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There’s a player in my party who keeps being hostile to my character in a way that I’m taking personally. We had a previous campaign that wrapped up recently where this happened a few times, and I responded to it in character. Ultimately, this led to a big argument, because her in-character hostility eventually led to negligence towards the safety of other PCs. I decided that if her selfishness is going to hurt the party, then my character would not defend her in fights anymore. Suddenly she wanted to talk out of character for a change, and accused me of “punishing” her for just wanting to play her character. I realized that just reacting to the conflict in-character when I was actually annoyed at her choices as a player was a mistake, and that I should have addressed the problem out of character.

New campaign, and she’s doing it again. After recent combat, she accused me of not doing anything, and when I got defensive she laughed and said “oh that’s my character saying that.” Out of character, I said yes but I DID contribute to combat, and she said “my character is accusing you of doing nothing because you didn’t come over here and set a mine where she asked you to before combat started.” It felt like she was absolutely criticizing me, and then made an “I’m in character” recovery to deflect responsibility, particularly because even in character there’s no reason to say “you did nothing” when the more accurate statement is “you didn’t do what I wanted you to.”

I’ve been stressed out over work lately, and we’re also playing Pathfinder for the first time ever, and I’m playing a non-melee character for the first time ever as well, so adapting to all the new stuff is probably heightening my sensitivity to criticism. But it also feels very much like My Guy Syndrome, until there are consequences for Her Guy and then in that case, it’s personal. It feels manipulative to me, but I’m not sure if my own personal stuff is just making it feel more heightened. Am I just being overly sensitive?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Whether you're taking things "too personally" seems a bit too subjective/opinion-based, though there might be a way to answer this with "good subjective" support. If you clarify what goal you're trying to accomplish (e.g. how to communicate your concerns), we could provide answers on the best way to accomplish that goal. (Also, which edition of Pathfinder are you playing, out of curiosity? I don't think it really matters in terms of answering the question, but it's possible there might be system tools/guidance to help with the issue.) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Feb 1 at 23:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! As currently written, I think this question is very hard to answer because whether someone is "overly sensitive" is a matter of opinion. Asking how to address the situation might be more productive. And a little more information on the circumstances might also help. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 2 at 0:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ It’s Pathfinder 2e. Suggestions on how to address the issue would be helpful. The only idea that I have right now is to ask that players don’t offer unfair or unhelpful criticism, in or out of character. If she had simply said “I think that would have gone better if you set the mine here”, we could have discussed strategy. I probably wouldn’t have changed what I did. I knew the spot she wanted me to go to was likely to get ambushed, and immediately after she moved there, it was. Talking that out instead of RPing it would be ideal, especially since we’re new to pathfinder. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vola
    Feb 2 at 2:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ She also refuses to compromise on her choices, and isn’t convinced when people say “that will harm my character/the party.” She will tell other players what to do, but the overall behavior is “everyone should agree that I’m right”, so telling players what to do happens when she thinks your action in combat was wrong. So far, if we address it directly she doubles down, to the point the GM has felt the need to say “actually no, the thing you want will hurt you in this encounter.” Even the GM is having to compromise and give spoilers just to get her to cooperate. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vola
    Feb 3 at 4:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ How is this system-specific? Is something different in your interactions compared to other RPGs? \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Feb 3 at 9:55

4 Answers 4

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Maybe you're asking the wrong question

We play games to have fun. What you're describing — tilt, doubt and rumination — is not fun. You play Pathfinder for bright characters and epic adventures, not for personal conflicts and disappointments. So what you want to do is to stop these unpleasant things and start getting fun from the game, as it was before.

However, you ask for judgement about your personal reaction:

not sure if I’m taking it too personally

Am I just being overly sensitive?

If someone says "yes, you are taking it too personally", will it solve the problem? I guess not. It seems you ask for a confirmation, not for an answer. Someone said "You're just overreacting", and you need someone else to say "No, you are not". This doesn't look very healthy and maybe worth a therapy session, which is not what RPG.SE does.

I suggest focusing on your own feelings instead of trying to judge who is "right". You know what you feel, better than anyone else. Certain things hurt you, regardless of being made in-character or out-of-character. As any other social conflict, you can't solve it by the game means. You should approach it as any other social problem: talk about it out of the game and come to an agreement. Ask for particular tangible actions, not for changing someone's mind. Finding another group is also an option.

Bonus: How to address problems in dialogues

"Facts, feelings, desires, requests" is a simple guideline from "Nonviolent Communication" by Marshall Rosenberg. Here's a rough example:

Fact: "During the last fight we lost a party member, then we spent 1.5 hours arguing whose fault it was."

Feelings: "This was a very unpleasant experience for me."

Desires: "We all appreciate the positive atmosphere, and we don't want to waste our time arguing."

Request (proposed soluton): "I don't want this to happen again. Let's discuss our strategy beforehand, and if it fails, just accept it. I won't participate in any debriefing anymore."

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for offering that help. I particularly like “I won’t participate in debriefing anymore”. In this last conflict, I can see where instead of getting defensive, it would have been more helpful for me to say “I did participate in combat, just not how you wanted. We can talk about strategy but I’m not going to answer to false accusations.” \$\endgroup\$
    – Vola
    Feb 2 at 19:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree that tilt is not fun, but doubt and rumination can be amazing positive contributions to the experience, in the right dosage and with the right mindset. Especially if the party has a strong sense of camaraderie and the doubt is existential to the party's shared goals. The hero's journey is dependent upon "challenges and temptations" that practically demand self-doubt to feel meaningful. Of course, the player conflict described in the OP sounds very different; but. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 3 at 2:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the problem is the doubt and rumination is happening outside of the game about one another, rather than happening in character or about the course of the game. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vola
    Feb 3 at 4:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Vola: You may also be interested in reading about "blameless postmortems". Debriefing are important -- both on success and failure -- to understand what to improve. Blaming someone, however, is NOT the right way to conduct a debriefing in general. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 5 at 8:41
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Encryptor makes excellent points, and I agree thoroughly with that answer. I would like to add something actionable for the table, though.

I'm not sure what your group's playstyle is, but it seems like it has the typical issue of confusing in-game and out-of-game dialog. While this is far from the root of the issue, it does magnify it. My suggestion would be to clearly state who is talking each time your character speaks. Don't say "I pick the lock," say "[character name] picks the lock." And don't just rely on changing your voice to indicate what's being said in character, either. Declare specifically who is talking each and every time.

This does a few things that I have found to be useful both from my time as a GM and my time as a player:

  • It makes it clear who is talking and who is to blame. Just like it says on the tin - if you make it clear that these are your character's words and your character's actions, it helps other people to dissociate what your character is doing from you as the player. As a GM, for instance, I would never insult a player or character in my own voice. Rather than saying "You're stupid" to one of my players, I would say "The hooligan at the bar looks at [character name] and says 'You're stupid!'" instead. That way, they are far less likely to associate those insults with me subconciously.
  • It puts distance between your emotions and your character's emotions. If someone is hounding your character in-game, separating yourself as a player from your character lets you put the fire on your character instead of yourself. Rather than actually stonewalling another player at the table when an argument comes up, you can say "[character name] rubs his forehead and turns away, refusing to respond to [other character]'s comments." Your character is expressing how fed up he is, because your character is getting stressed out. By aknowledging and playing out your character's actions, you create a mental separation that can help you avoid getting the stress on you.
  • It lets you use shortcuts for talking. Similar to the above, by narrating your character in third person, you can give summaries of your character's actions. You don't have to spell out what your character says in detail; instead, just say something like "[character name] continues to defend his side of the argument, and [other character]'s arguments do not seem to sway his mind in the slightest." Without implying any insult to the player or saying any mean words, you've conveyed that any attempt to further argue the point in-character is meaningless. If someone tries, just reiterate "[character name] continues to stand his ground" without giving specifics.

Again, this isn't a cure-all. It may not help the other players at the table, specifically. I also make no gurantees about your situation, your mental wellbeing, whether your irritation is justified, or any of those other things.

If this is a severe enough issue, the most effective thing you can do is talk to the other player involved and double-check if there are any hard feelings away from the table. If there are, apologize for any role you may have had and make an agreement with the player to keep the conflict to the characters - not the players. Maybe ask if the other player could be more clear about who is speaking when tensions start to rise.

And, of course, if all else fails, you can either adjust the character or leave the table. Just be aware that that is the nuclear option here.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Switching to third person can definitely help. "Paladin McHolyface draws his sword and starts striding towards the demon lord's front gate. (to the other players, if they're slow to respond) This is clearly a Bad Idea - can someone talk some sense into him?" Of course, you're still in control of your character - be sure to avoid My Guy Syndrome. \$\endgroup\$
    – Red Orca
    Feb 3 at 3:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RedOrca As long as you're not making a habit of throwing your character under the bus. That just runs the risk of making you look smug and like you're trying to be the center of attention. In general, it's why I would never advise someone to play a character with no sense of personal responsibility - or at least a sense of self-preservation. The paladin should absolutely know better, and if you're willing to have him run headlong into a hopeless battle for no good reason, you need to be ready to retire the character then and there. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 3 at 14:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Good point - it's definitely something to be used sparingly! There's a difference between "I'm just reckless lol" and "in this one situation my character is emotionally compromised and may try something rash". \$\endgroup\$
    – Red Orca
    Feb 3 at 18:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PhoenixDuck I totally get you on this one! I had a barbarian once who had a blind rage for this specific group that slaughtered her village. That group wasn’t the only enemy (although they did end up being the final enemy, which turned out to be pretty epic), so having a blind rage didn’t mean “hey friends, I expect you to ALWAYS be holding me back from a fight”. I did actually ask at one point if I needed to give them time to try and stop me if that opponent showed up, and they said “no, go crazy. We want to see how that plays out.” It can work if it isn’t a constant lack of self control. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vola
    Feb 4 at 19:12
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Thanks for your answers. I actually really appreciate the feedback that whether or not I’m taking it too personally isn’t going to make things better. I needed that insight.

I took a minute last session to say that I’d like it if we all tried to just be fair with each other, and make group decisions and collaborate instead of arguing and holding our ground against each other. At times when I’ve confronted this in the past, it turns into a fight where she says “you’re not letting me play my character how I want” and I come back hot with “you’re the one stopping others from playing how they want”, and it’s very unproductive. So I kept it neutral, I said “we” instead of “you”, no blame or finger-pointing. I said that if another big disagreement comes up where a player’s decisions are being blocked, I’m not going to participate in it, and that ended it and we played our session.

It seemed to go fine in the game, she didn’t show any sign of being angry. But then I woke up this morning to an angry text she sent late last night, saying she took all of that as a personal attack. I pointed out that all I said is “let’s be fair to each other”, and she cussed me out.

Honestly? I didn’t really care. I even said “if you need to yell at me to just get past this so we can get along and play a game, go ahead.” There’s been a lot of passive aggression and I put it out in the open, and I said what my limit was, and I feel much better than I did constantly reacting to her and anticipating the next conflict.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ If you can't enjoy RPing someone having to work with verbally abusive a-holes, I don't find that an unreasonable position, and it would be a really good thing to bring up in a Session 0 (your table has those right? Right?) while everyone is still working on their character concepts. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 8 at 19:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ My position as a GM on these matters is that this is meant to be an epic adventure story, and there are certain types of characters that won't be played, simply because those types of characters would never be accepted by a party (or society) long enough for said group adventure to happen. If an a-holic PC is destined to be arrested, kicked out of the party, or murdered in their sleep, let's just fast forward past that part to the part where that player rerolls a reasonable party character who lasts, and save everyone the time and aggravation. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 8 at 19:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @T.E.D. I wouldn’t bring up “don’t be a verbally abusive a-hole” up in session 0 because everyone should start at a basic expectation that everyone wants respect and fairness. When I make friends with someone new, I don’t say “oh hey, by the way: I don’t like being verbally abused, just so you know my boundaries” because it’s self-evident. I am not advising others that “yell at me if you need to” is a solution, it is not. I said this to her to put a big spotlight on how far this has gone. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vola
    Feb 9 at 20:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, that should be a given for players. However, some people want to play PCs (like the one described in this question) that are verbally abusive. If that's a no-go for you, that's a good thing to bring up in a session 0. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 9 at 23:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh sure. But that’s not what’s happening. And I should note, I haven’t talked about the personal relationships in the group because I am mainly focused on this one player’s behavior, but she is very close friends with a player who is a very close friend of mine. The GM and the other player are close pals of mine too, so I don’t want to leave the game, and there is some amount of friend-politics in there. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vola
    Feb 10 at 0:28
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It seems like you're saying that this player, regardless of the character played, has always tried to micromanage everyone else and isn't about to stop. In my experience, there's no fix, only work-arounds.

Let me back up to that first paragraph "if her selfishness is going to hurt the party, then my character would not defend her in fights [...] accused me of “punishing” her for just wanting to play her character". That's complete manipulative garbage -- they say they can play however they want, but say you playing how you want -- very reasonably being mad at them in character -- is a personal attack. Players I've seen like this are ultimately handled by not being invited to the next campaign, or if tight friends, everyone deciding playing an RPG isn't worth it. Of course the best solution is talking with other players, but sometimes they don't see the problem, or maybe not yet, or it doesn't bother them.

If you're left on your own, where no one else has a problem, one thing I've seen done is to just to let them. During combat other players kind of 1/2-pay attention, sometimes saying "yeah, sure whatever" when the problem player yells at the GM during their turn how the plan was to cast spell X at this time. It's almost a "let the baby have it's bottle" thing. But that's just combat, and some players still enjoy rolling the dice and seeing how well their abilities work. Players have their fun elsewhere. They still decide on which adventure to do, trade magic items and buy new stuff, skill-up how they want, and run their business using the gold they get. Some are happy with that.

The other approach I've seen is to play a stupid or unreasonable or half-crazy character. When they insist you focus buffs on them you either 1) smile&nod but then cast only offensive spells saying you got too excited in the heat of battle, or 1a) buff them once but then forget, or 2) say that Rugar is weaker and needs the buffs more, and also Rugar gave you half of their raisins at breakfast, or 3) launch into a passionate description of how your teacher's dying wish was for you to debuff boss monsters. Basically, playing a character impervious to their badgering. The other version of this I've seen is out-of-character to completely ignore them when they start to annoy you -- but not everyone can pull that off.

That type of character can be fun, for a while at least. The draw-back can be that combat tends to be uncoordinated -- especially when as you said, this player likes to put other characters in bad situations. The party will effectively be weaker, but there's nothing wrong with that as long as the GM sees that and adjusts. And it's more special the few times you make a plan and it mostly works.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I am considering a “let the baby have its bottle approach.” We’re most likely starting our next session with an argument over having a long rest, because the only healer in our party is out of spell slots but this player is refusing to take long rests. She revealed that she won’t take them because once, in a completely different game, she got ambushed when an enemy regrouped during her long rest. I’m at full health, but I’m not keen on rushing into battle without the healer being able to heal, so all I can think to say is “you go on then, I’m going to stay with her while she rests.” \$\endgroup\$
    – Vola
    Feb 5 at 17:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Vola Hmmm ... the LtBhiB approach is a kind of a group decision. In theory that healer would have been brow-beaten into not to taking a rest and everyone would go along with the problem player's plan, hilarity ensues. But if other players are standing up to them it's a whole different thing -- which often leads to an every-player-but-them special meeting. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 5 at 17:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ I feel like the “hilarity ensues” here ends up being “…so GM, how will you handle a TPK, exactly?” \$\endgroup\$
    – Vola
    Feb 5 at 19:25

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