Handling Troublesome Players

Conducting the Game

Some players will find more enjoyment in spoiling a game than in playing it,
and this ruins the fun for the rest of the participants,
so it must be prevented.
Those who enjoy being loud and argumentative,
those who pout or act in a childish manner when things go against them,
those who use the books as a defense when you rule them out of line should be excluded from the campaign.
Simply put, ask them to leave, or do not invite them to participate again.

Peer pressure is another means which can be used to control players who
are not totally obnoxious and who you deem worth saving. These types
typically attempt to give orders and instructions even when their
characters are not present, tell other characters what to do even though
the character role they have has nothing to do with that of the one being
instructed, or continually attempt actions or activities their characters
would have no knowledge of. When any such proposals or suggestions or
orders are made, simply inform the group that that is no longer possible
under any circumstances because of the player in question. The group will
then act to silence him or her and control undesirable outbursts. The other
players will most certainly let such individuals know about undesirable
activity when it begins to affect their characters and their enjoyment of the

Strong steps short of expulsion can be

  • an extra random monster die, obviously rolled,
  • the attack of an ethereal mummy (which always strikes by surprise, naturally),
  • points of damage from "blue bolts from the heavens" striking the offender's head, or
  • the permanent loss of a point of charisma (appropriately) from the character belonging to the offender.



    If these have to be enacted regularly, then they are not effective and
    stronger measures must be taken. Again, the ultimate answer to such a
    problem is simply to exclude the disruptive person from further gatherings.

    Question: What should a DM do to control a player who constantly grabs up the magic treasure even though he didnít fight the monster it belonged to?
    He even tries to run the game and tell everyone what to do, what spells the Magic-User and Cleric should take, and where they all will stand in the ranks.
    What is worse, is he can never accept the fact that he has died.

    Answer: First, get your players to make up an agreement on how to
    divide treasure and then stick to it. Next, tell them that if they like being
    bullied around that is fine with you. If not, then give them a hand, but a
    small one. You are a judge, not a referee for player-against-player

        You can start by telling your unruly player that the spell casters are
    quite capable of picking their own spells. This also goes for where they
    want to be in the ranks and what they want to do. As for his unaccept-
    ance of his death, there is nothing you can do about that It is something
    in his own personal behavior pattern and you canít change it for him;
    only he can change it Then, when you have done all of this, encourage
    your players to handle their own problems. If they refuse to stand up for
    their rights, why should you?

    Q: I have a player who cheats -- I
    think. He never misses a saving
    throw, seldom misses with an
    attack, and never "mins out" by rolling
    low scores. Recently, he made a
    "successful" roll for divine intervention.
    Also, every character he brings
    into my game is loaded with money
    and magic that I don?t think he
    earned. What should I do?

    A: Cheaters tend to spoil things for everybody.
    Try these solutions: Make sure you
    or at least two of your trustworthy players
    witness every die roll the player
    makes. This will virtually eliminate cheating
    in that respect. You can fix the other
    problems by just putting your foot down.
    As DM, you decide if and when a deity
    shows up to help your PCs. Don?t let a
    player tell you otherwise. If you don?t
    want the deity to appear, it doesn?t. If you
    allow a die roll, roll the die yourself. The
    same holds true for treasure or magic: If
    you think a character has too much of
    either, don't allow it into the game, no
    matter where the player says it came from
    -- whether you believe him or not. Bust
    doesn't enter into this -- only what you
    think is reasonable. Remember: Your word
    is law in your game. You should try to be
    fair, consistent, and entertaining, but after
    that, what you say goes.

    Q: I have two players who are always
    getting into arguments during
    games. They argue about rules, treasure
    splits, mapping -- you name it.
    Needless to say, witnessing these
    arguments is not fun for me or my
    other players. What should I do?

    A: Players who argue a lot probably
    shouldn't play together. If this isn't feasible,
    start dealing with the problem before
    the game begins. Tell the players ahead of
    time that you don't want them to fight.
        During the game, try to shut the players
    up before an argument starts. Try to anticipate
    what the argument will be about,
    and make a ruling on it, then make both
    players stick to it.
        After the game, explain to the players
    that their fighting is spoiling the game for
    everyone else. If the two players just don?t
    like each other, they have to be made to
    understand that you -- the DM -- won't
    tolerate personal arguments during the
    game. When they argue about the rules,
    make them understand that you -- the DM
    -- make decisions about the rules.

    That reminds me, have you ever given extra experience points or merits to players for sucking up?

    No, and they don't tend to do that.
    I have givEn the PCs damage for players arguing with me or disrtupting the game.


    Finally, maybe most importantly, someone wanted me to ask how to draw our players back from 3rd Ed??? (They are now rule-lawyers from Hades!? We are fading...)

    ----Guyin Cognito

    Heaping coals on my head are you?!
    Well heap away, for I have editing i must get done.

    Rule-players are going to cling to new D&D (3E, 3.5E, 3.999E, 4E etc.) like ticks to a dog.
    so are power gamers and those who are really superhero genre RPGers.

    It's easy to get rid of them by refusing to play new D&D.
    but to win them away from that system is difficult as it gives rapid gratification much as do computer games purportng to be RPGs.

    My best advice to to work on the bvetter players one at a time, have them engage in an AD&D session with a PC that isn't a comic book superhero wannabe, and see if the enjoyment of group cooperation and the challenge of having no superpowers but rather rely on thinking and imagination. That might suffice to win him over.

    The rule reader's maiden wrote:
    How do you genrally get players in your campaigns to set guidelines for what is acceptable intra-party conduct?

    That's seldom an issue with mature players.
    If someone is behaving badly I simply admonish them then and there, firmly and openly.
    Only a very few times have I had to resoprt to actual removal of a player, and that was back when we had groups of 15 to 20 playing.



    No biggie.
    The offenders were young lads, and the main cause of such obstreperous behavior was personality conflict between them.

    I did have to take aside and speak to one of my (young) sons about his personal dislike of another, older member of my group.
    He grumbled, but behaved well enough, did not attack that one's character with his own to remove the player from the game.
    He could have done that but refrained, made only ascerbic comments on the playing ability of the disliked person.

    As a matter of fact, his assessment was on target, and eventually the person dropped out and none of the others was particularly sorry that occurred;)


    Clangador wrote:

    In the contect of D&D, where did the term blue bolt come from? How did it originate? Have you ever used it in a game?

    Here's my previous response to this question:

    garhkal wrote:
    A non gameing rule one.
    When and where did the phrase 'BLUE BOLT" come from??

    It is likely that it came from the rather hackneyed "bolt out of the blue," referring to a lightning bolt cming from the sky to strike an unsuspecting target, as Zeus was reputedly wont to do.


    P.S. As a matter of fact, I don't believe I ever have used the expression.

    Ciao Clangador,

    Indeed, I recall composing those admonitions...and I note my expression was "Blue bolts from the heavens," implying as I suggested earlier ligntning from an angry deity.

    As a matter of fact I did not use them but when a player or players became obstreperous I simply rolled a d6 and informed the miscreants that their PCs had suffered that much damage.
    Unless they wanted more of the same, all misconduct had to cease.
    I did roll several d6 damage for a couple of very unruly and rebellious young players.
    When asked why their characters were taking such damage, I said beacuse they had offended the rest of the group, me in particular,
    and if they wished to play further they had better note the damage, be silent, and mind their manners.

    They did just that.



    When annoyed I dispensed with stage dressing and got immediately to the crux of the matter 


    Originally Posted by LordHavok
    Hi Gary,
    I skimmed through the questions and I hope this hasn't been asked before, but I was wondering. In all your years gaming, (please don't take that wrong..  ) have you ever had a session where the people playing got really angry or even argumentative, either with you or each other? And if so how was it handled, what happened afterwards, etc. I'm curious because it's happened in a game I played in before.

    Salut LordHavok,

    That hasn't occurred in any RPG I have GMed.
    Not that some players might not have felt like angrily disputing with me, but I have a certain force of presence and am an authority figure, so...

    I have played in a group that grew angry with the GM, also where some players grew annoyed with others of the group.
    No mayhem broke out in any of those cases, but some players were so disgusted with events that theyquit the game.
    I was personally irritated by some young players having their PCs doing foolish things during a dungeon crawl, and I silently debated whether or not my own character should fry the lot with a lightning bolt.
    but I bit the bullet and was a good sport.

    Rules arguments were fairly common when playing military miniatures and even board wargames.
    Been in many a dispute with the referee in a minis game or with an opponent in a boradgame.
    A good group or opponent will be calm and rational, so that the point of contention can be settled in relatively short order, where necessary a house rule established, and play continue.


    Originally Posted by foehammerx
    Another PC in a campaign with me got caught using weighted dice to roll stats yesterday. The worst cheating i ever saw. What would you do as Player or GM. ?

    I would tell him he was a childish cheat, and that there was no room for such foolishness in a gaming group for which I served as Game Master, so hit the road and don't come back.

    Originally Posted by gizmo33
    Hi Gary,

    I have, not one, but two questions about mummies in ADnD that have had me wondering for a long time:

    The first is that the DMG, the section on "Handling Troublesome Players" recommends "attack of an ethereal mummy (which always strike by surprise, naturally)". Why ethereal? Why mummy? Is there an interesting tidbit of gaming history here? The outer planar rules in ADnD were always mysterious to me, and I've always wondered whether it was something special about the mummy that allowed for the physical attack across the plane.

    Howdy Gizmo,

    An ethereal mummy would not be seen and its attacks would be punishing but not likely fatal, unlike many other sorts of monsters that might be names.
    The only itdbit cnnected to it is an inside joke sometimes used when someone not partoicularly welcome woulld come around.
    then I'd usually remark, "Who has been burning tanna leaves?"
    As for being able to attack from ethereal to physical, that's no more remarkable that a long dead, dried, preserved corpse being animate, thinking, and powerful <EEK!>

    Originally Posted by RFisher

    I hope this doesn't count as continuing to beat up on them, as I do have another question on this topic that I'd like your wisdom on:

    How do we best deal with munchkins?
    Can we use rules to discourage them?
    Do we kick them out of the game & tell them to return when they've matured?

    Encourage them to be more mature in play--and the other players will likely employ peer pressure to reinforce what you suggest.
    Only if the munchkin's play was spoiling the game for the remainder of the group would I give one the boot--
    that alone with him, gently and encouraging a retur, when a less childish approach to participating would be used by him.