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I have a player in the group who either never shows up — which leads to the game being cancelled for that week — or when he does show, only wants to fight monsters.

For example, I tried having a long RP session with one of the NPCs, and the other players were really enjoying it. They were talking with a mage NPC about why she never leaves her tower. But this player just wanted to step through the portal she wanted to close. She was powerful enough to just stop him, but he just kept trying. I had her tell him to stop, but he blatantly ignored her and kept saying just "I walk to the portal." After she had stopped him five times, he just stopped doing anything for the rest of that session until we got into combat; then he'd do these overly complex maneuvers.

This player also wouldn't give me any background on his character, aside from that he was a Swordsage Killoren from Savage Species.

I'm a lenient DM, but it seems that he just wants to get to the action and ignore every bit of roleplay. What do I do?

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Honestly... it seems like the Player (not the PC) is clashing with the group. From your question it seems like most of your group would mind if the game descended into the hack-and-slash fest he seems to be angling for.

You might want to have a discussion with him, either in person, over skype or the phone, about what he wants out of the game, and if he wouldn't feel more comfortable finding a more hack and slash group.

Barring that, the best advice I can offer is writing an adventure that forces him to role play. Throw a problem that his character must solve, and just attacking will mean the end of the character. How might he handle the Princess trying to frame him with being an aggressive suitor while the party is needing to spy on the vizier during a royal ball. How would he deal with a dragon strong enough to eat him in one combat round foisting two wrymlings off on him to baby sit for a week so she can get some sleep.

If you give him, not just the party but him a problem he can't solve with a weapon, he either needs to start role playing, or face the completely logical consequences.

That's not to say those adventures shouldn't include some combat, assassins forcing him to guard the princess, orcs hoping to make some dragon stew, but the bulk of the problem shouldn't yield to his sword.

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    \$\begingroup\$ PAY ATTENTION! craft that situation in such a way that if that character goes berserk, the other characters are unaffected! (unless they explicitly decide otherwise) \$\endgroup\$ – o0'. Mar 20 '15 at 10:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ And make the consequences clear (even if they're already really obvious) before he does something irrevocable. "I attack the dragon." "Are you sure? The dragon can kill you with a single blow." If he still proceeds he has no-one to blame but himself. \$\endgroup\$ – starsplusplus Mar 20 '15 at 12:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ I really doubt the tactic of forcing him to RP is going to do anything good. It's plain and simple difference of expectations - talk about it out of game and don't bother crafting a situation which the player might interpret as deliberate set-up to make him look bad. Considering we can trust the OP in his description of the player, this would be exactly that as GM would know how the problematic person will act. Honestly, talk about it like adults outside the game and don't hesitate to part from the party. \$\endgroup\$ – Maurycy Mar 21 '15 at 10:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ That is why the first thing I recommended was to speak with him out of game. The tactic of compelling him into a situation where he needs to RP is only to be employed when that approach fails to yield results. \$\endgroup\$ – The Amused Muse Mar 21 '15 at 17:46
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You should establish a quorum that indicates how many people you will run the game with and make it clear that anyone who doesn't turn up will be run as an NPC.

I do this for all my games; with a group of four to six it's normally one less player than the group size to run. I make it known that if a player doesn't turn up they

  • Still get base XP, but may miss out on bonus XP, loot, faction bonuses, etc.
  • Will be played in exceedingly minimal fashion and provide their skills/spells as requested (reasonably) by other team members.
  • Are still in danger of dying.

Obviously you can set your own guidelines; these are just mine.

This means that the occasional player will realise that they are not essential for the game, and this either encourages them to turn up for what they missed (if you tend to send out a quick email summary after each game) or to move on to another group, and then you can concentrate on playing/running the game.

As to the roleplaying; it sounds like the player is only interested in basic things outside combat; I'd advise talking to them about this, find out what they want from the game, what they enjoy; if the rest of the players are all about roleplaying and this problem player wants combat then compromises are going to have to be made on someones part (what sort of game do you want? Look at the same page tool)

Too many other people invest time in a game for one person to spoil it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The group I play with also uses a Quorum system, however rather than having the character "following", it is just absent and re-appears on the next session (with no mention it was off). Sometimes we have an in-game excuse (was lagging behind to prevent us being tailed) and sometimes we just do as if they had been there. It works well enough for us, and avoids other players "getting their hands" on the character. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. Mar 20 '15 at 11:06
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Just, you should talk to your player in an mature way.

Ask them what they want out of the game, what they would be willing to compromise on, and if they would be really offended if asked to leave provided no compromise were made. This does not mean that said player would never role play with you, but not this game. Try to put yourself into their shoes and see their point of view. Of course, always remember to criticise specific actions and not the player: "Your character did X which was annoying" is fine. "You're annoying" is not.

Try to work out a way so that both of your can be happy in the game. However, sometimes that does not happen. So, don't force it on either of you: play a different game together. From what you hint in your question, it sounds like this is the case. If so, depending on whether or not you want to remain friends, be as diplomatic as you can, tell your player that they cannot play in this game.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This. In-game solutions to out-of-game problems generally do not work. The only viable solution in cases like this is to talk to the player and, if a mutually-agreeable compromise can't be found, un-invite him from the game. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Sherohman Mar 20 '15 at 14:03
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You have a simple situation: the player doesn't want to play the game. Grant their desire.

Attendance

If he's really busy and can't make it because of life situations, he should let people know: "I'd really want to play, but work/family/whatever makes it very unlikely I can make these times. I'll let you know if my schedule opens up".

On the other hand, if he just doesn't care about your game, no need to really bother communicating or trying to make it - it makes no difference whether he shows up, shows up late, or is absent 4 times out of 5.

Which is disruptive to your game, and disregards the value of your time, and the time of the other people playing.

"I'm here to play Grand Theft Auto"

You know what's fun about the GTA games? Breaking rules and creating mayhem. Who cares about the story when you're driving a truck off a ramp to hit an airplane?!?

That's basically what I'm getting from the "I walk through the gate" story. Some players out there, are simply present to grief and do wacky things. They do illogical things with no motivation, no direction, no reason. If you pause the game and ask, "Wait, WHY is your character doing this?" they'll either shrug their shoulders or say, "Because I WANT TO" with nothing else to go with it.

That player doesn't want to play the game you're running. So here's the short solution:

"Hey, thanks for coming. I don't think you're a good fit for the game I'm running. I'll let you know if I come across other folks who are into that kind of campaign or running it."

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    \$\begingroup\$ My group of friends from high school had one person that fit your description perfectly. He would do things like attack random NPCs "Because I WANT TO" and get upset when his character was incarcerated or killed, because it just didn't make sense in his head why he wasn't allowed to. He was a very close friend however, so it was an odd situation, but still ended in "You obviously don't want to play the same game as us. Why don't you just bring your PlayStation to game sessions instead?" He did, and I believe he actually did play GTA on it. \$\endgroup\$ – thanby Apr 6 '15 at 17:17
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Ask Them

Ask them what they want to get out of the game. If it is truly incompatible with the rest of the group, see my next heading. If there is something specific that is bothering them, and ultimately leading them to disrupt the game, then address that. If that problem is intractable, see the next heading.

If the only play style that the player finds fun is a hack and slash... and the rest of the group also finds that fun... consider switching to a beer and pretzels game, and run with it.

And for my second answer in a row...

Go Bowling

I presume that this player is your friend, and you generally enjoy spending time with your friends. This player seams to have a different play-style to the rest of your players. There is nothing wrong with that. Their enjoyment of the hobby is different from the rest of the players in your group. It serves no one's fun to try and force him or her to play one style or another.

Go bowling with this friend instead. Or play X-box. Or do any other activity. Be friends, but don't try and shoehorn them into your gaming group if they do not fit.

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    \$\begingroup\$ They might just want to play a game like Small World or Street Fighter. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Mar 21 '15 at 1:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Indeed. Won't know until you ask though... \$\endgroup\$ – Tritium21 Mar 21 '15 at 1:56
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The way I see it there are two separate issues here that need to be discussed and dealt with in different ways.

The first is that you have a player who seems to want to play the game just to kill monsters. Here's the thing. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this by itself. Different people take part in this hobby for different reasons, and none of those reasons are wrong. What you have to do as a GM is work out how to tailor your sessions to address the reasons players around your table are playing the game. In this particular instance, all you need to do is make sure there is sufficient combat in the session to keep this player happy and fulfilled, nothing more nothing less. The fact that they don't generally participate in more role play heavy encounters makes life tricky, but at the end of the day does it really matter? Can't you just design those parts of the session so that they don't rely on input from their character?

The example you use in your question is a good one to highlight this. If I knew I had a player in my group who just didn't want to participate in roleplay heavy encounters I would never, never, never consider designing a whole session that had just those types of encounters. It's simply unfair on the player in question.

The second part is their non-attendance. There are a couple of things here. If your group has 4 more players in total I would strongly recommend that you don't cancel the session if only a single person can't make it. In general, the smallest group size I would run a game for is 3, with most of my games having 5 players in total. This leaves plenty of room for real life stuff to get in the way for people occasionally and for it not to interrupt the game for everyone else.

You may find that their absence is due to dissatisfaction the game for some reason, particularly if it happens a lot. If you make changes to the way you design your sessions to ensure that there is at least something in them for the player to enjoy, and don't pressure them to participate in the sections they don't enjoy, you may well find that their attendance increases. If it doesn't then you need to have a chat with them individually to try to get to the bottom of why they aren't making it. They may have a really, really good reason that you don't know about, and unless you ask, you will never find out.

So in summary, a player who doesn't enjoy and therefore doesn't contribute to role play heavy encounters is not a bad thing, and they aren't 'doing it wrong'. They just enjoy a different aspect of the game. As GM, you need to take their preferences into consideration when designing your sessions. You may find that once you start doing this, their patchy attendance improves, but if not and it is still a problem then you should talk to them and find out why.

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This answer comes from the angle of "it's about all players and GM having fun" and provides some "If-then" waypoints.

Three issues:

  1. He's not able to attend each session.
  2. He's not into the role play element as much as rest of players.
  3. GM Fun appears to be at risk.

Issue 1 is Presence

When he is not present, you can have one of the other players run his character for that session, rotating any time he doesn't show up among those willing.
If you are all friends who generally get along, this can remedy the "the game won't be cancelled because he didn't show up" concern.
(Bonus, another player gets to do MORE role play! :) )

Anecdote: Our current D&D 5e group with six adults, most with kids, resorts to this. It works for us.

Caveat

Are the other players OK with that? Talk to all players.
If all are happy with it, good, press on.

If not, then the GM option to "play him as an NPC when not there" is a way to proceed if you all still want him in the mix when he's available.
I have seen that work but it adds to GM task load. See point 3 on GM Fun.

Issue 2 is Style

Minimal role playing desire, mostly action desire.

Decision points:

  1. Ask yourself this ... "Is it me, the GM, who is bothered by this?" See below on GM fun.

  2. Are the rest of the players getting bothered by this or not?

If not, press on and play. If he role plays less he may miss out on some XP that those who role play more/better earn.
Is there risk? Yes.
Are you incentivizing role play? Yes. (Seems to be one of your objectives).
Is he free not to? Yes.

We each find fun in different ways.

  1. If the other players are annoyed by this, consistently, and you get this feedback in public or private, you have to talk to all of the players.

Caveat

If you initiate discussion about this in a group session, he may feel like he's being ganged up on. (In a certain sense, he'd be right as he's being called out).

Before initiating a group talk to address conflicting expectations, you address it in a one-on-one with him first. You also should speak to him honestly regarding any GM Fun issues you are facing.

Issue 3 is GM Fun

Is it your fun that's being curtailed?

GMs don't do it for the pay. GMs Need Fun Too. (I sense that your fun is being impacted by how you phrased the set up. Apologies if I read between the lines too much and got this wrong).

If the core person annoyed by his lack of role play is the GM, not the other players, the one-on-one session with him may help you both find a middle ground, or arrive at a joint conclusion that "this marriage can't be saved."

Since you profess to be a lenient GM, it seems unlikely that this will turn into a personal confrontation. You try to be accommodating. That usually works up to the point that the GM stops having fun.
As long as you are having fun, you're getting most of it right.

When you stop having fun, something has to change: Game, game style, or players.

Best wishes. Have fun.

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I have a very simple set of rules for all of my games regarding the social contract that I get people to read (or not, we've had that problem, also).

The last point in that contract seems to be what's coming up here:

Always Remember The Most Important Rule: If You Become A Problem, You Will Be Removed. Be polite. It’s not that hard. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, occasionally doubt your own infallibility. This has nothing to do with what your character does with the other characters - that should be whatever it takes to keep him or her in character. It involves other real people and whether or not they’re enjoying the game with you in it. Be considerate and polite whenever possible.

The games are not just supposed to be fun for one person. And as GM, it might not be your problem to make sure that happens, but it is your job to enforce it.

Talk to him, explain the problem. Work through a manner of resolution with him. If he will not work with you, then explain the ramifications- i.e. you are not welcome until it is worked out.

It's hard, especially with friends. Which is the reason that it's good to have it in the open before the situation occurs. But, even if it's not, then friends should understand when they're making things hard for their friends, and act accordingly. If after this being pointed out, changes are not made on his part... well, then you react accordingly.

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I think you shouldn't cancel the game because of one player not showing up. Just figure it something why the the his character is missing in-world, it can be anything, the PC might just went hiking a mountain. Or the PC might have been kidnapped, quest is to save him.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Please explain the downvote. \$\endgroup\$ – Zsolt Szatmari Mar 22 '15 at 9:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ I haven't voted, but I am guessing it's because this is not a very comprehensive answer: don't cancel, make the character fade into the background / disappear briefly, sure. There's more to the problem though that this answer doesn't deal with. That stuff may be touched on by other answers, but see Should I be requesting people answer the question independently? -- we expect each answer to answer the question fully, and that answer has advice for what to do if you feel you'd just be repeating other answers. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Mar 22 '15 at 11:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ doppelgreener, I see, thanks for the clarification! \$\endgroup\$ – Zsolt Szatmari Mar 22 '15 at 13:33

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