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Context

This question is about an online community campaign. We are around 20 players who play in a persistent universe where anyone can run a game as a GM. The system is Pathfinder 2e and players can have multiple characters so that they can play on quests designed for different levels.

Among the 20 players, the degree of participation is heterogeneous and usually only a handful of players are available for a specific session.

Issue

Recently I learnt other players don't want to play with my main character (the one with the highest level). I don't know exactly how many of them nor exactly why, but the effect is that I basically can't play this character. Each time there is a session where I could play her, a player cancels their participation, which results in the session being cancelled or delayed into oblivion.

After talking with one player specifically, I understand he considers my character too immature and getting on his character's nerves for lacking respect.

The defendant

My character is actually a 25 years old gnome: so basically a child but who still has more life experience than many adventurers. She gets serious when she thinks it is needed, but keeps a playful face (for example, when casting a spell she adds silly incantations to make it sound like a lullaby). She often disagrees with other characters but I am extra careful not to make it disrupt the game's flow (I think I am doing well, even if that's hard to tell).

She is about as respectful as one could expect a 10 yo human child with magic powers to be: not especially mean but not extra polite either.

She also has a secret identity, as a vigilante, who is way more serious than her. I use this as an excuse to justify playing this character in scenarios that wouldn't look fun enough for the child gnome to engage in.

The victims

The player I talked to seems to consider it as impossible that his character ever ends up getting along with mine. Personally, I don't think he tried it at all since all the examples he presented to me were, in my opinion, very minor points of disagreement. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that he wants to play darker games but somehow refrains from playing "dark" when my character is around. As you can imagine, bringing that up is not easy without being a douche, so I haven't yet.

About the other players, I only have suspicions. I think some simply don't like that my character is not very powerful compared to theirs. They would be right: I haven't optimized her build and, on top of that, some are simply more accustomed to the system and make a better use of their actions each turn.

As a side note, none of those players seem to have any issue with my other characters (who are both more optimized and not annoying in the same way). Also my character is not the youngest nor the least mature of all the PCs, but she is the only one like that in her level range.

Solutions?

As of now I see two solutions, but neither is very satisfying:

  • I could drop this character and make a new one. Pro: I am pretty sure I could make one nobody will hate. Con: I like this character, I don't want to drop her.
  • I could focus on her vigilante alter ego. Pro: I still would be able to play her. Con: I suspect it might not be enough and other players won't even try to play with the alter ego by association with the character they know.

There are probably more solutions yet to be found.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you need to clarify the question in the title. Is your character annoying other PCs, or other players? The distinction is pretty important, and it sounds like you actually mean the latter. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 8, 2021 at 4:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe this solves your problem: What is "my guy syndrome" and how do I handle it? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 8, 2021 at 13:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AnneAunyme if they're missing sceduled games because of your PC also being scheduled then yes, the players are annoyed as well. You don't drop sessions because of your character alone being annoyed. And in such a big group it's very hard to speak up or confront stuff directly, so the "oh my character is annoyed" was (imho) as direct as that person dared to be while still being absolutely clear (especially combined with the not-playing-with-the-PC). \$\endgroup\$
    – Hobbamok
    Mar 8, 2021 at 14:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ One of my ironclad rules of writing is that, no matter how wonderful and clever I think it is, if multiple people have the same issue with it, the problem is mine, not theirs. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.E.D.
    Mar 9, 2021 at 17:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ ... Are you sure you're not basically playing a Kender? Because from the way you're describing your actions it sure as hell sounds like it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Shadur
    Mar 9, 2021 at 22:35

5 Answers 5

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Evidently Not

One of the cardinal, if often unspoken, laws of gaming is that if you can't get people to play with you, then you can't play. If you can't get people to play with you whenever you bring that character in, then, no, you can't play that character at least with that group.

If your read on the situation is correct, your group has a problem with your character and they've found a very passive-aggressive but effective way of dealing with it.

Absent some situation like a school club (which sometimes have rules that force acceptance of members-- which this situation clearly isn't) I'm not sure what kind of an answer you were expecting.

What Should You Do?

But the real question isn't "can you do this?" (because obviously you cannot) but rather what should you do about it?

I can't say I think much of your group's handling of this. Passive-aggressive sneaking around, rescheduling, avoidance, etc, is not a great look, so don't interpret this as a rousing defense of their actions. On the other hand, though, you might want to give serious consideration to the possibility that you are edging into My-Guy Territory. If you often find yourself falling back on "Well, my guy did this childish thing because my guy is childish/a child," that's maybe an indication. And one of the core issues behind "my guy" is always that the my-guy lessens other peoples' fun.

The solutions I see-- again, assuming your read is correct-- are:

  • Equally passive on your part (but not passive-aggressive) is to simply stop playing that character, so you can at least play.

  • As you say, try to lean in on the "other" personality of the character, and/or dial back the aspects of it you think are grating on the other players'/characters' nerves. But you've identified the problem, here: You might not get that chance. (Also, as a side note, it's not clear to me from your description whether the other players even know about that alter ego.)

  • Talk to your group. Respectfully, thoughtfully, address the issue directly especially with the players who keep cancelling out. There are a lot of pros here, including most especially that you can figure out if your take on the situation is correct or not. You can find out if they'll accept your focus on the alter ego character. You can find out what specific things are annoying them, and maybe promise to tone it down or stop doing them entirely. The big con, of course, is that if you ask if you (or your character) are annoying people, they might just tell you. In detail. And then you're sort of obligated to listen, even if you elect not to act on it. But if you absolutely, positively gotta play your guy, this gives you the best shot at figuring out how to do that.

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    \$\begingroup\$ " (Also, as a side note, it's not clear to me from your description whether the other players even know about that alter ego.)": they know about his existence, but they don't "know him". They probably have a priori about him though. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 8, 2021 at 5:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ In a group that large, that doesn’t necessarily have a strong authority structure, fellow players may not feel appropriate or empowered to discuss their feelings about the character—what you call “passive–aggression” may be more of a reflection of a sense that no one feels that they are in a position to criticize another character—and so the response is simple “well, none of my business to tell you what to do, but I don’t personally have to participate.” Depends how much coordination/discussion of this there taking place behind Anne’s back. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Mar 8, 2021 at 13:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ I second @KRyan's statement. And I'd put that suspicion of "edging into my-guy-character"-thing on overdrive. It has gotten to the point where people actively miss out on a game because the my-guy-character is present. There is an issue here. \$\endgroup\$
    – Hobbamok
    Mar 8, 2021 at 14:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1, especially for the last bullet point, but I think that it might deserve even more emphasis. The question is clear that there is a problem and contains lots of assumptions about what exactly the problem may be, but talking with the group is going to give the best chance of definitely knowing the problem (and then being able to address it). \$\endgroup\$
    – Upper_Case
    Mar 8, 2021 at 15:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Passive-aggressive behaviors are those done with intent to cause harm. For example, avoiding someone to make them feel bad is passive-aggressive, but avoiding someone because you just don't like being around them isn't. It's unclear why this answer suggests that the group members' behavior is passive-aggressive. Is there a reason for that assessment, or is the term being used differently? \$\endgroup\$
    – Nat
    Mar 9, 2021 at 19:51
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The character is probably done.

You have a large, collaborative, decentralized group. No one feels, or has felt, empowered to confront you over this—they have, no doubt, felt that it isn’t their place to criticize you or your character. Instead, they’re voting with their feet—which is, in this hobby, more-or-less “the nuclear option.” Which means it almost certainly wasn’t everyone’s first option,

…which is to say, almost certainly,

…people have been trying to get you to take a hint for a while now.

This is just reality: if something is annoying you, you don’t usually jump immediately to giving up on the entire endeavor. You try to rectify the situation as best you can. People frustrated by spending their time trying to have fun and instead getting annoyed aren’t, even, usually all that subtle, though online can make that a bit harder to recognize.

Consider: you are playing in a group where “coming to you and talking about it” is so out-of-line that people won’t do it even when the only other option left is the “nuclear” one. They likely have been, therefore, chafing under this restriction, trying to find a way to express their frustration and annoyance without overstepping their bounds, probably for a while. Apparently, they have done everything they can think of to encourage you to change your behavior within the bounds of the social mores of the group, and have failed—so they are walking away.

And that necessarily implies that you have missed a whole lot of social cues that your behavior was inappropriate. I don’t consider this much of a stretch—I frankly consider it a rather obvious deduction from the information we have. And that’s on you—this is a social activity, and “are my contributions increasing everyone’s enjoyment of the game?” is a question whose answer you are responsible for. You haven’t taken responsibility for it, and likely there are people in your group who consider your failure to do so quite flagrant—if they’re just giving up on you, they may well be doubting good faith on your part.

And there isn’t any realistic approach to fixing it now.

This is a group that felt so uncomfortable with the idea of criticizing you for this character that they instead chose to not play at all. That’s because it’s not their place to do so—it was your character, your responsibility. Your job was to make sure you improved everyone’s enjoyment of the game by your presence—and you’ve been doing exactly the opposite of that.

That means two things:

  1. there are probably some people quite thoroughly exasperated here.

  2. you have a community that really doesn’t want to talk about it, and just expects everyone to keep their characters in line.

So you could start a conversation, but you’d be talking to people who don’t want to talk about this in the best of times, and you’re doing it after burning through a ton of good will. I see basically no hope for that. If you had started this discussion first—which I absolutely feel you should have done when considering a character that might bother other players—you might have had a chance. Now, I don’t think so.

So I think this character is done. Save the sheet, if you want, or not. But the character themselves, I don’t see any hope for.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Absolutely this. Basically you focused more on the social aspect/explanation that my answer hashed out very roughly. But the same conclusion: the CHARACTER is dead. In my answer, I proposed some solutions for saving the character sheet, but it doesn't change the general facts. You went a lot more in-depth on the social aspect, which is why I hope OP reads your answer \$\endgroup\$
    – Hobbamok
    Mar 9, 2021 at 9:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ " all the examples he presented to me were, in my opinion, very minor points of disagreement" Lots of little problems all add up 1 1 big problem. \$\endgroup\$
    – WendyG
    Mar 12, 2021 at 21:38
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You need to get rid of the character some way or the other

Nothing will help. Your character, as it is right now, is irredeemably gone. You can't fix her in-game because nobody wants to play with the character anymore, so you're past the point of starting a growing-up/redemption arc now.

[Sole chance out: you sit down with everyone and apologize for making the character the way she is and announce a redemption arc]

Alternatively, drop the character but not the character sheet, if you don't want to loose progress: in coordination with the DM, make something happen with your character that makes her grow up or radically change the personality. E.g. let her be gone for a couple of weeks (IRL and in game) to visit her parents or a loved relative, but she comes back with basically just her vigilante persona left because they're dead. Yes, your character would actually benefit from the cliche-edgy "my parents were murdered". Or have her possessed by some ancient spirit (either completely overwriting her personality by using the body as a vessel, or forcing her to act more mature). These are just some examples but the idea behind them is the same: you keep the stat block, backstory and name, but change the persona significantly.

Just make sure it's drastic and obvious. So obvious that you can tell it to your prospective mates at the table in advance (this way you get around the problem of not getting to play the redemption/growing up arc because nobody wants to play with the char)

Sidenote: I'm quite disbelieving about your "I'm not sure how annoying my char is" because you yourself described her at about 10 year old (with magic yay), which is the last thing I'd ever want in my party, and who nobody realistically would want in live-or-death adventuring.

Also sorry that I'm being so hard and antagonistic, but I've only gotten two paragraphs and have to read a lot between the lines. Also: since nobody in your group seems to speak up, if I (a random guy on the internet) do it, it may help you get together with people you actually know somewhat and enjoy the game with them more.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm skeptical that a redemption ark will work (see KRyan's answer). If at some point in the future the group brings up this character (don't bring it up yourself), that might be a good opportunity to ask the group whether they would like to have a session where the character is permanently and unheroically killed. \$\endgroup\$
    – Brian
    Mar 9, 2021 at 14:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Brian that's why I put that in with making the change so obvious that you can clearly communicate this character being changed, or the intention of changing in one sentence. But yeah, even that is just a maybe \$\endgroup\$
    – Hobbamok
    Mar 9, 2021 at 15:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ (Depending on how she feels), this may be a cool way for Anne to 'redeem' herself, by personally murdering the annoying character by her other, new/old character. \$\endgroup\$
    – Neinstein
    Mar 10, 2021 at 8:13
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Here is what I did, and how things played out.

First, I clearly made it clear to everyone what I thought about the issue: "I know some of you dislike this character because of her being childish, but I'd like to hear exactly what the issue is. Some of you play literal human children and it doesn't seem to bother anyone."

I waited for the answer. I finally got one. The real issue was that some scenarios we played together almost resulted in a failure of the mission. Both of them arguably* because of poor choices I made as a player, but none actually because of my character being childish.

This player's character was some kind of elite spy/assassin. It seemed clear to me that the issue for him was that he couldn't bear a scenario not going in the direction he had chosen for his character (because those missions almost failed it meant he could not have been able to be always-successful anymore). I noticed a pattern that this player tended to dodge all scenarios ran by GM who weren't known for making their game fit the PCs**. He also was prone to quickly grow tired of his PCs and change them for new ones.

I decided that this player's way of enjoying*** the game was simply too hard to reconcile with mine. I still had a few occasions to play my young gnome and eventually the whole community stopped running games. This one player becoming active in the administration is probably one of the reasons why stuff got worse.

As of today, there is an other community with more or less the same people, but less good in general for various reasons. I quietly left it and that finally solved my issue.

It may not have been the best course of actions, but I thinks the other answers would have been inapplicable or would have resulted in worse outcomes.


*one was clearly a mistake from me being tired and not having understood correctly what the mission plan was, the other was a GM who wanted to add complications and used a debatable rule interpretation to make my character the cause of that.

**In this community there was a trend among GM to go relatively easy on PCs. Most GMs for example would prepare their scenarios in a way that simply playing your character efficiently in combat and pushing the lever when it is obvious you should push it would grant success.

***I am honestly not sure whether he actually enjoyed playing or not, considering the amount of time he spent complaining about issues that stemmed from his own way of doing things.

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    \$\begingroup\$ So it turns out the issue wasn't the character, but the players not being compatible. Thanks for the epilogue, hopefully your next group will work better for you! \$\endgroup\$
    – Matthieu
    Jul 12 at 8:13
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Welcome to the hot seat!

You did realize that something is amiss, OP, and I congratulate you that you did spot that there was an issue. And you even have taken steps to try to find the reason. The sample size is one so far, but hey, that's a start and they were open enough to tell you what they felt wrong.

Step 1: Assess the situation

As the others said, there might have been many cues missed in the past. But there might be more in the dark that hasn't been found out about. So you totally should try to find out about other things that bother the other players. Yes, I am saying to get into a dialog with the rest of the group, best with all of them.

You explained that there are like 20ish players with multiple characters involved, and apparently those in your gnome's level bracket seem to have problems with the character - or rather with how you portray the character. These are the people you need to talk to. To say it frank, if you have an online chat of sorts, ask to bring a topic to the attention for comment on. The topic of course is your character.

I have learned the hard way that there's one thing you never can avoid: RL happens, and maybe a couple of those incidents really only had been RL coming back to bite the players in the butt. But just to make sure, ask them how they feel about the character's quirks and offer to discuss options with them, including you retiring that character. You might also learn that other items are at play, so brace for impact - this can go down the dark alleys.

However, from the description you give in the short two paragraphs, I have little hope to rescue the character as described so far. You might manage a re-skin of sort, taking the sheet and equipment and modifying it to better fit the playstyle and expectations of the other players, but I honestly wouldn't entirely bank on that.

Step 2: Establish Safety Tools!

Sometimes, things go close to home. Someone might have a relative that is just too close to that character or they have phobias of such behavior. Or they are a teacher in Real Life and they can't handle herding another annoying teenager in their time off. So, it's probably time to establish where is the line in what can be played!

You could start something akin to the following, which was how I once was approached because something in the gaming group was off:

Hey people, I have a few problems with how some topics are handled at the gaming table. Like, I really don't want to beat around the bush too much, but I really don't like to interact with [insert hat-group stand-in of the game played], as that hits close to home. Can we please take a look at Lines and Veils and each player please tells about the topics they'd prefer not interact with at all or keep at the sidelines?

Step 3: Handle the Responses responsibly!

You might get backlash for asking. You might get to learn that it isn't the character the players despise, but maybe it is your playstyle in general. If this worst happens, you need to handle the matter responsibly.

  • DON'T accuse the others.
  • DON'T yell back.
  • STAY civil.
  • If necessary: Take a break.

I know, this might be hard, but as the saying goes: it is better not to play than playing a poor game in bad company. If they don't appreciate your person, leave. If they don't like your character, change them.

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