Monday, June 18, 2018

Killing Characters Won't Solve Out-Of-Game Problems

It seems like every other day there are DMs on the forums and groups I frequent who are trying to figure out a way to deal with problem players. Whether it's constantly trying to initiate PVP, attempting to steal the most valuable loot for themselves, completely ignoring the game's tone, or just refusing to participate in the adventure, there are hundreds of ways players can be jerks at the table.

But you know what won't solve that problem? Killing their character.

You don't have to take my word for it, but you'll save a lot of time and frustration if you do.

In-Game Actions Don't Solve Out-of-Game Problems

Did you ever get into a fight with your parents? The kind where they eventually shouted something like, "This is my house, and as long as you live here you will follow my rules," or threatened to take away some of your privileges (you can't use the car, I'll take your door off the hinges, etc). Take a moment and ask yourself if that made you decide to see your own behavior in a different light. If, perhaps, you considered the extra stress your desires put on your family, or that your parents might be wiser than you, and that your current course of action really is ill advised.

Probably not. You probably stewed about how unfair your situation was, and said several choice things about what an asshole your parent was for preventing you from having fun, or doing things that you enjoyed. That's pretty much why targeting a character as a way to "teach their player a lesson" doesn't actually solve anything. It just frustrates the player, and makes you look like an asshole.

Ugh. Stupid DM doesn't let me do ANYTHING!
So how do you get problem players to stop their behavior, if using their character as a whipping boy doesn't make the point? Well, you do what any adult who is trying to solve a problem should do in this situation; sit down with the player, discuss the specifics of their behavior, express why you think it is a problem, and have a conversation about it. Make sure they hear what you're saying, and listen to what they have to say in response if you want to actually solve the issue.

But What If That Doesn't Work?!

I've been a DM, and had players do backward, irritating, disruptive, or outright stupid things at my tables. And I get that the knee-jerk reaction is to embrace the role of an angry god who heard someone talking smack about him, and send down a thunderbolt. However, if you remember your Greek myth, that kind of rash action on Zeus's part rarely got him what he wanted. Most of the time it actually backfired, and created new monsters, or fresh heroes, that then had to be handled again and again further down the line.

If you want your players to do something (or more importantly not do something) then you have to tell them. Don't drop hints, don't hope they'll get it when you do something retaliatory in nature. Don't just snub them and hope they'll get with the program. All of these are passive-aggressive things to do, at best, and they aren't going to get you the results you want.

And if talking doesn't work? If no matter how clearly or eloquently you phrase your requests, said problem players continue to do the things you want them not to do? Well, ask why they're doing it. Is it because they're bored? Is it because they want a game with lots of action, but you were going for more of a political intrigue vibe? Is it because they think the game should be all about their actions, instead of your plot? Talk that out, and try to reach some kind of consensus.

If there is no reconciling your game with the player who is being a disruption to it, though, you simply ask them to stop coming. Make it clear that this doesn't mean you won't game with them in the future (unless that's the message you want to send), but that for this game, you don't feel they're a good fit for your table.

These games function on cooperation. If you reach across the screen, but they aren't willing to meet you halfway, then there may be nothing else you can do.

That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday post. Hopefully some of the DMs out there (as well as some of the players) are taking notice. For more of my work, check out my Vocal archive, as well as the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio where I help out. If you want to stay on top of all my latest releases, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you want to help support me, then drop a dollar into The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, or consider Buying Me A Ko-Fi. My eternal gratitude, and some free gaming swag, will follow!

1 comment:

  1. Amen to this! Everyday i see DMs on Facebook post problems and the immediate flood of answers is "Kill the character" or the variant for problems with a magic item "destroy the magic item." I have never seen this sort of punishment actually solve any problems!