[RPG] How to deal with a player who takes things personally


Been running a great campaign for a few months now with very in-depth story and characters and, generally, everything goes pretty well.

Unfortunately, I have a particular problem that, for a long time, I put up with, but I'm reaching the end of my rope: a player that always has to be right and takes things personally when he isn't. This is not in regards to rules, but in how he thinks certain NPCs should act and his frustration when they don't play according to what he wants.

Part of the problem is, this is exactly what he is like outside of the game and he can't separate that from his in-game characters. He always has to be right and acts passive aggressively when he isn't, which makes things very difficult for me.

Now, that's not something you guys can answer and help me fix or adjust to, but I do need some advice. Because, at the moment, if he feels things aren't going in a way he needs them to, he starts taking it out on me and my story and my characters (which he usually enjoys). Which is awful for me to sit there through. He is impossible to discuss issues like this with because he denies how he acts and blames me. He a good guy really, he's just a bit… difficult sometimes.

So, any ideas or tips? How should I approach disputes when discussing things with him only ever results in arguments and both of us feeling awful.

Best Answer

If talking through the problem with him - usually the go-to answer for this type of question - doesn't work, then you have to move on to the next step: impose consequences for his behavior.

The best way to do this is to kick him out politely. Sit him down privately and say that games are meant to be fun for everyone, but he is clearly not having fun. Phrase it that way, that it appears he's not having fun - because if he really isn't enjoying himself, then he'll see your point; or he might say that he is enjoying himself, at which point you need to explain that he's acting as if he doesn't. Or, if his fun is derived from nitpicking you, he'll be forced to own up to that (or deny it, in which case again explain that his behavior suggests he isn't enjoying himself). Add that he is, in turn, making the game not fun for you. If you have statements from other players who also don't enjoy his behavior, you can add "and others in the group", but absolutely don't name names. Then tell him that since he doesn't enjoy your game, it's time for him to stop playing. Tell him his character will be dealt with appropriately, that you wish him the best, and that you hope to someday game with him again in a setting more enjoyable to you both. End the conversation there - get up and walk away if you have to.

It absolutely sucks to have to boot someone from your game, but if he's this much of a problem and you've already tried talking to him, with no success, then you can't keep him around. He will burn you out, make your game toxic to you and probably your other players, and generally ruin everyone's good time.

There are other ways to impose consequences, such as imposing an in-game penalty on him when he starts trying to control your NPCs, docking XP, or verbally chastising him ("You do not control the NPCs. Please be quiet."); however these usually feel punitive to the problem player and will probably just make things worse. But if you honestly believe that he can be convinced to stop nitpicking, you can try them. You should note that using these will probably end up being a passive-aggressive way for you to kick him out anyway, by making him so miserable and frustrated that he table-flips and walks out - not the ideal solution. It can also make your other players upset with you and sympathetic to the problem player, since it appears you're "unfairly" picking on him - so again, use with caution.