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I'll preface this with a bit of detail about our game. It's all online (thanks, pandemic). We use Discord voice, D&D Beyond, and Roll20. It has been a nice distraction so far. This was my first experience with a D&D game and it has been everything I was hoping for and more. However, things have changed. Because we are a purely online group, it's challenging at times when you can't see the facial expressions or body language of your fellow players. As a result, we do end up with some dead air while everyone is waiting for someone else to go. For the most part, we've gotten better at that. But that's not the issue.

One of the players and the DM are a part of another group (pretty sure he's running the same campaign for them too, but in a different order). So this player has become pretty much the Spotlight Hog and an expert on all things of our campaign (Curse of Strahd). Whenever the party sets out to do something, this character just takes over. Whether it's exposition or talking to other characters, this character makes choices for the party as if the are the de facto leader. When this player doesn't get what they want or anyone voices a counterpoint (whether in character or out of character) the player becomes whiney and quiet and just doesn't participate. The DM allows this! And whenever the DM's NPC has to interact with us, it always feels like we need to hurry up our stuff so that the Spotlight Hog character can get back to their spot.

As a player, I stopped talking to the DM because it started to feel like I was bothering him more than having a conversation or getting my questions answered.

I am a part of a different group (Pathfinder) and the dynamic in that group is so entirely different it's enough to give me mental whiplash. There everyone's an equal and somehow my character wound up being made leader of the party. I am terrified of becoming a Spotlight Hog and so I make it a point to have my character solicit ALL the opinions of other characters or let the players have all the face time they need.

But when I play with the D&D group, every time I think that it'll be different, it'll be FUN again, and only end up sitting there quietly waiting my turn while the Spotlight Hog just does everything a character could possibly do. The other players allow it because one is a good friend, and the others don't have the same power of personality that this player does. I've thought about leaving the group, but I feel guilty leaving because I don't want to take away the only barrier between them and the S.H. The DM isn't doing anything (personally I think there's infatuation happening outside of the game, but that's pure speculation) and no one else is saying anything.

Do I leave the group? Do I try to talk to the DM (an act I think is going to result in me being asked to leave or it'll cause drama)? The SH? I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but I also don't want to just burn 4+ hours of my life a week for no reason.

I welcome ALL thoughts and suggestions. Please!

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    \$\begingroup\$ How do the other players feel about this? \$\endgroup\$
    – Studoku
    May 28 at 12:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ They don't really care? Or aren't aware they're allowed to. Anytime I tried to bring this issue up with them one on one to see if I was the only one that felt that way, they changed topics. \$\endgroup\$ May 28 at 13:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Its always hard hearing about a situation like this and judging it objectively. Obviously we only have your side. There are a few standard suggestions like; if you aren't having fun, this is a game not an obligation, feel free to leave. The best barometer we have is to ask about other players. If they don't care its difficult for us to tell how bad the problem is. \$\endgroup\$ May 28 at 15:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: rpg.stackexchange.com/q/185533/48249 \$\endgroup\$
    – Raj
    May 28 at 16:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ From your question it looks like you only tried to talk about this issue with the problem player during sessions, did I understand correctly? \$\endgroup\$ May 28 at 16:22
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I have come very close to being that exact problem player (and felt a great deal of relief when I saw your username, as our party has no rangers-- I did fear for a moment that this was about me!)

Obviously, the best thing to do would be for your problem player to realize what they're doing and cut it out, but you're the one writing the question, so here's some things that you can do:

1. Turn on the cameras!

So many problems with online D&D come down to, as you said, not being able to see your fellow players' nonverbal signals. Solution: turn on your webcams so that you can see them! You can do this either in Discord or in Roll20, and I've found it helps tremendously with being able to see what's happening. If it looks like someone is trying to say something, it's much easier to make space for them to speak. On that note...

2. Lead by example

When you see someone else trying to speak but getting talked over, call the situation out.

"Hey, Bob, it looks like you were starting to say something, what were you going to say?"

Engage your best I'm-a-teacher-facilitating-a-class-discussion voice. This is something I really try to focus on as someone who settles into that steamroller position way too easily, but anyone can use this technique. (This assumes that you're not the only player getting talked over.)

3. Adjust expectations

My experience has been that most D&D parties wind up with someone sort of settling into a leader-y role, and there's nothing wrong with that! I find that having a leader, whether officially chosen or not, can be really helpful for keeping the game moving along-- someone has to make the call for when to stop discussing the plan and to actually do it.

It also sounds like the other players in this campaign don't seem to mind too much; it may be that they don't particularly care if they get to make big choices or have roleplay moments! Some players (and some characters) are perfectly content just tagging along and hittin' the bad guys what need hittin'.

Of course, none of this is to say that it's okay that you're not having fun! But it's important to make sure everyone is on the same page. I've been a player with mismatched expectations in a game before, and I was miserable until I adjusted to meet everyone else where they were. In the end, it turned out that that DM just doesn't run games in a way that I vibe with, and that doesn't mean I hate her or that we can't be friends; it just means I'm not a good fit for being at her table.

4. Assert yourself

You describe a lot of sitting around waiting for the DM to acknowledge you or push the steamroller away, but not a lot of what you are doing. Are you taking thorough notes on what NPCs say? Are you coming up with alternative plans to the steamroller's suggestions, so you aren't just vetoing the ideas?

I'm not suggesting that you try to pick a fight with the steamroller in any way, but rather, to figure out what that player is doing in the game that's leading to this spotlight. If you're discussing plans, for instance, and only one player has taken notes on what quests you have to do, what NPCs are around, and what's going on, that player is going to dominate the discussion.

If you refuse to talk to the DM because you feel like a bother and don't assert yourself in these discussions, how is anyone supposed to tell that you really want to be more involved in RP instead of assuming that you're just unhappy or completely disengaged from the game? If you want these people to make space for you, you will need to assert yourself and ensure that it happens.

5. You are not responsible for the other players' feelings

The steamroller sulks when they don't get their way.

So what? They should be keeping quiet to let everyone else do whatever was decided on anyway. Let them sit there and be quiet, and refuse to play their game. The best way I've found to deal with this sort of manipulation is to refuse to acknowledge whatever reassurance the person wants me to provide, making it clear that I'm not going to give them what they want out of the situation.

(Of course, it may also be that the steamroller is keeping quiet because they realized that people disagreeing with them meant that they were being overbearing! Or that they only really had one idea for dealing with whatever was at hand-- I've certainly had that happen a few times, although I always acknowledged to my party that I was fresh out of ideas so they knew why I was getting quiet.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you! These have been really awesome suggestions. Alas, the camera part is a no-go since a couple of our players live in family homes and don't have 100% privacy they'd want (otherwise it would have helped I'm sure). One of the reasons I didn't want to bother the DM is because of my own self esteem issues where I really don't want to be "the negative nancy." But based on the feedback I've decided to put on the big ranger underoos and have a chat with the SH first. Maybe they really aren't aware (but after knowing them for a few years? I doubt that) but who knows. Here's hoping! \$\endgroup\$ May 28 at 15:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BeastMasterRangersRUs Best of luck to you! \$\endgroup\$
    – Cooper
    May 28 at 15:42
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If you're not having fun in the game, it's okay to leave. It's usually really easy for a DM to find a new player -- people who post "Looking For Players" ads online generally get lots of applicants.

Here's my own experience: I ran a game where one of my players wasn't having fun. She looked at her phone during the game and she kept making up excuses for why she had to miss sessions. She is a good friend outside of the game, so I put up with it until she finally quit, and then I breathed a sigh of relief and added a different player who wanted to be there and it was much better.

I do think it's worth having an out-of-game conversation with your DM before you drop out. But it sounds like your DM is going to have a hard time fixing this, especially as you've written that the other players don't seem that concerned about it.

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To sum up, this other player has already played the same adventure and is taking over in your group since they know things in advance. Most GM's and players think of that as a big no-no and work hard to avoid it. If your GM is fine with it than this isn't the game for you.

That's generally called using out-of-game knowledge. Back in the day a player would find out the name of a module and sneakily buy it at the game store to cheat. Even then, they'd at least have to disguise it. The normal way to handle when the player just happens to know the adventure is for them not to make any big decisions. Maybe they play a dumb fighter-jock or an incurious cleric. They still get to fight and do their best on ideas other people have, and it's fun seeing how this new group goes through it. Later they get to tell stories about how "when we did this we were sure they were wererats and ... ."

Some people like to play D&D to be in the world. They talk to people, make decisions, try to figure out which monsters to attack or leave alone. That sounds more like you, but it takes a while to get there. Other players, especially if they played a lot of computer RPG's, are glad to have someone like your Spotlight Hog get them through the sticky parts. They get levels and magic items faster that way. They don't know that trying is more fun than having yet.

You being the "leader" in the other campaign is a different thing, since you don't have to be the leader for any special reason. They elected you since they felt like it. If someone disagrees it won't be "but, but, Glorth knows things". It's also fun to tell every NPC who they don't want to deal with "beats me -- you'll have to talk to the leader" and watch you suffer.

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