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Recently, my long-time friends and I started a new campaign. I'm one of the players. The player in question often suffers from My Guy Syndrome and their characters can usually be compared to a comic relief character of films/shows. We played many different systems so far and as this is a reoccurring situation, the system is irrelevant to the case.

This time, the player's character concept consists of rolling dice to draw upon Tarot cards that determine their next course of action according to their (upright) meaning. Drawing The Devil while being offered a sample by a drug dealer, for example, would make their answer a quick "Yes, please!". If they were to draw The Chariot, meaning control and willpower, they would decline the offer in an instant. Though the actual outcome might also stem from a rather abstract interpretation.

While I think that this could be a fun concept for role-playing (albeit dialed down a little), these totally random actions usually disrupt the flow of combat/social encounters and make them all the more difficult (I don't want to be there for the fall-out when destiny finally calls for the king to be splashed with 2 gallons of water). Even more so when the other players don't roll that well. Thankfully, nobody died yet.

There can be really fun moments with this player and I can assure you that they don't try to actively hamper the group's enjoyment, which is great and must be why we haven't really pushed this "issue" more than just facing it with the occasional awkward smiles/giggles or silence. And while I know the base answer; communication that is, I would like to know how our concerns could be communicated or how to compromise without invalidating them and the character they loved to create? Maybe it's even a non-issue and we, the other players and DM, are just too uptight?

Going fully nuclear is an option I will never consider in our case since we're best friends and all, albeit a little awkward socially. Though I suppose it still counts as a valid answer if you were to disregard any relationships between participants, should they have had any to begin with.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You say that game system is irrelevant but also that the player gravitates to the Chaotic Neutral alignment. System might be important inasmuch as it permits, rewards, or even requires certain behaviors with certain alignments, such that a character playing CN might indeed act in ways that seem nonsensical to other characters. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Mar 23, 2023 at 17:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ You say "deadly" have characters, but not this particular one apparently, died? \$\endgroup\$
    – Dave
    Mar 23, 2023 at 22:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Let's see if I understand your situation. You want to tell someone that you are tired of their silly BS without telling them that you are tired of their silly BS. Right? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 23, 2023 at 23:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ So the character, in game, is stopping to draw a card from a Tarot deck? And, I assume, the GM is allowing it as a free action? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 24, 2023 at 1:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @CrazyOmar Probably best if you just include the system of your current campaign or add the part about different campaigns and remove the alignment part. \$\endgroup\$
    – Anagkai
    Mar 24, 2023 at 8:41

5 Answers 5

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This player is using randomness to abdicate responsibility for their actions.

Using an example of something you fear happening from your post:

I don't want to be there for the fall-out when destiny finally calls for the king to be splashed with 2 gallons of water

I'd very much like to to know how the player uses dice or tarot cards to decide that throwing water on the king is the right course of action.

Except, we almost certainly already know the answer here. The player thought of a funny, but disruptive thing to do, and chose to use their preferred source of randomness "to see what destiny calls for", and give themselves narrative permission to do the disruptive thing. This randomness, be it dice roll or tarot draw, is really only the player removing responsibility by one level to disguise their intentions - being disruptive and "funny". This is true even if the player audibly, publicly, comes up with a few options, (some of which may be positive, non-disruptive, actions) and then draws or rolls to choose. This is still a player who wants to be disruptive, they're just doing what they hope will be a better job of letting the randomization take the blame. A player that didn't want to be disruptive but still wanted to let the dice decide would not have put any disruptive actions in the random list. More specifically to your problem player, the Tarot deck is infinitely interpretable - it is not providing a course of action. All the player has to do to "justify" their disruptive action is find a way to explain how it came from the card.

This is the My Guy Syndrome problem that you already know about, but hidden behind a veil of randomness. Solutions to the My Guy Syndrome are the solutions to this problem. The only wrinkle is that the player will likely try to "blame" the dice/cards for their actions. You will likely need to call them out on how this is just a dodge, and they've chosen to be disruptive. If they choose to take this dodge, and hold fast to it, it will make following the less drastic steps of the next section much harder, if not impossible. In that case, I'll direct you to the last paragraph, and the potential consequences of letting the disruptive player continue to make the sessions unpleasant.

Do you need to handle it? How should you handle it?

You said "I can assure you that they don't try to actively hamper the group's enjoyment", and yet you're here, asking for advice, because your enjoyment is hampered. If they really aren't trying to do so, then the communication should be simple: "Hey, when you do these random things that make our lives harder, I have less fun in the game. Could it be possible for you to tone it down?" You can even bring up that the random tarot stuff can be really funny, and that you sometimes get a kick out of it (if that's true, anyway) - you don't need the player to stop doing their thing entirely, just to make it less likely to cause you issues. Help the player understand when a random action is called for, and when it would be disruptive. Guide them towards doing things that are genuinely funny and do not make the other players annoyed. Importantly, make sure the player realizes that they are just one of the players at the table, and making everyone else unhappy is not a cool move. You aren't the GM, so your influence on the game is somewhat limited, but as a group of friends, your desires and enjoyment should matter to the problem player.

All that's great, but you're here, asking for advice, which makes me think the simple answer either didn't work, or you're unwilling to communicate with the player for some reason. (In my experience, this kind of hesitance is often caused by knowing that the problem player won't respond well to correction, but that's not necessarily what's going on here.)

You've said you're completely unwilling to chose the nuclear option, by which I believe you mean you're unwilling to kick the player, because you're all "best friends". Some of what I'm about to say might sound harsh, but please understand that the advice I'm giving is hard-won, from years of experience in the rpg community.

First off, a "best friend" should care about your enjoyment of the game as much as you care about theirs. That they are making your free time less enjoyable should be enough to change their behavior on it's own. Part of being someone's friend is caring about them, and their enjoyment of shared activities. Does this player, outside of the game, act in a way that shows that they care about the other members of this group?

Secondly, even the closest group of friends does not need to do everything together. If a friend is a bad match for an activity, they can (and should) skip or (in the worst case) be excluded from that activity. If you haven't, please go read Five Geek Social Fallacies, for a more eloquently put explanation of this point, and why it's not bad and wrong and being a terrible friend to not invite this player to RPG night.

If you have these conversations, and you've pondered my points, hopefully you can come to a good point with your game, and your friend. Maybe they tone it down, maybe they leave the game. But there's another, worst case option, and that's the game entirely disintegrating. Another player - maybe you, maybe someone else in the game, decides they're done with dealing with the problem player, and leaves the game. A fourth decides that without the third, they don't feel like it either. Shortly the game is ruined, because nobody was willing to make sure the game was actually fun by dealing with the problem player.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 "dice to decide throwing water". player: rolls percentile dice through layered matrices. "i throw something > water > at someone > gov official, and..." [rolls 00] "uh oh..." \$\endgroup\$
    – Dor1000
    Mar 24, 2023 at 4:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ "You will likely need to call them out on how this is just a dodge" - people who use such tactics tend to insist that they aren't responsible, so you should be prepared to deal with that. Insisting that they are responsible probably won't work, but it might work to e.g. insist that they stop, regardless. Failing that, there's always the option of just kicking them out of the game. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotThatGuy
    Mar 24, 2023 at 12:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ The other answers also have really great advice, but I think you collected the most universal solutions. In the end, you helped me realize that, yes, they are indeed an actual friend I don't have to walk on egg shells with! They didn't even become the least defensive when talking about the matter and we laughed, thinking about some interesting ways to make their concept work, without relying on random decisions. \$\endgroup\$
    – CrazyOmar
    Mar 25, 2023 at 10:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ There's certainly a place for randomness -- I've seen players dithering over whether their character would do something and resolve it with a quick coin flip or even/odd dice roll. But that's when the character has deemed two courses of action equally likely and can't decide what they'd rather do, not for determining action in a completely random way. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 26, 2023 at 4:09
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If you have to ask here it is an issue

You already mentioned that communication is key. Almost all problems of group dynamics can be solved by communication if they can be solved at all. Generally, many of these problems come from different expectations among players. If the expectations are too different the problem can be impossible to solve making the players incompatible to play together. However, it sounds as though it wasn't that bad in your case. Still, taking action is probably warranted because leaving problems of this kind unchecked can create resentment and lead to further problems.

The problem: Differing expectations

I would therefore suggest, that you take your feeling seriously and think about what you can do. It seems there are mismatched expectations between the people involved. There are many reasons to play TTRPGs including but not limited to participating in lighthearted group activities, cooperating in a group, expressing oneself, experiencing a good narrative. Not all goals are compatible. It seems that your player in question seems to be a person interested in simple fun and expressing themselves. It seems as though you were more interested in cooperating and experiencing a good narrative.

Rolling for what to do is problematic for both because:

  • Random actions are often less efficient than ones judiciously chosen which you noticed.
  • While random actions happen a lot in real life when consuming stories we typically expect events to logically follow from prior events and the personalities of the characters involved. Too much randomness destroys this.

You didn't mention concerns of narrative specifically but it seems this is what rubs you the wrong way when you say you would prefer the character concept to be dialed down.

What to do: Explain your expectations and acknowledge theirs

You already noticed that communication is key and I wholeheartedly agree with you. Therefore, you should talk to this player about your concerns. Be specific, be nice, and avoid sounding accusatory. Preferably, talk to them alone so they don't feel pointed out in front of the whole group. As for what to say, the important is the following:

  • Teamwork and cooperation is a key part of TTRPGs. It would be nice if that player could put their desire for chaos behind teamwork in critical situations such as combat and take goal-oriented action there instead of random action.
  • As you find random actions fun occasionally, encourage them to perform random actions in less critical situations. If there isn't anything important at stake (like lives in combat or alienating an NPC in social interactions), random actions cannot do much harm while still leading to funny result.
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It's all about interpretation

At one point, I used tarot cards as GM, to get inspiration and introduce a random element to the sandbox we were playing. The players very much appreciated it and felt it brought something interesting to the table.

However, what I did not do is interpret the cards literally - if, say, I drew the Death card, I did not kill off a PC or an NPC, instead I looked at the interpretation (from a booklet, this one is from the web):

The Death card signals that one major phase in your life is ending, and a new one is going to start. You just need to close one door, so the new one will open. The past needs to be placed behind you, so you can focus your energy on what is ahead of you

Another meaning is that you are going to go through a major change, transition, or transformation. The old version of you needs to ‘die’ to allow the new you to be created. This can be a scary time for you because you may be unsure of what will happen in the future. Even if you are scared, you should welcome the change because you are opening the door to new life events.

Death can also mean that you need to let go of any unhealthy attachments that you have in your life. This is an important part of life, so learning to keep moving forward is one of the lessons Death teaches us.

Endings, beginnings, change and transition. Now it's my job to interpret that within the game world. For instance, if we're playing D&D, encountering a character Reincarnated (by the spell) as a monster and unable to rejoin human society could embrace several of the named concepts, while turning the black and white of "heroes" and "monsters" into a more nuanced, and new, view of the world.

For your player, my take is that rather than giving up on the cards, they should take responsibility for how they choose to interpret them. Trying to fit the card into the realm of reasonable actions is more challenging, but also way more interesting than just going with "whatever", no matter how unreasonable.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If the difficult player were encouraged to act this way, their response would be a great "test" of their actual motivation - are they interested in the deeper significance of their character's randomness, or are they just a griefer with MyGuy? Perhaps the DM can introduce a tarot-reading mentor character to open their mind to the possibilities of servicing the guiding forces of the universe through tarot while still being a responsible party member. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Mar 24, 2023 at 15:50
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Ignore the tarot and make your session zero clear

In your session zero you should make clear what you require from players, like playing moderately well in combat, or not attacking powerful figures on a whim.

If they choose to do that anyway, talk to them and tell them they are violating the agreement. There's jokey ways to do that, or more serious ones depending on how serious their actions are, but you need to talk to them.

The issue with my guy syndrome is that the player is letting a fictional character control them. Letting a tarot card control them is the same. This forces you to metagame, because out of game you're supposed to play with them, and so you need to invent reasons in game why the other characters don't abandon them.

So, just tell them clearly when they violate the social contract, and ignore the tarot. The tarot isn't controlling their character. They need to find a better way to interpret the tarot or ignore it if it makes them break the social contract.

Offer roleplay accommodation.

If they want to be silly, allow them to do so via roleplay. For example, if they draw a tarot card that makes them need to mock a foe, let them roleplay that into an existing action rather than needing to make two actions. Give them more freedom to create an ambience that's funny, without mechanical impact.

I find that most such people just like being silly, and so long as they are able to be silly they are fine just doing roleplay silliness rather than mechanical silliness.

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Actions have consequences. The other adventurers may kick the individual from the party, he may get arrested and they may decide to leave him in jail, they may be less inclined to risk themselves in other ways to protect him, and so on.

A friend of mine played a chaotic character who got bored easily, but was selectively stupid about it. During one stay in town he decided not enough was happening and decided to go on a short excursion of his own, walking straight north for several days. His only encounter was with a lake, which he stubbornly went through rather than around (he was going straight north, after all)... so he turned around and came back, at which point we were about done with our other business and ready to get back on the road. Random, but in a way that didn't get his friends in trouble.

Note too that the gods are free to interpret behavior as a statement of actual alignment, which may affect whether magic items work as he expects them to and things like that.

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