The campaign is set in an open world, giving the players lots of freedom, including the option to split up.

This specific player was unfortunate enough to become plagued with a terrible illness, and to prevent the rest of us from getting infected, he decided to leave us and look for a cure himself. Ever since this has happened, the sessions have become awfully slow.

Because we split up, we have to take turns in playing, which isn't an issue on its own, and has always went smooth. However, whenever the player with the plagued character takes his turn, he spends a tremendous amount of time role-playing, and sometimes refuses to take action to make his part of the story progress, preventing all of us from playing. His role-play is over-dramatic and extremely slow. (Specific examples: Coughing every third word, pausing before starting a new sentence, often out-right refusing to take action out of IC stubbornness, etc.)

Furthermore, he often tries to RP things as epic as possible, seemingly like he's playing in a movie. He very often makes stupid decisions based on "How cool or dramatic that could be!" or how likely that could happen in another story, sometimes even mentioning that specific story.

The DM acknowledges this issue and tries to encourage him to take action when he's idling, but he doesn't seem to understand the hints the hints the DM gives off, and ignores the hints the NPCs are giving him (Which is another problem altogether). He wouldn't mind talking with the player about this, but doesn't know how exactly to formulate this issue.

An example of slow IC decision-making which actually happened:

The Hole

DM: "The ground shakes. Everyone, roll a Reflex Save."
Everyone makes it.
DM: "You see a hole in the ground, with an underground river running underneath your feet. It seems to be heading into the direction of your destination. What do you do?"
The players proceed to discuss jumping in the hole. The sentence repeated most often being: "It would be so stupid to do this... But wouldn't it be awesome!?"
The DM tries to encourage the players into making a decision by having one NPC known for her recklessness and deceptive stupidity (à la Joker) jump in and every other NPC telling them what a ridiculous idea jumping in would be.
After twenty minutes which felt like ages for the players not involved, they finally decide to jump in because that would be awesome.

In this specific example more people were involved, including the problem-player. The same session in which this happened, one specific player who split off of the group and was supposed to make an entrance later, never got a turn, because the session had to end before she could.


The DM doesn't like limiting his players, so he rather not use time-limits. This has been house-ruled.
Private-sessions are an option available to all players. They simply don't seem interested or take them as seriously as the "real" sessions.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This question & answer looks related. Does it help, or is that not quite the issue? rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/45888/… \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 13:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast This problem is solely RP-based, and the issue is that a lot of time is wasted due to over-dramatisation. The question linked, while similar, isn't the same. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joninean
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 14:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you explain a little more by what you mean by "over-dramatization" taking time? If he's making decisions based on dramatic over practical reasons why is that more time? You say you like to RP too, what is different in the nature of how you are doing it? \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 13:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk The difference would be his exaggeration. For instance, if my character would be sick I'd maybe cough once every three sentences. However, he feels like it's necessary to cough every third word. Or when he has to explain something plot-related, he for some reason always starts with a long-ass build-up, instead of getting to the point. Often my character would simply interrupt him so we could continue, but that isn't really an option if she's not there. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joninean
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 13:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is it him, or his character? Is he like that IRL and/or has multiple characters of his done the same thing? \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 14:01

5 Answers 5


When a player is hogging the limelight like this, the way to deal with the situation is to stop encouraging them. The player is getting their fun by having everyone's attention focused on them (see this question for a similar situation). (This isn't a bad thing, by the way! It just means you have to make sure that the rest of the group gets their fun, too.)

Don't Reward Indecisiveness

Right now, it sounds like the entire group is (unintentionally) rewarding the player by watching when he's roleplaying, letting him stall, and otherwise paying attention to him. So the first thing you need to do is to stop paying attention to him. That sounds harsh, but doesn't have to be.

If the player refuses to make a decision in-character, the DM should simply say, "Okay. While you're thinking about that, I'm going to switch scenes to the other characters for a bit. Let me know when you've made a decision." Then the DM swaps focus to the rest of the group and ignores the player (except to answer the occasional reasonable question, such as a request to make a knowledge roll to help make a decision). This is going to be difficult for the DM, because the player will immediately do everything they can to get the attention back - asking lots of questions and demanding immediate answers, trying to RP more stalling, etc - but it's up to the DM to repeat, "I've given you all the information your character has. Let me know when you've made a decision." Then the DM must return to ignoring the player until they take action.

Similarly, the other players can help by not letting the player sidetrack or delay discussions. I've DMed and played in a number of games where one person (in- or out-of-character) couldn't make up their minds about what to do. If the rest of the group couldn't convince them to take an action in a couple of minutes of discussion, the other players would just forge on ahead, telling the character IC, "Catch up when you're ready, or stay here and guard the horses, it's up to you." Then either the player would say, "Screw it," and go along with the group, or the player came up with a reason to stay behind and sat out the following scene(s).

In cases of slow, drawn-out RP, it's perfectly reasonable for the NPCs with whom the character is speaking, to get impatient and interrupt the PC, talk over him, make assumptions, or otherwise do any of the things actual humans do when they get impatient. So if the player is giving a drawn-out William Shatner speech about "My... disease... (cough) is getting... (cough) a lot... (cough) worse... (cough) and I need...", most NPCs are likely to interrupt at this point with, "Yeah, yeah, you need the local cleric. Two streets over, third building on your right. Have a nice day!" Then the NPC will back away quickly and refuse to speak further (because who wants to spend any time around someone who's obviously sick and coughing up gross phlegm?). Note that the NPCs don't have to - and shouldn't necessarily - answer the question that the PC was actually going to ask. They're impatient and grossed out; they're going to make an assumption and skedaddle before the PC can correct them. The player will quickly figure out that if he doesn't get to the point, NPCs won't stick around long enough for him to talk to.

Do Reward Fast Movement

Rewarding the player when he acts quickly, whether by making a decision, roleplaying smartly, or otherwise playing in a more group-friendly way, will help encourage him to do those things more. For example, have NPCs be more helpful if he gets to the point quickly, or compliment him on his swift decision-making if he doesn't dawdle.

It's going to take a while - and a lot of work on the entire group's part - to encourage the player not to hold up the game for everyone. The player may respond to initial attempts to speed things along by being louder, or going even slower than usual. Ignore him, don't give him any attention, and don't let him slow down your game, and he'll eventually figure out that being a valued party member is much more rewarding than being the guy everyone is ignoring.


Player-to-player Communication

  1. How much meta-gaming is acceptable at your table, generally? If "little-to-no" is the basic agreement among the group, you have grounds to object to his breaking the group agreement. If "we do it quite a bit" then it's hard to object on that basis.

From your description:

Furthermore, he often tries to RP things as epic as possible, seemingly like he's playing in a movie. He very often makes stupid decisions based on "How cool or dramatic that could be!" or how likely that could happen in another story, sometimes even mentioning that specific story.

While RPing things "larger than life" isn't a bad thing in general (players are the heroes in the collective story that is coming to life as you play), the bolded part looks like this heavy RP effort is tapping significantly into meta-gaming. Bring that to his attention directly, as a group of players, if the "little to no" standard is your group norm.

  1. If every other player has already brought this up to him, and he's not accommodated their concerns, then address to him the problem of Spotlight Hogging. Let him know he's doing it, and it is harming your (the group's) fun.

Do not hint, nor beat about the bush. Be polite, but be direct.

DM-to-Player Communication

Suggestions for the DM are provisional. They may or may not fit with the GM's preferred style of GMing, or his own personality.

  1. Stop hinting, start being polite but direct.
  2. Set a time limit. Why? He's stealing some of the fun time of the other players. His fun is hurting their fun.
  3. The Player-to-Player suggestions can be used by the GM as well, in terms of how much metagaming is or is not acceptable.
  4. The core premise of getting together to play the game: we all do this for fun, and his style is starting to harm the fun of the GM as well1.

The above points may aid the GM in formulating the issue.

Note: The role playing of the diseased guy looks like good RP, in terms of playing a character suffering from a horrible disease.

1 My answer assumes this, but since I don't know the GM ...

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for pointing out the oft-overlooked point that doing something 'because it would be cool' is meta-gaming. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 17:11

You have two dynamics intermingled in play here.

Differing Play Styles

The "problem" player (I'm not really sure he's the problem) likes heavy RP and has a narrativist playstyle (bases decisions on what would make the most dramatic story). About half of your question is just you/some of your fellow players having a different playstyle and therefore considering his approach "bad." That's your problem, not his, to be blunt. People are interested by different things and make decisions differently from each other in real life, and, yes, in RPGs. You think he is over-dramatizing; he might think you're flat and boring. You have different personal levels of how much RP and/or dramatic agenda you want in a game.

You may want to read up on GNS theory and learn about people's various approaches to gaming so you can understand that though you want to cut to the chase and get to the action, others play RPGs for those other things. This doesn't have to be a conflict, multiple agendas can totally coexist in the same campaign, but it leads us to the second issue...

Managing Spotlight Time

Especially when groups are split (see Tasks for a split party), but even when they are not, it is the responsibility of the GM and group to make sure that people get equal spotlight time. It's great to want to RP more, it's not great if 90% of a session is one guy talking and everyone else sitting around. The lion's share of this responsibility falls on the GM in most trad games but not all of it, you're a whole group of equals, so make sure spotlight time is equally divided. There are mechanical ways of doing this if techniques don't work, but there are many great techniques that skilled GMs and groups use to make sure that players of different inclinations all get to do their thing equally in a game session.

There is a lot of prior work on the topic of managing spotlight time you can go search for on this site and otherwise but in general it just is "be aware of the issue, have the group discuss and agree that everyone should be getting equal time, and then the GM and players should make it their responsibility to prompt others and cede the scene at respectful times."

It doesn't have to be on a timer (though for split parties, you should really consider that) but there needs to be some awareness there. I'm sure that other PC doesn't want to sit there and watch while y'all have a 3 hour fight either.

Don't Run Split Campaigns If You Can't Handle It, And You Means All Of You

You mention in a comment that "the DM wouldn't want to have time limits" - it sounds like he is not particularly good at running split groups and so should not be doing so. If that means some metagaming to keep the group together, or just saying "If you split off from the party you're not really in the game I'm running any more, you can play an NPC till your PC comes back healed in a couple weeks" then that's what the GM, or the group through mutual agreement, should do.

Note I say the GM or the group. You all seem to be taking the approach that as players you just sit back and enjoy the ride and the GM is solely responsible for group dynamics and other issues - this is a corrosive attitude that makes games worse and burns out GMs. If you all agree there's a problem then even the players can collude to do something about it.


What's really going on here is that you and another player have different but valid playstyles, and that is escalating to conflict and "un-fun" due to spotlight disparity because:

  1. The GM is not dealing with the resulting issues of spotlight time/split parties well
  2. The players are abdicating responsibility for all of that to the GM.
  • \$\begingroup\$ I like role-play. I really, really do. I prefer avoiding conflict with my character's Silver Tongue over fireballing them ASAP. I don't like that this has been assumed. The problem is how time-consuming and dragging his RP is, which annoys everyone on the table. Furthermore, splitting has never been the issue itself. We have clear house-rules about them, and they're managed well. We have a good reason to not want time limits. This answer simply didn't solve my problem, it merely moved the blame where it shouldn't be by making wrong assumptions. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joninean
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 17:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ In what way? Do you think you are all managing sharing of spotlight time well? Your question says "excessive RP" is the problem. Do you mean "guy just talks slow?" Feel free and clarify your question then, because it covers a lot of different issues that I have tried to speak to here. What does "time spent due to over-dramatization" even mean in your eyes? \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 21:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, oddly, on all these kinds of question the OP claims "the rest of the group feels as they do" with no real proof, so I treat it as not all that relevant as it may or may not be true and also doesn't change the solution. Fine, "you and your friends need to read up on..." \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 13:00

Have The Player In Their Own Session

See if the GM and the player can come together and work through the player's branch when the others aren't there. It's as simple as that, honestly, but what if that isn't a viable solution?

Give Them A Time Limit

When doing these sessions, allot time to reach group. You can provide more to the larger group, make it equal, or do a percentage. Stick to that time limit. Let the other player enjoy their RP, but make sure they know that making it grand will eat at their time.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The first option has been tried. Everyone in the group is aware that when they're split off or when there's some down-time, they may have some private-sessions. However, they don't seem to take up on that opportunity. The problem-player had announced once that he'd like a private-session, but the morning it was supposed to happen, he didn't show up. After calling him, it turned out he wouldn't show up because he was "feeling a little tired". Furthermore, the DM doesn't like limiting the players. If there's good RP, he wouldn't want it disrupted by a time-limit. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joninean
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 15:03
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Then the answer is to talk to the GM about tightening up and enforcing the time limits. Their in charge of making sure the game is fun for everyone. That's where I sit, anyway. \$\endgroup\$
    – Codeacula
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 15:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Joninean Please edit your question to include this information. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 16:48

I can't add anything to the most excellent advice already offered for interpersonal dynamics and solutions for the reality around the table. Since the problem focuses on role-playing within the story, I have a possible in-character solutions that have worked when I wanted PCs to pick up the pace.

Step 1) A deadline. The Big Prize/Conclusion/Result of the GM's plot must be done before the next full moon, or by the solstice or before the King's 50th birthday or...whatever. A line chiseled in stone. Miss that date and, at best, there's no cash-reward. At worst, perhaps the headsman's axe falls. A real deadline.

Step 2) You all have voted against having an egg-timer on the table. I can get behind that. What is enforced is the concept that RP is using up time. Lengthy monologues while stopping to smell (and apparently cough on) the roses is using up in-character game time. So many movies and other media seem to wink at these scenes. (ie: the bomb has 13 seconds on the timer, but the two main characters still have a long, tearful, goodbye.) The GM makes it clear that the game universe does not have a "pause button".

For players who are perhaps too invested in the RP and the game world, this usually provides the incentive needed. If the offending player(s) aren't rising to the occasion, and still think they're in a musical where time stops while they sing on how sad they are, the other PCs have a solid, iron-clad, RP reason to move-it, move-it.

Addendum: A fellowship of PCs is, objectively the weirdest collection of whackos the game world has ever seen outside the circus. "A dwarf-werewolf, an orc wizard and an ugly elf... travelling together??" Competition may come from elite royal guardsmen or crack merc units, but the PCs still tend to rank these sorts as "B-Level" threats.

I fed the PCs rumours and tales of adventures done by this roaming group of soldiers of fortune. Stories and descriptions built up over time, getting crazier and stranger until one Player exclaimed "Holy crap! They're us!" Not literally, but yes. I had created a pseudo-PC group. The same oddball collection of power, insanity and twisted luck.

The point of this is "The Friends of Mr. Cairo" proved to be the best spurs to making the players move and move fast. I used them only twice, but each instance the PCs heard they were pretty much racing the Friends to the Big Prize, man did they move! Somehow they caught the sense these bozos were real competition.


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