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It's my first time playing D&D with a bunch of other first-timers (using the starter kit). One of the players is steamrolling over other players and his character is insufferable. What do I do if my group isn't gelling?

After our last session, one of the players apparently told our DM, "It seems like we're not all looking for the same kind of game," or something like that.

Three of us seem to be more interested in thinking around problems and the other two want to either smash open heads while yelling, "For justice!" or are making things weirdly sexual.

It's kind of funny when the count says, "I am excellent at persuading people. I persuade him!" How do you persuade him? "With the dice!" But how? "With my mustache!" Sure. Sure! It is kind of funny. But it is also a very 2 dimensional character who takes up a lot of space and is getting on my nerves.

I might be a little more upset because this person is a family member who I'm rebuilding my relationship with, and I thought this could be a way for us to hang out in a light, fun way. He's made a character, though, that is exaggerating the punitive justice, black-and-white thinking, my-way-or-the-highway attitude that makes it so hard to be around him in the first place. One of my friends said, "It seems like he thinks of himself as the protagonist". It just doesn't make for a great group experience.

I feel pretty dumb for thinking this could work.

His wife is the player who's making things very sexual, so that's another element of "maybe funny, but mostly strange" that is in the mix.

Is there a way to turn this situation around? For those who have played in a game with tension like this: How do you break it down or adjust it? Or do you just give it up as a failed experiment?

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D&D may be the wrong way for you to spend time with this person

D&D is not bowling or trivia night at the bar. It isn't always a good way to "hang out in a light, fun way." Certainly things can be fun and they can be light with the right group of people... but D&D is far more dependent on good group chemistry than most social pastimes. It doesn't sound like the other members of the group have a great gaming chemistry with your relative or his wife. More importantly it doesn't sound like you have a great gaming chemistry with your relative or his wife.

Now let me be clear: there is nothing inherently wrong with the way your relative and his wife are playing. Lots of groups thrive with play like that. It just doesn't match the way that you (and the others in this group, apparently) prefer to play and enjoy the game. It is important to realize this because you must avoid the illusion that your relative's style of play is badfun and your style of play is goodfun and that there is some magical way to make him see that he is having badfun and should instead be having goodfun. He and his wife are playing the game in a way they enjoy. Asking them to change probably won't work any better than trying to change yourself.

Most of the time, it is prudent to begin a new group of players by sitting them all down and making sure everyone is on the same page with how they want to play the game--how seriously they want to take things, how much sex and romance is appropriate for the group, how freeform the role-playing will be, how democratic in nature the group should be, etc. The purpose of this exercise is not necessarily to get everyone on the same page... sometimes this exercise serves to highlight that the group isn't a great match and save everyone some time and frustration. It sounds like your group would have benefitted from seeing that your relative and his wife weren't a great match for you and the others.

There are alternatives much better suited to spending time with your relative and rebuilding your relationship with him

I suggest you find a way to spend time with this person that is less dependent on compatible creative and gaming preferences and more conducive to actually having conversations that help you patch things up. In short, something more casual, maybe less time consuming, and less demanding of a common purpose to the fun. I used the example of bowling above, so let's look at that... A group of people can bowl together, even if they have widely different skill levels and seriousness about the game. There is also plenty of time to talk and socialize between turns that in no way interfere with play. Further, unlike D&D, which usually lasts several hours, you can stop bowling after a half hour or stick around and bowl for several hours. You want to find something more flexible and casual, like bowling, going out for drinks, hiking, playing cards or Yahtzee or some of the less intensive board games, etc.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Healing a relationship is a stated goal in the OP. (Well, that's how I read it, anyway, guessing ruffdove saw the same thing I did) I might be a little more upset because this person is a family member who I'm rebuilding my relationship with , and I thought this could be a way for us to hang out in a light, fun way \$\endgroup\$ Nov 5, 2020 at 20:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch It can be that, sure. I agree 100%. (Beer and pretzel games are fun!) But it's not guaranteed to be that ...which I think is the major thesis of this reply. I have a few different ideas in my head on this matter, but today I am not long on solving someone else's relationship problems via my awesome internet powers. I have a game to DM later and I need to focus on that. And I think ruff has touched on a few core points. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 5, 2020 at 20:31
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Have a Talk With the Players

Talking to your players is one of the most important parts of the game. It makes sure that everyone is having a good time and feeling comfortable. Talking to these players would likely be a good idea, as well as possibly asking them to flesh out their characters (specifically their personalities), if the first solution is to roll the dice or smash heads.

Lines and Veils

This is something I've used in many roleplaying games, and it's very effective. Dungeons and Dragons doesn't seem to go over it as much, but it would definitely be useful for a game primarily based in dark fantasy.

  • Lines: Lines are things that do not happen during the game. Lines I've used in games have been sexual assault, harm to children, and flesh-eating worms.
  • Veils: Veils can happen, but they aren't discussed in detail. For veils, I've often put down torture, eye injuries, and sexual scenes. When something like that would happen, my group has just skipped over it, said "it happened, that's it, we aren't going into detail", or cut to black.

The X-Card

Another safety tool I've implemented in my games but never actually had to use (likely due to the lines and veils already in play), the X-Card can be used any time someone wants to add a new line or veil. If something is happening that is making a player character (or the GM!) uncomfortable, you can X-Card it. "No, I don't want my character being tortured," "No, I don't want you to go into detail on this subject."

Note that the X-Card is to keep everyone comfortable, not to get out of taking damage.

Play With a Different Group

Not all players are right for each group. If all else fails, try starting a new group with the players that work for your style of GMing. Remember, players and GMs have to work together in order to make the game fun for everyone.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "flesh-eating worms" I hope you're not planning on playing any official adventure that Rot Grubs appear in, then. WotC has no problems including flesh-eating parasitic worms as a hazard for PCs to overcome. \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Jan 13 at 2:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ i believe that learning about the existence of rot grubs was what made that a common line for me \$\endgroup\$
    – Ren
    Jan 14 at 1:21

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