I'm running a Dresden Files Fate game, and one of my players has read all of the books. Usually I would have no issue with this, but he believes it gives him the right to boss everyone about. To go along with this he has a devout dedication to the books: to him, if its not in the books then it can't exist in our game.

These two things together create a larger issue—he thinks that if he doesn't approve something then it doesn't happen. Specifically he is arguing with me over the backstory of another player's character, trying to make decisions for others by pushing his opinion onto the them. It seems a few of my players are just bending to his authority on this.

I don't really want to pull the "if you don't like it then leave" card or the "well how about you GM then" card: we haven't even made it to a single actual play session yet!

Any suggestions on how I can ease the tension between me and him without just bending to his every whim, possibly by getting him to respect me just a bit as his GM?

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    \$\begingroup\$ this question has some excellent general advice on this style question. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Sep 26 '13 at 13:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ A note to answerers (as this seems to apply to all answers so far), keep in mind this question is tagged dresden-files. General advice is good, but it's got a specific tag meaning it want's specific answers. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Sep 26 '13 at 14:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Emrakul Familiarity with DFRPG is necessary, though. We've got at least one answer already that encourages practices counter to the DFRPG ethos, even actively defying its mechanics, and that's after I pointed out similar problems on two separate answers. DFRPG is enough unlike "traditional" games that answers rising from those gaming experiences are prone to being much less useful. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Sep 26 '13 at 15:32

10 Answers 10


Your player loves the setting, but this is blinding them to what the books actually are: casefiles. They're not true, they're what the writer believes is true.

The Dresdenverse is much more complicated than even Harry Dresden knows. If your player truly loves the setting, they should embrace that fact.

On page 26 of Our World, at the end of the chapter that describes the supernatural world, there is a concluding paragraph. It says:

This chapter is a summary of what we’ve come up with based on our own experiences and from looking through Harry’s casefiles—don’t make the mistake of thinking you understand things perfectly once you’ve read it. There’s a lot of information we’re not privy to, and things will probably change as Harry learns more about them. This makes navigating your way through the Old World Order pretty terrifying; but for this game, it’s a good thing—it gives you the freedom to change some of the details to make your game work.

Emphasis mine. Not only is game based on a series with an unreliable narrator, about a world that is only partially understood, but the game itself says to use that unreliable information to make your game more flexible, interesting, and new to players who think they know everything.

And after all, the next book in the series doesn't stick to only things that have already been discovered in previous books (that would be deadly dull) – so neither does the RPG.

So in conclusion, the game (vetted by Jim Butcher, even) says your player is wrong and deserves to be eaten by a Blue Court vampire for being foolish enough to believe that they don't exist. ;)

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    \$\begingroup\$ That quotation from the book should be quite useful. I believe this may be one of the more effective responses, at least in my situation, thank you. \$\endgroup\$ – SinsOfTheGolden Sep 26 '13 at 20:40

I think that one thing to refer him to (in the book appropriately titled Your Story) is the section on "Running the Game"YS306 .

In the first part, "What the GM Does", this statement is a good starting place:

Generally speaking, the GM is “where the buck stops” for any decisions about the game that come up during play—questions of setting and tone, the appropriateness (or lack thereof ) of a particular element introduced in the game, the application of mechanics, etc., etc. In many places throughout this book, the phrase “the GM decides” is often used interchangeably with “the group decides” regarding some of these issues, because it emphatically isn’t the GM’s job to run a dictatorship—every player should always be allowed the chance to have a say in those instances. The GM should act as more of a moderator, synthesizing the group’s input with her own in order to reach a final decision.

So, what we get from this is that the players have input into the game creation, but the GM is to be the final moderator of decisions about the game that come up during play. This segues very well into the next section about Running City and Character Creation. During this (very important) part of campaign creation, these kinds of things and expectations should come up, and the group (guided by the GM) should reach a consensus. That part about the group is a very important point, as it appears to be one player driving this conflict. A good quote in that section (that's a note for you as well as the players):

If there are some severe clashes of expectation, make sure you hammer that stuff out with the players as quickly as possible. Most of the time, people will be accommodating if you just get things out in the open and talk them out. The most important thing is to make sure that everyone’s on the same page as much as they can be.

Then, one last bit of advice on Adjudicating the Rules- it might not seem to apply, but bear with me.

The guiding principle for all uses of the rules in this game is that intent precedes mechanics. What this means is that you should always start off by figuring out what the player wants to accomplish, and then determine how to model that using the rules. This might seem like common sense, but it’s easy to get caught in the trap of looking at the various game actions (like attack, block, declaration, maneuver, etc.) as a straightjacket that limits your available options, rather than as a set of tools to express whatever the player wants to try to do.

The same thing can be said when dealing with the background- your story precedes our world. You're creating your story which should be internally consistent, and a reflection of the players that are directing the story. As such, that story should take precedent over the World according to ButcherTM.


  1. The GM is the moderator, and though not the only source of resolution, in the interest of the story, the final decider during the story.
  2. The group as a whole should decide points of the background and how they interact, in times other than during the story (preferably during city creation).
  3. If something comes up and there is a disagreement that was not covered, then go with the group consensus, finalized by the GM. Discuss it later not during the story. The group is the important thing, not any particular player.
  4. Your story is the important thing, not the world. Make sure you're on the same page with that and hash it out as a group.

You're creating your own story, and that should always be kept in mind, and always take precedent. To get to this point, use these principles and shift the conflict, i.e. Right now, the tension is between you and the player in question. Take that off the table.

Make the issue between the players, with yourself as the moderator of the discussion, i.e. the player says "Harry wouldn't have done that." Instead of responding to him, ask another player, "What do you think? How should we handle it in this game?"

In this manner, you get the other players' agency into action. And you raise yourself to moderator of the situation instead of direct participant, helping to shepherd the final decision.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Im sorry, your logic is sound and could work in another situation, but you have just reiterated my problem, especially with that last sentence. \$\endgroup\$ – SinsOfTheGolden Sep 26 '13 at 20:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SinsOfTheGolden - I'm sorry, I guess I didn't explain it well enough. Right now, the tension is between you and him. Take that off the table. Make the issue between the players, with yourself as the moderator of the discussion, i.e. the player says Harry wouldn't have done that. Instead of responding to him, ask another player what do you think? How should we handle it in this game? That way you get the other players' agency into action. And you moderate the whole thing, and help shepherd the final decision. \$\endgroup\$ – Chuck Dee Sep 26 '13 at 22:15

In my experience as a GM (not of Dresdin Files, but in general), this is two distinct issues.

If it's not in the books, it can't exist

You can't let him just dictate things in this case. Based on this question and BESW's helpful comment, it's best to try and build a consensus with him rather than just dictate how things shall be... but in the end you have to take into account the game that you want to run and what's going to be fun for all of the players. Not just him. If you let him simply dictate what can and can't exist, nobody else (including you) is going to get any input into it.

If he can accept that, great! If he really can't accept that, then maybe it's best he not play. Sometimes players and a GM simply can't coexist in the same game, because their expectations are so different that there's no way to reconcile them. Hopefully this isn't one of those times, but it does happen. That doesn't mean that either of you is wrong, simply that the type of game you want to play in isn't the same.

Other Players 'bend to his will'

This... may or may not be a problem. We'll need more information.

One of the things that happens in player groups when someone has more game knowledge than other players is that the person who knows everything often becomes a defacto leader. Some people are better leaders than others. The good ones use their knowledge to help everyone play and get good outcomes for the party. The poor ones act like bullies and get everyone to do what they want "because they know better".

Since you haven't had a play session yet, I don't think you can honestly answer which one he is. I certainly can't, based on the information available. :)

Another issue is that some player types simply aren't as concerned about the rules, and will go along with what other people want just to get past arguing about that and get back to playing. For those players, going along with him isn't a bad thing and isn't bothering them - they just don't care about the outcome of that argument.

I have a player like that in my current D&D game who is happy to let the players who know the rules argue about them, and takes advice from those players on what to do in combat situations. I talked with her directly to make sure she was enjoying herself, and she is. She just doesn't care to learn the rulebook cover-to-cover and is happy to let the people who do know it handle that stuff. When the party starts dealing with in-character issues of what to do or who to talk to, she is a lot more engaged then when someone is arguing about the mechanics of some rule. That's just as valid a way to play as anybody else, but it can look like she's being bossed around, in fact she's perfectly happy to let someone else handle that aspect.

What to do?

As I mentioned, you'll need to talk to him privately about these issues. If you're concerned about the other players feeling bullied or steamrolled by him telling them what to do, you'll also need to talk to them privately.

Lay out your concerns to him directly, and explain how you intend to run the game. Let him know that you're interested in what he has to say and will accommodate it where you can, but that as the GM you can't let him simply dictate everything by himself. See what he says to that, and go from there. A lot of players are pretty reasonable when you have an honest conversation with them about these kind of problems.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Fate-based games are a lot less firm about "you decide what can and can't exist in your game." In fact, DFRPG dedicates 25 pages to accomplishing exactly the opposite: everyone working together to define the setting. The problem here isn't so much in undermining Rule 0 (it hardly exists in DFRPG), as in anyone --GM or player-- taking that responsibility on themselves. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Sep 26 '13 at 13:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ You've got a pretty good answer here and it covers most of the bases generally, but it really could use some DFRPG-specific insight, since that system has its own peccadilloes re: Rule 0 and settings, even compared to other Fate games. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Sep 26 '13 at 14:26

I only ran a game out of a book series once. One thing I made clear to the players was that everything up until a certain book was true. After that point, the story forked and I could go where I want and I was under no obligation to keep book events accurate.

I actually did go pretty far to try to keep things accurate and I can't think of anything that I broke or even bent. But I wanted the freedom to go off book and not be corrected by the players. I don't know if it's too late to change your player's expectation, but describing the forked story as I did nipped the problem in the bud for me and my players.


There is a distinct clash of play styles between this player and your group.

The first thing to do is recognize his approach to roleplaying as valid, because it is. However, he, in turn, must recognize his playstyle as divergent from the group's. The probable reason he has this attitude is a misconception about the game itself, in that he likely expects it to follow the Dresden Files books strictly, whereas it simply doesn't have to.

So, how do you get him and the other players to understand?

First, tell them what you're playing. Be straightforward and frank. Talk to this player on his own and try to get him to understand that the game doesn't need to follow the books. If, during play, he's drawing on examples that don't make sense, tell him so. In this case, it is perfectly reasonable to pull "I'm the GM; this is how it is in my world." (though in this case, since it's Fate, you may want to use something more like "This is a Fate game; it doesn't necessarily follow your vision entirely.")

Most importantly, though, do not let it turn into a conflict. Fate/DFRPG works well with different opinions, but doesn't work well with conflicts. If it raises tensions at the table, take a break from playing and discuss as a group why everyone is here and how the game is played. To do this, you can either just talk it out freeform, or use something like the Same Page Tool (though be careful, as in this case the SPT is more useful in starting a discussion than actually enabling decisions).

If your extended efforts to communicate the intent of the group fail, it is perfectly reasonable to continue without him. If he is unwilling to change his view about why you are playing, he will continue to make the game less fun for others, and will drag down the actual gameplay.

Remember to be careful with your presentation; as the GM, you have a lot of influence over the mood of the table. The "why don't you GM" card, for instance, actually just comes across as aggressive, and in the long run will create a greater division between GM and players. Just be careful how you say things; it matters just as much as what you say.


It is, as always, best treated as grown ups: Explain what you just said in the question but do make sure you differentiate what he does with who he is. Do not alienate him. Ask the player why he feels that he needs to control the game. Does he want to play Harry in his adventures? Does he realise that his love of the Dresdenverse make him appear overbearing? Ask if they are happy in playing a game that is not Tim Butcher's Dresdenverse but yours? Because fundamentally, that's what is going to happen. He needs to deal with this.

However, if you cannot come to terms in a civilised manner, then asking him to leave the game is the only option left to you.


In a perfect world

Make this clear before the game begins in earnest. From your question, it sounds like you haven't actually started the game (you say you haven't played a session yet) so now is the time to announce major changes to the default setting. Note - Dresden Files is built on the default assumption that you run city creation, then character creation, then regular gameplay. This is something you'd want to do during city creation ideally, though you might be able to back up a step if characters aren't finalized yet.

Check out YS 138. It has a list of things that could have happened to Harry to kill him off. Pick one, preferably a nice and early one, and have that have happened. Then, work through the normal city creation steps, letting each player have creative control about what their section of the city looks like, and making sure your area of the city is entirely unrelated to canon. This way, they know before character creation that you will be running a low-fidelity game. If the player who knows the background tries to cut in, point out that your game is taking place in a slightly different version of this world- It's one with a dead Harry in it, for starters. Maybe in this world, the main vampire courts are Blue and Green, and the Wardens don't exist anymore. (Which, to be fair, without Harry they probably wouldn't.)

In this world

Maybe the game is already started. Your players are already here with characters, chomping down pizza, and this guy is just finishing up his copy of Dresden Files: Cold Front for the second time, making notes for quick reference.

First, I would check if your canon-happy player has a problem with being incorrect about canon vs changing canon. Talk to him (and the rest of the players) and ask if anyone minds a drastic change to the existing story. If so, perhaps try running the game in a time and/or place that isn't as interwoven. (Say, Russia in the year 2215, southern Africa in the 1900s, or Toronto in the current day.)


"Getting him to respect me just a bit as a GM" is too big a subject, going into psychology and anthropology as well as RPGs. But the main question is a good one, and though the questions waxeagle linked to has very good answers, there are a few things to bear in mind:

  • It isn't his world (though it's more the group's than the GMs, unlike most systems). If you make a ruling, and he says "That's not in the books!" you don't have to change your mind, explain yourself, or even answer him. Telling the universe 'that's not the way it should be, change it" doesn't work here, there's no reason why it should work in the game universe.

  • Characters don't have all the knowledge the player has. It's reasonable to complain if the geography of the characters' home town varies, but if they leave town, you say 'It's fifty miles to the next place you can stop', and he pulls out a map to say you're wrong, all you need to say is "That appears to be an out-of-date map; since you've never been here before, you need to be more cautious."

  • If all else fails, make it part of the plot. Perhaps there is a reason why the official maps show something that isn't there. Perhaps somebody has been interfering with your memory. Perhaps the characters need to find out what's real and what isn't. (Or perhaps it's a wild goose chase; the cartographer just wanted to finish work early, the character forgot something vital and can't admit it, and the Real Problem is going on elsewhere. Never let the characters get too certain of themselves; see point 1).

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's not the GM's world; it's a third-party franchise world being run on an RPG engine that thinks Rule 0 is a last resort. And since they haven't even started the game, character vs player knowledge doesn't seem relevant. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Sep 26 '13 at 13:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW - I'd have to disagree with you. Though it is based on a 3rd party IP, it is not the same world as the one that Jim Butcher created. It is based on that world, but what comes out is the world that the players (including the GM) makes. \$\endgroup\$ – Chuck Dee Sep 26 '13 at 16:35

I personally run a DFRPG that is as "True as Possible" to the source material as I'm a giant Dresden Files fan and I want the game I run to be as close to the source material I love as possible.

That said: Your "problem player" isn't running the game and needs to understand the GM limitations. Basically, unless you're a fanatic about the source material, and specifically set up your campaign to stay in "Explained Territory" you'll end up running across subject mater that is outside the cannon of the books pretty rapidly.

Thus: Look at the entries for Harry Dresden on pages 134-139 of Our World for ideas about setting your game up as a Dresden-like-verse and not the actual Jim Butcher Dresdenverse. Just dictate that your game is very similar to the Dresdenverse but is actually an alternate reality of it, giving you some more wiggle room for what is "ok" in your world.

You could go really Meta on the player and quote parts of Cold Days back to him stating that your game is operating in alternate Dresden reality because somebody used hindsight time manipulation and made a mess of things, causing epic backlash and creating this very-close to, but no longer identical game play universe. That way they'll have a character that started out in the fantasy world they love so much, but are now somewhere "else". Perhaps even add an aspect to the Character: "I Know This Isn't Right" or "Lost and Hoping to Return 'Home'". —Essentially, turn the negative into a game piece he can work with positively.

The last option would be: read all of the source material. If you read all 15 books and associated short stories you'll have a pretty firm grasp for what is possible in the cannon material.


IMHO the

well how about you GM then

card is the way to go. But not in an argumentative way, not criticising them: what this player has is a high score on the big five's neuroticism parameter - use it to everyone's advantage. Such people make good drill sergants, company CEOs, safety inspectors. Perhaps also GMs.

GMing is hard work and this person clearly wants to take up the responsibility. The secondary alternative is STFU, I am the ultimate authority.


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