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I recently had my first D&D 3.5 session and, according to the reactions, it was a great success. During the preparations, however, I have stumbled upon a problem.

I have four players. For the sake of privacy and simplicity, I will refer to them by their classes. We have:

  • A wizard that takes RP too seriously.
  • A sorcerer who played for the first time.
  • A paladin that thinks he knows it all.
  • A rogue that's too lazy to look up how his own class/feats/magic items work.

I have been able to deal with the wizard and the paladin; the wizard is reasonable and not suffering from the my-guy syndrome, and the paladin can be shut up using my DM-powers. However, the sorcerer and the rogue said they would work on the sorcerer's sheet together since they knew each other and the sorcerer was clueless, but have failed to do so, because the rogue was too lazy and uninformed to help her effectively. The result was that the sorcerer had no magic items to begin with, so I had to come up with some for him, and both the sorcerer and the rogue didn't exactly know how to play their classes.

The entire group, me included, keep contact via What's App, so questions could easily be asked. Everyone has a copy of the books we used, and everyone has google. Therefore I figured this problem must be simply because of the laziness of the rogue.

In what way can I deal with lazy players, like this rogue?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What level is this group? The Sorceror isn't exactly an easy class for a newbie to play, and it only gets worse at higher levels. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik May 8 '15 at 20:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ They're all level six. I know sorcerer isn't the easiest class to start with, but he has easy access to all the information he needs, and a guide. His guide, however, refuses to fulfill his duties. I am willing to guide the sorcerer aswell, but since I have no relation with him whatsoever, it would've been easier if the rogue would've helped him. \$\endgroup\$ – Joninean May 8 '15 at 20:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Joninean You seem to be quite frustrated by this. Did the player in question outright state their unwillingness to help the other player, or is this frustration born from them not immediately doing the thing you wanted them to do right? Or are they unaware of what they did not do correctly? \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Jacobs May 8 '15 at 20:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was quite clear beforehand that I wanted them all to be well-prepared so we could immediately begin, since we have been having issues with this. I have not downright told him that he's lazy, but he often jokingly says so himself and I hope he has realised that when you participate in a D&D session without knowing how your class works, you must've done something wrong in your preperation. \$\endgroup\$ – Joninean May 8 '15 at 20:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Mainly mechanics. The sorcerer knew he was supposed to stay back in blow everything up except for the party. The rogue seemed a bit lost in combat, and I also had to remind him of his Trap-Sense and his Evasion and his Sneak-Attack. \$\endgroup\$ – Joninean May 8 '15 at 20:27
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Is the problem laziness or lack of skill?

This problem can be approached in either of two ways: treat the symptoms or treat the disease. I would attempt both of them, in that order.

Treat the symptoms: aka How do I Rogue?

As a core class, the Rogue is in the SRD. Given your party's use of digital means this should not be a problem to use. Character sheets do not have space to write the rules of a class feature, but here they are listed for your use. Ask of your players that need to that they write down their class features, feats, skills and magic items and what they do. This way they have the rules on hand at all times. Make them aware what these things can do for their character and the party.

Even then, there's something of a problem. The party consists of one melee guy, two casters and the Rogue. This means that the Paladin is going to be bearing the brunt of the melee attacks, and can easily be swarmed. While there's a good chance to flank a guy fighting the Paladin, the moment that the attacker drops the Rogue is out in the open. This is NOT a good thing for a Rogue with their light armor and d6 hit die. Make the player aware of this, preferable before combat with a large group.

The cure: how lazy is the player?

The real question: is the player really lazy? Sure, they might have joked about this but it can mean that they are insecure. The biggest clowns are the saddest clowns, after all. Ask them, in private without the other players knowing, if they would like help. Do not make it a confrontation or an accusation: make it an offer and a gesture of good will. Perhaps they do not know how to play a Rogue. Hell, I know that I could not Rogue to save my life. Players who are insecure are not the best teachers either: their mistakes will carry over to the others. Offer to take on the mantle of the sorceror's mentor (try saying that three times quickly) so they can focus on their Rogue.

On the other hand though, if they actually ARE being lazy, tell them that they need to put some time in the books to actually play. You (and few people do) do not like to be bogged down by the player unwilling to learn the rules, as opposed to one who just does not know them. Tell them what you expect of them and when you do so. When this time comes, ask if they managed to do the thing you asked. If they did, great! If not, ask if they need more time or some help (NEVER ask "why not?": this helps nobody).

If they are consistently unable to do so or learn the rules, you should ask them (in private!) if they want to play D&D, or if they would rather be doing something else. If this is the case, shake hands and go your own ways.

Prevention!

You want to start immediately when everyone's at the table. That's fine, but it needs preperation. Ask your players to send in their character sheets for you to check if they are what you expect (do not call it "did it right": this makes you look like a jerk). If everything is fine, great! If not, send feedback. If characters are written digitally ask for prints: if they're filled out by hand ask for pictures (you have WhatsApp, so you likely have phones with cameras). Also ask for the "cheat sheets" that you would like to see of some people. This is not a lot of work: just copypaste from the D20 SRD.

Final advice: Relax!

These events seemed to have rather vexed you. Take a deep breath, have a talk with your players and go and have fun the next time you gather for a game. If the DM is not having fun, it will be difficult for the players to have fun.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I have put a lot of time in beforehand preparation, including collecting all (cheat)sheets and lore. This only made it more painful when you get a message that tells you that some people are simply not done, while the session is supposed to start in two hours, and they had to drive 1 1/2. I will contact both the sorcerer and the rogue sometime, and discuss a further course of action. Thanks for the advice. :) \$\endgroup\$ – Joninean May 8 '15 at 21:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ Put the deadline like two days in advance or so, so you have ample time to look things over and give feedback. But I'm glad this helped! \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Jacobs May 8 '15 at 21:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1, Especially for checking if the player is actually lazy. Some of this advice struck me as assuming some extremely insecure players, though. Like "NEVER ask 'why not'" or "do not call it 'did it right'". \$\endgroup\$ – DCShannon May 9 '15 at 3:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DCShannon It's easier to go from helpful to angry than the other way around. If you don't immediately assume the worst in people when they make mistakes you can help them become better, and you are a better person for this too. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Jacobs May 9 '15 at 9:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasJacobs I agree completely, but I guess I think that walking on eggshells around your friends is assuming the worst in people, not asking them the obvious question or acknowledging that there are correct and incorrect results when rules and math are involved. \$\endgroup\$ – DCShannon Jun 13 '15 at 1:52
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Understand the players' motivations for playing the game

From your description, the players seem to have wide-ranging interests in coming together for this game, and I would hazard a guess that your interests aren't exactly the same as theirs, either. What you have observed as laziness on the part of the Rogue's player might in fact be a symptom of a player whose values aren't being emphasized in gameplay. This isn't something that most people will come right out and tell you, but it can be very detrimental to the enjoyment of everyone at the table.

You want to figure out what each player (and also yourself) is expecting to get out of the game, and what each of you is expecting to put into it. Tools such as the Same Page Tool and Metagame Rewards can help you all to identify these elements. Ask your players to go through each of them and bring their responses to your next session.

In person, have a short discussion about how the game can be played to activate each players' values. This doesn't mean that you can't play if some values conflict, but that each one gets a moment to shine. You will likely find that the rogue's player has some values that hadn't been getting enough attention in play, and that once you fix that, he will become more engaged in the game.

You may also find that talking about these values offers some useful strategies for the other players. Even just talking about everybody's goals can help everyone at the table to be more accommodating of each other and improves the gameplay experience for all.

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