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One player I infrequently role play with (let's call him Bob) seems to have a bit of an issue with authority - or at the very least he likes playing characters who do. It's not that he does not respect the GM, but he gets very defensive (sometimes even aggressively so) if any kind of authority figures tries to influence his character or restrict their freedom.

Bob often plays Rambo/Stallone/Schwarzenegger style characters who seem to have the motto "It's my way or the highway" and whose default problem solving approach involves enough firearms and explosives to equip a small militia.

This isn't a problem per se, as the group Bob is normally playing in is happily doing action- and combat-heavy campaigns, so there is a lot to shoot at and blow up. But even in these campaigns there will eventually appear some NPC/group/etc. who -- through legal position, superior force or some other reason -- has authority over the player characters. And who most of us (foremost the GM) would like not to see blown up shortly after their introduction. And while I totally understand Bob's wish to preserve character agency, his sometimes positively suicidal decisions can be detrimental to the game and the plot.

An example from a Star Wars campaign:

After trespassing in Wookie territory the party was snatched up and brought to the clan chief. The chief said he needed the party's help and would in turn forgive their trespassing - but would keep some gear as collateral. Bob's reaction to this: pulling out a thermal detonator, trying to coerce the chief into letting them go. When this failed he detonated the TD, blowing up half the assembled clan, the party (miraculously saved by the GM) and, incidentally, the plot.

We tried talking to Bob out of the game but it seems he is also suffering from my-guy syndrome (i.e. "this is totally how the character would have reacted, sorry it's just good RP"). And any kind of in-game reaction will provoke even more rebellious and chaotic actions from him (i.e. force escalation).

How can we handle this as a group? As the GM?

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    \$\begingroup\$ These questions touch similar topics, but imho they are not quite focusing on the same problem. How could a highly destructive character contribute to gameplay?, How do you deal with a player that's determined to play the game in a way that is detrimental to the advancement of the story? \$\endgroup\$ – fgysin Jun 3 '15 at 12:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Did the party choose to violate clearly marked boundaries, or did you decide to have them be trespassing in order to justify having them brought in for the plot hook? \$\endgroup\$ – Random832 Jun 3 '15 at 21:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Random832: in that specific session I was a player not GM, so I can't tell your. But from my perspective there was no railroading going on. \$\endgroup\$ – fgysin Jun 4 '15 at 7:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ 1. Comments on questions are for clarifying the question. 2. Answers should not be untried opinions, but should be a result of your Good Subjective experience dealing with a similar situation. Answers may be deleted if they don't. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jun 4 '15 at 20:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that there is an example in a Star Wars movie where a protagonist did successfully coerce a chief by threatening to use a thermal detonator. \$\endgroup\$ – Greenstone Walker Jun 5 '15 at 4:06

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(There are some great answers here. I want to suggest that Bob's style can be reframed as a positive.)

Encourage growth in Bob's character's anti-authoritarianism

It seems to me that one way of thinking about Bob's anti-authoritarian style of play, is that the meaning of the anti-authoritarianism is not being woven into the game. Anti-authoritarianism comes in many flavors and historical/cultural contexts (e.g. punk and anti-facism, futurism, 21st century social anarchism, nihlism, DIY/DIT, etc.). While you have noted the my way or the highway action-hero style of Bob's playing, it is possible to encourage his growth and investment in anti-authoritarian motivations, philosophies, in-game allies and the like:

  • Both the GM and Bob might benefit from one-on-one discussions investigating his character's motivations for anti-authoritarianism. This could even lead to developing story arcs that deepen, evolve or resolve the character's issues with authority. Maybe Bob might come to appreciate different approaches to anti-authoritarian play?

  • The GM could introduce anti-authoritarian NPCs. Such characters could be introduced in a manner that dramatically highlights their screw-the-man! tendencies in a way that earns Bob's appreciation, while at the same time drawing tension with Bob's character because their philosophy, style, or motivation differ from Bob's character's own. For example, an anti-royalist anarcho-syndicalist NPC might scoff at Bob's anti-mutualist it's-all-about-me style, while Bob just thinks they way they oppose the Royal Court is the coolest thing. This pattern can also be inverted if, for example, Bob's character is deeply put off by, say, destroy-the-world style anti-authoritarianism his character may be forced to examine the uncomfortable ways his own methods and motivations align with some seriously evil nihlist's.

  • The GM can embrace Bob's anti-authoritarianism as an ideal for NPCs to emulate. Bob's character's actions may have a broader social import that shapes the culture and plot of the game setting. For example, "Did you hear the news? That new group of fighters used a thermal detonator on Chief Wookiebusiness! We are finally out from underneath that bastard's grasp! Let's roll this into a coup of the corrupt regional boss Wookiemonster!"

Of course, Bob could be just a bad fit for your group... but optimism, hey?

Obligatory Monte Python & the Holy Grail quote:

Arthur: Well we all are! We are all Britons! And I am your king.
Woman: I didn't know we 'ad a king! I thought we were an autonomous collective.
Man: (mad) You're fooling yourself! We're living in a dictatorship! A self-perpetuating autocracy in which the working classes--

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    \$\begingroup\$ I like the non-confrontational if-life-gives-you-lemons approach of your idea. \$\endgroup\$ – fgysin Jun 3 '15 at 15:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ I also like this approach, less for non-confrontation and more for long-term story-shaping. (Erick Wujcik gave some similar storytelling advice which amounted to, "when my players all have characters who want power, I give them gobs and gobs of it, hoping they pay no attention to the price tags.") So if Bob short-circuits the next 3 adventures with an ambitious plan to kill the Evil King, and succeeds, now he has those resources and has to balance anti-authoritarianism with the cruel enemies that the Evil King ruthlessly protected the people from, while an NPC Bob is gunning for him... \$\endgroup\$ – CR Drost Jun 3 '15 at 19:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GustavBertram Do It Together... a moral recognition of the fact most of "it" being "done" is a collaborative, and an ethical mandate to be both explicit about and encouraging of that. Basically, it's a framing of DIY one runs across in Maker spaces and the like. :) \$\endgroup\$ – Lexible Jun 5 '15 at 16:50
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Don't save the character

As long as you keep saving Bob's character and he has fun acting this way, he'll keep this behavior. The first thing that needs to be done is to make him accountable for the consequences of his decisions.

Of course this will cost you some plot that will be ruined when the party dies, but in the long run, it will worth the effort.

Review characters before beginning the campaign

Don't let Bob create such a character. When players are creating their character supervise their personality and avoid such characters. You can help the player, giving him some advice on how to build the personality so it's appealing to him while payable for the campaign.

Buff enemies through power and knowledge

After some of these events, lots of people will know of atrocious Bob. Especially the powerful will be concerned about security when he's around. So when he's nearby more police will be there, ready to shoot or reduce him. Soon the rest of the players and even Bob will most probably opt for a change of behavior.

And of course, talk to him...

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    \$\begingroup\$ The first point is the most important. I once played a character with an authority problem (for fun, I don't make a habit of it). And when the inevitable "my way/highway" moment came, he died a glorious death which everyone in the group felt was appropriate to the character and the narrative and we all had fun. If he really believes in characters like this, he'll understand that sometimes they overstep the boundary and pay the consequences. \$\endgroup\$ – Matt Thrower Jun 4 '15 at 10:55
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After trespassing in Wookie territory the party was snatched up and brought to the clan chief. The chief said he needed the parties help and would in turn forgive their trespassing - but would keep some gear as collateral. Bobs reaction to this: starts to pull out a thermal detonator. Charles sees this and pull out his blaster and sets to stun. It was a bit tense however Charles won initiative and was able to drop Bob before activating the thermal detonator. Charles turns to the Chief. "Sorry, about that but ever since the Empire got a hold of him, he never been right in the head.". Charles continues "You can take him if you need justice but he is actually good in a fight and will help on the mission you want us to go on."

I have dealt with these types of players both as a player and as a referee. It is rarely easy. As a player I found that on average this kind of player has limited tactical and strategic skill. In general they are so focused on a few elements that they miss the larger picture and out of the box solutions. In short they are predictable and I exploit to deal with them in-game.

For example I was in a Cyberpunk game and a player was an obnoxious twit both in and out of game. He played a tricked out Solo (a character focused on combat and combat mods). Nobody could take him in a fight, a fact he used to bully the rest of the party. At one point in a job we ran across some weapon mods. I was the party tech. To this point I roleplayed the character meek and mild calmly accepting the abuse the player was dishing out. (The rest of the players were much more vocal in their discontent).

The weapon mods were really good and there was a enough to go around so as the Tech it fell to me to use the mods to upgrade the party's weapons. Of course the Solo confident in his power over me hands me his gun. Well I installed the mods along with optical recognition software and programmed it to not to fire the gun if any of us were in its sights.

A couple of hours later we reached the end of the job and of course the Solo player pulls out his gun and announces that everything was his. While the rest of the party voiced their complaints I pulled out my pistol. The Solo player looked at me with comtempt and said "Are you really going to go up against me with that?".

I pointed the gun at him and of course lost initiative. He tried to fire, nothing, he tried to fire again, nothing again. Having used up his actions, I proceeded to blow him away. I holstered my pistol and said "Well that bit of unpleasantness was taken care off."

In short, my view if the player is acting in a way that detrimental to the goals of the group. I can and will deal with him. Yeah there are some social issues in doing this so it never completely in-game. But try to leverage my experience as a gamer to pick out a moment to deal with the issues to make it clear cut that this about what happening in-game.

As a referee the way I handle this type of problem is to focus on presenting the setting 'as is' This means that your example I would have let him blow up his character. Or if I felt that a miraculous escape was called for, it would have occurred for the rest of the party but not him. I would said something like, "Bob you did well, your sacrifice has allowed the party to escape the clutches of the evil Wookies. Now you need to roll up a new character."

Of course out of game Bob will complain but I will point out that we are playing a Space Opera, that such sacrifices are tropes of the genre, and the rest of the party gets to continue on. If he pushes I will say that my ruling. I find, as a referee, one of two things will happen; one the player will quit the group after repeated death or more common they will start to modify their behavior to keep their character around. For my part I try to not get emotional and just let players like Bob vent yet still say that is my ruling.

In some groups, a player like Bob may be capable of exerting a lot of social pressure and make things unpleasant but if they are that unaware of how they act perhaps it is time that the groups plays on without him.

For your group try to do the above and out of game encourage the players to deal with Bob issues in creative ways.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Ha ha, thanks for sharing the Cyberpunk story. I bet there was a lot of drama & fallout after the Solo character died. If a player announces during character creation "Hey guys, for kicks I'm going to create a really obnoxious character who hates authority", and eveyone's OK with that, I can see an anti-authoritarian PC adding spice to the campaign. \$\endgroup\$ – RobertF Jun 3 '15 at 15:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ While amusing as a revenge story, I feel like it didn't accomplish that much. In the end, the bad player got to ruin everyone's fun for many sessions, and you only got your comeuppance in the last few moments just before the campaign was about to end anyway. Since it was obvious he was a bad player from the start, it probably would have been more productive to deal with him right away. \$\endgroup\$ – Superbest Jun 3 '15 at 20:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Superbest, in my experience trying to deal with it out of game is problematic for most. In short is nearly always messy as it obvious the bottom line is "If you don't change you can't come here and play." However unless other social activity the one are talking about revolves around playing a game. Because of this it can be manipulated by a skilled player to show why maddog behavior is self defeating. A lot of people talk about how player metagame the rules for bad reason but they forget they can be metagamed for good reasons. \$\endgroup\$ – RS Conley Jun 4 '15 at 17:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is remarkably passive aggressive. Are your players human adults? are they your friends? \$\endgroup\$ – Tritium21 Jun 4 '15 at 21:17
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As soon as his actions become suicidal or obviously stupid from an in-character point of view and detrimental to the game in general, have the GM stop the game for a few seconds and tell the player:

"I understand you feel the only course of action for your character at this point is to (die resisting this authority\heroically sacrifice himself\get killed for no reason)? Since there is no reasonable way for your character to survive this, would you like to narrate his death? Then we can pick the story up afterwards. Do you have a new character in mind yet?"

Do not allow him to roll dice to try and survive. Do not allow him to narrate anything other than his character dying at no real gain. Do not allow him to take down any other PCs with him (unless they are willing).

This will accomplish one of two things:

1) Bob will have an absolute blast narrating his guy blowing up in blazing fireworks and then happily goes to create a new character while the story continues on without him for a while; the plot escapes mostly unharmed. (Note that if your plot cannot handle the death of someone, it might simply be a bit too railroady for your players. "Do not grow attached to anything you introduce to your players" and all.)

2) Bob will grumble, but then realise you're not letting him get his way and then save his ass, and he will decide on another path of action.

It's hard to be sure whether this player simply thinks he can get away with blowing himself up because he feels the DM will save him, or whether he simply enjoys playing highly anti-authoritarian characters, but either way you should not protect him from getting himself killed.

Anti-authoritarian characters are often caused by lack of ingame consequences for actions; either because the players feel the GM will save them or lets the NPCs hold back, or because the players feel (or are) more powerful than whatever power an authority can muster. If this becomes a problem, definately get rid of #1. Let actions have consequences. You kill the local guard for trying to ask you some questions? Have the entire village form a mob and run the players out of town. They can (and do) take on the entire village and slaughter everyone? Then they are now the target of powerful adventurers coming to kill them. And since you dropped #1, these adventurers will not hold back, they will not fight fair and they might very well not tell anyone they are coming.

Alternatively, play games without authority figures. It might also be that your players simply don't like roleplaying with them. I have played with groups who really seemed to dislike authority and wanted to do their own thing. I usually just dropped them in situations without authority figures. Every NPC was either under their (effective) command or so vital to the plot that killing them would simply end the adventure then and there.

As an example, I ran a game where the players were shipwrecked on an island. All the NPCs except the captain and the navigator basically listened to them because they were the best equipped for wilderness survival, while killing either the captain or the navigator would mean the adventure ended with "and without any way left to get off the island, you all grew old and died there. the end."

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    \$\begingroup\$ Amen on the consequences. The biggest failure I see in the example given is that the GM let him get away with it. \$\endgroup\$ – thanby Jun 4 '15 at 17:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ You should not use this solution for any scene where it is clear the character is willing to die for what they believe and the player is okay with that. This solution is specifically for people who defy authority on principle and do so every chance they get. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Jun 9 '15 at 6:19
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Okay, so there's this thing in physics called the anthropic principle, which says that we can predict fundamental constants and lucky resonances of the universe if we can determine that, if they weren't that way, then humanity as we know it wouldn't exist and we couldn't ask the question "why are they that way?" in the first place. It's not the most satisfying answer to "why is this here?" but it is an explanation and it does have useful predictive power.

If you're a GM with a story-heavy narrative, people will be attached to their characters and it falls on you to implement the anthropic principle: characters generally won't die every encounter. Usually you do this by giving a forest of easily-survivable paths for the players to run around in. However, often there is some form of cliff edge near the forest, and sometimes some player insists on driving the Jeep straight for that edge at top-speed. Then you need to know your anthropic options. I see three big ones: the Jeep crashes in the forest, the Jeep crashes at the bottom of the cliff, and the Jeep's driver gets spontaneously ejected by Fate, causing the remaining characters to decide whether they want to stop it before it careens over the cliff. Let's take those in turn.

Your first option is that this is a forest: the ground is uneven. Stepping outside of the metaphor: the real world is complicated and the players do not always succeed at what they're doing. In your hypothetical scenario?

Game Master: The Wookiee chief says "no way in hell."
Brash Player: Screw it. I press the button.
GM: The big Wookiee in front of you recoils, cringing, as a click sound comes from your hand and a flash of light blinds you and an awful sound deafens you. Everything goes black. You feel some pressure against your chest.
BP: And, what, everybody is dead?
GM: You don't know, you're blind and deaf and the wind's been completely knocked out of you.
Other Player: What do the rest of us see?
GM: You in particular were not blinded, because his body was in the way, but you still got knocked down and you hear a loud ringing in your ears. You see a Wookiee rush and tackle BP.
BP: I pull out my knife and stab him.
OP: What do I see happening there.
GM: OP, you see a lot of blood spatter as the Wookiee pins down BP, he appears to be flailing wildly with a bloody stump for an arm. While you're looking so intently, you feel a Wookiee crash into your side, tackling you to the ground.
OP: Is there anything I can do right now?
GM: I mean, there's a lot you can do, but you do have a 400-pound furry creature pinning your arms down. You both feel them taking off your clothes.
OP: What?! I resist. STOP! THOSE ARE MY CLOTHES!
GM: Your hearing has recovered just well enough to hear the Wookiee chief say "no, we can't take the risk, take off their clothes." There's also something about how no warrior worth anything would conceal their weapons, some Wookiee culture thing.
BP: Why didn't that detonator take out the whole room?
GM: What is your character doing to try to answer that question?

Here we're invoking the anthropic principle with the assumption that the detonator will kill everybody in the room: given that this doesn't happen, the detonator must not have gone off (or at least, not completely gone off), and we reason about what must have happened.

The above dialogue exemplifies that you don't need to explain it just yet. Going back to the Jeep and the cliff: you don't explain why the rock was there, why the driver didn't see it, or how the rock caused the Jeep's right two wheels to go airborne, causing the Jeep to flip over entirely. At least, not immediately. You can determine that stuff after the session is over, or while it's ongoing. There are lots of reasons why it might have been impossible to see. (Maybe later we find out that this character had been a jerk to his weapons-supplier, who gave him known-to-be-somewhat-defective thermal detonators.)

Your second option, if the character has received three or four of these warnings and hasn't stopped (and the rest of the party hasn't ousted him) is to simply let them drive off the cliff. Sure, it violates the anthropic principle a little, but there's lots of viable nuance here, anyway. If the cliff is high enough, sure, kill the character. Optionally leave the rest of the party maimed, but feel free to kill all of them, too. Feel a certain pleasure in this, as of the GMs of yore, who would wax wistfully on about their TPKs -- "total player kills" -- where they annihilated a whole party. Your responsibility with a GM is to, every day, confront these players with a force that only has 50% or 75% of their strength, trying to overwhelm them: if you succeed in the face of those odds then you win. The monsters have families too, after all: only you will speak for them. In this case, the players are giving you this rarest of easy wins when they could have done something sane and obvious, but instead they committed suicide.

I said I'd be "anthropic" above, and so here's how to play that: if it's too unfair to the other players, or if you haven't given them enough warning, give them one last explicit warning to jump out of the Jeep before it reaches the cliff. Heck, go so far as to allow metagaming:

GM: The Wookiee chief says "no way in hell."
BP: Screw it. I press the button.
GM: OK, pause for a second. We haven't heard from everybody else here. You've all seen that the situation has been rapidly deteriorating, what have you been doing? Have you been backing away, running to take cover, or are you standing firmly beside BP when he's pressing this detonator.
OP: Um... I think I would have been slowly backing away, and when he said "no way in hell" I probably would have broken out into a sprint away from BP. It's not the first time he's gone all-in on a bluff.
GM: Good, that might help save you. Anybody else?
OP2: While BP was focused up ahead I probably readied my weapons, including that Gungan Energy Shield that I got from Those Movies That Shall Not Be Named.
GM: I'll allow it.
BP: Wait, are we just making stuff up now?
GM: No, it's a small personal item which belonged to OP's grandmother, who said that it saved both her and her husband once... I forget the whole story. She's had it all along, it's just not been terribly useful until now. Are you standing behind it or cowering behind it?
OP2: Um, when he said "no way in hell" I probably started to cower behind it.
GM: That'll take you down to third-degree burns, yes.
BP: You're serious, you're going to let all of them make up whatever reason to live while you kill me off?
GM: I'm not killing you off. You're committing suicide with a thermal detonator. I'm just trying to figure out how many of your friends you took with you. Maybe I'm going easy on them because they didn't expect you to actually do it.

Finally, if the story is too important to Fate, Fate can eject the driver's seat:

GM: The Wookiee chief says "no way in hell."
BP: Screw it. I press the button.
GM: You choose to press the detonator, but your thumb doesn't listen. Suddenly your eyesight is a wash of colors and light.
OP: What?
GM: You saw some light, like blaster fire, but your eyes were turned forward, what are you doing?
BP: I turn around to face the blaster fire.
GM: You'd love to but your legs don't seem to be listening either. Your knees buckle and you fall down onto them. Guys? A live thermal detonator is still in his hand, and if it hits the ground it could explode.
OP: Eff this. I grab the detonator and deactivate it, then hold my hands up in surrender.
BP: I demand to know what the hell happened.
GM: You feel too woozy to let any words come out of your mouth, but reluctantly, a "What happened?" comes out of your mouth.
OP: Can I see?
GM: The Wookiees behind you appear to be high-fiving some Wookiee with a bowcaster. Come to think of it, that explains the metal protrudance coming out of the middle of BP's upper back. You strongly suspect that she's a crack shot and that his nerves are damaged.

If it's not a sniper round, it can be a heart attack induced by the stress of the situation, or a stroke, or an unexpected Jedi who was living among the Wookiees cutting the guy's freaking hand off. Of course you shouldn't use these gimmicks in general, but if the players are going to be "saved by Fate" anyway, you might as well get creative in how Fate saves them.

Don't get me wrong -- what you did is not too awful, you let the Jeep careen over the cliff while everyone inside was miraculously saved. But it's not very sustainable: you are implicitly encouraging the players to constantly drive off every cliff just to see what you'll do about it, and then you feel cheated because you spent so much effort on the forest and had to improvise what was at the bottom of the cliff. There are other options when you're stuck with this sort of acute "everything is coming to a head" situation.

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There are many damaged RPG players out there, who have been damaged by DMs who consistently railroad them. They have been taught again and again by DMs that the only way to maintain any kind of control over the plot and what your character does is to have a character that is a master at violence, and be willing to use the combat subsystem to impose their narrative on the game world.

In a typical RPG system, violence -- the combat subsystem -- is about the only way a player can unilaterally impose their will upon the narrative.

Most RPG systems don't have mind-control level persuasion: in order to convince an NPC to do something, you first have to convince the DM. Neither do they have direct narrative control hooks: you cannot roll some dice, and tell the DM that there is a secret door, or that there is a contact who can solve this problem, or that you bought the right item in the store you passed by last month off-camera.

Every other means of changing the narrative first requires persuading the DM, except blowing stuff up and/or killing things. There are usually hard and fast rules about how hard it is to kill things that DMs tend not to ignore. So a damaged player, not willing to give up the narrative for someone else to dictate, runs into this situation what does the player do? They resort to violence.

The situation was set up so that the players must follow the plot line chosen by the DM -- unless they resorted to violence. And the damaged player isn't willing to completely give up narrative control. So, violence results.

Persuasion, via social skills or roleplaying, wasn't going to work; or at least that is what the damaged player thinks. They don't think they can persuade the DM to change their mind about the railroad by talking to the DM, so they resort to mechanics. And it is about persuading the DM: the "My Guy" observation cuts both ways.

This is all from the perspective of the damaged player, who is used to being railroaded, and knows there is no way to get off the rails unless they take control themselves.

Now, you as a DM might not be in the habit of railroading players by using authority figures to order them around. But the situation matches a common railroading pattern, and the damaged player makes their character respond in the only way they know that can take back control of the game plot. Even disarming the PCs is simply treated as a preamble to a railroad: once disarmed, the PC can no longer resort to the combat subsystem to wrest the plot back under their control (instead of under the DM's control). So being disarmed is treated as a prelude to being railroaded, and responded to as it seems appropriate.

One way to approach this problem might be to find an RPG system where the combat subsystem is not the only way to keep narrative control, or even one where giving up narrative control gives you resources that let you impose narrative control later. Such a system discourages the DM from railroading (as they should only railroad when they have the resources to do so), and gives the players benefits for accepting a railroad (as they gain plot vetoes when they accept loss of narrative control).

Then, with a period of healing, maybe you can repair the damage done to this RPG player.

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Find out what's going on

The behavior is a symptom. It's not the problem. The problem is that there's a mismatch of expectations between you and this player, and you need to get to the bottom of this before you can fix the problem.

Really, the first step to resolving this is to sit down with the player and say something like, "Hey, I noticed you went a bit aggro on the Wookiiee elder. So, what's going on? That seems at least likely to be semi-suicidal, so I'm guessing there's something you're not happy about. What is it? If we can figure out what you don't like, we can change the game appropriately."

Reach a compromise if possible

This will obviously change based on the reason for the behavior. Some possible explanations for the behavior, and possible solutions:

I like blowing stuff up

The player may just like blowing stuff up, and seeing the fallout. For some people, the joy of seeing how much chaos they can cause is the best part of the game.

If that's not what the game is about, then be honest about it. If there will be plenty of blowing up later on, then tell the player that, and ask them to tone it down for now.

I don't like being railroaded

Based on the description, this seems like the most likely explanation. The player may have had specific ideas of what the campaign would be, and then they get pushed into a series of tasks that somebody is telling them they have to do. While their character may balk, really what's happening is that the player is telling you "this sounds stupid and I don't want to do it."

If that's the case, the best way to deal with this is to get buyin on the player level rather than the character level. Instead of saying "hey, let's do a Star Wars game!" and then springing the Wookiiee elder taskmaster on them, say "hey, let's do a Star Wars game where you start by helping a Wookiiee tribe! Come up with a reason for your character to be helping a bunch of Wookiiees!" That still may not appeal to the player, but you'll be having the conversation at a more appropriate time.

I want to do something else

It may be that the player has other things that they want their character story to be about. If that's the case, find out what those are. Weave them into the game, or make a promise that it will eventually be part of the game.

Agree to disagree

Hey, not all games are for all people. If the player really just wants to have a game where they blow everything up, and you're not interested in that, then you probably shouldn't be in the same game. That's okay, and doesn't make anybody bad.

The importance of Session Zero

More than anything else, the takeaway I'd pull from this is how important Session Zero is. Taking the time to talk about everyone's expectations for the game is the single most important thing that you can do to avoid this type of issue.

There's a billion types of games I can run in the Star Wars universe. Not all characters are appropriate for all of them, and just because some of those games might be entertaining to me doesn't mean that all of them are. Give your players a blurb about the game. This doesn't have to give away the secrets, as it can just be equivalent to the copy on the back of a book. "A bunch of adventurers helping out a tribe of Wookiiees discover a terrible secret that threatens the galaxy" is simple, gives away almost nothing, and lets everyone know what they're getting into.

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Go bowling with Bob

Presuming you have talked with Bob (you say that you have), and that this is an intractable problem (it appears so), and that you have attempted to curb this behavior, and don't want to play with that kind of character... Don't invite Bob to the game table anymore. Go bowling with Bob, or do other friend-things with Bob.

I have had no success trying to increase the fun-quotient of the group by curbing the fun of one player. Rather, those actions have, at their best, caused the games to end, and at their worst, caused friendships to end (or suffer).

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I'd like to suggest a completely different way of handling this.

The Party Needs to Manage The Crazy

Ok, you're on a mission with Rambo and last time you had to deal with an authority figure he damn near nuked you all into oblivion. He's borderline homocidally/suicidally insane. So now you need to talk with another authority figure - what do you do?

If the party lets McMurderPants go parley with a head honcho this time, they deserve to get blown up and just stay dead and roll up some new characters (or at least the guy with the bomb in his hand dies and everyone else is miraculously saved). This guy is a potential resource in the right situation, but in the wrong situation he's basically a Wild Sorcerer - just as likely to drop a meteor on your heads as on the enemies. So the group needs to react to these events intelligently and with some understanding of this guy.

This is going to require some in-character cooperation. Perhaps, while bandaging your near fatal wounds, you all agree that next time Mr Non-Nutjob will do the talking at first, and if things go wrong THEN Conan The Triggerhappy can go into berzerker mode and try not to nearly kill you all this time, maybe? Or maybe one or more of the party members starts carrying tranquilizers and a muzzle, perhaps Werewolfing the crazy guy alla Hannibal Lecter and only letting him out when it's Clobbering Time! Or maybe, while spitting up blood and covered in burns, all the other characters agree that they are going to frisk Rambo and make sure he doesn't get to carry nukes in the future.

If Rambo can't get along, then off into the forest by himself he will run, to be inevitably surrounded by wookies with one last nuke (where did he hide it? Where do you think?). Problem solved there, too. Next time anti-authoritarian need not mean anti-social! And if he wants to make another suicidal nut, everyone should say - in unison - "no!" If he was that suicidal and anti-social he'd never have made it into the group in the first place.

Cover us, Arnold!

Someone, or even the rest of the group, will head out front in diplomatic situations from now on, whenever possible. If they get in trouble, then in with the machine guns comes our crazy-ass hero. Make sure he stays out of immediate earshot, though - and if you have to make concessions or deal with threats and insults from an authority figure, smile politely so Don Quixote doesn't think he needs to charge another windmill, ok?

As The GM, Point Out The Obvious

You are well within your responsibilities as GM to point out and frame past events for the players and therefore encourage them to make sensible decisions and advanced plans. "OK, you have to talk with the Wookie leader who wants to assert control over this part of the forest now that his rival is dead - and you all remember what happened last time. How are you going to handle this?" If Rambo charges in, then everyone else with half-a-brain should refuse to go a step further. Let him blow himself up for reals this time - heck, if any of the characters have their own self-destructive device they should hand it over now as they bow out and head for cover. If they say they run to follow him, you can incredulously ask, "you're really going to run in after him after last time?" Let them if they want, but don't miraculously save them this time - they know what they are in for.

The group needs to assert some agency here - Bob's character can't be calling all the shots if he isn't fit to be in command. And you can encourage them to do so, and provide a more interesting and detailed narrative. Bob's guy is champing at the bit to start shooting and blowing stuff up, but he knows he can't do it all alone - or someone stuck a tranquilizer in his neck and one of the party has to volunteer to stab him with the antidote if trouble starts and they need his help!

Everyone can get what they want, and Bob can still be crazy. Or he can just be dead. It could probably be a lot of fun if everyone agrees to work together, in character and out, to have a really dramatic and exciting exchange.

Or everyone dies and you just have to all talk about whether or not they want that to happen again next time or if you all agree to do something different on the next go-round.

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If you're sure he won't be swayed and are still determined to keep playing with him, I'd say embrace your inner Bay.

Discuss with your other players, see if they're okay with trying a purely chaotic playstyle for a few sessions. And then go and blow stuff up till kingdom come.

Play an Evil coterie of antipaladins, a band of rogue mercenaries, a bunch of supervillains or a desperate team of rebels facing overwhelming odds... encounter over the top NPCs with exaggerated accents and scenery chewing attitudes and when Bob inevitably kills them, go with the flow and articulate your plot around the escalation.

If one of your other players can shoulder the burden, a supremely rewarding role to play in these kind of scenarios is the straight man. Trying to be the voice of reason among a band of crazies is asking for trouble, and an endless source of comic relief.

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"My Guy Syndrome" cuts both ways. If the other characters have no problems with this fellow, then treat them like your world normally would, including killing him/them. If the other characters start feeling that this guy is a liability, give them the right to walk away from him. Either the player will change his character (whether that's the character having a change of heart or the player rolling up a new one), drop out of the game, or even turn into an enemy of the rest of the PCs, becoming a plot point in himself.

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The scenario you describe is text-book GM 'railroading', which may be what Bob is really rebelling against. Some players simply don't enjoy having their characters blackmailed like that, and it will show in how their characters react. If that type of situation is a common 'motivator' in your campaign, consider changing it.

For example... why did you not have the Wookie leader apologize for capturing the group, set them free, and then ask for their help? That then puts the PCs in a position to control their fate and act as generous heroes. If the answer to that question is that you wanted some leverage over the players to ensure they would follow the adventure - that would be railroading.

tldr:

Bob may not be anti-authority, he may just not enjoy his characters being railroaded.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Railroading? Really? The GM didn't make them walk into someone else' territory armed to the nines... You walk into a city, loaded with guns and tell me that you wouldn't expect some kind of response from the local authorities (world dependant). Why would I, the chief of MY territory, apalogize to you? When YOU are trespassing without permission? That's just plain stupid... YOU made the decision to trespass and decisions have consequences... \$\endgroup\$ – WernerCD Jun 3 '15 at 18:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, I'm not the downvote so someone else agrees with me. I can see this easily as "My Guy" with no wiggle room or willingness to adjust. The situation, as described, where YOU trespass and then get aggressive automatically when given consequences (caught) and confronted about it... that isn't railroading. It COULD be that we are getting the rosy side of the story, but I think the chances of that are much lower than "My Guy". \$\endgroup\$ – WernerCD Jun 3 '15 at 19:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ While I can see how the exact scenario of being captured by a band of Wookies might be perceived as railroading, that is not justification for blowing up the party to spite the campaign. \$\endgroup\$ – Zibbobz Jun 3 '15 at 19:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @kyoryu we can only respond based on the information provided. Since that was the only example, I'm operating under the assumption that it was chosen as representative of the types of events Bob responds poorly to. I am not saying there is no out of character issue... just that the out of character issue may not be what the OP thinks it is. I have personally witnessed over the years players essentially have their characters commit suicide to avoid situations as above because they did not like being railroaded. The OP should consider that this might be the actual root of the problem. \$\endgroup\$ – GrandmasterB Jun 3 '15 at 20:52
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Bob's authority problem goes beyond the game, and extends to the game master. The player is attempting to exploit their plot armour. A simple example I have is this: the players had arrived at a city under shaky military rule and frequently raided. At the gates they were asked what their business was. They had a fine cover story, and no affiliation with any local powers. However, Bob (we'll call him) refused to give any answers. Upon entry to the city they saw dozens of people strung up in gibbets.

In your game, Bob was not threatening to blow up the campaign. He was seeing if YOU would blow up the campaign.

It's a meta-power game. In my example, the military had more power than the PC, but he wouldn't accept that. He wanted into the city, and he could have easily got in, but he bristled at the authority presented. He also knew that the story required the party to get into the city.

I did the wrong thing, which was let him in. His allies should have had to step in and save him, or not, and there should have been consequences for his actions. Had he pressed it, and the other players not stepped in. I would have informed him he was subdued without by several guards, interrogated, and executed without ceremony. Those are consequences for his actions.

There are some solutions:

  1. Explain consequences, and do not hold back. If Bob kills a necessary NPC, that NPC is dead. If they cannot complete a quest they cannot. Additionally said NPCs family will come for revenge down the line. If it derails a campaign, let it. The consequences apply to other players at the table. If they tolerate or encourage the behaviour, they are playing the game they want to play. If that's not the game for you...

  2. Discuss the problem with the player. I doubt this ever works. Ever. These kind of players have issues beyond the game. Suggest therapy. Instead talk to the group about Bob. Get them to put social pressure on him. He he continues ruining their fun he's probably in the wrong group.

  3. Get the player involved in the story. If you can get Bob invested in something he'll be more tame. Player creation can be a starting point, but generally the character is just their ID (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Id,_ego_and_super-ego) disguised as a dwarf. Is his character so angry because his family was murdered as a child? Well those people are out there and he might have a chance to get them. Alternatively (and this always works), take something from Bob. An antagonist shows up, is a jerk who isn't impressed by Bob, and takes his favourite +2 sword. Dangle that jerk in front of Bob and he'll follow you anywhere. Guilt also sometimes works. He blows up a building, well he quickly comes face to face with the burned corpse of a child.

  4. Tone. Bob likes gritty games where violence is expected. Switching to a more lighthearted tone can help. If every game is an 80s action movie you shouldn't get upset at all the bravado at the table.

  5. Switch systems. Sometimes a player feels confident because the system is a power fantasy. Switching to a more realistic or lower power game can take that from them. It also helps if they don't know the rules very well. Munchkining is harder, so they will have more trouble dominating the party.

  6. "It's what my character would do!" Awesome, do you know what other people would do around your character? Ask why the PCs associated with this person. Why do they continue to? During character creation, you may even invoke rule zero. "You have created an anti-social psychopath with whom no one would associate. Start again from the beginning."

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Recent study I read just last week talked about when being a di*k is helpful and even accepted in the world. And when it stops being acceptable. Turns out as long as someones actions are benefiting the group, the group is fine to go along with it. But when it becomes more trouble for the group then benefit the person causing the issue is made an example of . And fast. For example, if someone goes to another department to steal coffee, but bring some back for the group (ie folks around him in the office) they all become complicit in the action and are likely to continue to allow it. But if the stealing is done just for an individual then the group who is complicit by association but gains no benefit is very likely to turn on the individual.

That said, I like to let the party deal with party issues, and this is a prime example. The Solo/weapon mod example is a good one for two reasons. One, there was a benefit to the party that the Solo character was about to cost the group and two, the group dealt with it.

So, set up a situation where the group stands to gain, as long as the difficult character goes along. Then let the encounter play out and don't save them from their own decisions. NO ONE in the group gets saved, if, for instance, the device explodes. I'm a very big fan of the 'but that's what you said. That's EXACTLY what you said' way of game mastering.

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The other answers have covered most things already, but I wanted to add one more thing. In general authority is earned. Telling the players that someone is the Great and Mighty High Pubar of Futang means nothing to them.

However when the players have built up a relationship with someone. When that person has helped them out, and come to them for help. When they have seen that person leverage their authority and earn it. Then players tend to accept them much more readily.

I've had NPCs in campaigns that players don't care about at all. But equally I've had ones where they've had heartfelt conversations, they've got engaged to their niece, they've received advice and magical items. All things that make them seem like real living people and all things that help build up a relationship and through that relationship authority.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "authority is earned" is a very modern and extremely recent viewpoint and comes from a standpoint of equality and human rights. Traditionally, authority is inherited and/or comes at the point of a sword...and "human rights" are whatever the local lord or the king says they are (basically none unless you are also a noble and/or have enough swords behind you to back up your "rights"). Traditionally kings and lords have people beheaded or hanged or impaled for what would today be considered trivial offenses, such as disagreeing with them or failing to show sufficient respect \$\endgroup\$ – cas Nov 23 '15 at 0:27
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Your player had me feeling okay, up until he pressed the button to his thermal detonator, and literally nuked the campaign in a hissy fit.

As I said in my comment, playing a character accurately is good RP, but playing a character in such a way that is detrimental to the party, suicidal to himself and those around him, and destructive to the campaign as a whole, is bad bad bad bad BAD RP and is not forgivable by "that's what my guy would do". It is the very essence of "My Guy" syndrome at its worst.

That being said, you should talk with this player and find out if there's a reason, outside of character, that they wanted to get themselves into such a bad situation. If it really was just "that's what my guy would've done", then they seriously need to rethink what it means to be part of a role-playing group, no matter what character they make, because that is never sufficient justification for what he did. What he did, regardless of what the character would do, was make his character ruin the campaign - and the onus of that is not on "his character", it's on him.

I've seen characters like this before. I've played characters like this before. Not always evil-aligned, or even anti-authoritian, but who act before thinking of the consequences, not only in-character, but as a player. It is difficult sometimes, but it is a lesson hard-learned that sometimes certain actions should not be taken in a campaign if they would be detrimental to the game as a whole.


Part of the fault may be on you for enabling this - he got to blow up the authority figure that he was annoyed with, and all of the other characters survived. Not only does he not suffer retribution for his action, none of the other players are even that mad at him because they all survived. (Even if it's as simple as his Thermal Detonator turning out to be a dud).

Mind that you should not undercut the character he wants to play - it sounds like you all enjoy this kind of gameplay, up until the point where he decides blowing up the party is a better choice than talking things out. Allow him to play the character he likes, but do not allow the choices he makes with that character to destroy your campaign, for you or for the other players.

And maybe next time, make it clear that such a choice would destroy the campaign, before allowing him to do it. Be willing to back things up and find a way to make it so the campaign doesn't have to end like that, or carry on sub-optimally because of that choice.

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Some great answers here. I'd like to add that anti-authoritarians have their place, I've DMed for parties that were basically composed of nothing else and I've played one or two myself.

My answer to DMing them was to run my campaigns with a "I fought the law but the law won" philosophy. Hilarious barbarian misunderstanding in a shop leading to the store keeper decapitation? Party in prison facing murder charges and the gallows the next day.

Also I know it's tempting but don't shield the party from the consequences of his actions. Player pulls the pin on a grenade? Chuckle with evil delight as you tell every player the damage they've sustained and (assuming you've killed 'em all), tell them to start rolling new characters while you grab another drink and the new campaign will start next week. Bob will now find himself in a room with mightily annoyed players all giving him the evil eye. If Bob's next character exhibits the same propensities kill him sooner and messier. And next time sooner and messier.

He'll learn to play smarter or he'll quit.

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Ride the chaos. Handle them more like partners.

It is a different style of gaming, not always useful if your GMing style is more authoritative. Probably he doesn't have a strong wish to challenge your authority, he only has a strong imagination about the world around his character. His goal is not to force this to you, his goal is to integrate it with your viewpoint.

Don't mix the deeds of the character with the mentality of the PC controlling it. Although this character was highly destructive, the PC was creative.

If you are partner with him, you can utilize his creative power to highten the quality of your GMing. Don't confront his will, redirect it instead.

In case of the TD, it is highly mysterious to me, how the wookies allowed for a captive to have access to a TD.

What about if he got some "mentor", or "master" (NPC), who would manipulate the destructive mentality of the character to reach his own goals?

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The first question you have to ask yourself is - is everyone having fun? If not, find a way to handle this, ideally with the whole group.

But if they are, it might just be something interesting to work with.

As part of the character background, you really need to answer a few questions:

  • How did he manage to survive up to the point your guys got together? Was he living in an anarchic society? Is he exceptionally skilled? Did he live as a hermit (GET THE HELL OUT OF MY PLANET, kidsthesedays, grumph!)? Did everyone simply treat him as a village idiot? Does he have powerful friends / family? How does he handle deferring to them?
  • Why is he like this? These kinds of traits usually flow from something significant. Did his parents spend all their time rambling about "aristocracy"? Did he learn that "authorities" are invariably idiots with total control they don't deserve? Did he lose his parents as a youngling? Does he have some (traditionally) authority figures he accepts?
  • How did he get together with the other guys? How does he handle their authority? How does he handle friendships?

And don't forget that the players sometimes lose the big picture of role-playing. It's extremely unlikely the character would ever do something as crazy as what you describe in your Wookie scenario:

  • Sure, he's dealing with an authority figure. But it's an authority figure that actually has power, readily available for use, right now! This is quite a bit different from, say, defying a teacher. There's a difference between a realistic anti-authoritarian character and a punk teenager.
  • The threat is just fine - that's great roleplaying. But going along with the threat, that's a lot trickier. Even accounting for the confusion, it would be pretty much impossible for them to get away. There's anti-authoritarian, and then there's outright suicidal. People aren't suicidal by default - he'd have to have a pretty strong force to make him do something so silly.
  • Explore different angles of handling situations like this. Sure, you're under a lot of pressure in situations like this. But this can be a great spot to terminate the session - it's a pretty good cliff-hanger (of course, this doesn't make sense if you just started 10 minutes ago, but can be quite powerful otherwise; it would also make the player more aware of the effect on your play-times). Whether you decide to terminate or not, there's many ways of handling volatile situations like this:
    1. Let them explode, and walk away. This is, well... bad. Again, if the guys are having fun, it isn't necessarily bad, but don't forget you're there to have fun too. You could still allow this kind of gameplay by adjusting your scenarios etc. to work in a more agile manner, but if that's not something you want, or think you can handle, it might not be handy.
    2. Let them die. Oh, the guys killed our chief, right in the middle of the great hall? In the middle of a Wookie-controlled forest? I don't care what you think you can do, you're not going to get away with this.
    3. Prevent the player with going along with the threat - you are there to remind players of their characters from time to time. Maybe he just didn't think the obvious suicide through - but his character would, rash or not. This may range all the way from a friendly reminder to outright saying "No, you wouldn't do this.". Of course, the lighter versions are usually far preferrable - be ready to accept if he doesn't go with it, though. Don't try stopping him twice. Make sure whether his anti-authoritarianism is against the in-game authorities, or against your attempts to railroad the game.
    4. Don't forget about the other players. As soon as they see the chief's not going to agree, and their co-character is tensing up, one of them would probably spring up and wrestle the detonator from their friend - for their sake, as well as the crazy guy. You're not supposed to solve all the problems, and present all the challenges - let others come up with their own problems, and solutions. You might remind them in a case like this - "Are you really going to let him do that?" Don't forget, you're a guide along the way. Wake up the characters in the players if needed.
    5. Let the chief back off. After all, he's being directly endangered on life right now, and for something as simple as tresspassing. Depending on your mood, that can be the end of this whole affair (with a hearty "Get lost. If we see you in the town tomorrow, we're going to force you to leave."). Or it can be just a pretense - as your players walk away, careless, they're stormed by the Wookies and disarmed (dis-armed, if you like :P). Or let them get out to the city, where they'll feel safe again, and encounter a whole troop of Wookies a few minutes later. There's plenty of options.
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