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I am currently playing in a small group, 3 players, 1 DM. All rogues (I recommend this btw!). Normally I am one of the players, but the DM wanted a break and so I offered to do a side quest of about 2-3 sessions long. I have done this once before with the same party. We've been playing this campaign for about a year.

Now here's the problem: One of the players can be reaaaally difficult about things for no apparent reason.

  • DM shows us a map with a city on it we've never seen before. Player says she thinks her character would've known that city (he's from that general area), so why wasn't it there before? Is offended and disappointed, doesn't really want to play anymore, feels like this changes everything and everything is lost (it didn't change anything btw).

  • Me DM-ing: a problem arises in a restaurant (the wine has been tampered with) manager (NPC by me) goes to talk to the guest (the mayor) and tells him what's going on. Player is offended "I would've never agreed to that". I explain that she did not specify what she wanted to do when I asked her, so then I fill in the blanks. Is offended, feels discouraged and like everything is going to fail.

  • Me DM-ing: the rest of the party wants to inspect the wine-tampering scenario as it may have been an attack on the mayor (this is the core of my side quest). Player says she doesn't see a reason to investigate, she just want to wait to get better (the wine made her ill) and forget about this all together. She says she can't think of ANY reason for her character to want to do anything about this, while I can already name 5. She then says just because she knows I want them to go there to do the quest, she still doesn't want to, because if she went along for that reason that would be meta-gaming.

  • Last one: this side quest: they stake out the restaurant to see if they find anything or anyone suspicious. Nothing interesting happens (the guy they're looking for is simply not at this dinner), instead of thinking of other ways to find out more (plenty of people to question, plenty other places to go investigated that I have named for them), she shuts down and says things like "Well I don't know what to do, I give up, why are we even doing this?". The rest of the party wants to keep looking and have to really persuade her to come to.

This annoys me a lot because I spent a lot of time and effort in making this quest and making it fun and mysterious and interesting. Basically, she doesn't want to play it, "it doesn't intrigue her character" even though this is RIGHT up our party's alley! She's a new player (first campaign). I think this behavior is very rude, and shows no respect for the game, the story, for me and to the other players because she ruins their experience as well. Sometimes we have to spend about an hour talking her into going along.

When things don't go her way or it's not how she envisioned it she starts talking about how things are "unfair" or "not realistic" or "Oh but I would've seen that!" when she didn't request to roll for perception.

This behaviour doesn't seem to follow a pattern, often its fine, but when it happens it pretty bad and it comes out of nowhere. When I talk to her about it she acts like we're picking on her and calling her a bad player.She doesn't have a good explanation for this behaviour, she just acts like a stubborn child.

I'm starting to lose my patience, how do I get her to be more trusting and cooporative with the DM? And to have a little more faith in what I have planned and that what I do is for a reason?

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    \$\begingroup\$ She's good with rules and gameplay, just sometimes when her actions have negative consequences or the story isn't going the way she'd like it to go (though she doesn't have any suggestions for where it "should" go) she can be really difficult about it. \$\endgroup\$ – Steph Jul 15 '15 at 10:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ She is my best friend in fact haha, she can overreact sometimes, but then there is always a clear reason (a misunderstanding for example). I wouldn't describe her as a brat or diva at all, which is why it's so confusing (and frustrating) to me.Here there doesn't seem to be any reason for the behaviour. The other DM and me have already told her to have a little more faith in us and not reject our ideas or quest on first impression, she seemed understanding at the time, but it's happened again since. \$\endgroup\$ – Steph Jul 15 '15 at 10:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm confused by the second point -- "I would never have agreed to that!" -- what is it that the PC would never have agreed to? This sounds like an interaction between two NPCs, where is the PCs involvement? \$\endgroup\$ – LindaJeanne Jul 15 '15 at 15:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ You don't say how much role playing experience she has. Maybe fundamentally she just isn't into role-playing games and is only playing because she wants the company. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Joshi Jul 16 '15 at 4:15
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I have a lot of experience with players that act that way. I've had a player like that, at one time or another, so often that it sounds like you're describing my old games.

The one thing I will mention is that this is obviously something out of character related. She is frustrated, annoyed, angry, depressed, or some other emotion about something. And she's taking it out on the game. Since you only have four people and one of them has to be a DM, it's a hard situation to deal with.

This gets a bit into interpersonal skills and might not really be the best place to talk about this, but since you seem to be having a problem, here's what I can offer.

She doesn't want to play the game

It's very obvious from just the first two instances you posted that the player genuinely doesn't want to play the game. Playing a game is about getting into character and rolling with the punches. No plan will be perfect, your character won't know everything, and you're going to get into situations that you are not prepared for. Dealing with all of that is what makes the game fun. It's clear that she just wants to auto-pilot and coast through every scene. And you throwing wrenches into the plans is causing her to get aggravated. This is because she doesn't really want to 'play'.

She doesn't know what it means to roleplay

Maybe she's new to role playing completely, which is an option. If that's the case, she's having a large disconnect with what she 'thinks' she knows and what she actually knows. There is something to be said for a character actually having knowledge of a situation. But then, there's the world-building aspect. There are certain things that the DM will decide that the player has no control over. In fact, this should usually happen. And a player can discuss with a DM about the things they do and don't know or how they should and shouldn't act. But it should never be a case of 'I would never do X' when it's clearly against her character.

She doesn't want to play your particular quest line

I don't know your party dynamic, but it seems like she's poking holes in your game without reason. There is ample place for a party to get involved and have fun doing something in the scenario you've set you. However, she's actively making a character-breaking decision to not go along with the party. The group around the table should NEVER have to discuss for hours about going one place or another. This is a side affect of trying to pull a stubborn mule. The mule doesn't want to go and is going to make everyone else miserable as they try to drag it somewhere it doesn't want to go. And that's what she's being, a stubborn mule. It seems she doesn't want to play your particular side quest, for whatever reason. Maybe she liked the other DM better? Maybe she has something against you? I really can't say, as I don't know your friends.

The Solution

Since you have such a small group and you guys seem to be in the middle of a campaign that someone else is technically running, your options are limited. I would tell you to just let her know that her actions are pretty destructive to everyone's fun and inform her that she's not welcome if she's going to be a petulant child (use better words then that). But, you'd be down a player in the middle of a campaign, and that could hurt your friendship and game.

My suggestion would be to sit down with her, one on one, and talk to her about what's bugging her about the game. She might go over the little details and reiterate what she's said in game, but try to push past that and get to the root of the problem. See what she's really upset about. Maybe home troubles? Maybe someone at the game is frustrating her? Try to figure out possible ways you can tailor the game more to what she's feeling. Maybe she's sick of playing the previous type of character or it's not what she was hoping for. That happens. Try to work with her to either play something different or focus the game more on what she could like doing (keeping in mind the other players interests as well).

One thing I wouldn't suggest is an intervention. Those end badly, simply because the player will feel everyone is ganging up on her and alienating her from the group. Try to keep it one on one with her and let her know that you're just trying to help her have a good time.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Wow very extensive answer, thanks! I do plan to talk to her about it one on one, I don't think she realizes how much work it can be to be a DM and how her unwillingness to play makes me feel like I'm a bad or boring DM. I wouldn't say I'm personally hurt, but it does make me less confident as DM and makes me less excited myself (which then negatively influences my roleplaying or flavour adding). Which is then also less fun for the other players. \$\endgroup\$ – Steph Jul 15 '15 at 11:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think it does have to do with her personal moods, as its so irregular and she's been fine setbacks before (we've had the biggest setback I've ever experienced. We'd infiltrated our way into the maffia, then said the wrong thing to the wrong person, got found out and hunted down. Had to leave the city and go into hiding with nothing left and had to start over. We've been looking over our shoulder since haha, but that time she was shocked but excited, so yeah.. \$\endgroup\$ – Steph Jul 15 '15 at 12:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ "However, she's actively making a character-breaking decision to not go along with the party." -- That's not necessarily true. The "character-breaking" part, that is. Sometimes a DM misjudges and a hook does not work for a character. It's character-breaking if they go along for OOC-reasons ("come on, we want to have fun together"). The real reason can be a badly put together party in terms of motivations, but it can also just be a DM blunder. In any case, the DM will have to make some concessions, too, that is expand on the hook. (In other words, saying "no" has to be part of RPG, too.) \$\endgroup\$ – Raphael Jul 17 '15 at 6:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ But his explination clearly states that the group has all been together, wanted the same plot hooks, and has been fine working together up to this point. And the same things the character has wanted are things they are actively saying no to. There has been no in-game discussion about why this is. \$\endgroup\$ – CrystalBlue Jul 17 '15 at 11:16
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Sometimes we have to spend about an hour talking her into going along.

Stop feeding her. If her character does not want to go along? Well, then the character does not. That's her decision. There is no reason the others should not have fun. Her character does not want to investigate? Well, then the others do it alone and have fun.

Do not argue with her. Simply show her the consequences of her actions. The consequence is nothing bad for her character, but she is missing out on the game. She is not part of it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Answer in your own answers please, these comments got flagged as too chatty. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Jul 15 '15 at 14:57
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This sounds like a control/comfort thing. The two examples you've given are:

(1) she doesn't want to feel like she has heretofore been unaware of an entire city. Maybe some time in the past she'd have wanted to go to that city, had she known it exists. Or maybe she wouldn't. She probably can't figure that out immediately, and it puts doubt in her mind whether her past decisions have been sensible, wise, or in-character, in light of this whole city that wasn't taken into account when she made them.

OK, so you say it makes no difference. But she's still lost a sense of control, she's lost some degree of faith that the game world is consistent and has verisimilitude, given that it's not described the same way today as it was yesterday. Furthermore, if you've told her that it changes nothing then you might have given the impression of disregarding her feelings in the matter. I'm sure we've all had moments where the game world (heck, the room our character is in) just seems to slip away and become vague and ill-defined. The difference here is that for whatever reasons she hasn't got past that and back on track.

(2) She may not have appreciated being poisoned, and she may not be comfortable with the idea that her character will leap into action to pursue this event that she's unhappy about. Both she and her character would prefer to sulk, heal up, and pretend it never happened, but apparently she has to spend 2-3 sessions engaging with it.

In both cases, I think that she needs to be more flexible as to how the game works. She can't expect the GM to create every leaf on every tree in every forest before the game starts, she can't expect that she'll never be poisoned, or that while she's poisoned NPCs won't have conversations over her head (perhaps literally, depending how bad the poisoning was). Clearly some disruptions to her mental model of the game are unacceptable: you wouldn't say "oh, yes, the city where last week's session took place never existed". That's too much of a retcon. You wouldn't say "your character walks over to the mayor and has a conversation about cheese, then gives him her magic sword and leaves", that's too denying of player agency. There's a line to be drawn, and for some reason I don't think she's comfortable enough with this game to draw it in the place that the rest of you want it.

Anyway, the only way to find out about people and change their behaviour is to talk to them about it, so try to draw out of her what it is she expects from a game, and why she thinks it's not OK for a city to spring out of nowhere in an area she's been told she knows, or for the restaurant manager to talk to the mayor without her character's permission. Without just denying what she says and trying to talk her out of it, think about why those things are OK to you -- if it's "just obvious" to you that it's OK, but you can't explain to yourself why it's OK, then that means actually it's not obvious after all. If you can explain why it's OK for you and she can explain why it's not OK for her, you might figure out the disconnect. And if she was otherwise happy with the game then these things probably wouldn't cause such trouble in the first place.

If her character wants to sulk about being poisoned, and doesn't want pursue the plot, then that would be fine as long as she was enjoying the game and not preventing others enjoying it. But it sounds like she isn't, and that her emotional responses (frustration and unhappiness) and her character's are the same. Projecting everything you think and feel onto your character, and/or vice-versa, is not the same as "playing in character", any more than method acting is the same as acting. It's one way to do it, but it's not necessarily the most productive, especially when the resulting OOC unhappiness is distressing your friends.

It also sounds like she has the idea that "meta-gaming is wrong" as an absolute, and that the rest of the group doesn't. "Meta-gaming" in her mind includes doing something because it makes the plot flow, but does not include doing something because she's feeling frustration with the GM. I don't recommend you put it that way to her, btw, but she may not be wholly consistent on the subject of OOC motivation affecting IC actions. Anyway, this is an almost-irreconcilable difference, the group needs to have some common concept of what's "good meta-gaming", what's "bad meta-gaming", what's "railroading", etc. There may be disagreements from time to time, but you have to be in roughly the same place or else you can't rely on each other to "behave".

she just acts like a stubborn child

If that's really what you think then you don't respect her, and this is a difficult place from which to regularly roleplay or to be best friends. A "stubborn child" is resisting the authority of an adult who is responsible for its welfare. You are not in authority over her, and you're not here to look after her against her will. You are peers trying to negotiate a communal activity that is fun for all. It sounds to me, and I recommend that you try thinking of it this way and see if it fits, that she's acting like an unhappy person.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This. I wish I could +2 this. The only thing I'd like to add, regarding the "meta-gaming" issue, is that you (the OP) might be able to convince her that "Don't split the party." is indeed the good kind of meta-gaming, simply because there's only one GM and only one table to play at. Mind you, if she really does want to leave her character sulking, that could also make a good learning experience (and it could even be a good solution, if she really doesn't want to play just then). Just warn her in advance that, if she does stay behind, she won't have much if anything to do. \$\endgroup\$ – Ilmari Karonen Jul 15 '15 at 15:23
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You have a disconnect between expectations

To me the issue is not that the player is purposefully going against your and it probably isn't a real world problem being vented in your game, but simply that your player has different expectations of the gameplay and the interaction points then you as the DM have. From your description it seems that she expects you as the DM to explicitly describe anything important that is not specifically hidden. Depending on your game system (is passive perception a thing?) this may be a valid or an unrealistic approach to the rules. Regardless the player is focusing on their character's persona over mechanics (not a bad thing), but this results in you expecting a perception check to be stated and made and her expecting that to be automatically given to her as part and parcel of the story.

Each time one of these disconnects happens the player naturally feels frustrated, like the goal posts are being constantly moved so they can never accomplish what they want to do and she probably becomes sullen in her playstyle as a direct result. You should sitdown out of session and try to clear up both of your expectations about agency and when to roll and when not to roll to do things so that the player will feel more like a participant.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes! There's clearly a difference in expectations, so try and work out what that difference is and why. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Jul 16 '15 at 0:51
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It sounds like this is an autonomy problem.

You have four bullet points, but really the latter three are all part of one larger point:

  • Character knowledge not matching setting knowledge.

You say that the character is "from that general area", and that the player complains about the City they found out about 'not being there before'. Unless this is a magical city of some kind, the character probably has heard of it - which makes it a good opportunity for you, as a DM, to fill the player in on what the character knows.

  • Poisoned character

Being poisoned is not fun - whether you're actually being poisoned or expected to roleplay being poisoned - and if this player is inexperienced with role-playing, it makes sense that they'd be a little upset about this situation. The player might also flat-out not be comfortable with the idea of being poisoned at all, and if that's the case, there's really no role-playing around it for them. You will have to keep that in mind for the future when planning role-playing games with this player.


As a new player, they might not be aware of the fact that world details, until described by the DM, are vague and unwritten, and that a character can know about something while the player hasn't yet been told, because it hasn't become relevant to the plot yet. This is something the player can learn with experience, and maybe by explaining this to the player now that they've experienced it before.

But even experienced players, in certain situations, will not handle a situation well, or take kindly to having a situation forced upon them. It sounds like this player was not interested at all in role-playing a situation where they are poisoned - even if it's just a character they're playing, it may be very disturbing or uncomfortable for them to play this situation out. While I can't speak for the player (though you should speak to the player and find out if this is the case), I think that if that is the case, you should respect that as a DM.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "world details, until described by the DM, are vague and unwritten... because it hasn't become relevant to the plot yet" this is a playstyle thing. For example, in our char-focused Mist games this would be better phrased as: "world details are known by the GM, whose job it is to relate them to the players as needed. Nonetheless, a character can have known about something while the player wasn't yet been told, because it hadn't yet become even tangentially relevant to the character's decisions nor had the player expressed interest in it". \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Sep 7 '15 at 17:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer Yes, that's exactly what I said in the part that you didn't quote. "and that a character can know about something while the player hasn't yet been told" \$\endgroup\$ – Zibbobz Sep 7 '15 at 18:44
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I agree completely with the analysis by CrystalBlue, but I offer another solution.

A group of people playing pen and paper is usually a group of friends, or at least people that are somewhat friendly with each other. There are some things only a DM can do, such as preparing a campaign. But the DM is not the boss of the group. For example, anyone can invite the others over to their house for a pizza and a roleplaying session as long as the DM is somewhat prepared.

What I'm saying is, some things are the responsibility of the group, not the DM. A single player that doesn't really play along because of unknown reasons is one of these. Someone needs to talk to that player. Since the player's problem doesn't seem to be the campaign, that someone doesn't have to be the DM. You can ask someone else to talk to the player one on one, which may be the wiser choice depending on the group dynamics and how you all know each other.

And even if the problem is how the campaign is run, using another player as intermediary might help. Maybe that other player then tells you that the problematic player does have a point and there are indeed things that you should do better.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Why do you propose to solve in in-game problem out of the game? \$\endgroup\$ – Raphael Jul 17 '15 at 6:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Raphael Because in my opinion only the symptoms are in game, the problem is not. If a player has a different understanding of roleplaying than the rest of the group, that is not an in game problem. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter - Unban Robert Harvey Jul 17 '15 at 8:11
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The first two scenarios are examples of lacking immersion ("things just happen") resp. suspense of disbelief (the GM is not perfect). You can help your player by showing her that she resp. her character still has power and agency, even if she is not in complete control of what happens. Some specific ideas:

  • Have the local character recognize more from the map, maybe that it is outdated or inaccurate in some places.
  • Explain that the manager has their own motivations, so deal with it. She can step in, she can berate the manager later.

In other words, find in-world reasons for what happens (which is not to say that you have to explain yourself OOC!) and offer/allow in-world reactions. Help her learn to see how to "roll with it".


The second two items are of a different quality, and I don't think "she's just being muley" covers it. I have been in similar situations before, as a player. This is how it feels on the other end.

It's clear that the GM wants me to do this. But my character would not! ... Why do the other players want me to go against my character? Now they are saying I'm being stubborn, but that's just my character! Help, what do I do?!

Basically, she makes a decision about her character (and that is her prerogative, assuming you want players with agency) and actually prioritises her roleplaying over meta reasons for "doing it anyway". By telling her to "not be stubborn", you are telling her to stop roleplaying and go with the dice rolling.
Even if she makes an error in judgement (say, she decides against the moral code of her character's belief system), find in-game consequences. (You can point out your interpretation, of course, but the decision is hers. You will disagree about which reasons are good reasons.)

The solution is similar to the above: find a roleplaying way to make the session fun for everyone. Some specific ideas:

  • Increase the stakes. The character is feeling worse and worse. A child has been poisened, too. She is from the area? Maybe a relative or former lover has been poisened. Or a person they clashed with before (former lover?) seems to be involved in the plot. Maybe she recognises a known criminal that has no business being here (or out of prison at all), maybe with a history of poisoning people.

  • They stake out the restaurant and don't have other ideas at the moment? Well, give them something to work with! Have them observe something, or have the manager shoo them away, or have guards investigating them for suspicious behaviour, ...

Generally speaking, strengthen the hook or offer alternative hooks.

To go further, managing actual roleplaying is a job for both the GM and the other players. How can the other characters convince the reluctant one of coming along? Find in-game reasons! As a GM, learn how to plan your hooks better so that every character has a reason to come (and not just no reason not to), and how to react to the characters obstructing your plans for "no good reasons". (Which is fair, since they play "humans". Also, that's what you do to them as well, don't you?)

If everything else fails, the character can just sit out this adventure. In your example, maybe let her fall unconscious; after the other characters save her life with the antidote, she is tied that much closer to the group than before!
Offer the player to take control of some NPC for the session. If the situation repeats despite all your (GM plus group) best efforts, have an after-session discussion about whether the character fits into the group, and what the consequences should be so that everybody has fun.

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