue multiple times with one another and the DM, and we all feel the same way. The above issues are something all of us noticed, not just myself.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "We can't deal with his cheating, manipulative, disruptive behavior any more. How do we gently (or not-so-gently) tell him that he straight up needs to leave?" - it's good that you have realised what the outcome needs to be; some questions of this nature often come across as "what should I do" when the answer is obvious; you've realised this already and are asking instead how to do it. So +1 from me. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Aug 21 at 7:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm going to leave a gentle reminder that answers should be in answers and that they should be supported. The method you suggest should be tested, and that testing should give you expertise to say when it worked and any drawbacks or limitations it may have. This also goes to voters, please look for answers that show experience. Many ideas sound good until you try it and realize you forgot about X thing. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Aug 21 at 13:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ FWIW, the chance of getting a natural 20 is 5% each roll. If you're rolling many times in a session, you shouldn't be surprised to get at least one. \$\endgroup\$ – The Photon Aug 21 at 21:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Why exactly do you want to gently tell this guy to get lost? \$\endgroup\$ – ruffdove Aug 22 at 2:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ruffdove because neither the DM or I really like confrontations. lol \$\endgroup\$ – The_Hopeless_Paladin Aug 22 at 11:17
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TL;DR: Talk to your group and consider if it’s really a good idea to have him as a player.

I get how you feel right now; I, as a GM, have some similar stuff going on in our virtual games.

To start with

Talking to the other players could help, but since you are also a player, I suggest you talk to your GM, especially if other players agree with you. Tell the GM that it’s not fun for you any more; I would presume, from you saying this player has caused 2 people to quit, that everyone else is also not happy with him. Use that against him.

When I had a problem player that others brought concerns about to me, I talked to all the other players without them and we agreed on what behavior was causing the problem. When we then, as a whole group, confronted them, we could give an ultimatum: change these things about your behavior or leave.

Important note:

It’s okay to ask problematic players to leave if they truly impact everyone’s enjoyment. However, the whole group needs to be in agreement about that decision (possibly with the exception of the player in question). Otherwise, he may use the split in the group to argue that he can stay, and not change behavior.

With that out of the way, I have a bit more advice on specific behaviors.

Specifics

Dice roll hiding

The bane of my existence as a GM is when players don’t roll in front of everyone and then cheat. This is a bit of a double standard, as GMs are expected and often need to secretly roll, but players are supposed to be honest.

This is where a virtual tabletop or dice roller, like roll20, comes in handy. By default, everyone sees all rolls. This prevents cheating to an extent; it’s hard to lie and say that 3 was a 20 when everyone sees you rolled a 3.

Not paying attention or putting effort into the game

This is a clear sign he’s not willing to work with everyone else. Everyone I know loses track of some important stuff at times (including me... has anyone seen my math homework this week?), but the biggest warning sign I know of to spot a player who isn’t invested in the game is that they don’t try to remember.

If they aren’t trying at least a little, I’d call it a clear sign they don’t really want to be playing the same game you do. This might be a behavioral issue to discuss with the group if you feel it would be best to kick him out.

For next time

On that note, if your group doesn’t make a habit of starting campaigns with a Session 0, now might be a good time to start. Some of the problem sounds to me like he’s being a jerk, but some may be that he wants to be playing a different game than the rest of you. In that case, I would suggest using the Same Page Tool to try to reconcile that kind of miscommunication before there’s a next time.

(I believe you that he’s a problem and should be dealt with. I’m mostly putting that as advice for future people who want to avoid this kind of problem ahead of time.)

I wish you all the luck in trying to resolve this!

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is "secret dice rolling" really a thing in some groups? What possible reason could there be for that other than wanting to cheat? And that the DM sometimes rolls in hiding isn't much of a double standard - the DM isn't a player, and they can do lots and lots of things that players can't. \$\endgroup\$ – xLeitix Aug 21 at 17:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Re "like roll20", Eons ago, it used to be that all rolling was done by the client, and it was quite simple to decompile the Java client, modify it, and recompile it. As a proof of concept --I have never actually used roll20 before yesterday-- I modified it to accept /roll 1d20!19. It would behave as if you typed /roll 1d20, but the result would be 19 (or whatever number you typed in). I did this in a day or two, and I had never programmed in Java aside from a school assignment or two, and I had never decompiled a program before (Java or otherwise). I don't know if it's still like that. \$\endgroup\$ – ikegami Aug 21 at 18:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ikegami: Roll20 currently uses QuantumRoll: "Rather than relying on client-side pseudo-random number generation to perform dice rolls, Roll20 now utilizes a "true random" source of entropy, based on the fluctuations in the power of a beam of light. All rolling is done via our server. This ensures that dice rolls on Roll20 are as random as possible." You can see the aggregate roll results here: app.roll20.net/home/quantum \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 21 at 22:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @xLeitix I don't understand why anyone should want to hide their dice other than to appear superior to the other players. We had a drinking competition and the DM just happened to say that the DC increased by two each round (a mistake on his part) and suddenly this guy was succeeding his rolls. He was a human, the other competitor was a dwarf barbarian. They were drinking the "strongest" dwarven beer in the DM's world and yet the barbarian was knocked out within 2 rounds whereas the human magically succeeded on for about 5 rounds with no repercussions. Explain that to me! \$\endgroup\$ – The_Hopeless_Paladin Aug 22 at 11:22
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This kind of a person wants to "win" in a way which doesn't work in most role playing games. I think you are correct when you ask:

How do we gently (or not-so-gently) tell him that he straight up needs to leave?

The relationship between him and the rest of the group has soured. It could be fixed, but that will be stressful ordeal which would probably be a source for anxiety for many of you. You're there to have fun and relax, not for real-life drama, not for dealing with what ever issues other players may have in their lives.

You must part ways, and for that to happen, someone has to take the initiative. It may be you since you are asking the question.

  1. Find out which other players agree with you. You can just ask each of them: "I don't enjoy playing with X, the way he's been playing, and I don't think it can be fixed. What do you think about it?" Is it everybody? Does someone try to defend the problem player or straight up says they want the problem player to continue playing?

  2. Then you can tell the GM and any disagreeing players: "We, [list of names], decided we don't want to play with X any more. We don't want him present in the next game. Would you be upset if we asked him to leave? Or would you prefer to ask yourself?"

  3. Tell the problem player: "Your style of play isn't really compatible with how the rest of us want to play. We talked about it, and we have decided to try to see how it goes without you. No hard feelings, we hope."

Then, don't invite him to the next session. And do not get into an argument over it. If they are the kind of a person they sound like, they will want to "win" an argument. You can just say "I guess we all have our own reasons why we think you're not a good fit for this group". You may have to repeat "I'm not going to argue about this" a few times if they get upset.

Leaving and finding a new group is best for the problem player, too. Each group and each GM is different, and for him to learn to be better player, he clearly needs more experience in different groups.


I am a strong proponent of finding a group composition which works, and switching groups if you are not having fun. I was long "stuck" in my first group. It was fun, no major problems, but certain things in the style of play just didn't work for me. Then after a TPK I finally decided to "take a break", knowing full well I wouldn't be coming back. Then I found a new group, which fits me much better.

So, if you can't make the problem player leave the group, leave yourself. "I'm not having fun." is reason enough. It may feel crap for a while (it did for me), but in the end it's worth it for everybody involved.

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    \$\begingroup\$ How important was that TPK in your decision of when to leave that group? Do you think you'd have quit in a session or two anyway, or was it more like "this is my chance!" In other words, how important do you think an in-game reason is for avoiding hurt feelings? \$\endgroup\$ – Owen Reynolds Aug 21 at 18:42
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I completely agree with @WakiNadiVellir's answer.

Since you said that you already discussed with other players and with the DM and you all feel the same way, and moreover you are considering also non-so-gently ways, I suggest to talk to this player (one of you or all together) and say:

Hey, you know what? We do not want to play with you anymore, because you are always late, you are not paying attention to what happens in game, because you are too busy in watching videos and whatever you do with your phone, you are obviously cheating, you [add all the other motivations...]: in few words, you are ruining our game time.

or something similar. I think that puns or sarcastic observations will not work with this kind of people.

Then stop inviting this player to future DnD session, without regrets: I do not see any "diplomatic" ways to solve this problem.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Emphasis on "You are ruining our game time by being so inconsiderate of other people" I think that's the pivot point for the conversation. (Nice answer) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 21 at 12:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks @KorvinStarmast. It seems that this is the case where this player really does not consider at all the others, and it is the most disrespectful attitude at game table. \$\endgroup\$ – Eddymage Aug 21 at 17:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is really the answer. While the original poster is trying to be diplomatic about this, the level of — honestly — sociopathic and narcissism here is off the charts. Being gentle with a person like this will not get rid of them. Be blunt, honest and focused… Just saying this is enough, “Hey, you know what? Sorry, but we are all tired of your nonsense. You are ruining our game time. Specifics don’t matter past this: You are not invited to this game anymore. Nothing else to discuss.” Don’t ever give sociopaths choices. Just get rid of them. \$\endgroup\$ – Giacomo1968 Aug 23 at 3:07
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Talk to him first

You portray this player as a narcissistic ignorant jerk, who is completely aware about his disruptive behavior but doesn't want to change because he doesn't care about feelings of other people.

However, this might be not true. There is still a chance he does not understand how bad this behavior is, since no one told him how it seemed. If you secretly talk about him with the group, you set the group against him to effectively state "we decided to dump you". This is not nice.

Instead of talking to the group, talk to him first. Explain why his behavior is disrespectful. Ask him to follow the same simple rules all other players do:

  • Don't be late — we all agree to start at X o'clock, so please come at X as other players do
  • Pay attention to scenes; no one has an obligation to repeat all that happened just for you
  • Roll dice openly; we don't cheat in our game
  • Never attack players' characters without their consent; there is no PvP in our game

Give him a choice — either he follows these rules, or he leaves. If he will prefer to leave, the problem will solve itself.

It would be better not to store up resentment in the future

Keep in mind, reacting fast is usually more efficient strategy than suffering silently. This is especially important for the DM who is responsible for the group dynamics.

This might look harsh for the first time, but will yield better results strategy-wise:

— John, it's your turn. What do you do?
(tears himself away from the phone) Alright, so what's happening?
— Sorry, we have no time to explain all these again. Skip your turn now, please pay attention next time.

— Make a Wisdom (Perception) check.
(hides the result and then grabs the dice) Nat 20!
— Sorry John, I can't accept this because I didn't see the dice. Please reroll openly.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know, it seems that players and DM already pointed out that they do not like the behavior of this problem-player (see the OP comments to Bardic Wizard's answer, to Steve's answer) and the player's response was.. not kind. It seems to me that talking to him about these issues would be useless and maybe more frustrating than playing with him/her. \$\endgroup\$ – Eddymage Aug 23 at 9:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Eddymage you might be right, however, for now I don't see comments on any topic apart from rolling too high, and this "too high" can be biased. On the other hand, the question itself does not say people tried talking to the problem player, hence the answer \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Aug 23 at 19:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I noticed same thing too, but since the problem player likes to hide the dice, given some examples the OP provided and the general behavior of the PP I sincerely have little doubts about cheating. I focused more on the part were the OP was saying that the problem player is not paying attention to what happens in game, how is ignoring almost everything and et cetera: this actually are the main motivation behind suggest to directly kick out the PP without giving any other opportunity. \$\endgroup\$ – Eddymage Aug 23 at 20:26
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I will assume this is your DM's first experience with this type of thing.

Everyone will have to stage an intervention and tell this player that this sort of thing is not fun for anyone else and will no longer be tolerated. You have two choices here:

  1. Give them an ultimatum that any further behavior of this sort will result in his immediate removal.
  2. Forego the ultimatum and remove him from the game.

From my own experiences I have put in place 2 rules that your DM might want to implement and put them in place and reiterate them anytime a new player joins the group.

Any time a new player joins my games they know this first and foremost before play begins.

If you are caught cheating you will be removed from the game.

The other rule is more of a soft ball approach. The behavior of not paying attention is on the player entirely. I don't allow reiteration of an entire round or rounds of combat during the combat. If my players are not paying attention they have to make a decision and based on the information the player has and not depend on others to provide things they should already know.

I don't allow much discussion during combats and it is up to the players and the DM (Me) not to engage with a player that keeps doing it. If there is no engagement the perpetrating player usually stops because it no longer fun for them because they are not getting the attention they crave. Focus the fun on the game itself and although this is a social game and table-talk is expected to some extent it shouldn't overshadow the story and game itself.

Dice Rolling

If you are using a VTT to meet it is a bit harder to cheat at dice rolling as well. We started with Roll20 but left as their ideology and update practices were a bit cringy for us. We have settled on Fantasy Grounds and without editing the sheets which I can watch it is very hard to fudge dice rolls that matter.

But for nearly all rolls everyone can see them at my tables. Players are not allowed to hide their rolls and with the Dice Tower options if I need a roll that not even that player should see (like perception) it simply shows me, the DM, what the roll is and I can determine success without extra metagame shenanigans.

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OK, these questions always have "talk to them" mentioned in them somewhere so let's get that out of the way:

Talk to them.

Now, seeing as that is almost certainly a conversation no-one wants to have, let's deal with a couple of other points.

Cheating

I had a player that did the exact same thing when we moved online for a short while. Their number of nat. 20s and just general high scoring to hits or checks increased way past being statistically significant. Similarly, nat. 1s simply stopped happening.

I dealt with this by simply highlighting their rolls when they happened.

"Another nat. 20, wow!"

"Man, you're rolling really well tonight."

And, less subtly:

"You've really improved since playing online."

The goal of all of this was to make them uncomfortably aware that I knew what they were doing without just stating it out loud. And they noticed and were, luckily, embarrassed enough to stop.

This will not work for everyone, but it takes a rare person to continue cheating when everyone at the table knows they are.

Poor role-playing

This covers several points you mentioned: shooting NPCs (and PCs!?!), forgetting names, etc. The other NPCs (or just you) can start to address these points in game as character moments. Let your actual frustration seep into the PC conversations. The player may not care overly much about their relationships with the players but their NPC being disliked by the other's in the party may have an effect.

Missing the action

This is a DM fix but will I got tired of players tuning out until their name was mentioned and then trying to play catch-up; I simply didn't provide a summary.

They missed that conversation with the NPC? Too bad.

Unaware of the strategy the other PCs are trying in combat? Tough luck.

These serve a dual purpose as it significantly, negatively, affects their enjoyment and that is one way to get them to change. And the other players can show their frustration, in and out of game, in small ways, again making the trouble player feel awkward.

You may think targeting them like this is in poor form but it can work depending on the player's level of empathy. And, if direct conversations or booting them are things that the table want to avoid, then measures like this are all that are left.

The import take away is that EVERYONE needs to be having fun and if one player is significantly ruining the fun of the others at the table, that person needs to adjust or leave. It can be awkward but sometimes it just need to be done.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you suggest commenting Natural 20's for all players or for this player only? Because if it's latter, it might be the DM wrongly accuses fair dice rolls. \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Aug 21 at 11:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ This doesn't answer the question they're asking. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Aug 21 at 17:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Steve We have commented multiple times on the fact that rolls super high. I think it just makes him feel superior to everyone else, and because we're noticing it, he does it even more. Once, I even commented on the whole "fortress" and he straight up said "I like to hide the dice!" Um... what? TBH, that should have been the end of it. \$\endgroup\$ – The_Hopeless_Paladin Aug 21 at 20:22
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While the answers here are all valid a lot of them have focused more on what your player is doing and how you are doing the right thing vs your question as to how you actually have the conversation with him. Although there are a few that have dealt with this.

First of all accept that this may well be a hard thing for someone to do, as negative and toxic as the behavior of this person is actually sitting someone down and telling them “we don’t want you around anymore” can be a hard thing to do if you have never done it before. I have had to have this conversation just once luckily and generally have been able to either get the problem player to change there behavior or, more generally they have mutually decided that the groups style of play, or the gameplay or just the way I dm isn’t for them. That’s fine not every person will mesh with every group of players.

The first thing to say, as has been mentioned in other answers, is that you need to get agreement with all the players and then pick 1-2 people ideally one of them the DM to talk to the person and explain. This should not be a ganging up session and he ideally should not feel that everyone is having a go. Also pick a time and place suitable but away from the usual game time. The last thing you need is the conversation spilling into when players arrive, or having it after a session. A different day to that you usually run your adventures is best.

Write out what you want to say, detail examples of his behavior and how it is causing issues, make sure with other players that what you have written is an accurate reflection of how they are feeling and be clear in your head that the end goal of this discussion is that he is out of the group not an opportunity at another chance. On that note speak to the other players about that as an option if he shows true remorse and a willingness to really change his behavior, maybe suggesting a probation period. Again be clear with what the aim is here and make sure if you are having this conversation with your DM present that the 2 of you are of exactly the same mind. But having some concrete examples of each of his type of behavior allows you to present the reasons for the decision, it also allows him to reflect on it and possibly improve if he joins a new group in the future.

Don’t get angry or allow the conversation to descend to he said she said, but do be prepared that he may well get emotional. He may well not be expecting this and it may well come as a shock. However as with all breakups the quick fast approach is better the dragging it out so when having the conversation get to the point quickly and efficiently. Do not try and put the negative between 2 positives, we are really enjoying roleplay, but we need you to leave, but your a great person still. You may feel harsh but it is better to be honest and to the point then try and sugar coat it.

If the decision has been that he should not be allowed back under any circumstances make that clear and ensure he understands. The last thing you need is him misunderstanding either because you where not clear or, more likely, he took what you said and heard what he wanted to hear.

If it is easier try practicing this conversation with an impartial 3rd person, or even one of the party or between you and the DM.

Finally remember that you have every right to decide who you choose to spend your time with you are not being malicious or evil here but making an adult considered decision.

Hope that helps.

A reference link

https://lifehacker.com/how-to-kick-someone-out-of-your-d-d-group-1838880820

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Start a new campaign where for vague reasons, they don't fit.

As has been noted, the entire rest of the group needs to agree they want to play without this person. But "starting a different campaign" softens the confrontation and rejection. The player isn't being kicked-out -- they're still in the old campaign! It helps everyone else as well. Instead of "who votes to kick out Ralph?" it's "who'd like to start a new campaign which avoids some of the things we don't like about this one?" In theory, people may even decide they miss the old campaign, and that guy wasn't so bad (OK, that will never happen, but it could). The one time I was involved with this, there was a rough moment, but everyone stayed friends. I think that player was even back in the group for later campaigns (but they only had 1 flaw, not the multiples of your guy).

Say "this new campaign works better for a smaller group, and it's a style we didn't think you'd like...". You don't need your reasons to "prove" why that player can't be in it. "We already got it organized and want to try it this way for a while" is a fine capper. Starting new is a pain, but the old campaign is probably haunted by the ghost of the old player anyway. They've got plot hooks, are the main fighter, the still living NPC's are still afraid of you because of them, it will be that much easier to make "if X was here..." jokes. And GM's often have ideas for restarting in the same world. They used up their adventure ideas for this group, and have been accumulating more that would work for a different one. The one player who hates making new characters often has a weird, weaker one that could walk into the new campaign and be the glue and big cheese for a while.

Joke answer:

Let everyone roll dice secretly. Encourage them to make up the results. It's a terrible idea since you're not just calling this player out, you're now openly mocking them. And for no reason -- if they "got the message" and stopped cheating, you still wouldn't want to play with them.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ If the players are friends I can see this blowing up rather horribly. If the player is not a friend but just a pick up then it could I suppose. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Aug 21 at 17:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think that starting a new campaign will be effective or acceptable to many groups. Why should they sacrifice a campaign that they like just because of a bad player? And when they start a new campaign, the trouble maker will probably just insist that they be allowed into the new one too. If they can't say no to him when he is causing such egregious issues what makes you think they could say no to him later? \$\endgroup\$ – Kevin Wells Aug 21 at 18:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth What could happen here that isn't more likely to happen with either a direct "you're kicked out" or a slower "we're giving you a last chance before we kick you out"? As I wrote, I've only been involved with this once. \$\endgroup\$ – Owen Reynolds Aug 21 at 18:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KevinWells I feel like I covered those, but to be specific: that player may have ruined this campaign, they aren't sacrificing a campaign that they like. And "insist that they be allowed into the new one" is the point. That's an extra step, and it's easier to say no with slightly less hurt feelings. 2 players have already quit. All options are bad, we're looking for least bad at this point. \$\endgroup\$ – Owen Reynolds Aug 21 at 18:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ Depending on age and maturity I could see that. I guess I am spoiled and my players range from 30 to almost 55 so even if I told one of them I don't like playing with you I would still be friends with them. But if I did something underhanded like this it could strain a friendship. I am always upfront and honest with everyone... I am too old for those type of games. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Aug 21 at 19:23

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