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I started a new campaign with a brand-new set of players. After the first evening, one of the PCs reacted poorly to a decision made by another PC and 'went home'. This reaction was totally in character and was not meant by the player to be antagonistic. But, now the party has a problem: it needs to regroup.

It hit me that this would be a perfect roleplay Skill Challenge opportunity, except with a PC instead of an NPC as the target (convince the PC instead of "convincing the Duke"). The players agreed to try it.

There are a few problems with this idea:

  • I need to figure out a scenario if the PCs fail without it seeming like a 'railroad'
  • The target PC needs to constrain their responses to the roll of the other PCs, thereby limiting their personal roleplaying style or desires (if the other PC rolls successfully, the target PC needs to agree, even if the details aren't 'perfect'). GMs can adapt NPCs on the fly without issues. A player won't want to alter their character as a result of another's actions (or a dice roll).

Is there another approach that I should take? Are there solutions to the problems I describe above?

EDIT

The player did not over-react, nor did she do anything that I think is wrong. The situation occurred after the evening's adventure, so nothing was ruined by the action. What happened was that the decision was made and executed without thinking about how it would affect the next day. The only problem is that it created an issue for the next game day: How would the PC rejoin the group for the next adventure? I wanted a chance to introduce Skill Challenges to the players and thought that this would be a way to allow the players actions as well ("always saying 'yes'"). Only afterwards did I realize the potential pitfalls to my own decision...

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you sure you want to set that precedent at your table? If it worked once, it's reasonable for players to expect it to work again, and if a Diplomacy check or three is enough to let you decide what someone else's character does... \$\endgroup\$ – gatherer818 Aug 28 '14 at 15:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @gatherer818 exactly - that's part of my 2nd point. I'm considering it because it resolves the campaign-ending conflict. \$\endgroup\$ – schroeder Aug 28 '14 at 15:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sounds relevant to what happened: "My Guy" syndrome (where un-fun things happen because "it's what my guy would do") \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Aug 28 '14 at 23:07
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"My character would do that" should never be used as a "justification" (more likely excuse) for game-wrecking behaviour. It's not a simulation, it's a game. Everybody wants to have fun.

One thing is doing something that will make the in-game situation difficult while still providing a positive gaming experience. But good role-playing should never lead to a bad time playing the game.

I don't know the details of what happened in-game, but since you said the player did not want to damage the game, you could work out something like this. The offended character comes back the next day with a speech like: "I couldn't sleep over what you did to me and what you'll keep doing if nobody puts you in line. I'll keep an eye on you from now on, and make sure you never do that again." And/or come back just to show the other character they behaved wrong and how they should do it better next time.

Rich Burlew also touches on this topic in his article Making the Tough Decisions (particularly in the section after "Decide to React Differently")

And to directly address your question itself: I strongly believe you should work this out through freeform role-playing alone. Letting a PC coerce another PC into doing something using a game mechanic is asking for trouble, it would eventually backfire. Players are supposed to control their characters' actions as long as they maintain free will. Charm-type spells and physical effects (such as pushing or chaining someone) is a different story, but "soft" effects like diplomacy or intimidate shouldn't be usable by one PC on another.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The point about free-will makes sense. \$\endgroup\$ – schroeder Aug 28 '14 at 17:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Wish I could +2; the free-will point is critical. \$\endgroup\$ – Adrien Aug 28 '14 at 22:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've talked to the player and she understands the constraints. I tossed the decision back to the player to find a reason why she'd rejoin naturally. I just have to craft a situation that will naturally bring the members of the party into proximity. \$\endgroup\$ – schroeder Aug 28 '14 at 22:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ while your argument (and supporting link) about not abandoning the party makes sense, it ignores fault on the other player's part. If he's deliberately hindering the party by his actions you have little choice but to kill or abandon his character if he refuses to even try to improve \$\endgroup\$ – deltree Aug 29 '14 at 12:17
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If played as designed, 4e has strong assumptions on group coherency.

This means the party needs to regroup no matter what, and running a challenge where both failing and succeeding lead to the same result means running an useless challenge.

Apart from the fact @gatherer818 mentioned about this being a precedent for forcing a fellow player to behave like the other members of the group want, it should not even be a challenge: in should be the premise of the game.
Work with your players a way to rein the character back in. Maybe he thought a lot about what happened and comes back with a "let's try this group thing again, shall we?" proposal. Maybe someone important to that guy asked him to reconsider. Decide something togheter so that you can go on with the rest of the game.

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Most D&D games have a basic assumption that the party just stays together, and that pretty much everything else bends to fit that. This shows up in the "PC aura" trope when a new player is joining the group: there may be an introduction scene and everyone pretends to have suspicions and different motives and so on, but the conclusion is foregone and within five minutes the new character is an integral part of the team. Some old school games encourage inter-party conflict and the like, but I think most modern D&D groups steer away from that, and certainly "we're all working together" is core tenet of the 4E rules.

The other answers here put this first. But there's no wrong way to have fun. Some people find this particular trope to break their suspension of disbelief just a little bit too much, and want game-based rationalization for making decisions that seem counter to their character. It sounds to me like the player who walked away is mainly looking for this kind of in-game justification. If the rest of the group is at least sympathetic to that view, a skill challenge could indeed be a way to provide it.

This can provide a "game logical" reason for a character to change course, hopefully solving the player's dilemma.

I think you should talk, out of game, about three possible outcomes, and make sure everyone is prepared to go forward with any of them. Actually, four:

  1. "Success 1": the character is convinced that the actions were actually okay / not a problem, and has an overall change of heart
  2. "Success 2": the character is convinced that the past action is forgivable or acceptable in the circumstances, but shouldn't happen again — and the party agrees that they won't.
  3. "Failure": the character leaves permanently, and the player introduces a new character who will be a better fit for the general disposition of the group.
  4. "Reverse success": there should be a possibility for the character to convince the others that they were actually wrong, and then atone for or correct their actions. (Particularly, make sure the player representing the character who made the initial action which caused the reaction is open to this possibility.)

This avoids the railroad and ends up with a group on the same page — but everyone has to agree metagame that they will accept the skill challenge as an abstraction of a genuine in-game process whereby beliefs and characteristics can be changed. If everyone isn't on board with that, you should find a different approach. Particularly, if the player doesn't really want a different character as a possible outcome, or the other player doesn't want to accept the possibility of change either, I don't think I'd go this route at all.

It's certainly the case that not all players will like this kind of approach. But some will. I know someone who really enjoyed rolling for personality traits and who would role "checks" of his own when making big decisions — the character's beliefs and actions were part of the game to him, not personal. He would have been very much on board with having those actions influenced by other character's rolls if it came up. This seems like a (somewhat large) expansion of that — and some people will dig it. Other people won't, but if you talk to your group and they do, go for it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hello, anonymous downvoter! Do you just disagree, or is there something horribly wrong here? I don't mind if you disagree, but I'm curious as to why. I recognize that this approach doesn't fit all gaming styles and all gaming groups, but from the question as given, I think it might fit this group. \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Aug 28 '14 at 19:06
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There is nothing wrong with railroads when you need a railroad. They have their uses, such as letting trains get from A to B without crashing.

If you ever, as a DM, find yourself in a situation where the result of a dice roll will decide if your group has a fun evening or not, then find some reason why you should roll it, and cheat.

Claim that all diplomacy/bluff/sense motive rolls between players must be rolled by the DM, as metagaming is unavoidable otherwise. Then tell the character that yes, they trust the other PC and should get on with the campaign.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I actually like this approach, on some level. I would do this naturally, but in this specific case, it wouldn't work. Otherwise, I agree with the approach. \$\endgroup\$ – schroeder Aug 28 '14 at 22:24
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No one has mentioned the offending player's character actually using a bluff / deception check to convince the character at risk of leaving that they've (the offending character) sincerely changed their mind when they have not and not think that the character in question is a sniveling weakling. If the offending character is liable to lie like this, it may be the best option as it avoids the issues of turning good role-playing into mere roll-playing.

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