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We've started a new campaign that's full of new players. The only people with experience are the GM (5+ years) and myself (1 campaign, 7 sessions). The other 4 have never touched a TRPG.

It's been going well bar one player. The player is question is only interested in 'dungeon delving', refuses to participate in RP conversations, doesn't play his character to whats written on his sheet and is just generally ruining the game for the others.

Recently this player has taken to team-speak to complain about us "meta gaming" to the GM on every decision we make. For example:

  • My typically good Cleric emptied the contents of her bag after being accused of stealing. He said I did this to 'rat him out', but no one in the party knew he stole the object
  • The druid refused to let his rogue hold onto a magic circlet we found after we discovered he robbed three of our benefactors

He's making the game less fun by not participating, and making everyone else annoyed by crying 'meta gaming!' when things don't go his way.

The GM gets frustrated after each session and doesn't want to continue anymore (I live with him, so even after the game I have to deal with his frustration, which is further hampering my experience).

Is there anything I, as a player, can do to help this situation without pandering to his every whim?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you all friends, or is "table the motion to boot the disruptive player" something you can do? \$\endgroup\$ – SPavel Apr 18 '16 at 0:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SPavel actually, they're all friends (since HS). The only one I have relation to is the GM. The GM wants to boot him, but it's hard because of their friendship \$\endgroup\$ – Asteria Apr 18 '16 at 0:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Would pandering to his every whim help? Or is that more a rhetorical question that serves to demonstrate frustration? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 18 '16 at 0:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I believe it would just serve to make the game a broken dungeon delve, rather than a roleplay. If we played it his way, he'd steal everything, kill everyone, never have consequences and getting quests would go from a dialogue to "go here and kill x". It would just ruin the game for the rest of us \$\endgroup\$ – Asteria Apr 18 '16 at 0:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jeff Please remember that comments are for helping clarify a post, not for mini-answers or chatting. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 29 '16 at 19:23
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Disclaimer

  1. Your ability to constructively address things like this as a player will, perhaps unfortunately, depend on how central or peripheral you are to the group socially. And this is definitely a social problem, not just a game problem, so I'll be attempting to channel Captain Awkward for much of this answer. But I wanted to start out by admitting the possibility that you may not have "standing" to address this issue other than bringing it to the GM's attention, which it sounds like you've already done. I hate to say it, but this may be especially true depending on the nature of your relationship with the GM; some people will make assumptions that could make it more difficult for you to bring up issues, unjust though that may be.
    • Note that I don't think that means you shouldn't say something. The GM's role in "running the game" depends on the system and the particular game, but that need not and often should not translate to running the gaming group. Some situations are customarily addressed by the GM as an extension of their role as referee, but in real life the GM isn't in charge of anyone else, and it's unfair to always expect them to solve table problems - mayking the game fun is everyone's responsibility.
  2. Most of the below is written based on the assumption that the problem player here is basically operating in good faith, but frustrated with how things are going and expressing it badly. This may not be true - frankly, dude sounds like a pain, and you could choose to be more assertive - but there are reasons to at least verbally leave open the possibility:
    • Having been the guy who was doing something wrong and didn't find out until later, I really appreciate being given the benefit of the doubt.
    • It can make for smoother, less confrontational conversations.
    • It's kinder to give people some credit/dignity, even if they don't deserve it, which is more important the more invested you and others are in maintaining the relationship.
    • It will often make it pretty obvious if they are operating in bad faith and don't care about your feelings, which is disappointing but makes it easier to do what you have to do next.

The Simple Way

Don't play with him. You're there to have fun, and he's making things not fun. If your comment about what he wants is accurate, and that would indeed ruin the game for the rest of you, then there's probably no way for everyone to get what they want, so majority rules. Of course, this is simple in concept but not necessarily in execution; still, it's preferable to letting resentment build into an explosion that leads to the same result but with even more hurt feelings.

Now, normally this would be done by the GM, in a private conversation, but if they agree it needs to happen but don't want to do it themselves for social reasons, it could be easier if done as a group, and you could start that conversation. Probably after or towards the end of a session, when he's been up to his usual shenanigans, I would call him on it and say "Hey, it really makes it less fun when you do X, and you don't really seem to be enjoying the game that much yourself. Since we seem to have such different styles, is it possible this specific game, with these rules and expectations, isn't really your thing?"

Note that this doesn't have to be personal, though it's difficult not to take something like this personally, partly due to Geek Social Fallacy #5: the idea that friends do everything together and therefore not wanting do do a particular activity together must mean you're not friends. To mitigate that, you could suggest specific, reassuring alternatives: "I don't think this game is working out as is, but maybe you and I could do [ACTIVITY] on [WEEKDAY] instead?" Don't suggest that if you wouldn't actually enjoy it, but perhaps you could arrange for someone who would to do so.

The Complex Way

Try to resolve the situation in a way that lets you keep playing this or a similar game. Ask this player to help you understand what makes them act this way - why they do the things they do, and why they respond the way they do to your actions (because the examples you gave really, really don't sound like any definition of metagaming i'm familiar with). This will be a long, possibly multi-part conversation. Two broad categories of possibilities, likely both present in some proportion:

  1. Something is going on in their personal life that makes them easily frustrated when things don't go their way; either a generic stressor or tension in their relationship with another player(s). You likely can't solve the root problem at the table, but pointing it out could help them realize they need to keep it out of the game.
  2. They want to play the game one way, you all want to play it a different way, and most likely, this gap was not identified, discussed, and resolved before play began. Different players are motivated by wildly different things. It may be possible to craft a game that meets everyone's needs at least some of the time - a little character drama here, a little violently eviscerating anyone who stands in your way over there. This is mostly on the GM, but also about character design - sometimes having the more fight-y players play more fight-y characters, like bodyguards, can ease the tension. They're still not talking much and still more interested in killing, but now it's in character. Heck, sometimes just the act of pointing out that there are multiple equally valid ways of playing games by itself can help, if part of the frustration comes from a feeling that the other players are doing something objectively Wrong as opposed to "not what we're going for this time."

If you can't find common ground after working on it for a while, you still have The Simple Way, and at least you know you tried.

Either Way

1. Focus on a specific, recent incident or two. You can allude to the fact that it's becoming kind of a pattern, but "You always..." is not the start of a productive conversation. Presumably, this player hasn't been thinking about this issue as much as you have, so a narrow, concrete focus will help them have information to work with.

2. Use I-statements. Saying "You need to stop doing X", while very possibly true, can sound too much like "Your behavior is bad and wrong and so are you."1 Saying "I really thought I was playing my character, and I wasn't out to get you, so I was hurt when you accused me of that," highlights the effect their actions are having and invites them to reconsider.

3. Avoid an "intervention" vibe. Especially since you're not the GM, try not to speak for anyone else; just mention your issues with this player's behavior. There may come a point in the conversation where it's appropriate to invite others to share their opinions, but anything like "We've decided..." sounds too much like "We've all been talking about you behind your back, and the conclusion is that you suck!"

1This point applies in cases of mildly annoying behavior where you're trying to keep things friendly. When the stakes are higher, like if the behavior is making people feel unsafe, it's much more important to be clear about "You need to stop doing this, now." I'm interpreting this situation as the former, but I could be wrong and either way I wouldn't want people to generalize too much from this point of the answer.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think this answer could be improved by 1) links to specific Captain Awkward posts (or other sociology/advice sites) as sources for my three "either way" suggestions; 2) a link to a great comment (I believe by @BESW) about how the fear of relationships in gaming groups usually causes way more problems than said relationships. This was linked from some meta post about the point of comments, and is relevant here because I think OP can/should speak up even if that situation applies. I'll circle back around when I can but would appreciate any assistance. \$\endgroup\$ – SirTechSpec Apr 18 '16 at 4:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice and thorough, I might take a peek here as well rpg.stackexchange.com/a/64805/23533 for addressing the possibility it's something in this player's personal life that might be affecting them; this question also deals with a problem player who seems to be suffering a disconnect between game expectations and game play \$\endgroup\$ – SableGear Apr 18 '16 at 17:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, the player sounds he could be all of the Geek Social Fallacies \$\endgroup\$ – Jeff Apr 29 '16 at 16:49
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First, I'd advise figuring out what brings this player to the table and what they expect to get out of the game. To that end, try going over these two links with him in mind.

It's possible that at this point you may find some major differences between his playstyle (as displayed so far) and the group's apparent style. It's likely that he's noticed this as well on some level. This will likely lead to tense social situations out of game. It may be helpful for him to read through these links (or others you may find) on his own. Once you've agreed there is a problem, you may need to have an awkward conversation. There's plenty advice out there on how to have difficult conversations, so I'll just say to take your time, breathe, and don't be a jerk (even if you think he is being one).

The happier alternative to the above paragraph is that you find you're fundamentally on the same page, but are coming at it from different angles. This can be talked out a bit easier, but still takes some doing.

For example, he may be doing his best to role play a thief-type character. The problem is, your typical new player playing a stereotypical chaotic-neutral rogue is a sociopathic kleptomaniac. Why would a mostly-good cleric associate with someone like that, rather than helping the town guard arrest him?

But from his side, he may just be playing his character. If he's looking for ill-gotten gains and filthy lucre, then it's unlikely he's interested in social encounters unless he can see the gold at the end of the tunnel.

One thing to try in that kind of situation is to see if you can't modify the existing character to better suit the group, or to write out that character in favor of someone who clicks better with the group.

NOTE: Depending on how the player views the game/character, this could be a highly offensive suggestion (see the 'kinds of fun' article for why).

There are a number of sites out there with advice on defining a character based on their goals. One I found particularly useful as a player (though the link eludes me just now) suggested defining a short, medium, and long term goal. For example:

  • Long: Accumulate wealth
  • Medium: Find a group of adventurers to protect and heal you during your exploits to get money
  • Short: Acquire macguffin X from plotlocation Y, so you can sell it for money

Keeping focused on the long term goals of staying alive and gaining wealth may help with the shorter-term goals. This is particularly true if you point out things like "stop stealing from this town until the guards stop being on high alert".

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Unfortunately there is not much you can do about this as a player. It is the DM's job to remove the guy from the group if that becomes necessary; if the DM isn't willing to do that, it's probably wrong for you as a player to press for it.

The best route forward might be to end the game and start a new one, perhaps with a different game system or a different player mix. But this, too, is a decision which is usually left to the DM.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Actually, it is the whole groups job to dump a toxic player. Remaining silent condones toxic playing. While your answer is more or less right, based on my experience, I have learned that it is less than supportive to just dump the decision on the GM. GM's have social and fun needs as well, and forcing the GM to be the heavy when the whole group is having an issue strikes me as ducking one's role as a person at the table. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 18 '16 at 14:05
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I am generally very reluctant as a player to take the initiative in booting another player from a game, and as a GM I would be quite irritated if a player took that initiative in my game-- I would consider it to be undermining my (mostly moral) authority as a GM to a fatal degree.

So in that sense, unless the situation is so utterly toxic that it's worth doing that to the GM, there's not much direct you can do.

However, depending on the group dynamics, it might be worth taking the GM aside to tell him that you'll support him or follow his lead on however he wants to handle the situation. If the GM does not know that others feel that way, he may feel like he is the only one sufffering. If he hears it from enough other players, that may change his internal calculus. (Although fair warning, this can backfire, too. In my experience, less often and severely than trying to boot someone yourself.)

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It's up to your GM to start acting as a GM The Leader of the Group and take some action. For a player I'd just advise to

1) talk to the problematic player,

2) if it won't help, talk to your GM,

3) if it won't help, leave the game.

If your GM categorically refuses to take responsibility for the game and do his job in the name of some misplaced friendliness to the player who ruins it for everybody, aforementioned everybody should just leave the game. That's all I'd advise for a player, since ultimately it's not yours game and you don't have much leverage in a talk with such player, unlike a GM. But you do have a responsibility to explain to your GM that the game becomes unbearable to you due to a certain player. GM must know such things in order to make an informed decision and act upon it. That's a general advise for everyone else who reads this topic having a similar issue, since I understand you personally already talked to GM and so on.

For the GM, who hopefully is going to read this question and its answers, it's best to talk to the player in question one on one, that allows for a more friendly conversation on this inherently tense topic, and for the player to save his face in either outcome (starting playing appropriately or leaving the game "by mutual agreement") as opposed to being kicked out in front of others. GM should talk in a polite but not overly friendly manner, showing he's damn serious and not joking and no ifs or buts. Problematic player must clearly get the seriousness of the situation, he must understand this talk is the last way to solve the situation, and if it won't work, it's a good bye. And don't even start on friendship, if you are my friend you aren't ruining my games period. Friendship works both ways.

As for player's personal life problems and other irrelevant things, they are, well, irrelevant. You are not his therapist. And if you are his friend/sibling, personal problems should be talked about outside the game. Unless the game in question is a part of some therapy, people's personal problems should stay out of it period, and if they can't do it, they shouldn't play.

Edit: this answer assumes everyone in your group is a mature, grown up person. It's obviously different if the group consists of children.

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As DM, it is completely in his power to make this player roll a penalty d20. Here's what it is: In my DnD sessions, if a player is behaving badly, they roll a d20. The results are always bad, but range given the roll. Rolling low makes something like a lightning bolt or a stray rock hit the player and cause damage. Rolling high will make him drop something or be pickpocketed without his knowledge. Rolling a 1 will almost definitely kill him or severely damage him (I've had my DM force a player to negate his defenses for the rest of the battle), and rolling a nat 20 may make him lose a bit of pocket change. You could suggest this to your DM. Hope it helps!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you include some of the consequences this has had on the game, good or bad? (Also, the OP is not the DM.) \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Jun 2 '16 at 22:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Negative reinforcement in an artificial way does not seem like a healthy resolution to this. It's also widely variable and may punish grand offenses less and minor offenses more. Doing this would seem to grant the player a separate metagame: they can bet on their disruptions, committing mal mischief and having very little happen to them as a character. It would also create a negative social shift. If the DM does not punish all players equally, the player punished the most is alienated, not reformed. If the DM punishes everyone equally, everyone is walking on eggshells to avoid punishment. \$\endgroup\$ – Axoren Jun 2 '16 at 23:35

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