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#HumpDayRPG Problem Players and Pathfinder (is it a cult?)

Note: Welcome to the first episode of HumpDay RPG a weekly slack chat between our two founders (and two employees) Travis and Gideon.

Travis
Hey Gideon, welcome to our first weekly not-at-all-stolen-from-FiveThirtyEight chat.

Gideon
Topic 1: what to do when you players hate each other 😛

Travis
Oh great topic, I was thinking of “Pathfinder is on Humble Bundle again” but since you bring it up, it’s pretty common to have some drama at a table. RPGs typically show a much less inhibited versions of our true selves (or allow us to play out other people who maybe those closest to us are not as comfortable with). How do you handle drama at the table?

Gideon
Well a little drama is definitely ok, a game where there’s no tension between the characters might not be the most interesting game you can play. The first thing I try to keep my eye on is if the tension between the characters is bleeding into tension between the players. The former is fine, the latter can be a bit of a problem.

The easiest way to do that is to call a break (a little while after any drama, no need to inturrupt a good scene) to grab drinks whatever and see if the players are laughing and enjoying reflecting on their characters actions e.g. “oh man, my Cleric is such a dick, but he really has to follow his scripture to the letter of the law – sorry!” a bad sign is players sniping at each other in real life comments etc. e.g. “why do you have to be such a dick?”

Travis
Do you think the DM has to step in at a certain point? Like you have a player (not character) who is openly hostile to the actions of another… do you just let it play out? Do you explain that it’s a good decision?

I guess, where do we as DMs have to position ourselves? I feel like this is something you and I are probably a bit different on. I would rather get mildly involved and take a side if to me the side is clear. If you are being a dick at my table, I am going to say “hey it’s his turn to do with as he wants, if you would like to protest in character, please do so when it’s your turn if you ever learn about it”.

Gideon
The way I DM I think it’s my job to make sure everyone at the table is having a fun/rewarding time, a part of that is definitely mediating dispute if necessary. I have a few rules at the table, one of which is everyone is allowed to play their character how they like, so if a player is criticizing character choice I’ll step in to defend that, if the player being criticized isn’t doing it for themselves.

It’s dangerous, I think, to “take a side” however because if you show favour to one player at a table that can set up an imbalance about how your players feel about you, which can be hard to shift.

I’ll generally step in though, if I think that there’s a shred of malice or mean intent at the table, intially playfully (I’ll have their character trigger a sleep trap or something to give them a time out, and they’ll usually go to the bathroom or whatever) but if they are a persistently being unkind or unfair I’ll talk to them after class 😛

Travis
Mute spell 😛

“oh what a terrible thing just happened, you and you triggered a mute spell you cannot talk for the next 10 real life minutes”

Gideon
lol yes perhaps, that can seem a little targeted, but could work well. My main objective is always “what will optimize for happiness at the table” not “what does this person deserve” so that includes not pissing off the person being a dick – who might just be having a crappy day

Travis
Yeah we frequently talk about the “rule of cool” as a sort of overarching rule of Dungeons and Dragons and I know that it’s one that you and I both adhere to… but I think the better rule would be the “rule of fun”

Which is basically the rule of cool but for more. Did we break the rules in how we defeated the dragon? Sure. Did we have fun? Yes, it was awesome.

Gideon
What would you do if you had a player who had no interest in completing the group objective, and you could see this was gradually frustrating the rest of the group? Eye rolls from everyone else while this one player clearly didn’t GAF?

Travis
I was reading an article about this on Reddit today. The guy was concerned because he likes to really draw out the role play and enjoy the game, while the others just want to hurry up and kill monsters. He asked if he was playing the game wrong because he was irritating his group.

Most of the people said “you are playing the same way we would like, but also you are not going to get the rest of the group to change to what you want they have their own type of game they want to play”

I feel like this might apply, he can make an appeal to them that it’s the type of game he wants to play and as long as he is comfortable playing the game their wa