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In my Pathfinder game, I have a problem with a player who constantly tells people what to do with their characters and turns and never lets anyone get a word in during roleplaying. I've told him he needs to stop but it hasn't had any effect. What can I do during the game to encourage him to stop?

Though nobody else has said anything directly, I can tell it's not just me because they've been throwing meaningful looks at me and some have been audibly sighing in annoyance.

Generally this is more an out of character problem, in terms of him telling other players what to do. For example, the cleric's player said he was going to engage in melee, but he began berating him and telling him to cast enlarge person instead.

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11 Answers 11

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Talk to the player

You have done this; good - do it again.

This time explain the rulesTM.

You need to decide what the rulesTM are. My suggestion is that when he:

  1. "tells people what to do with their characters" you will interrupt him and ask the other player "X has said he would like you to do Y. What would you like to do?"
  2. "never lets anyone get a word in during RP" you will interrupt him as the NPC and say "I'm not talking to you - if you keep interrupting then this audience/conversation/negotiation/whatever is going on is over."
  3. This is the only polite warning he will get; after that comes the humiliating warning - if he does it again then you will stop the game explain to him in front of all the player's that he has broken the rulesTM and that if he does it again you will ask him to leave the table.
  4. If he does it again - stop the game and ask him to pack up his dice and leave.

If he is willing to live by the rulesTM fine - if not, explain that its time for him to find another group.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In addition to talking to the player, it might be pertinent to add that you ought talk to the group as well. I could put this on any answer, since no one has mentioned to find out if it is actually a problem for them (some people are weird, you never know), but I like yours best because it's clear and concise, and I doubt my own answer could be any better than anyone else's \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov May 24 '16 at 14:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for item #2. The prince/duchess/guildmaster isn't likely to take lip from adventurers. I've used this to my advantage when players thought they could get whatever they wanted. \$\endgroup\$ – aebabis May 24 '16 at 21:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM For bonus points, replace the rules™ with the Greater Goodᵗʰᵉ ᴳʳᵉᵃᵗᵉʳ ᴳᵒᵒᵈ \$\endgroup\$ – Lilienthal May 25 '16 at 20:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think this is worth a whole answer, so I'll just add it here: talk to the other players, too. Make sure they know they don't have to put up with being overridden like that. Tell them it's okay to say, "Thanks for the advice, but I'm doing something else," or the more direct, "None of what you just said is going to happen" if it gets persistent. \$\endgroup\$ – Fibericon May 26 '16 at 3:20
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Have you tried non-violent communication?

Try empathizing with the One Player. Find out why he's acting the way he is. Assume good intentions. Listen.

  • Does he think the other players want or need his advice?
  • Is he trying to teach?
  • Does he want to achieve the best outcome of the game, even if it means playing it all himself?

After listening, thank him, but say something is kind of bugging you (this is your fault - you are the one having a problem, it's not his fault, it's you): while you now understand that he means well, sometimes you can't help but feel a bit irked when he does that because you want more autonomy. Even if that means players make mistakes, the game goes slower, the quest fails...

State that (if it's true) What is important for him, is also important for you: you would also like the players to learn, the quests to succeed, the game not to take 5 hours for a simple quest... but it's also important that every player can try for himself.

Now work together to find a way to achieve both yours and his goals. Maybe ask if you can give him a signal when you feel he's pushing too hard and the other players are not playing for themselves.

And yes, when that fails, you can still turn to violence and kick him out, not invite him anymore or just leave.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for empathy. People are sometimes like Transformers - more than meets the eye. \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov May 24 '16 at 14:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for a non-contentious solution. A lot of people act badly to "being put in their place", and trying to reason it out with them usually works much better. \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage May 24 '16 at 16:15
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Before rushing off

Please, before following the more hard-nosed advice in some of the other answers, speak privately with your other players, and see how much of a problem they feel the situation is.

When you issue an ultimatum (threatening to kick him out) the player may just leave the game to avoid the humiliation of rejection. And you have no assurance your other players will thank you if this happens. You could easily end up looking like the bad guy.

However, if you hear from your other players this fellow is ruining your fun, or worse, kind of bullying people, then act strongly to stop that behavior immediately - or just disinvite immediately.

Maintain your respectful attitude and be the grownup

At work or volunteering in the community, the rule they emphasize most is to treat people with respect and never humiliate them. Be respectful and discrete, even (especially) when you deal with issues about lack of respect. Why would it be any different when you're playing a game? It's fundamental. Nobody respects a leader who humiliates people, and people generally don't enjoy being around it.

For issues when you're meting out real discipline to a player, speak to him privately.

The only exceptions would be for behavior you would not accept outside the game, like real verbal abuse. You should correct that behavior immediately (person to person, although you are still the one in charge here) but in respectful, face-saving ways (see below).

Run of the mill boorishness

Based on your description though, it sounds like we're dealing with a mix of a lack of social skills, some over-excitement, and an unchecked desire to help the party as much as possible.

So maybe you've got regular-old bossy player who plays a bossy character. That's legitimate - most parties have a "take charge" person or two - but you will want to set limits to ensure fun for everyone.

Directing other characters in combat

The Pathfinder rules (Pathfinder Core Rulebook, p.181-182) state that characters can make free actions that "consume a very small amount of time and effort." More than that would require use of another action. Make sure everyone is familiar with the rules in that section, maybe reading it aloud. Let them know now "that everyone is familiar with the combact mechanic," you are going to be more of a stickler about extended talk during combat (in accordance with the rules) in order to speed up gameplay and make combat more exciting.

If "anyone" (wink) wants to give detailed guidance to others, that will be OK, but will require that character using its Immediate Action, or next turn's Standard Action, at your discretion. And assure them you will warn players when they've reached the limit of what you will accept as a free action, so they can stop without losing an action.

Monopolizing the Role-Playing

My favorite line from The Gamers: Dorkness Rising goes something like "If you have a problem, then solve it, in character" This is a prime example where the solution to a role-playing problem can be better role-playing. Let your NPC's do your work for you. (And be gentle, at least at first.)

An NPC might say to the bossy character: "I really like your take-charge attitude, but I need to hear from the other members in your party."

If that doesn't help, follow with: "Does this fellow ever stop talking?"

The NPC might say to the other characters, who are accepting directions: "Is he...telling you what to say?" "Do you always do what he tells you to?"

If the player objects that it's the players talking, not the characters talking, you can either say that's not possible/appropriate, or just say the NPC's are picking up on the dynamic between the characters based on the table talk.

Mix it up, though. Doing this with every NPC probably wouldn't be reasonable and could be tiresome.

Reverse Psychology

You can always flip that dynamic once in a while, and see if you can provoke a reaction from the other PC's. An abrasive NPC take a liking to the bossy PC, and treats the other PC's like they were the hired help:

"I'm sure you little helper here could manage to unlock those doors for you." A little condencension can encourage folks to stick up for themselves, and point out to the "leader" just how they might be coming across.

Don't pick on people

Make sure the naturally bossy player knows you aren't picking on him, just trying to give every player their fair shakes and "screen time" in the game. Because the issue you describe is as much about drawing the other players out as reining in your Type A fellow.

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If you already talked to him, next step is to just don't listen to him when he speaks out of turn. Ask another player what does he do, or what does he say, and if your problem player intervenes, just tell him to shut up straight and clear. Maybe in a bit more polite way depending who he is, a good friend or just an outsider. Be strict about this, ignore everything he says out of turn, as if he wasn't declaring any actions at all, and repeatedly silence him if he starts talking over others. This usually helps with all the players who are just too enthusiastic but ultimately do not seek the spotlight for it's own sake.

It looks like the core of the problem is you don't manage players spotlight time much, and they just talk however they like whenever they like. This may work very well with some groups, but apparently it does not in this case.

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This is an out of character problem that should be dealt with in the same way. From experience, attempting to address this with in-character roleplay has a nasty habit of validating what they are doing.

Speak to them again privately and make clear the following.

  • Every person at the table has the right to the same amount of spotlight time. It is every player's responsibility to be 'generous role players', playing their characters in such a way that enriches the game for everyone at the table and opening up role play opportunities for others, not shutting them down.

  • It is not their job to tell others how to role play, ever. This is a huge no-no at my table and one I come down on hard and fast. Otherwise it can spiral out of control.

  • In game, if they speak over someone else, you will ignore them. If they attempt to tell someone else what to do, you will ignore them. If they attempt to hog the spotlight, you will move focus to another player. If they continue then you will address it directly, stating something along the lines of 'You've had enough spotlight time already, it's someone else's turn', or 'It is not up to you to tell others how to play their characters'

  • If they continue, then you will call a timeout, speak to them once more and give them a final warning.

  • If they still continue then they will be asked to leave the table.

This type of player can easily come to dominate a table, and whilst other players might not openly express their frustration or lack of enjoyment, I can pretty much guarantee that they would be having more fun if this player was not acting in the way they are.

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You can do nothing to encourage the problem player nor should you!

As a Game Master, your role is to run a game that is enjoyable for everyone, including yourself. Your role is not to coherence, cajole, manipulate, or train players into behaving how you wish they would. Yes, even if it is for their own good and makes them a better person ®.

If the majority of players dislike one of them, then you have two choices: either ask the player to change his behaviour or to leave.

The former can be achieved with talking to said player, telling them there is a problem with some behaviour (not them, never them!) and asking the problem player why they act the way they do. It might be a misunderstanding. It might be unconscious behaviour. It might point to deeply rooted issues. Whatever it is, once you both understand it, you can do something about it. Never criticism them ("you are wrong" is not a good way to deal with this) but instead focus on what they did: "It sounds like you are ordering the other players to play in a certain way. Did you mean it or did we misunderstand?". Try to be helpful rather than confrontational.

If the discussion does not work for what ever reason, then you should ask the problem player to leave. No need to stop being friends, you can still hang out, play board games, and even play other games but this one is out of bounds.

Life is too short to waste.

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There are several problems that can look the same, but need different ways to fix them. I will try to give an exhaustive list, but feel free to indicate ones I've missed in the comments.

The player is seeking attention

Most people like having someone who listens to them. That's natural. However it is a problem when it causes them to disregard other people's need for being heard.

The attention seeker loves to shine and easily feels forgotten, as for him time when he is not talking passes super-slowly. You can be very strict and force him to shut up sometimes. However, as he does not see things the same way as you, he will forever have the impression that he does not get as much time as the other players. A good way to deal with him can be to involve him with stuff that does not take away other players' spotlight time. Make him write the party's chronicles, specifying that he has to write it from his character's point of view, so he mustn't ask questions for it during the game.

The player thinks others are shy beginners

Some players just think that the others players are shy and want to avoid the awkward silence when nobody speaks up. Maybe for you there is not that much silence, but some people perceive differently and can't bear half a second of silence. This kind of player is only a problem if other players actually have things to say (some players really prefer to not have to talk so they can just listen to the story).

For this player, you will have to reassure him of the fact that other players prefer to have some awkward silences, when the alternative is not being able to express themselves. First, simply ask the others if they think there is a problem (if they don't, there is none and you are worrying for nothing). Then tell him you appreciate him trying to help (because it is what he is doing), but you would prefer your way to try to help other players participate. If he continues to interrupt everyone, you are not looking at the right paragraph.

The player does not trust the others

This one can have the same origin as the previous one, but is actually very different. Here the player thinks others can't play, and that if he does not help them the whole party is doomed.

I would recommend trying PVP games with this kind of player, as here his suspicions will be founded. It won't change the player but you may have a great game. If you or your other players don't like PVP, try to make it clear you are fair and don't punish characters for other character's mistakes. In can be hard, especially when you actually are not fair (that is just a GMing style).

The player has something to prove

Maybe his crush is at the same table and he wants to impress her, or he recently failed an oral exam and want to convince himself he is a great orator.

The good thing with this type of player is that the reason behind their behavior is either time-limited or can be easily corrected.

The player is a jerk

It is pretty rare, but it can happen that a player just wants to wreck the game.

In this case there is only one solution: get rid of him. That's the only way.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is good stuff, but it skips the simplest possibility: the player naturally talks to much, and hasn't learned to control the impulse. @Donut_Druid - do any of these seem to fit your particular case? \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant May 25 '16 at 23:36
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I DM a group of 6-7 players in an D&D 5e adventure. We had a similar problem with one player taking control of role playing events. The solution we used was a charisma based initiative system where when multiple people wanted to talk at the same time, they would roll a d20 with a social skills related modifier. This let me ignore the controlling player while everyone else told me what they wanted to ask the NPC. I was then able to respond to each in turn.

As a side note, always talk to the players first and explain the problem, This player may not even realize that their actions could ruin the fun for other players. If the player gets out of hand just pause for a second and say, "Lets wait a sec and see what everyone else wants to do." There is nothing you can do to control a player, but simple communication skills can go a long way and prevent the messy experience of kicking someone out.

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First of all I highly disrecommend you to punish them in any way. If they even stop this inappropriate behavior they may later bear you a grudge and the game will be unpleasant.

Everything depends on one's personality. I would recommend following options in the exact order if the previous one do not work:

The soft way

Exchange a few words face to face

Ask him why does he do it. It is possible they will not answer tuthfully and you might have to take a guess or do a little investigation if something unpleasant happened to them. It's basic psychology that some people blow off steam when they are unfortuate. Try to undestand why is it like this.

MINE CHARACTER SHEET

Tell the other players to keep their character sheets close and not allow the problematic one to glance at them.

Ignorance at it's finest.

Despite what the problematic one has said, make thing happen the way it was decribed before their interruption. Simply ignore the "advices" and point out that they are absent in that situation etc.

The hard way

Make them feel uncomfortable

When they do such an act, say their name, look directly into their eyes for a few seconds and without breaking the eye contact, tell them slowly, clearly and calmly: "I do not want You to command the others. Everyone wants to have some fun today/tonight. It is rude to make it impossible for the others." Then return to the player that has been interrupted.

Use their own weapon against them

Prepare with the other players for a specific scene, in which the problematic player should take some decision. When they want to do something, the other players start to argue that something different would be better for a couple of minutes. You may also make a small, devilish grin.

Kindly suggest them to leave the group

I would reccomend statements like:

"If feel that other players do not keep up with you, then maybe try some more experienced group."

"If the others make you upset you do not have to force yourself into playing this game."

And finally, if nothing works and you have no other options left, then ultimately:

Kick them out

Tell them that they ruin the game and neither you or the others can't enjoy it, with things like this going on. You gave enough second chances and warnings.

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I have a player like this.

How I handle it will depend on when it occurs in the game. (note, I am GMing RoleMaster but the general situations apply).

If it is not a battle situation or a time sensitive one, then I just let it occur. If the player is playing a bossy character, then that's just the way it is. I still ask other players their opinions after that person has had his/her say. If I have a non-player character in the group, then I ask myself (as every player should) how would my NPC respond to "Joe's" diatribe or proposals.

If the person is giving advice that they know because of their experience as a player and would not know as a character, I am quick to point that out also. Much as a judge in a courtroom would tell the jury to disregard a specific statement, you are the judge in the game.

Other players have begun to see that just because Joe wants it so, doesn't make it so and they are beginning to push back and say "My character is doing this."

In time sensitive or combat situations, I am quicker to quiet "Joe" and explain his/her speech would either take up his/her whole turn or cannot be heard from where he/she is or over the noise of the battle. You have to apply this to everyone and not just "Joe."

Some people have a hard time keeping quiet. It's hard for them not to spread their "wisdom" and experience. It may take time and different people will respond to different techniques. Figure out what works for "Joe." If you get a good session, one in which Joe doesn't interrupt the game flow too often, be sure to comment on what a good game it was and how well people played their characters.

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I agree with the answer that it should be handled in the context of the game.

One approach would be to have that player's character trigger some sort of curse or spell that renders him mute. Since this is a Role-Playing game, the human behind the character must also be mute.

He can still try to boss other players through signs or messages, but that changes the dynamic and could actually make things interesing.

As an added bonus, you know have a mini-quest to find the antidote or counter-spell. The zeal with which the other players approach the mini-quest is a good measure of their level of annoyance and gives them bargaining chips.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to rpg.se! Please take a look at the tour, it's a useful introduction to the site. You may also want to visit the help center for more information. It seems like you're trying to expand on another user's answer. We prefer high-quality stand-alone answers. It looks like you have the basis for a well-formed answer, I might suggest including the pertinent information (in your own words of course) from the answer you're citing. You might also wish to upvote the answers you are expanding on, as a way to say thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – Dyndrilliac May 24 '16 at 14:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm having a little trouble understanding how the player would be able to get anything done if they're mute. How do they communicate what they're doing in combat to the DM if there's anything more complicated than "I hit the only guy I'm next to with a sword"? (Power Attack, trip, grapple, Smite Evil, Rage, Wild Shape, and any spell/power/mystery/maneuver/active feat/other active class feature would all be very difficult to communicate with just gestures.) \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 May 25 '16 at 23:28

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