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I'm running a Starfinder game, and we are 40 sessions into this campaign.

The campaign involves the fate of a small but strategically important settlement, which several factions are vying for control of. My group are from several different factions, but have temporarily agreed to set aside their differences to fight the largest threat. The keyword here is "temporary".

The thing is, 40 sessions in, the scenarios the group finds themselves in have forced cracks into this temporary ceasefire, as displayed in what happened last session:

The mission in question

The group found themselves contacting one of the factions (Alignment Neutral Evil) that PC number 1 aligns with, on the behest of PC 1. PCs number 2 to 5 are mostly following along for the ride. They find some fairly uncomfortable information with what this faction intends to do with the PC's Settlement.

PC 1 reacts with excitement. PCs 2 to 5 are less enthusiastic and are put in a bad mood.

Later in conversation, some NPCs (who the party was informed, is extremely hotheaded) aligned with the aforementioned faction provoke the party in a "bar fight" scenario. PCs 2 to 5 defend themselves, while PC 1 rolls diplomacy rolls to calm the NPCs down, and administers medical aid to the NPCs after disengaging.

This forces the party to determine a method of leaving undetected, which they did by causing a distraction elsewhere with a riot in the internment area, much to the dismay of PC 1. During this, two of the prisoners agree to help the PCs leave the facility. PCs 2 to 5 eventually warm up to the two prisoners.

The PCs were eventually busted. PC 1 abandons the group to their fate and dashes off, with PCs 2 to 5 and allied NPCs making some clutch stealth and athletic rolls to bumrush off. One thing that concerned me at this point was that Player 1 (not PC 1, Player 1) spent some effort requesting I provide PCs 2 to 5 with harsher disadvantages that the ones I already provided them based on circumstance.

After escaping to safety, one of the NPCs expressed his gratefulness to the group, and stated that his employers (another faction whom the group does not like) will like this, and provide payment. Upon this, PC 1 shot him, and due to the high damage roll, PCs 2 to 5 could not react in time to prevent this.

This has caused a rift between the PCs, and PC 1 have both openly requested to kick a member of the party, as well as openly plot to murder the surviving NPC, who is aligned with a faction that the group currently works with, but PC 1 absolutely hates.

Attempted solutions

We had a Session Zero when we started, stating our intentions with in-party conflict. Our conclusion was "avoid PvP", but we left it there.

For the last 40 sessions, I have given them various reasons to stick together, i. e. the BBEG. However, with the BBEG's forces weakened, these factional issues resurface.

I did not do a group character creation session because I did not imagine the PC conflicts would get this severe.

Additional information

  • This is Player 1's first campaign. I (and another player) have spent the last year attempting to teach him the ropes of TTRPGs throughout this time. His character backstory was changed around Session 11 and Session 28 to integrate his faction (which was originally a throwaway faction set up in Session 7 that I have better developed due to Player 1's interest, something the group seemed to respond well to at the time). This is part of why I don't want to expel him from the group.
  • Players 2 to 5 are experienced players, and GM in their own time. I have explicitly requested them to try to work with PC 1 for as long as possible.
  • This is my first GMed campaign, and I did not expect the campaign to last this long. It was supposed to last around 15 sessions with factionalism being a more limited factor, but the players requested I continue due to a continued interest. This is around the time that Player 1 changed his backstory to better integrate his faction . Judging by Dragomok's well-received answer, this is where this issue might have started.
  • The players have stated that they wish to continue playing, and seem not to be particularly distressed by this event. However, if things get too severe, I will leave it to the PCs.

Please let me know if more information is required. System is Starfinder, if it helps. Tone of the campaign is action comedy.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is there a reason to absolutely keep everyone? It really seems to me to be something to solve out of the game, and that the players themselves don't want to play together. \$\endgroup\$
    – Luris
    Jul 29, 2023 at 15:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ The players have stated that they still want to play together, after I asked them post-session. I will add this to the text. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 29, 2023 at 16:08

7 Answers 7

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If I was running one of PCs 2-5, I'd be asking the other members of that group if it's time to expel PC 1 before he gets us in trouble we can't handle. This might demonstrate to PC 1 and his player that they're pushing beyond the limits of the game's social contract. If expulsion was agreed, it's up to Player 1 if he wants to climb down, and up to you as GM if you want to GM for him separately.

I'd also advise that PCs 2-5 change their base and movements, because PC 1 getting his faction to attack us would be an obvious possibility. If that happened, the "No PvP" rule is clearly no longer in force and killing him would become a priority.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I will explain to Player 1 the concept of rolling a new character without death and we'll see where to handle it from there. Thank you. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 29, 2023 at 20:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ if player 1 is attached to their character and group doesn't mind a bit of meta-planning you could agree on a "asskicking behind the bleachers" scenario to sort-of reset the characters allignement without forcing either death or retirement. \$\endgroup\$
    – Borgh
    Aug 1, 2023 at 9:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Or you could simply, as a group, justify why/how PC1 has a sudden change of heart that Player 1 can live with and that is interesting enough for everyone to RP going forward. No need to kick anyone anywhere. :) \$\endgroup\$ Aug 1, 2023 at 11:43
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EDIT: Someone pointed out that I (and Luris in comments on the answer) misread the question as players 2 to 5 being upset and demanding to kick PC1 out of the group. Later edits of the question made it clear that the entire table of players is fine with the situation.

While I stand by most of my answer (ie. how the GM and player got here, and how to gently get a new player to retire a character), retiring PC1 turns out to actually be one options out of many.

I'm going to leave my answer as it might be useful for people with a similar situation but with negative table reception - but bear in mind it was not very useful for the OP.


This might be an important learning moment both for you and Player 1.

Lessons for you, the DM

It seems you made two BIG mistakes.

The first DM mistake

occurred around sessions 1, 11, and 28. That is, you failed to give the new player proper boundaries for character creation, or rather you failed to voice out the unspoken expectations for what kind of PCs you were expecting. So, while four veteran players apparently made PCs on the spectrum from Goodie Two Shoes to Jerk with a Heart of Gold, the new player made an Employee of the Month for Amoral Bastards Ltd.

It doesn't mean you needed to have session 0, but it does mean you should have said precisely what kind of PCs you were expecting your players to make.

This should be rather easy, but here are two personal anecdotes on how it can go wrong:

  1. In one campaign, our DM told us we need to make supernaturally-gifted people working for a superhero-related crime division in Los Angeles. I made an absolute fuck-up of a down-on-her-luck woman with zero accolades in her life, but the DM expected competent and badass professionals (which other players made).
  2. In another campaign, the DM told me to make someone who would fit in a group of people chosen by the gods who are venturing to a Fantasy South America to find out why gods' powers mostly don't work there. Unfortunately, he didn't tell me the group was more than happy to steal from a friendly and jovial trader or rob graves, which caused some awkwardness for my Cinnamon Bun cleric (I roleplayed him as being distracted by flowers and not noticing the theft).

The second DM mistake

is that you made a Strange Bedfellows campaign about warring factions having a ceasefire because of a powerful common enemy, allow that enemy to wane, and... didn't expect inter-player conflict? What?!

At this point, your campaign has the exact environment where most players unacquainted with your specific table would assume "this is the part where we screw each other up by proxy as much as possible" - especially since you allowed one of the players to bring in the Amoral Bastards Ltd. faction.

Unless you specifically told the players during character creation or out-of-game mid-campaign that you expect their character arcs to go towards underserving their own factions in favour of their new found family and new found hometown, this is a natural and logical outcome. (And you told your veteran players to tolerate the outlier "as long as possible", not to get him to their side.)

This is akin to having a group of slavering goblins ambush players in D&D and being surprised they haven't tried empathetic diplomacy. Or expecting a game of Fiasco with drug money to end with PCs alive and happy.

I cannot emphasize enough that you crafted a campaign that many other tables play specifically to experience PCs screwing each other up.
So, once again, it seems as if you failed to vocalize the unspoken agreement.

Lesson for Player 1

While Player 1 behaved naturally in the situation that occurred in the campaign, and - importantly - ACTUALLY UPHELD THE AGREEMENT OF NO PVP (because he hadn't directly attacked any other PC)...

...he has fallen for My Guy Syndrome by virtue of not reading the room.

Here's what I suggest you do in a 1-on-1 conversation with Player 1, in broad strokes:

  1. You can commend him for acting appropriately for the campaign he thought he was playing due to your mutual miscommunication.
  2. However, you should empathize that in actual let's-screw-each-other-up-by-proxy campaigns players are DELIGHTED when they are on the receiving end of chicanery...
  3. ...and segue into the most important rule of thumb of RPGs, ie. when other players are angry at you, something has gone wrong. During good inter-player conflict, PCs might be beyond rage, swear oaths of revenge, form actual conspiracies, and kill each other and mutilate the corpse and throw the sad remains into the yawning void of Ancient Maelstrom, but players will be having fun.
  4. Explain that while one often gets attached to one's PC, sometimes the PC reaches a point where you cannot both stay faithful to the character and continue playing in the campaign. It happens - sometimes a protective family man needs to choose between leaving the campaign or going against the very core of what makes him him; sometimes single-minded avenger fulfills their vengeance and is all out of gas; sometimes a woman of faith gets utterly broken by a revelation and you would either play her as a wretched shell or a walking lie shaped like her.
  5. Assure him that it's hard, but sometimes it's necessary.
  6. Explain that the unspoken duty of a player is to make a character that will fit both with the campaign and other characters. Assure that it's okay, and it's not his fault nobody told him that.
  7. Brainstorm with Player 1 how he would like PC 1 to retire. Maybe he would like for PC 1 to run out in the night and become a badass NPC villain. Or maybe he would rather have him leave the campaign altogether, which would allow you to, say, introduce an affable NPC liaison for Amoral Bastards Ltd. who will apologize for their hot-headed predecessor but have an iron-handed agenda behind their politeness. Or maybe he would rather escalate the situation in a fake fight, explicitly say out-of-character to other players "you will either stop PC 1 by force or he will attack the NPC", and then when other PCs take the bait and shoot/stab at him outside of initiative, you rule this is a fatal wound and allow PC 1 to deliver a death bed monologue about ideals and how he hates other PCs. (Actual combat is very likely to go poorly.) Or maybe he would have PC 1 agree to allow the NPC to live "for now" and shortly after die in a heroic sacrifice to a sudden threat, which would give some nice bittersweetness for other players to roleplay with.
  8. And, obviously, help him roll up a new amiable PC that will logically be predisposed to generate conflict on the level of other PCs. Maybe give the PC some kind of boon, or allow a slightly outlandish idea. And definitely think up a good dynamic entrance.

In short,

you should stop running Paranoia scenarios without telling players "don't turn this in Paranoia plx" and having them design PCs so they won't follow the natural conclusion,
(and also you shouldn't allow loyal employees of Amoral Bastards Ltd. as PCs if you don't want them to amorally bastard throughout the campaign)
and player 1 should work with you to retire PC 1 in a manner that will satisfy him and make a new PC that will fit in.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for the answer. I am aware that this is a hole of my own digging, a result of the campaign being an unexpected length, and my inexperience.. Would it be possible to expand on the suggested steps to resolve this issue? Judging by the answer, I feel as if you've been in the shoes of Player 1 frequently and would love to see this perspective expanded on. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 29, 2023 at 20:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HFOrangefish: I'd imagine one thing you might do is show Player 1 this Q&A, and explain to them the meta-level hole your gaming table has got itself into, if you think they'd be interested in looking at the problem from that perspective. If they are, then you can talk with them (and maybe the rest of the players) about how you want to get out of that hole, using ideas proposed in any of the other answers, or any other ideas you two come up with. If they'd rather not read this Q&A themselves, then maybe you should summarize the problem for them, and the assumptions this answer points out. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 30, 2023 at 0:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nvoigt First bulletpoint under the Additional information header in the question: the asker said they helped integrate PC 1's Neutral Evil faction during sessions 11 and 28. PC 1 being loyal to the faction was the core reason of the situation arising. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dragomok
    Jul 30, 2023 at 9:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Dragomok Ah, did not see that, thanks \$\endgroup\$
    – nvoigt
    Jul 30, 2023 at 9:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for being comprehensive and correct. Too many tables implement a "no PvP" rule without asking each other "what kinds of ideological conflict count as PvP?" \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Jul 31, 2023 at 23:36
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To Design This In From The Start....

...One way is to keep tabs on the character creation process and put very specific types of hooks and dependencies into the backgrounds. Like, Character 1 wants to retrieve a lost family heirloom, but Character 2 has the connections to make that a lot easier, but owes a debt to Character 3 who wants to use the heirloom in a ritual that... probably won't damage it. Much.

Characters 2 and 3 would need their own goals contingent on characters 4, 5, and 1, etc. That's easier said than done, though, and after 40 sessions this might just not be feasible. It really wants to be done either during character creation, or exposed up front as a feature of your characters' factional allegiances. ("Well why can't we just kill this g--" "Because [other NPC] loves this jerk, and you need her help for X, remember?")

I offer that, because it is one path to answering the question in the title.

But Your Real Problem...

Sounds like an emergent case of My Guy syndrome, which you can read up on at that link and in various other places on this stack. It sounds like one of the more benign cases, of a new player just getting a little too attached to their characters' perspective and forgetting that this is a group activity that needs to be fun for everyone, not just a zero-sum game.

(Maybe I'm unlucky in this regard, but most of the My Guys I've experienced have been pretty flagrant about it, obvious almost from the start and pretty unpleasant. I don't think this is that extreme, unless you've been having issues like this for 40 sessions.)

There are really only three broad classes of solution, here:

  • Let the game world (including other PCs) grind them into dust. This is not my preferred solution, because it can leave marks on the game and on the personal friendships among the players out of game as well.

  • You can have a private talk with the player, explain the My Guy concept and why it's a problem. Then ask that they stop being so aggressive in pursuit of their goals and be prepared to give constructive criticism on how to do that. This one has the benefit of being a "Praise in public, criticize in private" solution.

  • Sort of in the middle, you can have an authority figure in the game world come and tell them to dial it back a bit, with in-game rationalizations for why they're not helping things. This has the benefit that it can form the basis for a more abrupt change of position for the PC, than the player would ordinarily be comfortable with. But however disguised it is, your other players (who you note are GMs themselves) will know it for what it it. That makes it public (and potentially awkward) but may help settle your other players down.

My preferred approach is actually both of the bottom two approaches.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I did not realize this could be a version of My Guy syndrome, especially with a new player. I'll keep this in mind when approaching the problem. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 29, 2023 at 20:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HFOrangefish Use your best judgment on this, of course. It seems like a strong possibility to me, but you've been gaming with this person and this group for 40 sessions. That's a long time and you should basically trust yourself. But if this answer helps you think about it in a different way, then I'm glad to have been of service. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Jul 29, 2023 at 20:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ Aye, you can combine 2 and 3 by talking to the player in private first and then explaining to them that you're going to offer him a plausible in-game opportunity to pivot, to make the story go better. (Also be open during the private chat and tell them that if you do it, all the other players will also know what happened. But they will know either way, and 3 is a better story, so...) \$\endgroup\$
    – biziclop
    Jul 29, 2023 at 23:11
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It is clear at this point that PC 1 and PCs 2-5 do not want to work together anymore.

With PvP is out of the table, there are three options:

  1. Ask if the players want to introduce PvP, briefly, to solve the situation. This is probably going very badly for PC 1 because of the numbers, unle4ss there's NPCs involved.

  2. Do the same fight but without PvP. PC 1 becomes an NPC by virtue of not being aligned with the party anymore. Player 1 rolls a new character.

  3. PC 1 becomes an NPC, at least temporarily. Ideas of a parallel campaign where everybody has a character who likes PC 1's faction, played after this one or in parallel, might help Player 1 accept this fate.

By the way, except for asking to be harsher on the other players it looks like Player 1 has been awesome: he played his character to the hilt, reward him with some praise, let him know that a PC becoming an NPC is not a bad thing at all. Maybe let PC 1 become the contact between the party and that faction.

I have friends who have had their characters show up again and again as NPCs and they loved it.

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There's already a lot of answers here, ranging from what you should have already done to just kicking Player 1 out. But I think you actually have mistaken the core problem. You are looking for what you should do to fix this issue, but I would suggest looking at it a different way.

  • In a game like this you could have issues with the world, issues with how you're running the game, issues with the characters, and issues with the players. In this case you seem to mostly have issues with the characters.

  • As a DM you should take responsibility for issues with the world and with how you're running the game.

  • Collectively, meaning you and all of the other players, are responsible for issues with characters and players. Meaning it's not just Player 1, or you and Player 1, who own this. The group owns this together, and each of them is accountable when bringing their best, mature, responsible behavior back to the group.

In this case especially, your group has already decided they don't want PvP. It's also ok if now you all decide you also all require that the characters continue working together. Then it's on the players to play their characters in a way that has the characters continue working together. I.e., the DM shouldn't be tweaking the whole world just to conform to the characters, the people who control the characters should be changing the characters to fit the goals of the group.

How do they change it? Anyway that makes sense. "My character slowly comes to realize this conflict is senseless and he can heal his factions wounds best by blah blah." "As I looked down on the dead body my character had a sudden revelation, none of this violence is worth it." "I don't know, he just changes his mind. Let's just keep going." All of those work.

And if a player refuses to play their character in a way that facilitates for for both themselves and the whole group? Then you have a player problem.

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Set off a nuke

Have a faction of the bad guys or some larger threat to the campaign use a Nuclear Mega-Missile Launcher against a crowded population area with shared resources. This will force the higher ups of player 1's faction and other factions to shed their differences and order the PCs to work together to not cause further issues.

Others have noted the importance of working with the players to ensure they know to behave better. This works better with some external threat. Till the campaign ends, you should always be ready to use external threats to keep the players together. In addition, as GM, you should be finding behind the scenes reasons to not make player factions cause them to come into conflict.

The group found themselves contacting one of the factions (Alignment Neutral Evil) that PC number 1 aligns with, on the behest of PC 1. PCs number 2 to 5 are mostly following along for the ride. They find some fairly uncomfortable information with what this faction intends to do with the PC's Settlement.

You caused this. You should always be careful before intentionally introducing conflict into a party by having one faction mess with the interests of the other party members. As such, a good first step is removing that source of conflict you made, and uniting the factions with a shared enemy.

I would also suggest adding a campaign rule.

After escaping to safety, one of the NPCs expressed his gratefulness to the group, and stated that his employers (another faction whom the group does not like) will like this, and provide payment. Upon this, PC 1 shot him, and due to the high damage roll, PCs 2 to 5 could not react in time to prevent this.

They shouldn't shoot quest giving NPCs without mutual agreement. Part of avoiding inter party conflict is not trying to ruin other players.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I already set off a nuke, and there is a ticking time bomb. Yet, this issue has persisted. I will re-emphasize the significance of the nuke in a few sessions. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 30, 2023 at 15:03
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Play a oneshot to give Player 1's character a proper sendoff, then make them an NPC.

This relies on the following assumptions.

  • Everybody likes each other out-of-game and wants to keep playing together. The party conflict is being caused by good roleplaying, not grudges between players.
  • Player 1 is willing to roll a new character that aligns with the party, but likes their old character and is willing to make their old character an NPC.
  • The other players like Player 1's character from a storytelling perspective ("oooh that nasty little weasel I hate him so much") and are willing to give him a satisfying sendoff.

Speak very frankly and out-of-character with the party. Talk with Player 1 privately about what direction he sees the character going, and design a session around that. Get the other players on board, and explain: We're going to play a special one-off session today, where only Player 1 is playing his normal character and the rest of us are going to play new people we haven't met. (If you've ever wanted to try another system as a oneshot, or a solo journal game, or some crazy game you found on itch.io, this is your chance to experiment dramatically with format and genre.)

In this session, Player 1's character is going to leave, and we're going to find out what they do next. At the end of the session, Player 1 is going to hand over their character sheet, and their character is going to become an NPC--they get to give you 3 directives their character will follow, but beyond that, what [character] does is up to the GM now.

Again, this is the sort of thing that only works with group buy-in, but it can easily be a highlight session if done well.

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