[RPG] How to deal with a player who says no all the time


I am a fairly new DM. I am playing with a group I have tried to DM and have played with as a PC. There is one person in that group that plays as a PC that says no, AKA he is the opposite of a murder hobo.

When faced with a decision or a turning point in the story he will say no to most of the possible outcomes and bring the story to a halt because either the DM is trying to come up with another method to put to the players, the party is arguing about what to do now, or the other players just want to follow his lead and he doesn't want to do anything.

He does this to see how frustrated the DM can get before giving up and then complains that we don't play because no one wants to deal with this every single time.

I am the DM for the next campaign and I am looking for advice on how to deal with him. The common methods of just killing his character or excluding him aren't acceptable here. I want him and everyone to have fun and be a part of it, but I also don't want to get frustrated with his play style.

What can I do to either deal with him as a PC, or can I do anything as a DM to help the story without the mental state of "No I am God you will do what I tell you and that is the story"?

Best Answer

As ever, there are two approaches: in-game, and out-of-game.


It's a cliché on this stack, but for a reason: talk to this player about what they want. As mentioned above, not biting on plot hooks could be a simple result of not finding those hooks interesting. I recommend trying this first because it is not clear to me that the problem player is necessarily, intentionally forcing the games to stop (a similar-seeming situation could arise from other sources).

Explicitly asking this player in advance about what story elements they'd be interested in pursuing might clear the issue up very smoothly. If the player has no stories they're all that interested in pursuing, you can request that they make some decisions anyways-- doing nothing at the table isn't very much fun, and apparently this player complains about no play occurring already, so they might be willing to move the plot forward even if they don't have much personal interest in doing so.

If the player is flat-out not willing to stop forcing gameplay to a halt, and you don't want to work around them using an in-game method, then there really aren't a lot of options that don't involve excluding the player altogether. Refusing to play or refusing to allow the game to be played by others is not a playstyle.

The situation you describe, as written, suggests that this player is simply toxic to your table, and would be to any table. It's not 100% clear to me that that impression is correct (edits to the question can clarify), but a "player" that refuses to bite at plot hooks, refuses to present any plots that they would pursue, and won't stop forcing the game to a halt is not a person that you can work with to provide a fun game any more than a football team could work with a quarterback who refuses to run or throw the ball.


I've never had a player so resistant as the one described in the question, but when a PC doesn't go for any of your plot hooks a useful strategy is to offer an open choice rather than a list of options:

OK, you've got your character built, with backstory and motivations and everything. You're in [location], and you've turned down offers for work from the Adventurer's Guild, the City Council, the Society of Assassins, and a direct appeal for help from the Goddess of Plot Advancement. So your character has some unstructured time ahead of them. What would you like to do?

Declining all plot hooks and story prompts can indicate all sorts of things, from a frustrating and intransigent player, to unclear plot hooks, to stories which simply don't interest a given player. Letting players develop their own goals can serve as a sort of reverse story prompt: they tell you what the adventures should be about, and you build content around that.

As above, a player who resists all suggested stories and also has nothing they want to do of their own accord isn't demonstrating an unusual "play style", because they aren't quite a player any more-- they're rejecting any interaction with the game.

At that point you have a couple of options, and to be clear we're scraping the bottom of the barrel to find them. Trying to force someone to play a game they don't want to play is a bad place to be. These options are, effectively:

  • Railroading. Story events happen to characters, and they are not in a position to accept or reject anything. As an example, being kidnapped and brought to some ritual site where they will be sacrificed means that refusing to play leads directly to PC death
  • Cutting the character out of decisions. If the player's only contribution to in-game, plot-related decision making is to prevent any decisions from being made, but they are still willing to play in other capacities (like participating in a battle), you might consider giving their decisions a weight of zero. This means that the other players at the table are making every plot decision, and this player's character can come along for the ride or not

Neither of these options is great, but I cannot emphasize enough that this player has chosen to specifically not play the game, and prevent anyone else from playing it as well.