In a perfect world everyone gets along and has fun when playing Dungeons & Dragons, but unfortunately things are not always so perfect. The issue with new players is often they can have fatal flaws that really create a bad atmosphere and destroy others fun. This blog talks about how to deal with a ‘bad’ players in your party.
The point of Dungeons & Dragons or really any game is to have fun. Sometimes this fun can be interrupted by individuals with poor temperaments, inconsiderate natures, or just pure ignorance. I dub these individuals ‘bad’ players, not necessarily because they do not know how to play but because they create a bad environment for you and the other players. These individuals can come in many different forms and I have some helpful hints on how to handle these individuals.
One of the most basic and obvious forms of bad players is the cheater. These individuals always want to win or stand out among the group and often due this by craftily breaking rules or lying. These will be the easiest to find and deal with because there is little gray room when it comes to cheating, you either are or you’re not. In the past I had an individual who was a great player and fun to have around but he always had his computer with his character sheet on it, and he would often role his dice on his keyboard where others could not see. I found after a while that he was often lying about his dice roles, rolling 2’s or 3’s but saying he got 16’s or 17’s.
In cases like this or other similar ones it is best to not cause a scene but instead deal with the problem in a side-ways manner. Without saying anything to the individual I told the group I had a new rule which is everyone must role in the open and your role would not count if it was not on the table (it also helped with how to handle dice rolls that fell of the table). Always try handling the problem and bad player in non-direct manner first as it will help keep the good vibes flowing in your group.
A greater problem is a bad player that says things that make other players uncomfortable or is inconsiderate to the other players. Something like this could come in the form of an individual that does not understand what is appropriate in conversation, someone that hogs all the lime light and is always talking over other players, or someone that pouts or complains when they do not get their way. I have played with people falling in all those categories and I found the best way to handle them is to talk to them privately. Ask them to stay after a session or come early before other players and explain the issue you have. As any good confrontation specialist knows, do not attack them but rather express concern for the other players and clearly explain the problem and that you would like them to work to change. Most often being confronted by the DM will elicit change in the individual.
Sometimes the bad player is a nice person, gets along, but is just the worst at actually playing the game. An example is I had an individual that played a character that just wanted to kill people. She often caused great problems for the group and did not care about the plotline or quests. The other players would often get annoyed at her for playing such a character. Another example is I have a player that likes to metagame. He knows all the monsters in the monster manual and the beginning of any fight will tell everyone what monster it is, what its stats are, etc. It really ruined the fun of each battle for me and for the other players that like to role-play their characters. In these cases, also just step aside with the individual and talk to them about the problem and ask them to try to work on fixing it. Or in the case of the individual with the serial killer, kill their character and make them make a new one that does not have a psychopathic personality.
If a player continues their bad habits or does not take your talk seriously it may be time to have a group meeting. With this talk to the individual but with everyone else around adding their input towards the bad player. Sometimes hearing multiple people have the same problem can help that individual realize they need to change.
A tactic I have rarely used but in dire situations is calling them out while you are playing. This can be detrimental to that session and the group as a whole but really can make a difference. One individual I play with is good most of the time but sometimes becomes a whinny baby and gets angry when his character dies or something does not go his way. I had talked to him about this but he continued to do it. One time when he was throwing a fit about his character dying (even though the character was revived) I had to yell at him to stop during gameplay and told him if he needs to leave to calm down to do so. Since then he has not complained and the group has gone happily on.
In some cases, removing a player from a group might be your only option. If this is the case handle it directly by explaining to them why they can no longer player. DO NOT just stop telling them when you are playing. This can become a painfully awkward situation, as I have experienced in the past. It is much better to tell them directly they can no longer play with you than to lie or just stop communicating with them.
Using your best judgment in any case scenario is important, but never let a bad player continue their reign of hissy-fits, cheating, or blatant disregard for others. Always confront these people and deal with the issue sooner rather than later and listen to the other player’s options as well. You may not find that outspoken player obnoxious but your other players might. It is your responsibility as DM to handle these situations and create a fun and safe atmosphere for your players. It is also your responsibility as a teacher of Dungeons & Dragons to help players understand the limits and purpose of D&D so that they will not continue these habits into their future gaming.
Next blog I will talk about helping players understand how to progress through and understand a plot line/campaign.