[RPG] Trouble with player taking things that happen in game personally


Been running a Pathfinder campaign for a couple months now with a group of friends. We all have experience with RPGs before, most of the group with a fate accelerated / homebrew that was run with the same group of friends.

Things have been going well, and feedback I'm getting after each session has been positive. But one of the players is getting me to the end of my patience every session, and I can tell that its also bugging some of the other players.

The problem player (we'll call her Sara) in question can't seem to separate things that that are happening in game from out of game.

If the party is trying to solve a puzzle, and someone says "I don't think that's right Sara" she immediately raises her voice and starts yell-asking the other person why. When the other person explains she gets very passive aggressive and uses this line (almost every time) "Ok {person}, you've proved you're right and I'm wrong"

We had one situation last week where a player character was in a rage and attacked Sara. Sara started yelling at this other player: "Why would you attack me!" "What did I ever do to you?". Once we explained to her what was going on and after attempting to explain that its not personal, it was unavoidable and also in game she calmed down. But then every time we got to her turn in the rest of the session she would go off about having to defend her self from {players name not characters name} because hes just gonna attack her again for no reason.

This isn't the first time she's yelled at people for stuff like that. And usually when it happens its followed up by: her leaving the sessions early, her being passive aggressive for the rest of the session (toward everyone, not just the player that wronged her), or just flat out complaining to me every session how the person that disagreed or accidentally hit or or attacked her is out to get her.

I have no idea how to explain to her that these things are only happening in game, that people are just trying to solve a puzzle quickly (mine usually have consequences for failed tries), that all these people are her friends and that their characters are the ones doing the attacking, not them.

Just a quick note, I want to avoid kicking this player out, she is a very good friend. I've only ever noticed this behavior while playing RPGs…

Best Answer

One of two things is going to have to happen for your group to operate harmoniously. Someone is going to have change how they behave at the table or someone is going to have to leave.

Here are my recommendations for the former. What you've mentioned are actually two distinct (if possibly related) problems. One is that the player is incredibly defensive and the other is that the player is not into PvP in their games.

I'll start with the latter problem because its the easier one to solve. RPGs are a game of cooperative storytelling. That means that everyone has to buy into the premise for it to work. If the game is strongly built around PC conflict, then first you need to make sure she understands the nature of the game. If, after the explanation, she's still not buying in, it may be better to ask her to leave the group. You could still invite her (or everyone) to play a game that is not PvP oriented.

On the other hand, if this is not a PvP oriented game then it may be better to have a conversation with the group about My Guy Syndrome. Explain that there is almost always another choice that makes sense besides attacking the other PCs and unless both players are into PC conflict, it is probably best not to.

If that doesn't resolve the issue on its own, remember that people can't control their feelings (and its generally unhealthy to try) but if they understand their feelings they can better control how they react to them. So my recommendation would be that the next time she starts displaying passive-aggressive behaviors, wait until she is ready to leave and then (depending on circumstances) either walk her outside or ask her to wait behind and talk to her about how she's feeling. Don't judge it; just "You seemed pretty upset during the game. I'd really like to help you enjoy the game. Would you tell me more about how you were feeling and what made you feel that way?" Whatever you do, don't question how she's feeling. Instead try to understand what she's feeling and why. Once you do, you can start asking questions like, "That sounds very frustrating. However, they're not shutting you down because they don't like you. People need to point out when a solution isn't likely to work because if they don't there are usually consequences. But maybe there's another way we can handle that. If you were in their position, how would you handle that problem?"