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Nerd Watching: Ejecting Jerks

Written by Nicholas - Published on July 9, 2009

Nicholas is the columnist in charge of Nerd Watching and part-time Expy wrangler. He also works as the community manager, so keep an eye out for him on RPG blogs and forums.

To kick things off I would like to direct you to a wonderful post by our blogging contemporary the Chatty DM. He discusses a letter he received from a reader, asking about how to deal with players who make hyper aggressive PCs that shut down other members of the party and generally ruin every one’s fun. Go ahead and read it, I’ll wait. I’d like to put my own two cents in on the issue.

Frustrating your group by roleplaying a character you made to be a jerk doesn’t make you a good roleplayer, it makes you a jerk.

Is It Ever Okay?

I’ll say this, there is an appropriate context for a character who doesn’t mesh well with the group. Some of my favorite roleplaying experiences have been inter-group conflicts, even once where another character’s goal in life was to sneakily kill my character. That context is based on the out of character relationships. You should discuss your potentially disruptive idea with the rest of the group. If they are not as enthused about it as you are, don’t do it. Unless you have gamed with the group for a long time, this usually won’t work out.

Characters designed for inter-party conflict tend to be short lived, but can go out in a blaze of glory. If done well, they become the stuff of your gaming table legends.

When Is It Not Okay?

Well, most of the time. Frustrating your group by roleplaying a character you made to be a jerk doesn’t make you a good roleplayer, it makes you a jerk. Making a character who is going to endanger the rest of the party, rob them or just not do the job you are being relied on to do is just not a friendly thing to do. Now, some of you may cry that you have the right to make whatever character you want to. You are there to have fun, aren’t you? Well, my dad always used to tell me “your right to swing your arm ends where my face begins”. Yes, you should make a character that is fun for you, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of everyone else.

Gamers know what it is like to not fit in, that makes us reluctant to give that feeling to someone else.

What Do You Do?

A smart group will kick out such a player. Maybe give him or her a stern talking to first and a chance at change. Reality is often more complicated than that. The troublesome player could be an old friend or relation of some member of the group. Even beyond that, gamers in general don’t like to exclude people. If I may stereotype for a moment, many gamers did not fit into the cool crowd growing up. Even the more socially accepted ones were excluded at some point. Gamers know what it is like to not fit in, that makes us reluctant to give that feeling to someone else. Well, ideally, you overcome and set the person straight for the good of the group. If you can’t confront the problem directly, there are a few less courageous options. Starting a new game without inviting the problem player or simply not tolerating his antics when he is at the table, ignoring him or denying what he wants to do are both less confrontional ways of dealing with the problem. I must stress that the head on approach works the best, if you have the stomach for it.

Make It Happen!

Last week we introduced “Make It Happen!”, check out the rules here. Today we have a new challenge, how would you make a swashbuckler? What class would you use? In 4e what role should they be? Make it happen!

Have you ever had a problem player? How did you deal with them?

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Written by Nicholas

Nick DiPetrillo is the original author behind the games Arete and Zombie Murder Mystery available at http://games.dungeonmastering.com

Nick is no longer active with DungeonMastering.com, however he is an accomplished writer and published his first game in 2009.

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Nicholas is the columnist in charge of Nerd Watching and part-time Expy wrangler. He also works as the community manager, so keep an eye out for him on RPG blogs and forums.

 

 Comments

10 Responses to “Nerd Watching: Ejecting Jerks”
  1. Hey Nick, great post. I’m honored that my article inspired you enough to write on the subject yourself. I agree 100% that any shady intra-party shenanigans should be discussed before it is attempted so other players can express thier reservations and/or limits (ex: you don’t pickpocket us, ever).

  2. Brisingry says:

    A rogue multiclassed with a warrior would make a pretty decent swashbuckler…

  3. Chrispysurfer says:

    I think another good thing to try with a character who is causing problems for a group is have them arrested and jailed or suddenly hunted by a very powerful group of people who he pissed off. The only way for him to get out of this trouble is to work with the group and for them to want to saw him. This makes the characters are a plot hook for a group. You could throw in some humiliating things that the problem player may have to do to get put of it. I threw in a marriage to a awful half ork once, unless the group brought back the town hero they disgrace. The group let him have the wedding party dancing and all before they quested. It was much better after that.

  4. LordVreeg says:

    I find that with most groups and experienced GM’s, this rarely happens in the beginning. Most of us are far too careful and clear to let this kind of thing start in the beginning of a campaign. And this kind of thing is easy to nip in the bud.

    The danger comes later. Sometimes subtly. A PC gets a grudge against another PC, and starts trying to act it out. And then the whole group can get dragged in. I’ve had a few times where the happiness and enjoyment of a large Long-time group (you know, the thing we all work really hard to get and keep) was threatened by a PC whose dificult behavior got worse and more insidious as time went on. This is what to watch for.

  5. BookWyrm says:

    There was a player in my old D&D group whose PC and mine had conflicts in game. He decided that this conflict existed out of game, too. He couldn’t separate in-game role playing from out of game stuff. The final straw was when, at the end of our last campaign, the DM asked each player what their character was doing. Most of us were gathering spoils. This crud says, “I draw my bow and shoot at Shadow.” My character! He was trying to kill my character!! Without even issuing a challenge!!! Shadow survived the murder attempt, this dope got a lot of flack from the rest of the group, and shortly after was an ex-member of the group.

  6. CrazySlyHawk says:

    I agree with Chrispysurfar – often the best thing to do is to get the offending PC in trouble! Two things may result from this: if the PC was deliberately sabotaging the game for his own fun and to the detriment of others, he will realise the DM is now against him and he will call the DM out on it. When he discovers the rest of the party feel the same way he will leave or amend himself, hopefully the latter.

    Secondly, and ideally, he may actually care about the game and realise his character is in peril, prompting cooperation etc.

  7. One potential answer could be to use the player as a GMing tool. You can get them a villain (probably not THE villain) to get the PvP out of their system.

    Or course, the player needs to be willing to have a lot of your input into their character creation and how the character is used. I actually found it a little relaxing to have a player be an NPC for a little while as all I had to do was call out initiative order.

  8. Harvester says:

    I find that 9/10 if a player is acting up in the game it is because of issues they are having outside the game – so take them to one side and ask them if there is something going on with them and then nicely point out that murdering barmaids or attacking heroes is not what this heroic adventure team game is all about. If they want adversarial combat – point them to games-workshop or something……

  9. DandDGuy says:

    In my many years of Gaming I have encounter a few of these types “while DM’s hand slowly slips under table searching for the ejection button”. This type of person does not even belong at the gaming table. You really want to be nice to the person may be their a friend of yours or a member of someone else in the group. However, if their just being disruptive to the group too be disruptive they need to be asked to leave and never return until they can grow up. It may be a little harsh “In one of my groups we had a three strikes policy I you were disruptive to the group three times in consecutive weeks of gaming you were asked not to return.

    Each situation is different and should be handled in a manner that is appropriate to the given situation. If a player was disruptive more than three times they were politely asked to leave and not return.

  10. Mick Bradley says:

    Hi,

    The Canon Puncture Show has released our latest episode (#74) and one of our discussion topics was based on this blog post. Here’s a link to our episode post for those of you who are interested:

    http://www.canonpuncture.com/2009/07/canon-puncture-74-jerks-at-the-table-and-their-looong-backstories/

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