Third of three questions, this one concerning both of the previous problem players.
- Problematic Players help (1/3); Newbie Declaring Solo
- Problematic Players Help (2/3); The Vanishing Veteran
I have a separate problem with both of these players. Their characters… are extremely blatant edgelords. Literally. One is a fallen angel dark paladin, the other is a tiefling wielding a katana, and both have just… what feels like hammy, edgy backstories. The problem with that is, their characters actually feel like they're expecting the world to be far, far more mean-spirited than I want it to be, and this is already producing some grinding gears. As an example, the world overall is pretty soft – the players all come from an academy that takes all who come, meaning even warlocks, tieflings, etc. are welcomed as just people a lot of the time.
When it was just the veteran, that was one thing. I and the other players could bap him away from actually beheading the five year old (…five year old chaotic evil red dragon, but that's not the point). Now that there's two of these characters, it feels like a lot more work to stop them strangling an important and well-intentioned NPC with their bare hands.
"So why didn't you cut/veto/find these problems in character creation?"
A few things.
- The DnD group is a subgroup of a larger roleplaying group, which I personally have no control over. All of these characters had already been approved for the larger group by another new-to-DnD player, who is a friend of the newest player. The lightness of the world is something I am upholding for the game.
- The exception to the rule above is the DnD veteran's character, who was still being built for the larger group at the time. However, the first session started pretty spur-of-the-moment, partially built from the leftover characters of another campaign that never started, and I didn't really know much about the veteran character's backstory (and getting any details has been like pulling teeth, see number 2 above).
- The newest player actively reassured me that while their character starts out an edgelord, they'd soon get more tolerable. While that time hasn't come to pass yet, it won't for a while, and I'm not sure if them being like this for the intervening weeks or months is healthy for the group.
- I erred on the side of generosity with all the players, letting them fudge the flavour of their races to line up with the original origins of the characters.
- The newest player also came with recommendation from the same friend as who approved the character to the larger group (and has since felt embarrassed several times by her friend's behaviour). Before the event in question happened, those two friends had worked together to get the newest player up to speed… only for her to wake up the day of the session and start asking her friend all the same questions again. In the end, the newbie’s friend, still new to the game herself, was more confident in the newbie's class than her own when the game started.
- The origins of this group: Another person, who became a player in the group, said he was going to run a game. People set up level 1 characters, and get all excited, and then… months pass, and it becomes clear the original GM was not going to do it. Wanting to make sure all the newbies didn’t waste their efforts, I stepped up to GM a quick demo mission, and things went on from there. The problem veteran joined in the middle of the first session – the newest player actually joined about three levels later, mid-mission, after one of the other players had to be kicked.
How can I approach these issues while causing the minimum amount of ruckus?
That's what a Session 0 is for
Basically you want one session where you tell the players what the world is going to be like, what you expect from their characters and their backstories, any houserules you know you will use / not use...
The most important point here is the one about what you expect from their characters. For example "We don't do evil characters, not even lawful evil - people tend to get hung up by that stuff and do things that I perceive as un-fun"
Then a discussion can start where they might tell you what they will do with evil characters and you tell them how they still have to refrain from killing the 5-year-old (dragons??) - but in the end you present the campaign setting and they have to judge whether they want to play that or not.
Make a Session 9.5 (or how many sessions you may have had already)
Make a break. Tell everyone that you want to discuss things like "Guys, the world here is not mean if you are not running into the Kobold camps, so don't go running around murdering everyone"
The world will react to their behaviour
If they continue this behaviour remember: the world is going to react to the characters behaviour.
Someone (like the mother dragon or the father dragon or the cousin dragons) might not like their behaviour. You don't have to do a total party kill, but show them that their actions have consequences and that going around killing everything is not what you intended for this game.
In the end you have to decide if that's worth it
If there are too many problems and your players seem to want to play a different game than you (for example Murder Hobo versus Social Encounters or Gothic Fantasy versus Heroic Fantasy, ...) you might have to start thinking about whether you want to continue the game or not. Life's too short to play with people who want to play a different game. Find a group that wants to do things similar to your own. If you can't find a middle ground leaving the group or booting the players may be the only choice. But it should always be the last choice.