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I have recently started a campaign for four players who were interested in D&D. This being my first time being a DM/GM, I decided to go ahead and run the Mines of Phandelver module.

One of the members of the group, a Druid, who in my opinion is really only here because the other three were interested is the one I'm having trouble with. Whenever RP takes place he seems to be unable to control himself and laughs. It is having a negative affect on the group, as all the players tend to narrate out what they say instead of say what they want to say. I know this is a common occurrence for new players to RPGs. However, when they narrate out what they say I'll instead encourage them to say what they want to say.

Yet the Druid will always laugh, I feel that the players are more unwilling to talk in character because of this. The Druid even straight up doesn't talk to NPCs because he continuously brings up his Personality Trait (IIRC) which states that his character is "Awkward in social situations".

As well as a DM, when I role-played a Nothic I attempted to make the Nothic sound evil with maniacal laughter. The Druid just blew up in laughter, I could not personally do a good job after that, feeling the pressure from the group. Instead I headed the Nothic into combat rather than continuing down the path of a possible non-violent resolution with the PCs.

I talked to the member, but he continues to laugh. I am hoping to resolve this situation without totally ruining the RP experience for both himself and the other players in the group.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @Francisco Was there a resolution to your issue? \$\endgroup\$ – Jack Dec 10 '18 at 23:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jack Been a while. IIRC I tried to work it out with the fellow. But in the end, he said Role-playing was for him or something. Hopefully it wasn't myself who ruined his experience :P \$\endgroup\$ – Francisco Dec 11 '18 at 1:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Answerers, please remember that good answers on RPG.SE leverage your experience or citations, not pure opinion. Have you had this problem? What did you do? What have you seen done, or read about others doing, and how did it work out? Random untried opinion is not expertise. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Dec 11 '18 at 2:07
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In situations such as this you have a few of choices.

  1. Talk to him out of game... you have already done this as you stated.
  2. Discuss it at the table with everyone, not necessarily intervention style but have the peer pressure work for you. If done right it won't be confrontational.
  3. My favorite is to resolve everything in game play, socially awkward Druid is a perfectly viable way to play a Druid especially if he were a Hermit or Outlander backgrounds. But if he laughs at everything treat it entirely in character as you would with the rest of the group. Which could easily devolve situations to combat, yes but after a few times they typically learn what is happening and that they have control of it.

Gygax used to do the third one quite frequently actually, side conversations, especially in delves and wilderness excursions were treated as in character at all times. So when his players were joking about the hirelings as nothing but fodder and a few died the role-play digressed into negotiations for resurrections and the like.

Bottom line comes down to if none of these work and he continues to be a disruptive influence you should talk to the other players about possibly removing him completely from your game. I know it sucks but 4 people's fun sort of outweighs his in the long term and voting him off the island, as it were might be the only option after all others have been tried.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Dec 11 '18 at 2:03
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Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I get the feeling that when you talked with this other player you were very circumspect, or at the very least very gentle.

The thing is, what this guy is doing is inappropriate. Since it appears to be bothering everyone but him1, it's the kind of inappropriate where if he were "in tune" with others' feelings he wouldn't be doing it. In my experience, people who are insensitive or prone to behaving thoughtlessly often need to be told very directly how big a problem something is, not just that there's a problem. They tend to miss subtext.

For example, "I'm concerned someone's feelings might get hurt" gets interpreted as "this is a problem I've considered in the abstract" rather than "this is a thing currently happening." I've found that the best way to deal with this sort of person is to gradually escalate my communication toward "that really bothers me, knock it off >:("

There's also a possibility that he's trying to be considerate, but there are particular instances where he genuinely doesn't realize a player isn't deliberately hamming it up for laughs. In most campaigns some stuff is funny, and some stuff is serious. Sometimes it's hard to tell. A quick "I'm being serious, please quit laughing" on the spot is often met with "oh, sorry, man" and then everybody moves on without hurt feelings. Maybe it'll work for you?

1 You mentioned talking to the problem player. I don't see anywhere you mentioned talking to the other players. Definitely do that: talk to the other players.

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Crank up the Tension

Although talking to someone can work (and it is certainly an adult way to handle things), often times people "are what they are" (as you've seen).

Some alternate methods I've used include:

  • Ignore the behavior and move on. Without attention, the behavior might go away on it's own.
  • Sidle up to an attentive player and start (game) talking directly to them. Soon everyone will start listening in intently.
  • Give a clue of impending danger. An ominous sound nearby, a flock of birds taking flight, a fleeing NPC, a knock at the door (knocking on the table to simulate), etc.
  • Start an action scene (combat or some other sort of peril)
  • Play at a faster pace. Move through actions (and results) quickly, moving on to ready players if someone is not ready (no need to actually skip them though: you can come back to them when they're ready)

I've found that cranking up the tension (to the point that the players are sweating bullets and actually worried about what's going to happen next) focuses players and makes most behavioral issues a non-concern. Players tend to become more serious when put in peril.

And it doesn't even have to be constant combat, just a general foreboding. Example:

GM: The NPC notices your laughter and stares at you funny.

Player: (still laughing)

GM: The NPC whispers something to the person next to him

Player: (nervously laughing)

GM: That person then glances at you, and quickly leaves the room. Make an Insight check.

Player: (stops laughing)

Some of my best sessions involved foreshadowing. And (unlike dirty surprises) players tend to be much more cool about impending disasters if they've been given signs (even if there's nothing they can do about them).

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