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I have a problematic player who is constantly looking to power play. The last campaign consisted of them asking for a large number of uncommon magic items. Thier argument was if they are uncommon , they should be easy to find.

After that campaign TPKed I started a new campaign. The TPK was partially the fault of the specific player.

This player has started planning an Artificer out to level 20 and is constantly asking about the possibilties and requirements around crafting.

This normally wouldn't be a problem except they have started to become very pushy in the amount of research they did. They have been reading up on crafting requirements from sites that use homebrew rules. I have explained to them that the rules they are reading are not the same rules I'm using: Xanathar's Guide to Everything(XgtE).

Their latest issue is with the cost of a guide. The party hasn't even had a single fight and the player is already talking about ditching the guide and exploring on their own in order to save money to craft items. Luckily one of the other player refused and explained why it might be a good idea to keep a guide.

I'm looking for how to help curb this behavior in the latest campaign.

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This is called "arguing for advantage", and it's not really a problem unique to D&D.

"I should get X because of Y reason" isn't usually about the Y reason - the person just wants X. The Y can be anything, and frankly doesn't matter. When your human perception and judgement (aka basic social interaction skills) tell you that someone is arguing for an advantage rather than for some other reason (because they think Y is more logical, because they think Y is a better story, because they don't like Z for personal reasons, etc) you should simply say "no".

You may need to say no quite a few times.

The arguing for advantage may morph into other means of social pressuring, like vague blame, repetitive asking, calling-in allies, convincing the crowd, so on. It's entirely possible for this to suck the fun out of the game and make continuing with that player entirely unworkable. However you have a considerable advantage in this situation due to explicitly being the authority, limiting the social pressure it is acceptable to bring against you and giving them an "uphill battle" in attempting to gain the advantage they are seeking.

If need be, explain that in this game the DM is the final arbiter of all rules interactions and world setting. They should be impartial, like a referee, and consult the table's preferences to make a good game but when it comes down to it the DM is the one who decides what rules are used, makes up new rules if necessary, arbitrates any disputes, and gets to say what hair colour exactly that npc's beard is. That's the basic rule of the game and it is what people agree to implicitly when they sit down to game with people.

You can also do the following things:

Provide examples of what advantages can be successfully argued for.

Or "asked" for. The paladin asks if there is a church in the village? You answer "yes". The fighter wants to know if after seeing an awesome polearm fighter he can go learn from him? Yes. You change the fighter's Fighting Style to Great Weapon Mastery as well, as he's now using a halberd rather than the two shortswords he was previously, to reflect the results of his character training with the Yuan-ti Spearmaster for those 3 weeks. The mage wants to use a readied frost spell to turn the falling poison rain into ice, so it bounces off the party's raised shields rather than dowsing and poisoning them? Yes. By agreeing to more reasonable requests, you show the arguing player that things can be gained by toning down his demands - this often leads to the demands being toned down.

Talk to them out of game.

Explain that D&D is a cooperative game and you don't want one character to be more mechanically powerful than the others as it makes your job harder. Likewise, that giving one player exceptions to the rules and not others both makes your job harder (have to remember two sets of rules) but is also unfair. Explain that DMing is quite difficult for both mechanical and storytelling reasons, and you'd appreciate their help in keeping it simpler. Accusations and further arguing are rarely helpful - informing them of your point of view in a non-accusatory way and thus creating empathy is likely to be more helpful.

Move the game along.

If a player is arguing with you about getting whatever, you can simply move the game along - turn to another player, and tell them that they "find the innkeeper" or whatever they were doing before the arguing player redirected the conversation onto why they should have X. If the player is "interrupting" to make his arguments, it's rude - this will lead to less arguing overall, as you can also make the "sorry but said he wanted to do X, so I'm talking to him now after talking to you about how you want a Flametongue" which is reasonable/sounds reasonable.

Ultimately this is a social problem. It is about someone not sticking to the implicit rules of an activity. It needs to be solved through that lens, and the RPG-specific tactics available are limited.

There's also something else that you've hinted at.

You've talked about whose "fault" the TPK was, used the term "power play" without qualifier or explanation, and talked about how someone making a choice in-game is a "problem player" behaviour (hiring or firing an NPC guide).

These are all red flags. A GM blaming a TPK on a player or players instead of acknowledging that as the designer of the world they have significant control over whether the party lives or dies, someone who does not qualify what "power play" entails to them but assumes it is universal, and a GM who assumes that in-game actions are universally for out-of-game reasons, are all common red flags for negative GM behaviours and attitudes in TTRPGs. I have and will again avoid a game with a GM who talks about such things, expecting that at the table their game will just not be...good.

While from your question I lack any detail at all to determine whether these hinted-at problems actually exist, I'd suggest in general that whenever you are trying to determine how to interact with someone in a positive way that you also look at your own behaviour in an objective and logical fashion to find out if your own preconceptions, expectations, or negative beliefs are exacerbating any problems with the situation.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I have tried much of this already and explained that I will not homebrew rules. Where the majority of my frustration comes from is the simple response of "it what my character would do", or "this is what my class allows". In many cases the player is taking the description of a given rule to an extreme and simply providing their interrpretation of the rule, generally with an advantage to their character. As such any request I get from the player usually requries at least an hour of study to verify they mis-interrpeted a word. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 21 at 22:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think most of this answer is very, very good. But I think the first paragraph deserves more nuance. Remember when a player is arguing for advantage, they are still communicating that they want X. The game is supposed to be fun so it often makes sense to let them have X as long as X does not come with major problems such as unbalancing the game, derailing a major plot, or being unfair to the other players. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 22 at 17:38
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There are several things I've found that help with players like this, to reduce your stress and make it more fun.

Respond in character with what the universe does.

If they tell you that magical items that are uncommon should be easy to find, that's fine. You can tell them. "You look and look and look, but it seems to be really hard to find magical items. Those you talk to on the search say that due to the cost and difficulty of making magical items they rarely get on public markets, and that if you want to acquire them, the best way to do it is to kill those who have it. And by the way, there's a dungeon that they think you should look at..."

"But realistically, given the distribution of magic users and economic principles of course there should be more."

"You cry out to the universe, to the gods, to the archgod themselves demanding more magical items, but it is cold, cruel and unyielding, and you still can't find uncommon magical items to buy."

Or something like this. You may have to repeat this a few times as they rephrase it, and eventually explain why your world building is like this.

I've found this helps ground players like this. Some still argue against you, but it takes a lot more balls to argue directly against a DM ruling than against one of their own ideas so many give up at this point.

Don't let them drag you down into insane rabbit holes.

If they want to push weird homebrew stuff, or weird rules or interpretations, require them to do the research. They can show you the rules that justify what they do, and what books they're from. If they're not a legit source, you can discard it.

Your time is precious. You know they push for advantages. If they want something weird, let them do the work to push for it. You can then make a law ruling as DM. Make sure you give a good reason why you allow or deny something of course, so it seems fair. If they're not willing to do legwork, they should pick an easier class, and also you shouldn't have to take more than a minute of your time to verify a ruling.

I too have had this problem with artificers. It can be a very complicated class. It does help a lot to require them to do the research.

If they keep being pushy, ask them out of character what they want.

Don't accept any excuses like that it's just what my character would do or that they have a right to stuff. Be clear on your purpose- running a fun game which is easy for you to play, where everyone can have fun together. Their character isn't real, it's a fictional construct they made and they control and they make the decisions. If they do feel their character is possessing them, they should see a priest or a psychologist because mental constructs shouldn't control you.

Do they feel like they need more power? Maybe they feel your monsters are overpowered since you did tpk them? Do they want more spotlight time? Do they want to beat the other players because they feel their class sucks? Do they have an anime or movie crafter they want to emulate?

Work out what they want, and try to balance it with what you want- to not waste lots of time on weird rules questions, to not have one character be op, and to have a fun campaign. You can see if there's some friendly compromise you can both come to.

In the future, if they come to you with more weird ideas reference the previous conversation. "Is this a weird ruling that will make you op and take an hour to understand? Because I have other things to do with my life."

That has saved a lot of time for me, conversations before hand you can reference.

Be careful when doing character creation that they make a character who fits the party.

You mentioned they wanted to ditch the guide so they could craft more items. One of the key elements of dungeons and dragons is characters who want to delve into dungeons and fight dragons for loot and treasure. This loot can then be used to carry out in character goals, like crafting. If they are more concerned with crafting than dungeon delving they should rethink their character.

Ideally, their character should be eager for any help with quests, because quests are profitable and give you lots of money, and they should be social enough to work with a party to do quests. If they're not, they should rethink their character.

Of course, they could have a reasonable point- if they feel they are earning far too little from quests, you could be more generous. This is something you could talk with them about, as above. Few people like playing medieval poverty simulator.

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The game world works as the DM built it

I have a problematic player who is constantly looking to power play. The last campaign consisted of them asking for a large number of uncommon magic items. Their argument was if they are uncommon , they should be easy to find.

The fact that they are, within the context of this edition of this game, simply wrong can be easily illustrated by sitting down together and reviewing the table (Starting at Higher Level) in the DMG (p. 38) that shows the suggested starting equipment for low, medium, and high magic campaigns at various levels. While ultimately you, as world builder, can simply say "No, that isn't how my game world works" (more on this later) it is sometimes helpful to remind players that magic items occurring is not a given in the way it is in a CRPG like Diablo III or an MMORPG like World of Warcraft. That DMG table offers a good illustration of that baseline. (This is in contrast to previous editions like 3.x that had a Wealth By Level scheme of more stuff with level increase).

After that campaign TPKed I started a new campaign. The TPK was partially the fault of the specific player.

While I'd like to know how the other players digested the TPK, that tidbit is a different topic than your general question except for one thing: this player annoys you. That much is obvious. How well does he get along with the other players? If they get along OK, then you as the DM need to be self aware - this player annoys you. In order to keep the tone at the table amiable, you need to self-monitor your reactions to him. That can be tricky (yeah, it can!) but it's necessary for the table to be reasonably harmonious when your group plays.

This player has started planning an Artificer out to level 20 and is constantly asking about the possibilities and requirements around crafting.

This one's from experience: IMO, that was your mistake as a DM (particularly since you knew of his items obsession) for allowing the Artificer class1. While it is also OK to say "No artificers in this campaign" since you are the DM, you may be (fairly) judged as unfair if you tell him, or ask him, to retire the artificer and create another character from another class.

If you didn't already have a friction-filled relationship with this player, I'd suggest sitting down with him and having him generate another PC, but at this point I doubt that's going to work.

They have been reading up on crafting requirements from sites that use homebrew rules.

Here is an approach I have used multiple times for players who go to 'internet sites' and want to use something from there. If, after a review, I don't care for it my advice to them is "Go play in their game; at this table that doesn't exist." (I have had to do this a few times as regards Matt Mercer's homebrew from Critical Role).

I have explained to them that the rules they are reading are not the same rules I'm using: Xanathar's Guide to Everything(XgtE).

And they persist? At this point, you need to evaluate how important your social connection with this player out-of-game is. If it's important, OK, sigh, say no a few more times, and press on. But make sure they get this message from you, however you want to phrase it in your own words. Your delivery may be more tactful than what's below, but the key points are:

  • Life's too short for the grief and frustration you are unloading on me with you persistent nagging about items in a game we play for fun. I don't do this for pay. I have asked you nicely, I've explained how things work, and you are still being a nag. Now I'm telling you: knock it off. You being such a nag is ruining my enjoyment of DMing for all of you"

    Some people don't 'get it' until someone paints a picture for them. He's pushing, and he needs to know that he's crossed a line. Make sure that you are clear that he's crossed a line.

Their latest issue is with the cost of a guide. The party hasn't even had a single fight and the player is already talking about ditching the guide and exploring on their own in order to save money to craft items. Luckily one of the other player refused and explained why it might be a good idea to keep a guide.

Let the party sort that out; that's their problem to solve within their group. You steer clear of that disagreement so that you don't position yourself as 'ganging up on him' in your role as DM/referee.

I'm looking for how to help curb this behavior in the latest campaign.

  1. Don't put up with it is about all you can do, or, you can invite him to play elsewhere - but since the rest of the group seems to like playing with him, I don't think that's going to fit your group's needs.
  2. Remind him, if need be, "No, that isn't how my game world works" if it crops up again.
  3. Acknowledge, since you have allowed an artificer, that he is going to be able to make magic items. Accept that. When there is down time and he wants to do Artificer down time stuff, are you really being fair to disallow that? No, you let the artificer happen, so you reap the whirlwind. Not only that, but he can use infusions to make magic items.

So what's my path forward, Korvin?

  1. Focus on the needs of the whole group.
  2. Facilitate the game being fun for all of the players. If the players get tired of his power gaming, they'll make their feelings known. If they don't, and if they accept him in the group, then roll with it as the DM and remember your role as referee.
  3. Whenever the "But what about this?" crops up again and you don't want it, remind them that "That isn't how it works in this game world" and move on to the next subject.

1 I offer you this observation based on my experience with DMing for an artificer played by a player whom I like. I'll probably not allow one in my games again.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "If, after a review, I don't care for it my advice to them is "Go play in their game; at this table that doesn't exist." (I have had to do this a few times as regards Matt Mercer's homebrew from Critical Role)." LOL. Unless they're a famous Hollywood actor, that doesn't seem too likely! \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Aug 25 at 14:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ "No, you let the artificer happen, so you reap the whirlwind." I'll point out that between their Infusions and spellcasting, there's plenty of "magic item stuff" for Artificers to do without delving into permanent magic item creation. \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Aug 25 at 14:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nick012000 In re comment two, yeah. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 25 at 14:47
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He's an artificer, he has infusions and spells. He doesn't need permanent magic items.

In general, DnD 5e is balanced so that players don't need magic items to remain competitive. The Artificer is no exception. They get the ability to make certain temporary magic items through their class abilities like their Infusions and their spellcasting stuff (e.g. using a set of Carpenter's tools to make a temporary wand, using an Alchemist or Herbalist's kit to make temporary potions, using a Scribe's or Cartographer's kit to make temporary scrolls), so they don't need to be able to make permanent magic items to be balanced, while still being able to engage in the fantasy of being a magic item crafter.

If you're using the rules for magic item crafting in Xanathar's Guide to Everything, even better: you can easily say that if they want to make a magic item, then they need to retrieve special materials that would require an adventure - and then rather than running an adventure that would grant a magic item, you grant them the materials to craft the item instead. You can also pretty easily justify letting him craft most Common items, since their effects are almost all purely aesthetic, aside from some of the Arcane Focus items (e.g. Dark Shard Amulet, Hat of Wizardry, or Ruby of the War Mage).

Additionally, they'd be able use the rules in Xanathar's Guide to brew Potions of Healing and scribe Scrolls with Artificer spells pretty easily, which can give them a bit of extra flexibility without giving a significant personal advantage to the party.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Would the person who downvoted be willing to explain why? \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Aug 26 at 9:00

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