So there's a lot of topics about this on RG.StackExchange.com, but they all boil down to "Talk to the player." Unfortunately that's been done multiple times over the years to no meaningful effect.

I'm having trouble with a player with vastly different play style than myself. I tend to be slightly more grounded (like super-magic charged LotR? More or less the same level of "fantastic" that D&D 4e tends to be?) Meanwhile most of his view of narration comes from Metal Gear Revengence and Final Fantasy Advent Children, and then some; he links Youtube videos of these to explain what he's doing. Furthermore the player is fairly emotional.

I recently started GMing the player in a new group (Sci-Fantasy, Ultramodern 4e), and last evening went fantastically poorly. The other players were fantastic, but he—from my point of view, for a variety of reasons—acted overtly childish multiple times.

Examples (wordy, you can likely skip):

  • An example of one of the many issues was that he had his monk fly up in the air, stab a friendly mech with his katana, and said that he wanted to take control of the mech (directly through the impaling katana, like some kind of superpower). I, bewildered, asked him what power or item property was letting him attempt this. He angrily consented to make a skill check. I told him that I couldn't imagine a skill check that would allow him to stab a machine and take control, and I suggested trying the Psion class if he wanted to try to control creatures. (He knew this, he's quite a bit more rule savvy than I am, as he's a minmaxer.) He angrily stated it was the 'Rule of Cool' which is how 4e is supposed to work.

    I, still taken aback, said that I could allow it once, I supposed, but it couldn't become a recurring thing as it didn't make sense. This made him more angry. I politely declined entirely, ended his turn, and moved on with the fight.

  • Later, after deflecting bullets with his fingers, he decided that the fight was 'unwinnable' (their goal was to protect an objective with 150 HP, the enemy force only reduced it to 145 HP in the end with no healing done, so they fantastically won the fight), and had his monk retreat. The rest of the fight he sullenly refused to participate.

  • During the dungeon crawl afterwards he had his monk repeatedly punch a locked door to get it open, and when it opened (because the other players went and figured out the puzzle to get it open, which they seemed to greatly enjoy) he refused to walk through.

And this is just one connected series of examples, of many during a single session.

I don't know what to do. I have talked to him before and our ideologies just do not mesh. I can't really kick him out because of drama — he's part of a group of friends, and just shutting him down each time causes less drama than kicking him would. If he was just "some guy I played with" it'd be different, but I'd really rather not resort to kicking him out. I guess it's not ruled out as an option, but I'd really like to explore different options first.

I know him doing this bothers most of the rest of the group but they're too nice to make an issue of it. I know one player enjoys minmaxing with him, but I nobody enjoys his play style in-game. We're all too nice, and we all tend to be more passive as players — when I play alongside him I just try to not have his and my character do to much together — so I guess that's just the culture of the group. They're not likely to approach him themselves.

I don't want to dissolve the group. I keep trying to give him second chances and honestly I let myself get pushed around for fear of being mean, but I can politely shut him down—and after him briefly angrily complaining it works—but shutting him down and ignoring his attempts seems rude and like poor GMing.

I've been hunting through RPG.StackExchange.com but the advice boils down to something like "talk to them" or "Consider asking them to leave the group"; the first one I've done, the second one I can't really do because of the group of friends. Here's how those approaches went:

  • Other Players Talk to Him

    The culture of the group tends to be passive players (myself included, when I'm a player in our group) and not approach these topics. I'd have to approach a player and ask them to talk to him, which I suppose I could do this?

  • Ask Him to GM

    As to him GMing, he's tried twice for very short campaigns (they both ended in under 3 sessions) and doesn't like it.

  • Ruleset Change

    He exclusively wants to play 4e, and another player really enjoys 4e as well, so that's why we're using that. We're a small enough group that's enough to pick our ruleset. I certainly don't mind 4e, even if it's not my favorite. I don't feel like anything is broken about this ruleset or that contributes to these issues.

  • Suggest Finding Other Groups

    I actually have suggested that he find other groups, the one he tried he didn't like.

Like I said I can just... shut him down, but that feels rude, and a poor excuse how to handle it.

I have no clue what to do at this point, since I think I've exhausted traditional options. Any help?

  • 9
    \$\begingroup\$ 1. Don't answer in comments. 2. Look at the other answers before answering, and please don't answer if you're just saying the same thing an existing answer does, just upvote that one instead. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 23:47

15 Answers 15


I've got an answer for your problem, which I will address first, and then something for you. Yay!

Group Effort

This is the one avenue it looks like you haven't taken. You know you haven't taken it, and it seems you're reluctant to do so. Likely because, even if you did get the others behind you, this person would act out, become sullen, and maybe increase the drama.

Talk to each one together or individually. Be honest about your intent, who you've talked with, and what you want to accomplish. Stress that if they can't work together to help even things out, you might have to end things. It's not worth suffering in your hobby, at least not this much. GMing is suffering enough, having to juggle the drama is not worth it.

This is the step you need to take, now, before you have to...

Kick Them Out

Let's go over what seems to be obvious from your question. It's obvious:

  1. Your play styles don't mesh
  2. Your standard approaches to these situations didn't work
  3. Nobody is willing to do what needs to be done

Just because you are friends doesn't mean you should sacrifice your mutual fun and enjoyment in order to accommodate this person. It's perfectly reasonable to be in a situation where you all want to do thing, but one person doesn't want to do it the way the rest of you do. Trying to work around it is getting you nowhere and is ending up just costing you fun.

I don't mean that you have to be mean. But it sounds like the only way this is going to be fun is to part ways in this thing. I'm sure there are other things you can do together you find fun. I know, you said:

I can't really do because of the group of friends

But if you want the problem fixed, that's where you're at. Or, you can keep going with the status quo and keep hoping something changes. I know it's hard, but part of making sure this hobby remains an enjoyable one is taking the steps needed to weed out the things that are making it less enjoyable. I personally hate weeding, but dang it, the grass sure does look better.

  • 35
    \$\begingroup\$ Relevant to kicking them out might be the five geek social fallacies being taken as a trap that makes kicking them out seem bad. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 1:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ But how realistically you can kick someone like that? The other group members would say "yes I do not enjoy the drama, but I cannot back you up on kicking him because he is my friend and I'm happy to keep tolerating him because telling him to get out is not what friends do". This means that the GM have to kick the person out single-handedly and become the only enemy. Is there a way to avoid this "social cost"? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 23:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @zespri: this is an example of the Geek Social Fallacies; if a friend's not good for an activity, it's fallacious to assume that excluding them from this one activity is excluding them from everything. At this point, I'd use an ultimatum, as suggested: either the disruptive player goes, or the game ends. If your friends are suffering from the social exclusion fallacy, I'd exploit it: by choosing to tolerate the disruptive player, you're telling ME I have to get out. They can find other common ground with this person on which to base social activities. \$\endgroup\$
    – Merus
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 2:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @zespri You make a valid point. If they do decide they want this person in no matter what, then merus has it right, as does fectin's answer :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Codeacula
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 13:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ The group needs to kick him out BECAUSE they are friends (and want to stay friends) \$\endgroup\$
    – clockw0rk
    Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 12:51

Stop playing.

Here are the constraints you've put on this answer:

  • Player X makes this activity not-fun.
  • Player X will not stop making this activity not-fun.
  • Player X cannot be excluded from this activity.

If these constraints are real, you should stop doing that activity. Do something different instead; whether that means movie night, or a different RPG, or whatever else your circle is into (cat appreciation. Poetry slam. Baking contest. Competitive basket-weaving).

I'd suggest switching your activity to a more free-form game for a while (maybe try Exalted or *World?), but if you want to keep on as you are, you need to break one of your constraints.

Roflo commented: to add "Board games including wargames could also be a good suggestion." I agree.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Tough. But yeah, someone had to say it. Board games including wargames could also be a good suggestion. \$\endgroup\$
    – Roflo
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 14:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 to the DungeonWorld option, its a good game in general, and I have personally used it to have sessions when I knew I was going to have player friction and the other alternative was simply "lets not play today". \$\endgroup\$
    – arthexis
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 18:32

You really have two problems here, disguised as one. One is the game time problem of how to mesh what you want out a gaming experience with this kid and two is how to handle group conflict in a passive group that considers the cohesion of the group more important than the game.

I'm gonna start with number 2. You say you can't kick him out because it will cause more drama in the group. You need to make sure this is explicitly true. Pull the rest of the group together and poll them on how they feel about the behavior. Find out if there is a line of in game actions he could cross that could cause the group to want him to be kicked out. And be sure your group isn't just falling for the Geek Social fallacies. It's important to know explicitly whether the group is just about friendship or if the game itself has some level of integrity that might be worth not playing with a friend. Essentially what type of fun is the group looking for? Are they prioritizing Fellowship above all else? If so you may have to accept that you lose this fight or go find another group yourself.

If not, then you guys can as a whole come up with what behavior is too much and how you will address him. It could be you pick one person, probably either the most tactful or the one closest to him to explain what behaviors he's doing, how it negatively effects all of you, and how his unwillingness to change shows a disrespect. OR you could as a group sit down and have a discussion about the fact there is a difference in playstyle, and when he doesn't get his way he seems to pout and act passive aggressive, which is rude and hurtful to both the game and you guys in general. In this conversation it's important to get his side and find out what he thinks he can do as a possible solution and why he feels put upon(clearly he seems himself as the victim here) and what you can do to help reduce that.

Now, Assuming you can't/don't kick him out and don't leave yourself, you have the problem of how you handle the difference in play styles. You really have two options here, continue to shut him down, which creates bad feelings and is generally not fun for anyone or give in and start playing by the rule of cool. I'd suggest number 2. Number 1 in my experience just builds bad feelings and eventually ends in everything exploding. Whenever I have a player who has strong feelings about a game and will not shift, I shift at least part of the game, if not the whole thing to adjust to them. It's slightly unfair to the group and means I don't get the game exactly as I want, but overall we have more fun. Here follows an example, feel free to skip as I'll summarize later.

In particular I've had one player who always believes in the big damn hero trope, thinks monsters should always be redeemable, and that in general heroic actions should have minor consequences/no real moral dilemma(think star wars. No one worries about the massive number of storm troopers they kill that were just dudes doing their jobs. Random peasant farmer is just ok murdering a few dozen guys right off the bat. Not too mention all the contractors and just regular dudes who were on the death star they killed when they blow it up...twice). Myself and two others in my group love Game of Thrones, gritty, dark, harsh worlds where the good guy never really wins. H.P.Lovecraft type games. However the three of us are ok with Big Damn Heroes and the other guy is not ok with dark games. So when I run I always skew towards him. When games don't he becomes withdrawn and pulls away from the action. Even if he isn't actively tanking the game, it still brings down the energy and kinda hurts the game. However when we play with big damn heroes or when I craft side bits of the game that don't fit the theme but let him play that, he becomes immensely invested and not only does he not work against the game his energy builds it up and everyone has a better time than we would if he weren't there.

TL;DR taking the game in the direction of the person with the strongest preference improves everyone's experience.

So I'd suggest letting go of the things you prefer in standard D&D and embrace the rule of cool over the top badassery this player wants to have. It can be alot of fun when you approach it openly and enthusiastically. You could even do it so he essentially has a different set of rules if the rest of the group is cool. On his turn let the rules play a bit more loosely. He gets to do whatever over the top thing makes movie sense. Conversely when acting against him, so does the villain.

Now if you want to try balancing your playstyle and his you could also try negotiation. This has worked well in my group, though less successfully than just catering, it does allow us to play different style of games. Play a one shot or change the tone of one session of the game to exactly his style of game. Tell him you'll play that session if he promises to play more like the regular tone afterwards, but that you'll return to that style in a few session or the next campaign. By switching tones and styles my group has managed to keep everyone satisfied and got them to, if not invest in a game, at least not tank it the way this guy seems to be. And if you do switch to one shots you may be able to get him to try game systems designed to do the thing he's trying to do, such as

  • Feng Shui 2
  • 7th Sea 2e
  • Any of the Cortex Plus systems
  • Dungeon world, and a number of the Powered by the Apocalypse games
  • Exalted, any edition

I know you say he exclusively wants to play 4e, but I've played with a fair number of people who only wanted rule system X, until they played games under protest that were simply better at doing the thing they liked. I'd surprised if that was not the case here and believe that playing a system that empowered him to do those things would go a great way to relieve your issues with his playstyle.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the system recommendation; 4e really isn't good at what this player is trying to do with it. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 23:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Amen. 4e is in the top-three of "things work by these rules and ONLY work with these rules" systems I'm aware of, and doesn't handle Rule of Cool at all. And sometimes I love it for that - I'm not saying it's bad. I play Pathfinder mostly because it's hammered that Feat X and Ability Y always combine to produce Z, which is awesome but doesn't stack with Q. I'm ok with that. When I want to be able to improvise wildly, however, neither PF nor 4e is a good move. Exalted or a PbtA game (Something World) would be a much better fit for that player. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 4:32
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Good points and recommendations, but currently the whole answer is a wall of text. Could you try to structure it a bit with headlines for the individual parts ? - it makes reading easier, when one doesn't get lost in a pile of text. \$\endgroup\$
    – Falco
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 8:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ One nitpick: "give in and start playing by the rule of cool" should read "give in and start playing by his version of the rule of cool". There are as many different versions of that rule as there are opinions of what's cool. \$\endgroup\$
    – jmelesky
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 18:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ The systems answer is a good one, though the perfect system for the player in question is Risus. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 2, 2016 at 13:03

You're the GM and if his "play style" is incompatible with yours, and the other players are fine with your style, as you describe, don't enable him and let his controlling behavior emotionally blackmail you into changing the way you run your game. Just run your play style and let him deal with it. If he can't handle it, he can leave. That is NOT "rude" nor "poor GMing". He's beyond rude, and running the game consistently is the GM's job.

This player in particular sounds to me like he's looking for therapy for his mental/emotional/control issues, which I do not recommend you indulging. He seems to have many emotional and behavioral problems and should heal those up somewhere other than at your game table. His game style may or may not have a place, but even if so, he should play that with himself or GM his own game or find a GM who likes that play style.

So, specifically, given the social constraints you feel (which I'd also think about, and talk to a counselor about), I might run the example situation something like this, as formal polite GM:

Player: I have my monk fly up in the air, stab a friendly mech with my katana, and take control of the mech.

GM: Using what skills, powers or equipment?

Player: (angrily) Well I guess I could make a skill check.

GM: (ignoring player anger ploy) How do you expect to take control of a machine by stabbing it with a sword?

Player: (angrily) It's the 'Rule of Cool', which is how 4e is supposed to work!

GM: (ignoring player anger ploy, and the idea that this weird stunt is actually cool) So your character thinks this is going to work because he saw it in an anime and thinks it's cool? Or he has some intuition that it will work? Or are you asking to suddenly switch to a character with a power like what you're trying to do? Because otherwise I'm just going to resolve this like a jumping attack on your ally, and everyone else is going to act like you just attacked your ally, and might possibly think you're a traitor or a dangerous crazy person, just maybe.

At this point, the player can either give up and act sanely, or he can roleplay someone crazy. I wouldn't let him re-do his character during combat, but I might let him do it between sessions, either creating a new character and NPC'ing his old character, or saying his powers were just secret until now.

As for the part about whining about "unwinnable" fights even when they're easy, I would ignore (or knowingly laugh at) such comments during play, and then between sessions discuss reality versus his behavior. At least he retreated when he thought it was unwinnable - there's a worse type of problem player, who expects to always win and not get hurt, and who attacks everything and never retreats. Which is not to suggest that either whiny type should be indulged.

As for "The rest of the fight he sullenly refused to participate", who's responsible for that? He is.


"During the dungeon crawl afterwards he had his monk repeatedly punch a lock door to get it open, and when it opened (because the other players went and figured out the puzzle to get it open, which they seemed to greatly enjoy) he refused to walk through."

Wow... ok, well if you can't kick him out, you can let him roleplay being a egotistical superhero baby. Personally though, I have no interest in indulging that, and NPC's who are a decent judge of character who witness that I would have forming appropriate opinions of that PC, and/or asking the other PC's what's wrong with him, etc.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the great example of calm, proper application of Rule Zero. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 22:43

It may be the case that you need to be cruel to be kind. This has only happened to be once as a DM where a character wouldn't listen to my rulings as a DM. First I asked him if he would be willing to DM, to show me how it should be done, but he refused. After that I told him he'd either have to accept that when I said "it's X and that's the end of it", he wasn't allowed argue any more. He followed this rule for nearly 2 sessions before going back to his bad habits after which I told him he could either stop disrupting the sessions or I wouldn't DM for them anymore as I wasn't having fun. He had a falling out with one of the other players in the group and left, I'm not sure what it was about, but it was a much better group afterwards and we ended up getting a new member to replace him who was a lot more fun to play with.


To your point there are loads of questions about group dynamics on RPG.SE and a lot of them boil down to talk to the player. IMO the reason they boil down to having an honest conversation is because the goal for everyone is to have fun. If someone isn't enjoying themselves it can often be because of a disconnect between their expectations and those of the group. If this player's expectation is that they can do amazing feats but it doesn't fit in with the game that you're creating you'll continue to run up against this problem.

So a couple of thoughts:

Let them try

If the player wants to try and perform actions very specific and detailed kinds of high-leveled actions, let them. Ultimately the player can attempt to do anything, but you determine the chance of success. A player can say, "I want to jump up 20 feet, stab a mech, and control it with my sword", they're more than welcome to try, just allow them go to through the motions as in: "OK, you succeeded your jump and successfully attacked, but your sword does not penetrate the metal, and there doesn't appear to be any way to directly control the mech".

"Nothing happens" is one my favorite responses to some convoluted player actions.

Explain differences and compromise

If you know that this player's behavior is bothersome for others in the group and taking away from the experience there has to be a change. Explain this to them clearly (and tactfully) and suggest that if they're really interested in that play style maybe you can run a second campaign, or the one after this could be more aligned with that (if you're also interested in that), or help them run a successful campaign of their own. There are a lot of options here that involve "kicking the player out" but you can continue to engage them outside of the game so that they do not feel discarded.

Just because everyone is in the same group of friends doesn't mean that everyone is right doing the same kinds of activities together. So keep the friendship, but break the bad parts.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "Nothing happens" would be my choice too; but it has been tried here, and apparently the player won't accept it because it contravenes "the 'Rule of Cool' which is how 4e is supposed to work." \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 11:24

One of the jobs of the DM is to create a situation where everyone can have fun. It sounds like your campaign is failing to allow this particular player to have fun in the way he wants. He seems to want to feel like a badass that can handle anything, while you have to keep your game balanced and fair.

The way I handle these sorts of players (and I have a few, one of which, unfortunately, is my wife when she plays which adds a whole other layer) is to operate under the "Yes, but...." rule. I let the player take whatever action they want, but give them a clear idea how difficult it is and what other complications there are.

To use your monk/control the mech example (translating it into 5e, since I can't recall half the 4e Rules off the top of my head), the way I would have handled it is to interpret what he wanted (control of the mech) into how he would do it (as a monk, he could use his weight and mobility/agility to trick or redirect the mech's attacks and movement). I would tell the player he can try to do it, but it would take a round to get into a position to do so, and it would take his whole turn to try to control the mech. If he decided to do it, it would mechanically look like this:

Athletics or Acrobatics check (Monk) vs a Dex Save (Mech) to "climb onboard." This consume the Monk's turn.

On the Mech's turn it can use its action to try to shake off the monk (probably Athletics (Mech) vs Dex save or Athletics/Acrobatics (Monk)), or it can try to "act normally."

When the Mech moves, the monk can make an opposed roll (similar to the above) to try to control its movement instead.

When the Mech attacks, the monk can make an opposed roll (similar to the above) to try to get it to hit a different target.

Using the above rules, be sure to ask the character (when he succeeds) how he does it, and translate that into the story you are telling. If he fails, he failed trying something cool. If he succeeds, he's dodging and weaving and tricking this big powerful mech to hit its friends.

Is it as serious as your intention for the campaign? Probably not, but it does alleviate the problem you were having (monk player wants to use abilities he doesn't have) in a way that isn't optimal for the player (he doesn't get a free mind control and has to roll well and use his actions to control the mech). However, it looks cool, and it might entertain the players.

To look at your door lock example, you might need a defter touch. I won't use the phrasing "punish the player" for his actions, but maybe nudge him away from a brute force approach. It looks like perhaps his player doesn't enjoy puzzles, so maybe provide him something "else" to do or a way to be involved in a non-thinking way. Maybe there's a piece of the puzzle that needs someone with high acrobatics to reach, or some mooks are constantly streaming into the room and the party is slowly being overwhelmed, so the monk has to do what he does best while some other party members "solve" the puzzle. Alternatively, maybe punching the lock repetitively has done some damage to it, or alerted enemies to your party's presence. I think the former is the real problem, that your player is bored, but you may have to use both approaches to remove the behavior.

I would also give the player an opportunity to describe some of the action. For example, I ask players to describe how they kill a foe, and then translate that into the game world. This makes it much more satisfying for the players than "you kill an orc." For example, a dwarf cleric killed an ogre. That is a very boring occurrence, however, what the player wanted to do is "shatter his knee, and when he starts to fall down finish him." This transforms it from a moment that is forgettable (dead ogre) to a cool moment they recall sessions later (Hey look a group of ogres. Watch your knees, boys!).



The crux of the matter is you are unwilling to rein in a problem player, because you are afraid of the social ramifications. Until that changes, don't expect the player to.

Put the game on hold

And as @fectin mentions above, stopping the game (at least, temporarily) is probably wise. Continuing along these lines will just add to the resentment you and others are feeling.

If you aren't ready to trade RPG's for basket weaving, there are alternatives.

A Guest DM

My suggestion is to find an experienced DM/GM who would be willing to run a game for your gang, maybe just a few sessions. Be upfront about your situation, but don't complain. There are folks who won't want a part of that. Others won't think it's a problem.

(If your friends ask why you're doing this, let them know you feel you aren't being the best DM and learn from somebody with more experience.)

When you play, your friend will get a chance to try his pouty-face on someone new. And you'll get the chance to observe how the DM deals with the bad behavior, and how your other friends react. I expect you'll learn more in a few minutes there than from any advice I could give.

The worst that happens is that the problem player doesn't act out for the guest DM. But even that would be an eye-opener of sorts.

As long as things don't go too terribly, you can try this a few times with other DMs.

Where to find that DM

Maybe "finding a DM" sounds like it's easier said than done? But it's usually not so hard to find someone who's willing to run a short-term game:

If that all fails, check out roll20.net and other on-line systems.

Two final notes. If you're "a kid" you might want to look for a DM who's a bit older. And you don't want the "guest" DM to be someone your problem player already knows, so any issues between the DM and the problem player won't be personal.


Change your Play-Style

Beyond the obvious choice to boot him or talk to him -- since you've said these are not an option -- you can change your play-style to match his. This is the humble approach and it requires the biting of tongues and more than likely his being cool about it. I want to be clear here, this option is putting this player's wants before your wants. If he wants to play a campaign that's over the top, try running one that is. Maybe your fun is the way the mechanics are balanced and a proper challenge is created, but his fun seems to be more showmanship and having a good time regardless of rules or realism. Neither approach is bad or good, they are just play styles. In my experience, a campaign you don't like that is played in harmony is 10 times more fun than a campaign that is generating conflict among players. I've personally had to reconcile characters I've made to fit the party, which is a similar process emotionally and mentally to changing a campaign. The actual logistics of setting up a new campaign is a lot of work, but can be worth it to create some harmony.

Talk to the Group

Before you get started, you should find out if his style of play is a problem for the other players. Based on what you've said, that doesn't seem to be the case. So make sure your group is okay with changing the way you play. Whether or not it's the same campaign is up to you. If the group doesn't want to change, well then you're back to square one and you should choose another path.

Talk to Him

Yes, yes, you've done this. You need to talk to him again to find out what kind of campaign he wants. Obviously you can't meld your play-style with his if you don't know exactly what it is. Find out what engages him in the campaign and also find out if his behavior is truly a player problem or if he's just succumbing to "My Guy Syndrome". If it's not actually the player being a brat, then you have a different problem.

Once you've nailed down that this is the way to go, you need only set it in motion. I'll add a small caveat that this path is not an easy one. Your pride will probably suffer, the degree of which will be in his hands. If he's snotty about it, it's going to be really hard. However, it may be that you find something you can bond with; having a good time with friends is fun even if you don't really care for the activity. Try not to associate him with the problem, even though they are connected. The real problem is a difference in play styles, so treat him as you would any other player that isn't the source of the problem.


Ultimately, your options are to get your player to change their behavior, mitigate the negative effects of their behavior if they refuse to change, or kick them out.

Getting Them To Change Their Behavior

You mentioned that you tried talking to this player, to no effect. I don't know the specifics of how you went about this discussion, but it is possible that a different approach may yield better results; talk to them completely apart from the group, talk to them with the group, draft an email, frame it as something to benefit the entire table, ask them to change as a personal favor, etc. I can't tell you how you should approach the conversation, as that boils down to your personal relationship with the player in question, as well as the table dynamics.

However, it may be that social persuasion is ineffectual. Your player doesn't listen, they argue you or the other players down, or maybe they agree with what you are saying and then slips right back into their old habits. Mechanical penalties might get the player to change his behavior. I'm reluctant to recommend an in-game solution to an out-of-game problem, but the fact is that it is an option. The nuclear option here would be to just say no; if the player proposes something ridiculous, that they should know would not be possible in the world you have created, tell them no. No negotiation, don't try and come up with something that would sort of do what they want, just tell them that they cannot do the specific action they have proposed, and skip their turn if they persist. Less dramatic penalties might take the form of minor penalties to their stats, or treating their turn as though they used a basic attack or similar action. Again, I don't necessarily recommend this option, but it is an option available to you.

Mitigate the Negative Effects of The Player's Behavior

Let's say you've tried everything you can to get your player to change their ways, and nothing's stuck. If you're still determined to play with them, you'll have to look for ways to deal with the fact that they are trying to play a different game than you're running. Let them do their crazy, high fantasy stunts, but it requires the use of an action point, or other valuable and expendable resource. Run a system or ruleset that is better suited to this behavior. Only invite them to every other session. This is unlikely to be satisfying for either you or your player, but you will have your game and your player will have their stunts. As they say, the best compromise leaves nobody happy.

Kick Them Out

You can't have your cake and eat it too. You want a grounded 4e game involving all your friends. Your player wants a fantastical high action 4e game with all their friends. One of you is going to have to give up something. If you aren't enjoying the current situation, and neither you nor your player can see any way to change either of your respective approaches, either you will have to recuse yourself as DM or you are going to have to remove your player from the group.

I know that is a scary thing to do, and you mentioned you are reluctant to do so due to the threat of drama. I can't speak to your personal situation, but there is a temptation to believe that because people are friends, you should do every social activity together. Just because you do not want to play RPGs with this person does not mean that you are not friends. I'm sure you each enjoy different types of music, or different genres of movies or books, or have different opinions on television shows. Just like how you can still remain friends despite having a difference of personal preference in those other forms of media, your preference of RPG genre doesn't have to impact your friendship.

  • \$\begingroup\$ A relevant question to point to in your last section: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/30541/… \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 0:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your first section highlights options that you wouldn't personally recommend, then your second section recommends a compromise that makes nobody happy. That's not really reading well. I suggest that (a) there's good reasons to not take in-game actions to solve table-level social issues, and you should say why you're not recommending it instead of just passively acknowledging it; and (b) if your middle section genuinely makes nobody happy, you shouldn't have it, but if it's there just to indicate this won't work, make it clear you're saying this won't work, not sincerely recommending it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 1:01

You said he wants to play 4e and nothing else, right?

Make him realize that 4e is maybe the worst game for achieving what he wants. He looks like that kind of guy that sees something cool on some anime or videogame cinematic and wants to imagine his character doing that because it's cool.

4e has rules for improvising, but the underlying philosophy is that no matter what one does (and they can really do lots of things, page 42 of the DMG has rules for improvised actions) the results should be balanced.
Hijacking an allied robot? Cool. That might be easily done by a Warlord or a Shaman with the right powers, but the class system prevents it.
...or it might be an attack that deals no more than the expected damage, and requires a skill check to be performed on top of it (maybe hijacking the bot is a good way to get past some defenses thanks to its reach). ...or it might just be the player sacrificing his turn in order to direct some attack that would have been done anyway, but maybe on a less optimal target.

Anyway, most other games have similar rules, rules that model the world in turns and nubbers of action one can take during them. These games usually have a hard time giving those kind of players the freedom thwy wond. Just as in D&D, what is cool rarely is a thing the character can do. It has to be the character that has to be designed carefully in order to make cool things, and that is often a problem even with minmaxers. The games where the coolest thing you can do is also the most effective are rare.

Maybe, when your player says he doesn't want to play other games, he means those games. Maybe something where characters can do what the player describes, whatever it is, and get internet points for it is a thing he doesn't even know is possible, and he would greatly enjoy a game such as Primetime Adventures (well, maybe not Primetime Adventures since that specific game involves pitching a TV show and he's likely to end up wanting to be Xena Flying Lucy Lawless in your Robin Hood franchise).

Maybe he wants to play D&D 4e because of the tactical aspects. Sadly, I know of no better RPG, despite the great flaws I see in the system. Then, go with the answer that suggests you playing wargames, if the rest of the group is fine with it.

Maybe he wants the best of both worlds. Sadly, that does not exist. Either dismember the group (be prepared to some drama, because this will be your fault, or his fault), tell him that he's making everyone unhappy and ask him to leave (again, drama), or endure playing the game despite the disagreements (drama already).

No wonder some people I know tell me that playing games with friends is bad, but making friends with people that play things you like is awesome. I guess you would have liked to hear this before your friends got this committed. I wish I had.


The millennia old social trick, when you can't kick someone out of a group, is to start a brand new group, and get the members of the old group to migrate to the new group.

Of course, that individual is a persona non grata to the new group.

Through gradual attrition, the original group dwindles down just to that one person and maybe a few others who can tolerate that person.

And so, the unpleasant situation of kicking someone out of a group never takes place.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is just cunning and cruel. If you don't have the balls to tell someone to the face that you'd rather run into your own sword than playing with them any longer, then I guess you'd have to stick with them. This is just kindergarden and will 100% destroy friendships. When you are grown up, AND you are friends, well.... I expect my friends to tank it when I tell them they are sons of bitches \$\endgroup\$
    – clockw0rk
    Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 13:08

Many different options have been covered thus far so I want to focus on the mechanics issues and how to solve that particular set of rules. Mind you this may get tedious for you but it will be useful. Not just for now buy in the future.

Rules of the game: In all versions of D&D there are two rules that stand above all.

Less known but valid is Rule 1:

Specific Trump's General.

In the case of the rule books this is normally set to mean rules like a rogues trap finding ability is normally in the rules the only one that can find magical traps and traps of higher DC. This is trumped by individual rules under different classes that state that this classes trap finding is like a rogues skill.

You can use this in many other situations as well as in conjunction with the next Rule/advice.

Generally speaking, using the katana controlled mech as the example, unless he had some kind of power personally or in the sword, it simply cannot be done. D&D is a very fantastical game and full of magic in wonder but all of those wonders follow rules either natural or governed. If he wished to take over that suit He would need multiple checks. Climb to get up to the cockpit, with extra to the DC, Balance to stay on this moving vehicle, whatever check if required for the method he used to open said cockpit, fight the person controlling it if there is one, then a mixture of disable device and any other skills required to gain control pilot the vehicle.

All of these are very specific points and this Trump general.

Next is the Rule Grande, I'm going to quote it from the 3.5 book but it's applicable to any version.


When everyone gathers around the table to play the game, you’rein charge. That doesn’t mean you can tell people what to do out-side the boundaries of the game, but it does mean that you’re the final arbiter of the rules within the game. Good players will alwaysrecognize that you have ultimate authority over the game mechan-ics, even superseding something in a rulebook. Good DMs knownot to change or overturn a published rule without a good, logical justification so that the players don’t rebel (more on that later).

To carry out this responsibility, you need to know the rules.You’re not required to memorize the rulebooks, but you shouldhave a clear idea of what’s in them, so that when a situation comesup that requires a ruling, you know where to reference the proper rule in the book.Often a situation will arise that isn’t explicitly covered by therules. In such a situation, you need to provide guidance as to howit should be resolved. When you come upon a situation that the rules don’t seem to cover, consider the following courses of action.

•Look to any similar situation that iscovered in a rulebook. Tryto extrapolate from what you see presented there and apply it tothe current circumstance.

•If you have to make something up, stick with it for the rest ofthe campaign. (This is called a house rule.) Consistency keepsplayers satisfied and gives them the feeling that they adventurein a stable, predictable universe and not in some random,nonsensical place subject only to the DM’s whims.

•When in doubt, remember this handy little rule: Favorable conditions add +2 to any d20 roll, and unfavorable conditionspenalize the roll by –2. You’ll be surprised how often this “DM’s best friend” will solve problems.If you come upon an apparent contradiction in the rules, consider these factors when adjudicating.

•A rule found in a rulebook overrules one found in a published adventure, unless the rule presented in the published adven-ture deals with something specific and limited to the adventure itself.

•Choose the rule that you like the best, then stick with it for therest of the campaign. Consistency is a critical aspect of rules adjudication [/QUOTE]

You as the GM determine if something simply cannot be done if it is outside of the established rules of the game.

If the player makes a logical argument let him given it a shot. Determine the checks necessary to complete the action And let them.

Of they cannot make a logical argument the best adaptation of the "Rule of Cool " is to pause a moment and determine a way to complete the action within the established rules and then talk to the player. Tell him you're idea, work with them to set it up logically and then do as above.

It won't solve all of your problems. Continuing on when he refuses to join the group is fine. That's on him.

Problem players stay a problem when you cater to them. I had one myself also a min maxer. That caused problems and these solutions worked for me.

If he's staying behind refusing to go through the door, keep going. He will catch up. Splitting up is usually I'll advised since he like maximizing his characters abilities it should not be too difficult for him to catch up alone. Might get in a fight, lose, get captured and have to have e the party rescue him.

Don't be heavy handed but do have a heavy foot.

The player consistently sounds like he tries to do things he simply cannot. Don't go off killing his character but do let him bully you into getting his way. Make your decision and stick with it.

In the case of rules, if he showed you a rule in a rule book (not online) of can tell you exactly where to find the rule. Give it consideration for future events.

Do not change the past in your game. You adjudicated a decision. Rule verification can change future almost never should you change what's been done.

Finally, group adjudication.

If after all the above a situation has come up that he continues disagree and there is no established rule for it. Perform a group vote. Sometimes you are wrong in your logic. The group will show this. Correct from there. Other times the player that was arguing wrong, he sees everyone disagree and he either accepts the answer, spends time trying to convince everyone of his point of view or he gets mad and quits. The last two outcomes are bad and really bad respectively but you're job as a GM is to keep the game fun for the party, storytelling and adjudicating rules. Coddling someone who is acting childish isn't.


You are facing a social problem, which you could face in many group activities. Since most other approaches have been tried, here is a new approach:

Try to build a second RPG-campaign in parallel and let the old one die

This will need some extra time. But just ask some of the other players, if they would be interested in trying a new RPG session, besides the current campaign. Choose a new setting and maybe a new system - and state clear that you want to try a different, new style of play.

Find a new date not conflicting with your current schedule and try the new game with your play style in a small group. If they like it, invite the other players, until you have everyone on board besides the problem-child. If he also wants to join, make it clear that it is not "classic rpg" like the other group, but something completely different - no "rule of cool". If he still wants to try it, he can join, but he will be on your turf in your group playing by your rules and play-style.

If the new rpg-session works out, you can slowly end the other campaign. Make schedules less regularly and let it just slowly die if no one really enjoys it.

If you do it right you will have a new rpg-group with the same people, but other ground-rules.


everyone has ideas that get shut down by the gm. if you play long enough, eventually you'll throw an idea that doesn't work. it sounds like your player has a much higher percentage of ideas that need to be shut down which is fine. for example, jumping up and stabbing a mech can result in many possible mechanics. the katana doesn't breach, he takes damage for falling awkwardly. his katana breaches, the forces snap the weapon in half. many actions don't make sense, this is common. that's most of the fun of the game - trying solutions within the game mechanics to solve a problem. if he's not playing the same game, it should have the consequences of what the game mechanics prescribe. trying to play baseball in a football game simply results in a lot of fouls. but you can be creative about it in a fun way.


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