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I am running a campaign and have been for about 5 months now. All of my players are pretty new to D&D. All except one. He is honestly my worst player despite all of his experience. He is constantly complaining nonstop.

He didn't like his first character, so he asked for me to kill his character so he could play a different character. Fine. I want everyone to have fun so no big deal. I am also all about homebrew but only premade homebrew found on dandwiki. I constantly give them all sorts of rare to legendary items, weapons, and armor. He is ALWAYS complaining about what I give him and saying how he wishes he had what I gave another person... but what I gave him was better than the item he wishes he had. He even gave one of the items I gave to him to somebody else because it was "useless" and now that other person uses that item every single session and this guy is so irritated that the person knows how to use it.

He will criticize my DMing but only in a super undercut way where he is pretending to be nice, so its hard to defend myself. He also makes racist jokes and he even made a joke about rape.

Honestly, I'm beginning to hate the guy. And now he just up and told me 2 minutes before a campaign that he is going to multi-class, but I had already told everybody at the beginning of the campaign that we aren't multiclassing because everyone is pretty new. Then when I was like "wait.. what? You're multiclassing?" He whipped back super aggressively "YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF MULTICLASSING!" My blood boiled... Yes I know what multiclassing is. And I have at least 2 times the experience with DND than he does. He is driving me crazy.

One time he yelled at me in front of everyone because HE forgot which undead he had done a spell to and which ones he hadn't, and I informed him that he never cast the spell on this particular undead.

This is an online campaign using Roll20. He is my husband's coworker. He is about 30. The rest of us are in our mid to late 20s. Also, any time I try to talk to him about any of his behavior, he either yells at me or interrupts me and doesn't let me say what I'm trying to say. He will usually turn the conversation around from his behavior to what mythic items he wants instead. I am not giving him the item he wants because the item conflicts pretty heavily with the layout of the story.

I honestly am at my wits' end. But if I lose him on the campaign, I won't have enough people to run the campaign at all. (There is me as the DM and three players, including him.) I am so lost on what to do. What do you guys do when one of your players is making everyone else miserable?

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    \$\begingroup\$ It sounds like this player is a bad match for your group. Here are some related questions: What is a social contract?, How can I politely ask a player to leave my game?, Player has little faith in DM... obstructing game play, How can we kick our novice roleplayer out of the group...? \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeQ
    Sep 4, 2021 at 2:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is this an in-person game or an online game? \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan B
    Sep 4, 2021 at 2:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ A few more details that would help us give you better answer are: 1) The number and age of players involved. 2) The context of the game, is this a home game or through some kind of club? in-person or Online? 3) The relationship between yourself and this player outside of the game setting. By adding these details you give us the best chance of helping you find a good solution. \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Sep 4, 2021 at 5:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Another detail to clarify in the question: How much of a complicating factor is this person being a coworker of your husband? For instance, can be make problems at work if he doesn't get his way? \$\endgroup\$
    – Longspeak
    Sep 4, 2021 at 22:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you asked your husband to speak to this player about how this player behaving towards his wife? \$\endgroup\$ Sep 5, 2021 at 14:06

7 Answers 7

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Either the player changes their behavior, they leave, or you leave.

1. Talk to the players and enforce a social contract.

The first measure in a problematic player situation is to talk to the players as part of an out-of-game discussion to ensure that everyone is on the same page about what game you want to play and the social rules of your gaming group. Most conflicts are due to mismatched expectations about the group's social dynamic and the game itself, likely from habits they picked up in previous games with other players. Simply discussing this outside of the game fiction can do wonders to resolve interpersonal conflicts and improve the gaming group's atmosphere.

If you haven't already, have this discussion (often called session zero) ASAP. You may have house rules, or rules that differ from this player's previous games, so it can help to write some of them down. Maybe they simply forgot that you banned multiclassing from the campaign. Write it down.

You need to assert (or re-assert) a social contract and some safety tools for your group. Regardless of their fantastical in-game characters, these are human players and they have human flaws such as emotions and poor communication skills. Enforcing safety tools for a game may sound restrictive, but it helps keep your table a fun environment where players feel comfortable with each other. Right now it sounds like your group doesn't have that, because one player is angry and you are unhappy. Odds are that the other players don't like this situation either.

For starters, you could set some ground rules like...

  • using lines and veils to omit sexual assault and other themes from the game
  • no bullying, yelling at, or otherwise verbally abusing other people at the table
  • no racist jokes or slurs
  • no arguments about rules discussions until after the session is over

Ensure that these discussions are about out-of-game factors, and don't get distracted by in-game details like magic items or numerical bonuses. This is a human player problem, not a character problem. Out-of-game problems require out-of-game solutions, and they cannot be resolved by in-game changes to the fiction or character abilities. It is extremely unlikely that addressing the character (e.g. penalizing, or killing, or buffing, or rebuilding) would be productive without first managing the interpersonal conflicts at the heart of the issue.

Note that these should be discussions, and will require you to hear out this player's perspective. It's possible that you may need to make compromises and meet them halfway, such as being more patient when you interact as the DM. Maybe they lack self-awareness and don't realize how their behavior is affecting you, and they won't know unless you discuss these issues with them.

2. If that fails, remove the player from the group.

Sometimes a player is just a bad fit for your game. Sometimes talking to a person respectfully and clearly just isn't enough, and they won't change their habits. Then they leave. No negotiation, they're just out. The point of the game is for the participants to have fun, and if one of the participants is preventing that and is unwilling to change their antagonistic behavior, then you are at an impasse until they are gone.

Their frequent criticisms might suggest they dislike the game. If they're unhappy with the game, and unwilling to compromise, then it would be best for everyone if they parted ways with the group.

Don't make yourself (and your other players) unhappy just to entertain a toxic player. Sure, without that player, maybe it will be logistically difficult to run the game. As the DM, you might need to rewrite large portions of the story to accommodate their absence, which requires work. On the other hand, maybe it will be easier running a game for a smaller group, since you won't be as miserable with the problematic player around. Having a 2-person party is very feasible. Kicking out a player is never a fun experience, but it may eventually be necessary for your sake.

3. Stop playing altogether.

If none of that works, and you absolutely can't boot the problem player from the group, then you can walk away. Refuse to keep running the game as DM because it's making you miserable.

This option will terminate the campaign, probably without a conclusive ending, and that's unfortunate. But your real needs as a human being take priority over a fictional story. It is better for you and your mental health to abandon a game, versus participating in a game that is actively making you unhappy. No gaming is better than bad gaming.

Then you can start looking for a new gaming group.

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Life is too short to endure abusive relationships

You’re in one. Get out of it.

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First things first:

But if I lose him on the campaign, I won't have enough people to run the campaign at all.

Nope. You can definitely lose him and continue the campaign. Some of my best games have been with just DM and two players total. I would suggest using the side kick rules from Tasha's Cauldron of Everything to create a party of 4 characters without risk of interfering with player agancy, but there are many other options too, such as familiars, ordinary pets, figurines of wonderous power, and just hiring NPCs with standard NPC stat block.

A problem you may need to tackle is, if the other two players don't want him to go. You don't say anything about this in the question, so it's hard to give specific advice. But just have a talk with the other two players, tell them that you are not having fun when players yell at you or make inappropriate jokes.


Then:

"He is driving me crazy."

One time he yelled at me in front of everyone

Honestly, I'm beginning to hate the guy.

He will criticize my DMing but only in a super undercut way

He whipped back super aggressively

any time I try to talk to him about any of his behavior, he either yells at me or interrupts me and doesn't let me say what I'm trying to say

Ok. You are playing a game to have fun. A gaming group isn't a family or a group of BFFs. The relationship between you and this player has soured beyond repair without professional help, and it is not something worth that much effort to repair.

First, talk to the other 2 players. Let them know that you don't want to play with the 3rd guy any more, and ask if they are are ok with that. They might defend him, or they might be cool with it, but all you need to tell them is, you're not having fun being a DM for him. There is a risk of whole group disbanding, but "No D&D is better than bad D&D".

Then you need to bite the bullet and let him go. Just say something like "Look, it's clear we are not having fun gaming together. At least I am not having fun being the DM for a player who is angry at me and raises their voice like you do. Let's not play together any more."

And then he probably gets angry, so you can just say "See, this is what I mean." He might also get super apologetic and promise to become better, but it is unlikely in the extreme he will, because there is pattern of behavior here. You shouldn't ever feel the need to deal with that because of a game, so stay firm. Do not engage in debate or argument, do not accept blame and do not blame him. We have your side of the story, his version would likely be very different, but that does not matter. Things aren't working out, and in fact they are so broken there's no reason to put any effort into fixing them.

Finally, you don't need to feel bad about this. He can maybe learn something from this and find a new group if he wants to keep playing D&D. You can find new players, and learn from this, too.

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You have to clearly tell this player "no".

While character optimization is common in D&D, there's a type of problem player who seeks to gain additional advantage by bullying or manipulating the DM. You can't allow this to stand, as respect for fellow players is a standard feature of any roleplaying game.

In the past, I had a player who always criticized my DMing, made many special demands, and disrupted the game, but was somehow always eager to join any campaign I ran. In retrospect, I think the reason is that I rarely said "no", whereas other DMs would not have tolerated their actions. Ultimately, they became so disruptive that I had to ban them from my campaigns, because otherwise I would not have had a campaign left.

From your description, your player is the same sort of problem player. He's trying to control you, the DM, in order to gain advantage in the game. He's not putting any of the other players down, because they don't have anything he wants. But you, the DM, have practically unlimited power to give him what he wants, which is to make his character more powerful. You're the only factor limiting how powerful his character can become, so he's trying to play you rather than play the game.

You can't allow players to gain power by manipulating the DM. That's not fair game, it's not respectful to the role of the DM as the ultimate arbiter a D&D game, and more importantly it's not respectful to you as a person. I think you have to tell this player that they can't have the things they're demanding, and if they can't accept this, they can play in someone else's D&D game instead.

A counterpoint to this is that over the years, I learned to be more flexible when it came to giving players what they wanted. For example, in one campaign I had no elves for plot reasons, which disappointed a player who really wanted to play an elf. In retrospect, I could have kept that player happy by adjusting my world.

If a player is making inappropriate jokes or the like that are making other players uncomfortable, that's something which has to be discussed. All the players should have a common understanding of what sort of things are acceptable at the table, and what is unacceptable.

While kicking a player out of the game is usually the last resort, it has to remain an option if there's nothing else.

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Since you are playing on line you have another option

Put the game on pause for a few weeks, maybe a month, so that you can recruit another player or two who fit your group better. Use the roll20 feature to remove this coworker from the game, and use the roll20 feature to advertise that you are looking for players. Based on my years as DM and as a player, your situation has already gone beyond a reasonable point. I have seen this dynamic crop up multiple times - the usual DM response to a situation like this if it can't be de-escalated (which looks like your situation) is one of the following:

  1. The DM ends the campaign. Life's too short for this kind of aggravation.

  2. The DM and the other players tell the grief player that he's no longer invited to play.

Finding new players on-line is quite doable

In May of 2017 and in October of 2020, I joined two games online where nobody knew me; in one case the campaign rolled along fine until the DM had some RL schedule conflicts. Not quite a year later, the same group began playing with me as DM, since we all kept in touch, and that group is still together even though two players dropped out and I invited two more into the group. (With group approval).

The other game is current; we've gone from level 1 to 15 - they had lost one player, plugged me in, and we sadly lost another player to RL scheduling problems and so are at 4 players and have chosen to keep it that way.

In each case the groups were 'looking for players' and I messaged the DM - via the tool on roll20 in one case, and on a forum PM in another case.

Here's the crucial step: vetting. After a vetting of me - once we'd had our back and forth discussions and they decided I was a good risk - I joined the group. The DM in both cases asked me to be open to a probation period of two sessions after which he and I would discuss "are we a good fit?" I agreed to that. If someone does not agree to that caveat I'd suggest finding someone who will. You don't want this same problem to crop up again.

There are some risks that vetting should mitigate since what you are looking for is a player, or two, who can fit into your group.

How did the vetting go?

I wrote a brief intro of me and what my experiences and preferences in D&D games were, and then each of the players and the DM asked me a few questions in a game forum thread in the roll20 case, and in a Discord discussion in another case.

And then I waited. Not sure how many other folks they considered.

Each of you remaining in your game needs to be confident in any new addition, so be patient in case anyone gets a 'this feels wrong' vibe from any prospective player1.

The Sticky Wicket: co-worker drama

Since this person is you husband's coworker, how you both finesse that social side of the situation is hard to make a solid recommendation for, but the message needs to come from your husband to his coworker along these lines: my spouse has stopped DMing because it's too much stress, and that stress is specifically tied your behavior, and your not accepting her positional authority as the DM in our group.

Which is true, at least for the time being.

Once you and your group have searched for and found a player to replace this one, or maybe two more players, you can resume the campaign but don't rush. Getting a good fit is important.

But I want to keep this group together

An option that keeps your current campaign running involves more risk: you need to recruit your husband into the conversation if you don't want to kick this player out (for whatever social reason gives you motivation for so doing). This person is being rude to another player's spouse: that's very bad form, on the social side. If your husband has already engaged this coworker in conversation about how it's starting to concern him, and he has not adjusted his behavior towards you, you may need to have a three way conversation in person: you two (the couple) and this coworker. This conversation goes into your relationships outside of the game, how one generally treats people, and where emotional harm and frustration is occurring. There's social risk here since your husband and his coworker will have a lot of contact; this discussion amounts to an ultimatum from the both of you. Yes, it is risky, but if you are determined to give this player another chance, there needs to be a raising of the stakes as regards the consistent grief he's giving to the DM, or you can't expect a change in behavior.

While your social situation may require that you give it one more try, my suggestion is to let this adult player go: he does not respect your position as the DM and he's being rude and aggressive to spouse of one of his coworkers - there's a lot that, based on your narrative, raises red flags with the letters "this situation has gone too far" printed on them.


1 Aside: @Helwar (whom I have 'met' at RPGSE) invited me to go through a vetting process a month or so ago to maybe join their game due to two players leaving; I had a first interview on Discord with him and the other remaining players, but between time zones (US to Europe) and my work schedule changing I had to bow out. They were also interviewing other prospects at the time. You can ask him in RPGSE chat for more details on how he set up his vetting process. I'll send him a Discord alert that someone may reach out to him in chat. I liked how he and his group set up their vetting process).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Lining up players? ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Sep 5, 2021 at 15:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu 😊 That's one way to put it. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 5, 2021 at 16:21
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You mentioned that you don't have enough players to kick out this person. MikeQ wrote, and I agree, "Having a 2-person party is very feasible".

One old trick is the GM NPC. Let them meet, or know, a boring warrior with high defense who can act as a meat shield. (S)he will mostly go along with what the PC's suggest, but is terrible at making plans. These characters can be a bit tricky. It's tempting, as the GM, to make them give hints to the players; but you really want to avoid "gee, NPC, which tunnel seems best to you?" situations. On the other hand, it's fun to sometimes give them plot hooks (your NPC overheard some guys talking about goblins in the bar). It's fun as the GM to play that character a little; but you can't let them overshadow the real players.

The other thing to realize is that D&D has all of these encounter rules for CR this and that and +1's and adjustments ... you don't need any of that. Simply have them fight 3 goblins and see how it goes. Up ahead they can see an area guarded by 4 goblins. Try 1 bugbear. It's possible to hand-make fights for 2 players. It's also nice to have fights where losing won't kill you -- bandits will just rob them; losers of duels can be healed later; even orcs may take prisoners. Because with fewer players battles are more sensitive to a few unlucky rolls.

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But if I lose him on the campaign, I won't have enough people to run the campaign at all. (There is me as the DM and three players, including him.)

Just my personal experience, but I did play a lot of campaigns with only one other player and it worked well for years. So maybe it is not such big problem, as it looks now - but that depends on people "around the table" (GM and players) - what works to me may not work for somebody else, but may work too.

I played before that and after that also with variety of other numbers of other players, going up to like 8 or so and it worked too :)

And there was a lot of fluctuations in the groups sometimes, but usually we worked it out and adding or removing character to/from game is not problem, if GM and players agree on that. (One time we had a player, who played few sessions, then disapeared for some time, then joined again - and we simoply told, that his character "just went to see grandma" - even in the deep of dungeon - and then "just returned" usually with some obscure news/wisdom/story from grandma, that had no effect later in the game, but was funny)

But to address the small number of people in group:

One aproach is to set the campaign to just fit number of players (and kind of their characters). For big group it is ofcourse different, than for single advanturer. (In this 1:1 setting it was really long campaign, with a lot of hidden moves and it went extremely epic in the end.)

Other may be to put there so much "permanent NPC" as is needed to fullfill all missing roles in group. Or let them to be hired, talked into join forces or anything else, what just seems to fit. And it depends on your style, but maybe some are "moved around" mainly by players and others by GM.

Another way is to have your own PC in the game too, but it is little more demanding, as such PC tends to "stole your ideas", so as GM you have to separate, what you know as GM and what your PC knows. Usually that PC is little less creative in direction of solving the game problems, but it can excel in other ways.

Also it is possible for players to have more, than one character (but then it is good, if one person characters are somehow connected on the game too, so their cooperation is more plausible)

Now I play with other 3 players online and we regulary change the position of GM, usually after one episode, still playing in the same world, but usually the GM character is less active and GM have some NPCs to interact with the group, which are more or less "untouchable" by other GMs. And it makes the world more interesting, as there are more different motives and hidden agendas. Also it helps, that each player learn the rules better and feels how hard is running advanture, so they tends to be less critical to other GMs. But it emerged organically, as few first campaigns was mastered by one player, then I came with some ideas and start to alternate with him and later (about a year or two) also others joined our GM switching, first with "may I try something small?" "Yes, go on" and while it was not every time perfect and strictly by the rules, we had a fun.

(Witch is why we play after all, we want to have a fun, rules are usefull tools, but not something set in stone - and I have to say, that I like more "hollywood style", so if it "looks good on camera" it may have much better chance to succeed - even if it means I have to cheat (yes, I cheat often and mainly to help players, so they usually do not feel bad about it) and my original plan is ruined - but I am now used to it and pull out something else as if that was what I planned originally - to be honest, I have much less preparations, than it looks like. And if the players start looking at something or exploring some marginal area, I put the light and camera there and every time they find something, be it interesting, usefull, or just strange.)

So maybe some of this may help you somehow too - do not be afraid to explain that to your players and try it. If it does not work out, then it may be canceled and changed to something else, or just setting it back to what worked.


(And I personally would not play with somebody, who behave to me such badly as you described. I did stop playing with few people for similar reasons and in looking back it was good, that I stopped, even if the game had to change a little/lot.)


(BTW, most of that groups was mixed, but I am bad at writing in English, so I use "GM", "player", "him" and such, regardless if it was boy or girl (of any age from 10 to 60))

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