Being fairly new to GMing I am having trouble with keeping my PC's from turning on each other, and every thing in sight. It doesn't matter how much I punish them for killing obvious allies, or clarify that certain wounds are not going to make a PC turn. The first and only reaction is kill everything, trust no one. As such our Games rarly last more than a session. Any ideas on how to keep a group together while still keeping that survival need up?

I should clarify that this is a zombie game. The killing of the same zombies over and over again is quite boring, so the interest must be kept by the interaction with NPCs, handling of wounds, searching for needed items, and the like.

The problem I have is that my PCs will instantly kill any NPC that seems to threaten them. Thus I must make the NPCs clearly black or white, with no option to add interesting story elements in the interaction.

Secondly, they are way too fond of killing each other. I devised a very careful senerio, where the story is driven by the interaction with people who have been wounded, but my PCs just want to kill anyone that has been injured. As such, they cannot learn about the particulars of the illness, or how to cure it. Instead, they just kill the wounded person and pick a new PC from the pool of survivors.

I have tried to curb this by punishing them for the killing. However, they just seem to think this is part of the survival mechanic, and are starting to get mad at me for making the game too hard.


5 Answers 5


It could be that the players think "this is part of the survival mechanism" because actually it is. If a player whose character dies can instantly pick another survivor to play, then the consequences for the party of killing a PC are significantly less than the consequences of trusting a possible zombie: you need to reverse this, since players respond to actual stimuli, not what you say the stimuli will be.

I suggest you announce that, from next session, a character that dies cannot be replaced until the party reach a break in the campaign where new survivors could reasonably be found. This implies that, even if infected, no PC will turn zombie until shortly before such a break; if you think this needs to be made explicit, or (worse) if you are not willing to accept the limitation, then that may be a sign that you need to be less carefree about inflicting damage.

Once the players know that it is worthwhile investing in their characters, and that killing a wounded character will cause real problems both for the party and for the group, they can start the 'investigation and avoidance of infection' you want.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ You can tie the "no instant replacements" and "stop killing everyone on sight" rules together to make them both stronger: a replacement player can only enter the game by converting a befriended NPC into a PC. \$\endgroup\$
    – user1861
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 22:33

You need to talk to your players about this directly, out of character. It sounds like they are playing one style of game (kill everything in sight), and you want to be running something different (a little more nuance and cooperation). You and your players need to get onto the same page about your expectations for the game.

"Punishing" players is usually not a great way to handle a situation like this. Characters should suffer story consequences for failures, be they poor rolls or poor players choices. Those consequences still should ultimately be a fun part of the story for you and your group as a whole. Players are there to have a good time, and have trusted you, as the GM, to help provide that. If they aren't doing their part, say so out-of-character to the player.


I recently came to the end of running a (published) zombie apocalypse game that lasted for two real time years. Over the course of the campaign there were no PC deaths caused by other PCs, and at no point did any PC's split off from the party for more than a session. Despite this there was masses of inter-party conflict, although this was never the focus of the story. NPCs came and when, with some staying with the party for significant periods of time.

The way I achieved this, and the only way I feel it is possible with a genre such as this is to get full cooperation from your players at the start of the campaign, and to keep talking to them about their character motivations at regular intervals. Fundamentally, if a player decides their character is going to kill another PC/NPC then there is very little you can do at that specific time as GM.

Explain to your players the type of game you want to run, and find out if they are interested in playing in that game. Talk to them about inter-party conflict and that although you are happy to have it there, it is important that they come up with reasons why their characters should NOT kill each other. This extends into character creation as well, and if players know what you are aiming for, then it can be taken into considering during the forming of the group, which I believe needs to be done collaboratively for best results.


If you've been playing with this group for some time, it is possible that they've been taught to play this way. Perhaps you've turned up the 'intrigue' to 11 one too many times. Perhaps they are used to fighting with each other for scarce loot.

If they haven't been together long, perhaps there's a player in your group instigating the discord. Maybe they can be convinced to tone it down a bit. Maybe the player won't be missed if they he or she is no longer invited.

If none of the above seems to fit your case, offer to run a Paranoia game. Heck, a Zombie Paranoia game. At least then they will actually be doing what they are supposed to be doing when they TPW themselves.

Most importantly, if your players are having a great time behaving this way, then perhaps you shouldn't try to stop them. After all, as the prime storyteller, you are there to entertain them.

EDIT: Thank you for expanding upon your problem. I do think that the Muredrous Cretin mentioned by Purple Monkey's comment does go into detail about why this is happening. Since your players think they must kill everything and they are getting upset with you for trying to deviate from the kill everything that moves style of gameplay, you might need to change your genre. Survival horror is brutal.

Punishing the players for not playing the game the way you want them to play is almost never the answer. This isn't quite the same thing as setting up consequences for characters making bad decisions (as long as they really are bad decisions).

You'll need to uncover the underlying motivation your players have for their killing spree and adjust accordingly. If they are afraid of character death from the unknown, allow them a rest at an obvious safe spot where they can venture out. If they don't trust each other, set up a situation in which they absolutely must trust each other to survive.

Finally, if your player's characters continue to make bad decisions that venture off into the stupid decision category, don't be afraid to start allowing lethal consequences. After all, it is a survival game and if they can't make good decisions, they don't deserve to survive, right?


It's pretty clear that your game group wants to play a different game than what you want to run. You've mentioned that your games don't last more than a session - so this means you've done it multiple times, right?

Do we actually want to play the same game?

So, here's the process I can offer. I've made a tool called The Same Page Tool - by yourself, sit down, pick the choices that represent the kind of game you want to run. I'd consider copy/pasting just the questions, printing it, and HIGHLIGHTING the ones you want.

Keeping the other options visible helps for them to have a contrast to the other options on the list. Many people don't even realize there's more than one way to do some of these things, and seeing that helps them make it a choice instead of a reaction.

Take that to your players. Show it to them and explain the kind of game that you want to run and ask them if they're interested in that.

If they're enthusiastic and interested, then go ahead and play. If people are so-so, argue against it, or demand to be "convinced", then they don't want to play that way and you should find people who DO want to play that way. If some do want to try it your way and some don't - play with the people who do, don't play with the people who don't.

"This is what you said you wanted to play."

Keep the printout around. If during play, players are sliding back into weird spaces, point to the relevant part on the printout - "Hey, how does that fit with this?"

When everyone wants to play the same kind of game, it's actually ridiculously easy to make it work. When people don't, nothing seems to fix the problem.

Getting players out of survivalist "gotcha" mentality

Some players have played in games where every NPC is a betrayer and every door is full of poisonous traps. Those are what I call "gotcha" campaigns - if your character acts like a normal, reasonable person for the genre, they get screwed over. The only way to act is basically like a maniac from a Grand Theft Auto game - assume everyone is dangerous, take everything for maximum benefit, and so on.

I ran a game for a new person once who clearly was coming from that view point. His character had a girlfriend and he would have his character obssessively guard her at all times.

I stopped play and told him, "Look, your girlfriend isn't going to get captured, that's boring and unnecessary. Your character is already motivated to go do stuff, which is interesting. So I'm telling you now, she's safe, she'll be safe, and you can play your character and focus on doing the interesting stuff instead, ok?" And then, I stayed true to that and we had a fun session.

That said, this kind of thing only works if everyone has the understanding of what kind of game they're walking into, generally, to begin with.


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