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I have a group of friends that on occasion play RPGs, but one of the players grates on the nerves of the other players in the group when gaming.

He is kind of a know it all, but without real proof. He in general ruins the experience with complaints about things that other players agree to be trivial and constantly interferes with other characters' actions by having his character "hold up his arm to stop the other character from moving". Most times I ignore his attempts to stop other players' intended actions by saying his character's grip fails, but the fact that it happened in the first place annoys everyone. He also metagames constantly very much to my annoyance.

Regardless, I wish to keep him in the group because he does add to the story and is going to very soon play an important role in the group as a tank which we are sorely short of. So I kinda at a loss at the moment. I have asked him about his behavior before yet it continues. I don't feel right kicking him from the group, but I feel that it also very unfair to the group. What should I do?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you mad at his character as well as the player? Perhaps he wishes his character to be grating which piles onto his meta-gaming \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Mar 23 '15 at 19:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ What do you mean that holding the arms thing? It isn't clear if your player is literally holding another player's arms at the table, or if you actually mean their character is doing that to someone else's character (you do say their grip fails). \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Mar 24 '15 at 7:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have tried to clarify your question by being more proper about use of "player" and "character." Let me know if I've gotten any of it wrong. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Mar 26 '15 at 1:08
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Try talking

Talk to him outside the game. Explain how people aren't having fun, then tell him what you want him to do instead of his current behavior. Keep the talk about behavior, not criticism of him personally. When people are criticized they get defensive and unhappy. When they get feedback on how to make positive changes, they are far more likely to act on it.

For example:

"I want you to play your character without using out-of-character knowledge. Think about what your character knows, and what they might do in a situation from their perspective. If I see you acting on knowledge your character wouldn't have, I'm going to ask you to stop and re-evaluate the situation.

"The other players are here to play their characters, and to be able to take action. Instead of trying to stop them or grab them, stand aside and them let go. Or, join in and help them. When you want to do something, they should do likewise."

Be willing to say Goodbye

Sometimes, people just don't fit into a gaming group. It's better for everyone if they leave. Give him a fair chance to change and see what happens. If you don't see meaningful improvement he needs to be politely asked to leave. It isn't fun to exclude people, but your other players will be better off and he'll learn a valuable lesson.

If his departure creates troubles within the story of your game, make creative edits. Take any narrative role the missing player needed to fill, and re-write it for someone else. Add or change NPCs to help things run smoothly.

You can and should tailor your game to fit to the players you have, rather than keeping someone involved that is detrimental to the group.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I find your advice most wise. Thank you for your council. \$\endgroup\$ – Sunspear25 Mar 25 '15 at 15:16
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You say you've already tried talking to him about this, and that nothing's changed. If he was genuinely interested in staying with the group and behaving better, you would have seen at least some difference before he slipped back into bad habits. Therefore, since talking didn't work...

You should kick him out (politely).

Keeping someone in a group solely for story or combat purposes, when they are known to have personality conflicts with the rest of the group which have not changed after being addressed in a private discussion, is a recipe for having your group disband. Eventually, your other players will find reasons to stop coming because they don't feel like spending hours of their time being annoyed and frustrated by this guy. Eventually, you will be so frustrated and annoyed by him that you'll look for reasons not to have the game.

Yes, it's hard and awkward to kick someone out of the group, especially if you've been playing with them for a while. But keeping someone around who, in your own words, "ruins the experience" for you and your other players (even, and especially, if you've already tried talking to him about it) is not worth it.

Find a time to talk to this guy out of game. Say that you've come to realize that his play style is not compatible with that of the rest of the group. Say that this style conflict (make sure you blame the style conflict, not him personally) is making the game difficult for you to run, and is making it not fun for you and for others in the group. If his complaints are egregious, you can also suggest that it appears he's not having fun, either (although remember to use phrases like "it appears" and "I think" rather than simply declaring how he's feeling).

Then tell him that you think it would be best for everyone if he finds a different group to game with, one which is more suited to his play style. Be gentle but firm - if he protests, reiterate, "Our gaming styles aren't compatible." Stick to that point, and don't let him derail you with "Well, if you just did X and Y, I wouldn't have to complain" or "if the other players did Z, it wouldn't be an issue." If he keeps pushing it, thank him for his time playing so far and end the conversation - get up and leave if you have to.

Some people have suggested talking to him (again) before asking him to leave; however, I strongly disagree with that suggestion. For one, you've already tried and he hasn't changed, which means that trying again is just going to draw out the process. More importantly, though, the behavior you describe (except the complaining) really does sound like simply a difference in play styles. I've played with people and in groups for whom that kind of metagaming and player interference is normal and even accepted. But since the rest of your group doesn't agree with or enjoy it, you're clashing. He most likely doesn't understand what's wrong, and therefore doesn't understand why his behavior is bad or what he should change. Asking him to act differently when he likely doesn't understand what's wrong in the first place will just make him feel punished. He may even double down on it while trying to "fix" it.

It absolutely sucks to have to kick someone out of your group. But remember, you can always replan your story to take the plot focus off this guy. You can rejigger combats to account for your group's lack of a tank, or ask another player if they want to pick up the slack. But you can't run a game if everyone else has quit because they're annoyed by a guy everyone knows is a problem. If you let him stay, he'll quickly make your gaming experience toxic for you and the other players, and you'll be left with no game at all.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This plus add an npc tank \$\endgroup\$ – Rob Mar 23 '15 at 21:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ -1 I find that there are too many "internet tough guy" answers like this on the site that just jump to booting someone without appreciation of other alternatives. Is it an alternative? Sure. Should it be the first resort? No. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Mar 23 '15 at 23:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk Fair enough. :) I try to only give this as an answer when the asker has stated they've already tried other alternatives, like talking to the player or dealing with the issue in-game, as was the case here. If other alternatives have been tried unsuccessfully, there's no point in rehashing them. \$\endgroup\$ – thatgirldm Mar 23 '15 at 23:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk Boo. You're free to downvote as you see fit but this answer is both well thought out and addresses the situation. Sometimes tough decisions need to be made. \$\endgroup\$ – user4075 Mar 24 '15 at 10:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @eimyr: The only reason I don't suggest talking to him is because the asker specified that they already tried talking to him. If they've already tried talking and it hasn't changed anything, another "last chance" talk is extremely unlikely to help, and very likely to make things worse. \$\endgroup\$ – thatgirldm Mar 24 '15 at 13:26
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Speak with him. Some time besides game day, sit him down and discuss your concerns. Perhaps there is something he can do or you can do to get him to mesh better with the group and setting.

While speaking with him, don't be entirely negative, do note things he does well and adds to the game as a whole, and be sure he understands these points are just being brought up because they are coming up in the course of play frequently.

After this conversation, don't be afraid to remind him, if he falls back into old habits.

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