[RPG] Dealing with a Diva Player


A friend of mine has started preparing a pbp Mutants & Masterminds campaign, and one of their players is someone I know to be problematic.

Already, the player has started to show signs of being troublesome for the DM's campaign. The player has requested excessive help in designing their character – from requesting guidance in coming up with their own character's powers, to asking for personal one-on-one RPs with the DM to flesh out the unfinished character concept.

As an example, the player has asked in group-chat what their character should be like as a cat. The DM informed them it could be anything they wanted, which they player said was 'unhelpful'. When the DM and other players offered the chance to go over the mechanical aspects of it, the player refused to do so, 'humorously' saying "Too hard, let's move on ;p".

This player has been problematic in campaigns I've been in before. In a Truth & Justice pbp campaign with a different DM, the player regularly took over a week to post their character's actions, by which point other players had to start describing what their characters were going to do. The player then got upset at the DM, accused the DM of being a bad friend, and abruptly left the campaign.

This spilled over into another pbp campaign the same DM was running – a Maids: RPG campaign, which the problematic player also left because of this conflict with the DM. The rest of the players carried on with the campaign without this problem player, but it greatly impacted my own characters, because I'd gone out of my way to make my own characters someone this problem player could interact with.

This player can be creative when pressed for it, and can be fun to play with, but they require a lot of attention, both from the DM and from the other players. They're also very sensitive, and react harshly to any perceived slight against them, but don't see their own behavior as problematic. I am concerned that any future campaigns with this player, including my friend's campaign, will be sabotaged by this behavior.

What can my friend do as a DM to help accommodate this player, and is there anything I could do as the problem player's friend to help them curb this problematic behavior?

Best Answer

The best way to handle attention-hogging "diva" players is to set limits, then enforce them.

Set Limits

Divas, whether in RPG groups or in real life, take advantage of the social expectation to be polite and accomodating in order to get away with their behavior. So to protect your own sanity and your game, you need to create an alternate social expectation up front. In the case of a play-by-post RPG, this could mean rules like "if you take longer than X days to post your actions, the GM will declare a neutral action for you and continue without you", and "if you're repeatedly unable to come up with actions or ideas for your character, the GM may ask you to create a new one you're more comfortable playing."

The key here is to set the limits as a group. Don't single out the diva (they'll probably feel singled out anyway, but that's beside the point), just take some time before or during the opening of the game to state these ground rules. Emphasize that they apply to everybody and that they will be enforced in order to keep the game running smoothly for all players.

Enforce Those Limits

An important part of setting limits is declaring how those limits will be enforced. Otherwise it's like a parent who says to their toddler, "You'd better get over here right now! I mean it! Now!" but never actually takes action to address non-compliance. The toddler knows she can ignore the warnings because nothing will happen to her if she does, and she gets to keep doing whatever she's doing anyway.

Therefore, once you've set your limits for the game, enforce them. If the diva player (or any other player) takes too long to post their actions, do as you said: declare a neutral action for them, then move on. Ignore whining and complaining; refer back to the limits established at the beginning of the game: "I understand you're frustrated. You agreed to the limit of X days at the beginning of the game, and it's been X days, so I had to move on for the sake of the rest of the players."

It's perfectly fair to give warnings (such as a message a day before the deadline saying "Hey, you agreed to post within X days and it's been X-1 days. Just wanted to give you a heads-up!"). However, the important part is enforcing the limit after it's been broken, and doing so consistently and calmly.

Keeping Your Own Sanity

Divas thrive on getting attention, whether positive or negative, from others. Setting and enforcing limits helps take away a lot of their avenues for getting this attention. They'll try to get it back by throwing tantrums, complaining, and otherwise table-flipping over the "unfair" rules and "getting picked on". This is why it's so important to set the limits for everyone at the beginning of the game. That way all you have to do is calmly and repeatedly fall back on, "You agreed to these rules. That's all there is to it." As long as you keep your calm and ignore the diva's attention grabs (and make sure the other players don't get drawn in), you'll remove the diva's incentive to act that way and make the game more enjoyable for everyone.

Note that this may result in the diva threatening to leave the group. If they do, say calmly, "it's your choice whether to leave or stay. If you stay, these are the rules you've agreed to." Then it's up to them whether to leave (and get no attention at all) or stay (and get less attention than they'd like, but still some). If they do actually leave, just say, "Thanks for gaming with us" and let them go. The point here is to not give them any attention, since that's what they're after. Giving them attention in response to threats or flouncing only reinforces that they can get what they want by doing these things. So just stay calm, be polite, and let the diva figure out that their bad behavior is no longer going to get them anywhere.