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Ask a DM: How do I handle a rude and selfish player?

Written by Darkwarren - Published on November 5, 2013

I am pretty new  to DM’ing  only a year into my Dungeons and Dragons  gaming  and I have a question about how to deal with a situation that has befallen in the group that I am DM’ing.

To cut it short, one of the players is more or less leeching the enjoyment of most around  with general bad attitude and taunts here and there, always trying to find loopholes and make stuff up like  for instance  what he said in our latest game: “I am a Genasi  so I can sense magic naturally”  and  ” I am a Genasi  so magic comes natural to me, meaning i didn’t study to become a wizard.” Which we know is total bogus. And if it was not enough with bad attitude in game,  he is seemingly going around talking about how $#!+ a player is,  how $#!+my DM’ing is, all the while he is attempting to bend the rules to his liking.

What do I do with this?

–           Martin S.

Wow, Martin. It sounds like you have your hands full here. Let me start by saying congratulations on DM’ing for a year. It is a labor of love and it poses its own unique challenges. Hopefully you stick with it and enjoy the DM’ing aspect of our wonderful hobby.

That said, it’s important to understand that because we’re all human, and the fact is that when humans get together there is all sorts of dynamics, you sometimes run into such difficulties.  I’ll break it down real easy for you. The two most important rules in roleplaying are as follows:

  • Everyone has fun.
  • DM has final say on all rules questions.

It looks like this player either does not understand these very important, fundamental rules, or just outright rejects them. You can handle this one of two ways: very carefully and diplomatically, which hopefully leads to him becoming a more respectful and all around better roleplayer that enhances everyone’s experience; or you grab your cleaver and cut him loose. For the sake of diplomacy, let’s opt for the former.

You need to take this player aside and speak with them one-on-one. Face to face or e-mail is fine, as long as it is not public in front of the rest of the group. You don’t want him feeling threatened and try for another power play. Explain that his play is inappropriate (taunting others, breaking/bending rules, etc.) and makes the gaming that much less enjoyable for you and everyone else. The open taunting and berating of anyone else at the table needs to stop immediately.

So as to not come across as completely rejecting him or his character, use some of the ideas he has already put forth. A quasi-planar character who can naturally sense magic and did not have to study his magic? This sounds like a sorcerer and not a wizard. As long as the mechanics are sound and rules are being followed, let him describe the flavor of his magic any way he wants. If he has unlimited uses of detect magic according to the rules, then there is no harm in him saying that he can do it “naturally”. Make sure that his character is balanced with the others in the party and there should be nothing broken about it.

If his character still needs to be the center of attention, offer logical in-game challenges to such behavior. For example, have him rushed by fans, or have him become the center of controversy like a city watch investigation or an outside force is seeking to detain, injure, or even kill him. Perhaps he’ll learn that such in-game attitude and antics have their own consequences.

If, after you’ve told him that his attitude and behavior is not welcomed at the table and his behavior still does not improve and he will not listen to reason, there is only one alternative at this point: tell him that he is not welcomed at the table. No DM wishes to kick a player out but sometimes people just don’t play well with others. Time is too precious to spend so much on someone who is treating you or the other players like that. I wish you luck, and if you can, let us know what happened.

How about the rest of you DM’s out there? Has this ever happened to you? How have you handled it? Any advice you wish to share?

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Written by Darkwarren

Matt W., aka Darkwarren, has been roleplaying ever since his older brother introduced him to the red box set when he was 7 years old. Since then he has game-mastered SSDC’s Battleords of the Twenty-third Century, WEG’s Shadowrun and Star Wars, and of course Dungeons & Dragons in a variety of forms. At thirty-four years old he takes turns on both sides of the screen with the group that he helped found in 2000 when 3.0 hit the stands and has met every week fairly regularly ever since. Currently they have been running a variety of the Paizo Adventure Path scenarios, so that’s his wheelhouse. He was almost famous when two of his adventures were green-lighted for possible publication right before Paizo relinquished the rights to publish Dungeon magazine.

Matt also has years if experience in improvisational comedy, fiction, and non-fiction writing. He is currently working and studying to attain a master’s degree in theology, to enhance his career as a religious studies teacher. Lastly, his greatest passion is his family, especially the three sons and dog that he shares with his wife in upstate New York.

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5 Responses to “Ask a DM: How do I handle a rude and selfish player?”
  1. Chris says:

    I would like to say that running games for over 20 years in this hobby that I have had more fun than situations like this. The above situation does occur and after the offer for behavior correction you may have to ask the player to leave. I have found games to become much better after this has occurred and did not realize how much of a fun leech it was to the group. Face it head first and deal with it quickly.

  2. HermeticGamer says:

    I too would say you need to deal with this head-on, though depending on the dynamics of the group I might include them in the conversation if I felt like they could be mature and not attack him with the feedback. It’s far to easy given his opinion of your DMing and thought that he can powerplay you for him to dismiss it as you being the problem. He needs to realize its not just you who is affected by his behavior.

    Other in-game consequences to his “always sense magic” is that all those wonderful goodies I’m certain he and his fellow adventurers have accumulated on themselves create a permanent distraction resulting in penalties to concentration related tasks. Or if he comes into the presence of really potent magic it may be overwhelming to his senses resulting in a “stunned” condition or penalties to other perceptions. Just a thought as a way of yet again teaching him that choices have consequences and not always solely to his benefit.

  3. Darkwarren says:

    Chris, a good piece of advice: have the conversation ASAP.

    HermeticGamer, that’s a great in-game solution. Plus, it would add to the drama of the story if the other characters witness the stunning.

  4. Garrett says:

    It happens. If it is not handled quickly the game simmers in a pool of resentment. A trick is to avoid singling out the player. For instance I had a player who rolled in his oen tray across the room from otherd. His totals always were too good to be true. I introduced a rule all players must roll on the card table I provided. Also, one dice drop on the table. No auditioning dice. When certain players were grumbling about one another, I told everyone thrre would br zero tolerance for anyone disrespecting a fellow gamer.


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