View Full Version : Problem Players [any system]

Fiery Diamond
2010-04-06, 04:10 PM
So, I've been thinking. For all of us who DM and play, there will be problem players to deal with. I have some things I've said about a problem player in this thread about DM mistakes. Here, I'll quote myself.

Letting one of my players get her way.

No, really. I keep making that mistake, too. Because if I don't let her get her way NOW, I have to retcon all the crap I let her get away with in the past. I'm going to have to figure out how to deal with this.

So, basically, the story is this:

1) I'm running a high-powered gestalt campaign (everyone started out with total ability score combined modifiers of 12-13; I've homebrewed some ways to get skill points and bonus feats/bonus spells based on using up points granted each time you level up (1 point at level up, 3 points for a feat); I'm using a system similar to UA action points on steroids to represent them being chosen by the gods; etc.)

2) I have trouble getting some players. So, eventually I end up with 4 players. One is at least as experienced as I am (she is playing a monk//sorcerer) and isn't really a problem so long as I patrol for spell abuses. The second is a complete novice (he is playing a druid//ranger) and is actually a smart powergamer who causes me a bit of a headache -- he does all kinds of research out of game to find out what his best options are. The third is also a complete novice (she is playing a rogue//ranger) and needs assistance to really do well in combat-she's playing a tank! as a rogue//ranger!-, but is a great roleplayer. The final player manages to talk her way into being in my game somehow. She is a cleric//bard. She is the problem player.

3) Problem player (I'll call her PP for short) is a unique circumstance. She has rather extensive background experience with D&D. She likes to try to find broken ways to do broken things and thinks this is a perfectly acceptable method of approaching the game. She thinks that she knows a lot and that whatever she "knows" must in fact be always 100% the case and she will argue for it forever. She throws fits and tries to make it seem like it's your fault and that you're an ass if you don't let her get her way or tell her that she's wrong.

You can already tell that she's a problem, right? Well, you haven't heard the clincher. SHE KNOWS NEXT TO NOTHING ABOUT D&D!!! Yes, this despite years of experience with it. Despite making up and writing stories set in D&D settings. Despite being an annoying Drizzt fangirl (though she would deny it). Despite all of her attitude of knowing everything and always being right.

I mean, when it takes her five minutes (no lie) to figure out how to calculate her attack and damage bonuses after losing her first character sheet when we've been playing for months even though she still has all the stats with her, she has to look up every spell before casting it to find out its duration, what type of save it has, how long it takes to cast, whether it has an expensive material components, and so forth (and by "before casting" I mean: "Oh, my turn? I want to cast "Spell X" on the bad guy. What? You don't know exactly how it works and everything? Someone give me a book. Okay, I cast it." "Um...I'm pretty sure that has a material component and takes ten minutes to cast." "It does? Oh, crap, I didn't see that. Well ****, I guess I need to think of something else. There goes my broken use of that spell."), when she has to ask how to figure out her save DCs every time I ask her what the DC is for a spell she's casting... there's a problem.

Here's an example of her attempting to "do something powerful": "I cast Sepia Snake Sigil on a flag-sized piece of paper with huge letters on it and wave it in combat." I mean, WTF?

4) Now that you know the setup, here's the problem with PP. In character creation, she decides that she wants to make a character she invented for a story. She's friends with player 3, so she drags player 3 along into playing that character's twin. In her story, the twins are two elven girls (one is a homebrewed elven subrace and the other is a drow...magic rape had something to do with how that happened or something) who have a telepathic link and psychic powers, including the ability to destroy the minds of those who try to affect their minds.

I go, "Sorry, no drow. Sorry, no psionics. Sorry, no destroying people's minds. Let's see how we can represent the other things (such as sharing damage and being able to rez each other or die if they fail to do so) and some of those things in less broken ways than you have listed at the moment." That's mistake number one. I should have just said, "No. Create a character from scratch."

Mistake number two: I let her convince me of some very bad things.
1-Telepathic Link: Can communicate any distance, can feel other's pain (and take .25x damage in NL), use best results for all perception-related and knowledge checks, can see through each other's eyes (including the effects of detect magic and such), cannot be flanked if the other can see, immune to mind-affecting effects unless both twins are affected by the effect.
2-"Can I get some way of casting spells through the link?"
3-"I'm based on the concept of mind-f*ing! Aren't I glorious? I'll put full ranks in diplomacy and then roleplay my diplomacy horribly and say I'm fabulous because I have lots of ranks! Even though you already said that roleplaying was mostly divorced from the skill for your campaign!" ...Okay, she didn't convince me of this one, but she seems to think she did, which is almost as bad.

Mistake number three: Not correcting mistake number two, and so letting the problems compound. The fact that PP thinks that anything that has a will save is a "mind-affecting effect" despite the rules doesn't help.

I'm seriously considering just scrapping all my previous rulings for that and starting over, even though I know it will provoke a hissy fit.

What are some stories and examples of problem players you have had to deal with? Do tell!

2010-04-06, 04:31 PM
"By the way, my father is the king of a layer of Hell and I'm possessed by Balors."
"This is information I would like before the game begins, thank you."
(I made him make a new character at that point)

A word to the wise: When you're making an adventurer, please make sure that one of his/her hobbies is "adventuring."

We had a guy decide to play a peaceful minotaur whose entire tribe was lost to the machinations of civilization, and who had fled to a distant cave to reflect upon himself after killing his tribe's murderers. I thought the story was cool, so I OK'd it.

I start the session with a big storm and two of the other PCs half to seek shelter in the minotaur's cave.

Cut to a session-and-a-half later, and we are still in the cave, because the minotaur's player has decided that his character has absolutely no reason to leave the cave -ever-, has been ignoring all of my attempts to get the PCs out of the cave and generally being disrespectful towards me (Me: "Er, the primal spirits are trying to warn you of danger just outside the far end of the cave." Him: "I don't care." // Him: "That argument would've worked." Me: "Colin made that argument." Him: "I'm not accepting that."), and has coerced the other PCs repeatedly to not give up on role-playing their way through the cave to try and get him out of the cave.

Finally, they get him out of the cave... where he complains repeatedly about wanting to go back to the cave. When they get to civilization and plot, he decides he would rather host an in-game political debate about dairy farms instead of help the party with their goals, side-tracking the party for another half of a session.

When the party makes it to a port city, he says, "If you guys aren't back to me in nine hours, I'm going back to my cave." ...Then never reminds them again that he's out there, and when they don't return in time, he leaves the party and decides to leave the game, with implications that its totally my fault his character wasn't coming along.

That was rambly, I apologize.

Doug Lampert
2010-04-06, 04:54 PM
A word to the wise: When you're making an adventurer, please make sure that one of his/her hobbies is "adventuring."
In a similar vein: Years ago a DM named Eric Rowe told another player in my presence.

Try to create a character that could plausibly live past the age of five.

The character was so insane as described that this struck me as an excellent criticism. I credit Eric, but I've used that line myself since.

There's probably a whole set of rules like that. For another consider:

Try to create a character who might concievably associate with the other adventurers for more than a few hours prior to trying to kill them.


There's no glowing sign on your forehead saying PC. If you are unhelpful to the party and generally act like the sort of person the other players routinely kill and take stuff from then don't complain if one of them kills your character. "I'm only roleplaying my character" is a knife that cuts both ways. "My character kills filthy betraying thieves who steal from their companions" is a perfectly valid character concept too if we're allowing actions against the party. And if we're supposed to privelenge party members then that goes for your character too.

2010-04-06, 05:12 PM
Players have to learn how to play sometimes, well we should all be learning things all of the time.
Issues like this are (obviously/usually) psychological.
Its can be interesting to turn a supposed advantage into a problem.
In the example quoted you might try having some opponent which can latch onto the telepathic link and cause the user some problem. Some kind of possession perhaps or maybe just a confusion/insanity effect ? Ideally this oppenent is intangible and always lurking around. You ought to be able to make your player wary about using this stuff.
A kind of psycological oppenent.

Just an idea.

2010-04-06, 05:49 PM
I always felt bad about a 3.5 game a couple of years ago in which me and half the party wound up being problem players. The DM was a nice guy and he tried really really hard, but he just plain wasn't up to the task. This led to us players tending to get a bit bored.

And as we all know, things tend not to go well when the players get really bored every session. In this case, "not go well" involved comitting arson three times in four sessions, including torching a police station :smallfrown:

2010-04-06, 06:21 PM
DMing is a hard art sometimes, there really are players you can't do anything about sometimes, but other times its just requires looking at the problem another way. Its not like your short of resources, you have a Whole world, worlds even, at your command :) Not that you should lose your sense of proportion.

The cave problem could have been solved by geology.
Theres a small earth tremor and lose rocks fall from the ceiling.
The PCs all rush ouside, ... Crash ! the roof collapses.
There: He's homeless now and so He's now an adventurer :)

Or perhaps there is some monster (or propery developer) (or miner) who wants to take over the cave for their own purposes. OK this gives you a side plot, but hey is that so bad ?

The first example has intrigued me however, and I have been giving it a little thought.
Sometimes problems are opportunities, and this is a golden opportunity to run a little side plot: a small suspense thriller :)
Every time she uses her ability roll some dice (percentiles are best) behind a screen. The result doesn't matter (I'm sorry if this offends your sensibilities, but this is a suspense side plot youre running here).
What you are waiting for is a comment like "Why do you roll some dice everytime I do X ?" OK thats the bait.
Wait a few more times, until the moment is right, and then have some mind make contact. I don't know your world/setting/preferences etc. but something like an Ethereal Illithin or Githyanki or some strange etheral creature, or Devil or Demon or Slaad, ..., or whatever notices this power being used.
The contact should be scary but not lethal.
Perhaps a confusion attempt, or a bit of reconnaissance by Domination, whatever will work.
If the will save is made, then they will just try again.
This should be brief and seriously worrying.

Whenever she uses the power in future: just keep rolling the dice.
Hours of fun :)

And this could be a plot hook anytime you like, ...

2010-04-06, 06:37 PM
The cave problem could have been solved by geology.
Theres a small earth tremor and lose rocks fall from the ceiling.
The PCs all rush ouside, ... Crash ! the roof collapses.
There: He's homeless now and so He's now an adventurer :)

Or perhaps there is some monster (or propery developer) (or miner) who wants to take over the cave for their own purposes. OK this gives you a side plot, but hey is that so bad ?

If only. Every possible thing I did he outright ignored. Stopping the storm, restarting the storm, having the spirits send warnings to his shamany self, giving him character specific plot hooks involving his son that he wanted to find. Eventually I started ignoring his character and tried to focus on other players, when he would butt in and take the spotlight back. Even a "If this continue, I'll have to ask you to leave the game" went ignored. And I can't exactly tell my roommate to get out of the building, can I?

...wow, can't believe I forgot to put all that in the original post.

2010-04-06, 06:53 PM
You guys are all making me feel very grateful towards my players. Carry on. :smallsmile:

The biggest problem I have to deal with is the guy who has to add up all his modifiers to hit and damage slowly, out loud, every round. Not because he isn't capable of doing single-digit math quickly in his head (he is literally a rocket scientist [well, studying to be one]) or because it doesn't occur to him to write the numbers down, but because it makes him happy. He also has no real grasp of tactics, yet still manages to slow down the game by thinking about it. Combat rounds take almost half the time now that he isn't in our group.

He's otherwise a great player, though, even if he does tend to demand a lot of attention subplot-wise.

2010-04-06, 08:43 PM
A word to the wise: When you're making an adventurer, please make sure that one of his/her hobbies is "adventuring."Indeed; it was incredibly infuriating when one of our shadowrunners decided to just-plain not participate in the adventure, and then got all mad at the GM when he didn't provide any story for him.

Fiery Diamond
2010-04-06, 09:26 PM
Indeed; it was incredibly infuriating when one of our shadowrunners decided to just-plain not participate in the adventure, and then got all mad at the GM when he didn't provide any story for him.

I think I remember you telling this story.

Friend Computer
2010-04-06, 09:38 PM
I think I remember you telling this story.No, you just know it well enough from your own experiences. This thread, I venture, is deja vu to all of us...


2010-04-06, 09:42 PM
I have one mate of mine who is a long time friend and i enjoy playing with him when he DM's but he never gets invite to play at my table because he is just so disruptive.

1) He loves to avoid plot hooks, will do anything in his power to make sure the main plot line is ignored by the players in general.

2) When playing DnD, plays CN alignment because he believs it means he can do what ever he wants when ever he wants but not show up as evil to other people.

3) Starts massive arguments over loot. He wants everything and even if he would only get some minor use out of it and it is a game making item for another player he will fight tooth and nail for it, and Gary forgive if he dosent end up getting the item because he will attempt to steal it later.

4) Holds grudges from one character to the next. Yeah when the above action happens and he ends up being killed you can put money on his next chr being designed purely to kill who ever killed him.

ehh the list goes on but it was always the same over the last 10+ years of playing together.

2010-04-06, 10:01 PM
The worst I've had to deal with is friend who will wallflower through everything, sometimes for several sessions in a row, until we have combat. He'll then spend 15 minutes or so a round trying to come up with "creative" ways of solving a problem. This includes constant interruptions about can he do this, or get an exception to that rule, or whats the bbeg's modifier on a ____ roll. Combat is a full night's session with him around, where as we can do 2 or three if he's not. Doesn't just ruin the tempo, but my immersion in the game.