[RPG] How should I respond to a player who roleplays too selfishly


In our last session, a player of mine spent the last 30 min blowing up on me for "restricting" her character's story, and the story of the campaign, when I would not allow her to bring back another character that left because the player left the campaign for personal reasons, and she was unhappy how I had that character leave the game. I explained that I made it that way so that if that player decides to return, his character's return can be as open-ended as possible, and I made the decision to not allow him to return, even if another player plays that character.

I made it clear that it is one character per player. This spiraled down into other issues she had with how I DM, including how I determine what her NPC companion does (which I made clear that I determine his behavior from the beginning), complaining that I'm not Matt Mercer from Critical Role (not that I know what she means by that — the only thing I can think of is that she is comparing my style to his — but Mercer's been DMing for like 20 years and I just started with the 5e Starter Set 4 months ago), among others.

Her background in roleplaying has been involved in MMOs, where her experiences have been almost exclusively one-on-one and completely character involved with little in the way of group dynamics. I've noticed that lately, she has been dominating the roleplaying aspects of the game, from interrupting players talking to NPCs so she can butt in and handle the situation, to cutting into other players' RP moments to develop hers, and I've noticed it has become a problem because the other players check out when she does this.

Additionally, her roleplaying exploits have prevented the plot from progressing and the party from moving forward. Lately, she bullied another PC, forcing him to give her the reward gold for a couple of quests by threatening him with her sword; which, due to me being a green DM, foolishly allowed.

What I want to know is, how should I deal with a player like this in terms of how I should respond to her when she tries to take over the game with her roleplaying, and how to appropriately respond when she gets upset when I don't let her get away with it?

I haven't yet talked to her about this, since this happened just a few days ago. I don't handle drama like this very well and I get very analytical over these situations, trying to wrap my head around it. And that's part of the problem; I don't know how to talk to her about it. From when she blew up, she made it sound that I was responsible for a lot of her frustrations about how the adventure was going; at least that's the impression I got.

Best Answer

Firstly, you should talk to all your players about the issue outside of a session. You can get some personal impressions first with one-on-one conversations, but ultimately the entire group should sit down to discuss the problems. Make sure the discussion is democratic in nature, though. JohnP points this out in a related question: "The group setting can be dangerous, as it can turn into people digging up old grievances or ganging up on a particular person."

During the discussion you should ensure that everyone is on the same page about how they want the game to be played. The same page tool is a useful set of questions that will drive the discussion in the right direction. Just make sure everyone is fully involved in the discussion and are voicing their opinions clearly (no passive-aggressive bs). If your players are open to compromises a consensus should be reached.

Secondly, make sure your friend is not suffering from My Guy syndrome. If the description matches (and it sounds like it does), show her the link privately and let her think about it. It should help her be more aware of her role as a player and hopefully remedy some of the issues.

You also mentioned your player gets upset as a result of your decisions. This related question contains a lot of suggestions for how to handle players that take things personally, ranging from studying your own approach to kicking out the problematic player.

In the end, though, you are the GM. You are the writer of half of the story, the referee on all mechanics, and the leader in the quest for fun. The way you drive your campaign is part of your style and your players should respect it. They need to be aware that your goal is always to increase the enjoyment they collectively get out of your game. A certain level of trust and respect is absolutely necessary. If this is impossible to obtain in your group, then the group as it is cannot function. Kicking out players or stepping down as GM would be the next steps to try.

Because the GM is so special, though, new players often fail to grasp just how complex the GM role can be, and can at times see him as an enemy and spoilsport. A neat "trick" you can use to show your players what being a GM is really about (that also gives you some rest from the responsibility of being a GM) is to have another person in the group be the GM for a few sessions. It doesn't have to (and most often shouldn't) be the same campaign you're running. Instead, it can be a few sessions of an off-shoot campaign. It's fun for the players because they get the chance to try out new (and often times silly) character builds, and the new GM will discover what it feels to have all this responsibility. Once everyone has GM-ed a couple of sessions, you will all have an idea of who's best at it and will work towards keeping that person as GM in the future. There's a chance it might not be you, but in the end it should result in a better experience overall.

Keep in mind that not everyone is fit for GM-ing, or willing to try at all. Don't force players to GM, and if they decide to try, encourage them to design very short adventures (no more than three sessions). They can always expand on them later if they like it, or end them early if they don't. The player that questions your decisions often probably thinks they can do a better job, so they're likely to accept your offer to prove themselves.