I don't like the PCs-advice desired

60 posts / 0 new
Last post
The only games I'm comfortable running are heroically themed. At first I let PCs be LG, NG, or Unaligned, but I've decided to nix that last one because I find it leads to characters becoming degrees of sociopathic, and not really fit in with the tone I'm going for. Any moral tone below good-aligned doesn't sit well with me.

To that end I find the PCs' antics to be grating at times. In a module they found the hideout of an evil weapons dealer is connected with a quaint, Pelor-loving inn. They then proceeded to disrupt the owners and volunteers in the inn, one even suggesting they knock several of them out so they could begin searching for the villain undisturbed.

That might seem petty but it's an example of a general attitude where characters seem to be played for poops and giggles with no regard for the NPCs they invariably inconvenience, and thus I don't find the PCs all that likeable. I imagine it'd be hard to read a novel in which you didn't like any of the "heroes"; in the same way it's hard for me to run a game where the protagonists are jerks. It might be fun to watch a show where the cast are stupid, yet strangely competent losers like Sealab 2021 or Archer, but to run a game for 'em? Not so much.

One solution I'm wary of is the punitive; i.e. in-game, passive-aggressive consequences. Even if they're realistic. If the guards keep coming to toss the PCs out of whatever establishment they're bothering, all it will really do is sidetrack the campaign from the main objective. Some suggested despair cards, or penalties put on the PCs when they displease you. Unless that's the only answer ya got, I'd prefer not to go down that road.

The players aren't the problem; all of them are nice, hygenic, etc. But personally their characters evoke contempt that leaves a bad taste in my mouth by session's end. What do you recommend?
Talk to them, then listen to them.

Tell them your expectations, what kind of game you want to run, the tone you want (comedic vs serious), so on and so forth.  Make your distaste for jerkass protagonists (I share this, by the by) clear.

Then ask them what they expect from a game, what kind of game they want you to run, the tone they want, and so forth.

Try to find a compromise that makes you all happy.

If this turns out to be impossible, part ways.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Salla's advice is spot on.

Some additional tips for after that conversation:

- Players who help create the world and the people in it are much more reluctant to wreck it in uninteresting ways.

- Players whose characters act like sociopaths during play are telling you they lack goal focus, ties to the other PCs, and a connection to the world.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

+1 to everything Salla and Iserith said, especially on having a good talk out of game about what you all want from the game, setting expectations for behavior, game style, and table etiquette, and on giving the players a creative voice and investment in your shared game world.

The only thing I would add that the few times I've ever seen what I think of as "vandalism of the game world" occur, it was because the players were expressing some frustration at having no control or voice in the world in any positive way, and the only other way they could think of to contribute anything was through being destructive... a sort of indirect way of rebelling against the DM.  It came up as a reaction to railroading, and to a DM who had a very specific vision for how his game world and story would go, and had very little room for PC interference in it.

If this fits your situation, it's even more reason to stop the game and start communicating with the players, maybe try a reboot of the game if the campaign is new enough. 

Also, if you've been playing a while and it seems like the players are cutting up because things are getting stale, it might be a good time to stop things, and start a fresh campaign, try out a different setting or game, run a couple one-shot adventures with new characters, or give a new DM a try, just for a change of pace.


Edit to add:  It occurs to me, too, that sometimes experienced players who do this, may have come from a dysfunctional group where they learned bad habits from a DM From Hell - who might have learned bad habits from one or more Players From Hell (and perhaps those Players From Hell were the very players you are dealing with now!  It seems that sort of thing feeds back on itself, with each side getting more and more entrenched in a dysfunctional play style, sucking even otherwise cooperative players and DMs into behaving in ways they would otherwise never dream of.)
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
Did you have them write a background on their characters? Where they to your liking? Have you used any materials from their background as plothooks/NPCs/trouble? Why are they adventuring? When you know this you know how to lure them to the point you want them at.

Also, a lot of leeway usually means a lot of problems. How much do you plan ahead? Maybe if you make things clearer for the PCs regarding where to go, you will have less problems with their play. Example: if you don't want them beating up the patrons in the inn, give them a clear bad guy to go after. He pushes the women around or is overly noisy and agressive. That way, they get to beat someone up and you get the satisfaction of them going after the bad guys.

Remember, when you're on the other side it is often not so easy to make distinctions about good and bad guys. If you tell them 'the bartender has an eyepatch' purely for scenery and they link it to a bit of info they found earlier about the bad guy it may not be entirely their fault when they go after the man. Doesn't mean there won't be repercussions of course. Also, repercussions work better when you know what makes them tick, hence my earlier question about why they are adventuring.


Also, if they want to be Batman, let them be the Dark Knight. Let me explain.

Batman is a jerk, no question about it. He's an entitled, rich, powerful guy who thinks he knows what is good for the rest of us and is thus allowed to enforce his sense of justice on the world and ignore the laws of the society he seeks to protect. He uses violence and intimidation to get what he wants, and lacks manners (seriously, would you be friends with someone who ran away mid-conversation every time you looked away?). But he's still a good guy, and might even be Good aligned. Possibly even Lawful Good.

If the players want to be that, first make the NPCs real. Make the NPCs have meaning to the players so when they act like jerks there is some emotional response. Second, treat their PCs like GCPD treats the Dark Knight: like a hero they might not want to punish, but have to because he breaks the law.

 

Co-author on AoA 2-3 and 4-1.

Don't run adventures in cities, with nice NPCs. Run them in the wilderness where the PCs, even as bad as they are, are the nicest most innocent people out there. They can meet with traders and there are some towns, so the PCs can resupply, but no one trusts them, everyone has bodyguards, most creatures' aggressions are held in check by a desire not to draw attention to themselves. The PCs should follow suit.

But, yeah, also talk to them and also have them help form the world and their goals in it.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I'm surprised people haven't told you to quit and find a new group to DM for.
I'm surprised people haven't told you to quit and find a new group to DM for.



That is an option, yes, but it shouldn't be the first one taken.  At least an attempt at communication should be made.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
I should've mentioned it's a module, which they all agreed to play before it began, so it'd be strange if they resented railroading or their inability to bring their personal backgrounds and such into it, since railroading is what modules essentially do.

When you know this you know how to lure them to the point you want them at.



Wouldn't manipulating the PCs, successfully or no, just make you resent them more? It sounds like the kind of tactic one would take with a child. Left to their own desires they are base and misbehaved, so they need be tricked into what you want. Even if that worked, wouldn't you still have the same problem where, on a fundamental level, you don't like who the PCs are?
..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />
Make the NPCs have meaning to the players so when they act like jerks there is some emotional response



I agree that NPCs with personal relations to the PCs is a plus, but do you think it's necessary? Normal people don't treat strangers like dirt (unless they were significantly higher level, then they might. Certainly wouldn't want to play with those people). Eventually there'd have to be some NPC that's new to 'em.
 
Remember, when you're on the other side it is often not so easy to make distinctions about good and bad guys.


Sure, but isn't that kinda the point in urban encounters? Usual dungeon-delving behavior won't cut it in civilized society. Bad guys won't always be crazy cultists and other neon signs reading: "Insert sword here". I wouldn't think the motto "look before you leap" in regards to lethality and justice would be that hard a concept.

Don't run adventures in cities, with nice NPCs.


Why? Seems like a normal place for a few nice NPCs to be.

Maybe I'm unfair in presenting my PCs, but the impression I'm getting from the last three posts is that they're very simple people who can't operate well in D&D when there are others with whom they ought to play nice.


I'm surprised people haven't told you to quit and find a new group to DM for.



Ha. The response I was expecting would be one where I'm told to thicken my skin; if the PCs are being jerks, so what? They're having fun. Lighten up, dude. But "fun" isn't the end-all be-all for me; masturbation is "fun" too, but I don't want to see you do it, and I definitely don't want to facilitate it.

As PCs they're not all that terrible. Certainly nothing compared to Abe's players. This is an isolated incident, but one that stuck with me nonetheless. Most people were against the knock uncionscious idea, and he probably suggested it only half-seriously. Various horror stories have given me the idea that most players are antisocial dorks, and anyone that's just mediocre is a godsend by comparison. Plus there's the strange effect where a bunch of people collectively act dumber than they would individually. Four heads are worse than one, apparently.
Don't run adventures in cities, with nice NPCs.

Why? Seems like a normal place for a few nice NPCs to be.

I'm saying don't give them nice PCs to push around. If that means getting them out of civilization, do that. If it's a module, have whatever the threat is accelerate its timetable and wipe out the city. Then they get to avenge it. That's popular these days.

Maybe I'm unfair in presenting my PCs, but the impression I'm getting from the last three posts is that they're very simple people who can't operate well in D&D when there are others with whom they ought to play nice.

Yes, that's the impression I got from your post. I'm sure they can play nice, they just don't see any reason to, and I can't blame them. At the same time, sending the good-guy guard after them is NOT the way to motivate them to be good. It's a tried and false method.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I'm sure they can play nice, they just don't see any reason to, and I can't blame them.



That's what I'm not getting. Wouldn't playing nice be a normal character's default setting? Why would they need justification for (what I consider) standard behavior?

That's what I'm not getting. Wouldn't playing nice be a normal character's default setting?



No, it's not. And that's a very common mistake that DMs make. This is why Session Zero is so important. You'll all want to be on the same page with regard to what you're playing, the tone and style, the party's role in the campaign or adventure, and the adventurer's roles in that party - before you start playing anything.

Why would they need justification for (what I consider) standard behavior?



The problem is you didn't all agree on the same "standard" during Session Zero.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

I'm sure they can play nice, they just don't see any reason to, and I can't blame them.



That's what I'm not getting. Wouldn't playing nice be a normal character's default setting? Why would they need justification for (what I consider) standard behavior?




Unfortunately, no.  Some players inherently default to playing ****es.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Aye, I believe people largely act like that because they can't act like that in real life. Ever had that boss you wanted to punch ones lights out? Now you can! Frustrated people general peoples like of backbone? Now you can push them around and punish them for their liency and be the badarse hero/villian you always wanted!


Sadly, for the group I play with, they let go of a lot of common sense too. They run from what they are meant to fight, do dickish things to other members of the party and so fourth, so at least it sounds like they are being relatively reasonable about it all. Just if it really bothers you, have a chat to them as suggested, just remember that people mightn't nessiarily want to play as paladins and upkeepers of justice but if this is a one off incident and they are acting generally (generally being the key word, meaning a lot of improvisation) good, then it's still fine. Just speak to them at the end of the session as a debreifing or light dusting down to let them know how they stand but give them room to approch the situation how they desire and give appropate reactions. Like if they roughed people up, give them reason to avoid them, perhaps report a unconfortable air but if they uncover something serious in the process of doing so, they might be hailed as heros anyways by the general public (though perhaps not those directly affected)
There are a few different ways to handle this type of group, a few of which have been outlined above.  It seems highly probable that your players aren't currently motivated by/engaged in the current storyline and you need to change things up.  Here's what has worked well for me in the past:

Ditch the module, take all of their gear and throw them in a great big killer dungeon (in a way that is plausible and story-driven of course) where their primary motivation is saving their own hides.  This isn't an exercise in DM revenge; it's removing them from an environment where they can do things that you find objectionable and giving them an incredibly simple hook (survive/escape) that the vast majority of players will engage with.  Every second FPS uses something similar.  Within this environment you can start to work on rehabilitating them (introducing the odd NPC or other source of roleplaying opportunities and seeing how they react).  Or if they're having a blast just killing stuff and you are too, then carry on as is.

I'd suggest ditching alignment altogether as well.  It's not useful as a tool to try and make your players play nice and it's just one more thing for them to rebel against.
So the problem boils down to the Players wanting to play anti-heroes, and you just can't handle that? Honestly, if as a DM you can't help accomodate this very common playstyle... I don't know what to tell you. Talking with the Players sounds like a nice idea, but ultimately it's not going to change theirs or your preferred playstyle. Either they have to change how they play, and thus have less fun, or you have to change how you DM, and thus have less fun.

As well, D&D is all about fun. It's a game. And ultimately, in this, I feel you're taking it too seriously.
http://i1003.photobucket.com/albums/af156/Tom_Shambles92/DrSeuss.jpg http://www.last.fm/user/Pogo92 Endorsed by the C.C.A.A. Booty Patrol. "If all the classes can compete on equal footing in a combat situation then it becomes less about "Which is the best" and more about "Which conveys the character I want to play"." - Areleth
So the problem boils down to the Players wanting to play anti-heroes, and you just can't handle that? Honestly, if as a DM you can't help accomodate this very common playstyle... I don't know what to tell you. Talking with the Players sounds like a nice idea, but ultimately it's not going to change theirs or your preferred playstyle. Either they have to change how they play, and thus have less fun, or you have to change how you DM, and thus have less fun. As well, D&D is all about fun. It's a game. And ultimately, in this, I feel you're taking it too seriously.



It's more "won't" than "can't". It's not difficult to run games for sociopathic PCs; in my experience they are far easier to amuse. But in every case I question what the point would be. Seems it'd be much easier to load up Skyrim, turn the difficulty down, and punch out every civilian there is. The grahpics are superior, at any rate.

As to the "it's a game and games should be fun" thing, that won't cut ice. To paraphrase CS Lewis, there is a difference between making mud pies in a slum and a holiday at sea. To see examples of the former, check my link of Ab3's games.

To be blunt, ToeShambles, i disagree with your post.
 
 If nothing else, talking to them is worth a shot, even if it doesn't bring about the desired change in the end. For all we know, the players' actions aren't because of thier preferred playstyle but because they are bored, feel railroaded, or are experimenting to see what the DM is willing to put up with. It doesn't have to be thier playstyle.
 
 And your post describes DMs like vending machines that are supposed to dispense whatever style the players want with no regard for how the DM feels about the game. I personally am willing to work with darker and less-herioc characters but cannot stand evil characters that blackmail everyone they see or try to mess with other party members. But there are plenty of evil only campaigns that work great and everyone still has fun (granted, those are far less common than ones that fall flat though). If this DM is only comfortable with good characters than that is what he DMs. As you said, D&D is about fun, and if the DM is not having fun than something has to change.
 
 A compromise that is slightly less fun for both sides while still being fun is better than the players having fun while the DM is miserable.
 
 To Mangoman72: I agree with what others have suggested. Speak with the party, find out what is what and where it can go, and if worse comes to worse, find a party that likes being good.
 
 Hope this helps        

He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. -Revelation 21:6

Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.-John Donne, Meditation XVII

My photo was found here.

To be blunt, ToeShambles, i disagree with your post.
 
 If nothing else, talking to them is worth a shot, even if it doesn't bring about the desired change in the end. For all we know, the players' actions aren't because of thier preferred playstyle but because they are bored, feel railroaded, or are experimenting to see what the DM is willing to put up with. It doesn't have to be thier playstyle....



And, keep in mind that part of talking to the players is listening to them, too. 

They've been trying to tell you something in-game, and it's not the most effective communication style.  Drop the game world and the characters for a little while - they're part of the problem - and talk and listen to each other directly.  That's where you find out whether they really prefer nothing but evil games, or if they are bored, feel railroaded, just want to push your limits for some reason they should be willing to explain... and I'll add in the possibility too that they might be confused by the game world, your plotlines, or your DMing style.

No, talking won't solve every out-of-game problem:  sometimes, problems can't be solved, especially when one or all sides are unable or unwilling to compromise with the other(s), ask questions, listen to and understand other viewpoints, and express their own concerns and objections.  However, talking is the first step of solving most (if not all) problems that can be solved that way.
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
honestly i have to take a little stab at your example.  

Illegal weapons dealer's hideout "is associated (?)" with pelor-loving inn. 

i put "is associated" in quotation marks because its unclear, but at a glance, using what your PLAYERS (not characters) are familiar with, this sounds like a front, like the illegal drug dealers who secretly run the antique shop to give them a permanent location and legitimate cover.

If the same situation had been presented to a LG hero that i was playing, my FIRST plan of action would be to smash down the doors and raid the place, because to me as a PERSON, it sounds like the weapons dealer is secretly running the show there, my suspicions are already reinforced by a hundred thousand movies and news stories out there at the moment.

If you're so dead set on running a heroic campaign, you really have to ignore the outcomes of player decisions and focus on their intentions.  I don't know if you've tried Diablo 3 yet (if not, i won't ruin the story for you), but the end result of the hero's actions after act 3 can hardly be called "good" - yet it was no fault of the hero.  the hero did good things in good ways that just turned out poorly.

ask players to explain their reasoning for given actions in the game, ask them before the action happens.  if you think an action is not good, then odds are either a) you're misunderstanding their honestly good intentions, or b) they weren't thinking or paying attention for a given choice.  In either case, either you become aware of their reasoning (however convoluted it might be) or they reevaluate their decision and think "oh yeah, that WAS a dumb idea wasn't it?"          
[

It's more "won't" than "can't". It's not difficult to run games for sociopathic PCs; in my experience they are far easier to amuse. But in every case I question what the point would be.




High five.  I feel the same way.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
It's more "won't" than "can't". It's not difficult to run games for sociopathic PCs; in my experience they are far easier to amuse. But in every case I question what the point would be.



This completely depends on your mode of storytelling. If you have a story in your head (heroic or otherwise) that you want the PCs to run through or want them to set about exploring your lovingly crafted campaign world, then yeah, sociopathic PCs are going to be an issue for you. You'll be taking on the role of a frustrated novelist trying to keep his unruly characters focused on the plot or exploration. Some people call this "railroading." Unfortunately, that word carries a very negative connotation because it's been coopted to mean "anything the DM does that you don't like." I've played in and ran some great games that were complete railroads because we all accepted that it was and went with it.

If, however, you take the position that there is no story except what the PCs do because they are the stars of the show, then suddenly the sociopaths and their crazed actions are the story. In fact, when viewed in this manner, the PCs are often no longer labeled as sociopaths because they're not actively breaking your plots because you have none. They lose their mantle of crazy and just become people with tough choices to make, for good or for ill. The DM's role becomes one of honestly portraying the repercussions through the lens of the setting with an eye toward keeping it interesting.

It's a matter of preference. I can run it or play in it either way. I personally feel that later editions of D&D are better for the former approach because of the tools they give you especially in the area of encounter design. Other game systems will not permit rails or predetermined plots. I just thought I'd point out that, again, that this is entirely about perspective and preference and this is why it's important to have that conversation prior to the start of a game.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Illegal weapons dealer's hideout "is associated (?)" with pelor-loving inn. 

i put "is associated" in quotation marks because its unclear, but at a glance, using what your PLAYERS (not characters) are familiar with, this sounds like a front, like the illegal drug dealers who secretly run the antique shop to give them a permanent location and legitimate cover.

If the same situation had been presented to a LG hero that i was playing, my FIRST plan of action would be to smash down the doors and raid the place, because to me as a PERSON, it sounds like the weapons dealer is secretly running the show there, my suspicions are already reinforced by a hundred thousand movies and news stories out there at the moment.

And in other movies/books just as often the people running the front are completely unaware of what transpires below. They are a shield, and the hero using violence against them gets into big trouble because of it.

It is all a matter of the social contract between players and DMs and their expectations. A DM and players should be aware of those, preferably before the campaign starts in earnest. The game I run as a DM at the moment the players run the sociopathic types, and for me personally it certainly makes it easier to design and run adventures. Of course, they can break that contract just as easily. For example, not too long ago they suddenly worried about search warrants and angering the local authorities. They litterally spend 30 minutes discussing what to do next, going nowhere, so I finally stepped in as a the DM and simply asked them why all of a sudden after 16 levels and two years of gaming they suddenly worried about such things? After the laughter died down, they agreed they were being silly and started planning how to raid the suspects house to acquire the evidence needed for the law ;)

On the other hand, the group I am a player in, would really balk at that assumption, but then again, they all are good in lieing, talking, sneaking, judging characters and/or collecting rumors. They don't need to kick in the door ;)
I know that's what it would appear like, Tubaman, but isn't that classic metagaming? That sounds about the same OOG logic people would use to divine the identity of the BBEG; obviously it's the npc with the creepy demeanor and cryptic speech. For all they knew, either a.) the information was a red herring (which is a boring route to take for a game, but for the sake of example), or b.) those at the inn were dupes to the scheme and had no idea. If you can't confirm that your target is who you think it is (not a hard task given their passive insight), I would think that would give most heroic PCs pause before coming in with both barrels. Ya gotta leave tvtropes out of it.

Speaking of tvtropes, with regards to your metric of judging the heroism of the PCs by their intentions, isn't that the mindset of quite a few villains? The psycho druid cult aren't really the bad guys, they just want to cleanse the world with purifying flame. The deranged priest that wants to end all suffering by ending all sufferers has the world's best interests at heart, really. It's the MO of well-intentioned extremists. Surest route to hell, and all that. I wasn't really judging them by their outcome anyway; eventually they did embark upon the secret tunnel they hoped to find. They died soon thereafter, but I swear the karma wasn't DM-guided. But whose toes did they have to step on to get there? For now they, at worst, threw a wrench in the works of very decent inn owners and possibly lost them a bit of money with their disruption. Not that bad, all told. But it's the attitude behind it that worries me. If ends justify the means, how bad do the means have to get before you're just not looking at a hero anymore?

I understand your point though. Supposedly R.A. Salvatore wrote a lot of novels about the short-sightedness of PC action. Not grifting them for that. And you're correct that I really ought to have questioned them with regards to the "why"; it seemed on-the-nose at the time, but things are rarely as clear to the players as the DM.

High five.  I feel the same way.


Up high. Down low.
I know that's what it would appear like, Tubaman, but isn't that classic metagaming? That sounds about the same OOG logic people would use to divine the identity of the BBEG; obviously it's the npc with the creepy demeanor and cryptic speech.



You cannot stop people from doing this. At best, you'll remind them they're "metagaming" and that often makes you the bad guy. Preventing metagaming is simply not possible because it's outside your ability to control. Also, "metagaming" is kind of like "railroading" and alignments - everyone has their own definition of what that means. Best to accept that it happens and don't think about it. If you are genuinely interested, just start asking open-ended questions as to the why.

For all they knew, either a.) the information was a red herring (which is a boring route to take for a game, but for the sake of example), or b.) those at the inn were dupes to the scheme and had no idea. If you can't confirm that your target is who you think it is (not a hard task given their passive insight), I would think that would give most heroic PCs pause before coming in with both barrels. Ya gotta leave tvtropes out of it.



A minor offhand detail during the course of an exchange could easily have led them to believe, Insight check or no, that those at the inn were in on the scheme and that their actions were perfectly correct.

And actually, what prevents you from just saying that they were, in fact, in on it? Unless that change completely destroys your plot, it's a much simpler solution that makes everyone happy and who's to know that's not what you had planned except you? Be like water, not like stone.

Speaking of tvtropes, with regards to your metric of judging the heroism of the PCs by their intentions, isn't that the mindset of quite a few villains? The psycho druid cult aren't really the bad guys, they just want to cleanse the world with purifying flame. The deranged priest that wants to end all suffering by ending all sufferers has the world's best interests at heart, really. It's the MO of well-intentioned extremists. Surest route to hell, and all that.



Sure! And that's an interesting story to explore, for sure. If everyone's on the same page.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith



If, however, you take the position that there is no story except what the PCs do because they are the stars of the show, then suddenly the sociopaths and their crazed actions are the story. In fact, when viewed in this manner, the PCs are often no longer labeled as sociopaths because they're not actively breaking your plots because you have none. .



I don't judge whether a PC is a sociopath because they break my plots; just the usual way where they demonstrate a disregard for the well-being of others. It would make my day if a PC hopped the railroad by acting more heroic than I expected. A man can dream...

For example, not too long ago they suddenly worried about search warrants and angering the local authorities. They litterally spend 30 minutes discussing what to do next, going nowhere, so I finally stepped in as a the DM and simply asked them why all of a sudden after 16 levels and two years of gaming they suddenly worried about such things? After the laughter died down, they agreed they were being silly and started planning how to raid the suspects house to acquire the evidence needed for the law.



Well, if they care enough to prove this guy criminal to the law's satisfaction, and if the way the law worked was similar to the way it works in contemporary culture, then worrying about the legitimacy of the acquisition of evidence would be a genuine point of concern.
Should've posted this in original response, but I re-read and found more to say.

And actually, what prevents you from just saying that they were, in fact, in on it?


The loss of ability to involve scrupulous NPCs in unscrupulous situations. It's a good idea, to be sure, but I've pretty much thrown out the possibility of the PCs exercising discernment. I know immersion isn't the alpha and omega of good gaming, but there's something fishy about how every target the PCs mindlessly attack turns out to be evil anyway. The point is made though, in that I've been given a catch-22. Either I change the alignment of their targets, which kills the nuance, or lecture them on how dumb they are, which could infringe on their agency.

Sure! And that's an interesting story to explore, for sure. If everyone's on the same page.


No doubt; I just think falls from grace are better to read than run. But I was discussing the objective morality systems somtimes have. I know you're not a fan, just expressing the difficulty of counting PCs as officially good because they mean well. That condition is not exclusive to the heroes. What makes the objective difference is what they do.
I'm saying don't give them nice PCs to push around.

I agree. But assuming you want to remain in a populated area, start by making everything black & white. The bad guys are clearly bad, and the good guys are always helpful and/or helpless.

Also, players typically only act anti-socially when they feel frustrated or thwarted. So make social encounters easy for them (you can make up for it later with combat and traps).

The players should start to get a sense that they are indeed heroes after saving a few orphans and innocent villagers... not that the scenarios really had an alternative. D&D can allow you to remove all shades of gray if desired.

Eventually (maybe when a shade of gray accidentally pops up), a player that suggests something unheroic will be looked down on by the other players. After saving so many people, they have a rep to maintain.

I'm saying don't give them nice PCs to push around.

I agree. But assuming you want to remain in a populated area, start by making everything black & white. The bad guys are clearly bad, and the good guys are always helpful and/or helpless.

Definitely. Hit the simple tropes first and then get into the subtler ones.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

...If, however, you take the position that there is no story except what the PCs do because they are the stars of the show, then suddenly the sociopaths and their crazed actions are the story. In fact, when viewed in this manner, the PCs are often no longer labeled as sociopaths because they're not actively breaking your plots because you have none. They lose their mantle of crazy and just become people with tough choices to make, for good or for ill. The DM's role becomes one of honestly portraying the repercussions through the lens of the setting with an eye toward keeping it interesting....



+1 again.

I wouldn't be the first person to point out that D&D as a game can essentially be described as a gang of armed men breaking into someone's home, killing the guard dogs, owners, and everyone else inside, and systematically stealing everything in sight.  It's a matter of perspective, but D&D played straight can be argued to be an essentially sociopathic game loaded with sociopathic plots and ideas. 

Most groups don't mind that fact, in the case of the basic Dungeon Crawl premise:  it's all about the group's expectations.  Most groups go into the game with the unspoken agreement and understanding that it's perfectly alright to break-and-enter, murder, and rob people, as long as those people are Orcs and Goblins... it might help to tell a little story explaining how those Orcs and Goblins deserve to be robbed and murdered, but sometimes even that much is glossed over in the name of action and fun, as long as the group already had a mutual understanding that it's OK to act like a sociopath in the designated area.  Players feel it goes without saying to expect to be able to beat up monsters and take their stuff without upsetting the social contract, and DMs feel it goes without saying to expect the monsters they present to get beaten up without hesitation and without upsetting the social contract.

The trouble comes in when groups leave all their agreements, understandings, assumptions, goals, and rules unspoken, and then ignore or gloss-over differences of opinion until they snowball out of control, as everyone involved begins to suspect that the difference of opinion exists because the rest of the group is not really on their side.

Avoiding that is a matter of explicitly managing your group's expectations, and to manage expectations, you have to get at least a basic understanding of what those expectations are, and be willing and able to express your own expectations and weave those seamlessly into the mix.

That can be as simple in this case, before committing to the adventure, asking the group:  "I'm wanting to include NPCs who can be useful to you by providing information, assistance, and support... those NPCs will have their own motives for working with you, motives that are not necessarily in your best interest, others will need some convincing, and not all of them will be easy to deal with.  Are you interested in that?"  Some groups will be interested... others just want some monsters to throw dice at and don't care about the boring friendly NPC stuff, and, either way, it's alright.  Some players won't understand the concept and might need a little more explanation, others will take to it quite naturally and will be surprised you took the time to ask.  Either way, not having to guess and hope for the best should take a lot of stress off you and your players, right?
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
Well, if they care enough to prove this guy criminal to the law's satisfaction, and if the way the law worked was similar to the way it works in contemporary culture, then worrying about the legitimacy of the acquisition of evidence would be a genuine point of concern.

Campaign specifics aside*, you missed the point. These players (and their characters) never before worried about such things and I had long ago adjusted my adventure design to their wishes and style of playing. They changed the style for a few moments all of a sudden in the middle of a session and as a result were stuck. They wanted to change a simple raid adventure into a murder mystery** and neither me nor they were ready for that. It was an example to illustrate players and DMs should talk beforehand what they want from a game, and that if the two don't mash it inadverently leads to problems.

* In a typical medieval setting where the PCs just did a HUGE favor to the emporer in a country they were just passing through on a mission they only did because they had to repay a debt to a person who really did not care about local laws (just that the criminal got caught and executed) they really had no reason to worry about being put on trial. In fact, they are members of an organization with some huge leeway in this regards.
Do you know their character's motivations? I'm guessing you, and more importantly the players themselves, don't. Acting not-so-heroically is easy if you play a throwaway PC. Once the characters have proper heroic motivations, this changes.

You can steer this in the right direction by asking them to come up with a short history for their PCs that explains why they're heroic adventurers. When a player (the rogue) comes up with something you don't like (he just wants to get rich as fast as possible), you put your foot down and say that's not going to fly in your heroic game. If they disagree, they're more than welcome to run a game themselves.
If I may make my recommendation, have somebody play a paladin.  That paladin will completely maintain the "heroic" feel, because he'll enforce it on his companions.  They'll still get the vibe they want, because they'll have times where they're able to do their own things.  This simultaneously pleases them and you.
If I may make my recommendation, have somebody play a paladin.  That paladin will completely maintain the "heroic" feel, because he'll enforce it on his companions.  They'll still get the vibe they want, because they'll have times where they're able to do their own things.  This simultaneously pleases them and you.



No, this will just make things worse.  They'll either split up so they can do their ugly crap without the Paladin catching them, or just kill him when he goes all control-freak on them.

Adding a Paladin to a group like this is like trying to put out a fire with napalm.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
If I may make my recommendation, have somebody play a paladin.  That paladin will completely maintain the "heroic" feel, because he'll enforce it on his companions.  They'll still get the vibe they want, because they'll have times where they're able to do their own things.  This simultaneously pleases them and you.

No, this will just make things worse.  They'll either split up so they can do their ugly crap without the Paladin catching them, or just kill him when he goes all control-freak on them.

Adding a Paladin to a group like this is like trying to put out a fire with napalm.

Thank you. I almost choked when I saw the advice about adding in a paladin police officer. Then I assumed maybe it was tongue-in-cheek. I... I have to hold on to that.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

There's pretty much no situation a paladin can't make worse if the player is insistent on being "that guy." I'm sure experienced DMs/players know what I'm talking about.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

I know that's what it would appear like, Tubaman, but isn't that classic metagaming? That sounds about the same OOG logic people would use to divine the identity of the BBEG; obviously it's the npc with the creepy demeanor and cryptic speech. For all they knew, either a.) the information was a red herring (which is a boring route to take for a game, but for the sake of example), or b.) those at the inn were dupes to the scheme and had no idea. If you can't confirm that your target is who you think it is (not a hard task given their passive insight), I would think that would give most heroic PCs pause before coming in with both barrels. Ya gotta leave tvtropes out of it.


on the contrary, if you give someone a situation where their life experience leads them to EXPECT a certain outcome, then it stands to reason that all of their actions and the actions of any alter-egos they roleplay will be based on that life-experience assumption, unless given some other input.  In which case, assuming OTHERWISE would be classic metagaming - "all my experience leads me to expect X, but since this is a game, and the game is supposed to test our good-guy-ness, i can now expect Y instead, because its most likely from a DM trying to test us." 

Speaking of tvtropes, with regards to your metric of judging the heroism of the PCs by their intentions, isn't that the mindset of quite a few villains? The psycho druid cult aren't really the bad guys, they just want to cleanse the world with purifying flame. The deranged priest that wants to end all suffering by ending all sufferers has the world's best interests at heart, really. It's the MO of well-intentioned extremists. Surest route to hell, and all that. I wasn't really judging them by their outcome anyway; eventually they did embark upon the secret tunnel they hoped to find. They died soon thereafter, but I swear the karma wasn't DM-guided. But whose toes did they have to step on to get there? For now they, at worst, threw a wrench in the works of very decent inn owners and possibly lost them a bit of money with their disruption. Not that bad, all told. But it's the attitude behind it that worries me. If ends justify the means, how bad do the means have to get before you're just not looking at a hero anymore?

  I never said the ends justify the means....i specifically avoided that loaded phrase.  I said the intentions of the PCs actions matter.  it is important to note that EVERY action is subject to this, and this method of vacuum-reflection will help isolate any instances of leaving "the good path" in any sort of ends-justify-means manner.  wanting to save world? good.  chasing bad guy? good.  killing bad guy henchmen? good.  trashing inn because its the most surefire way to catch all the bad guys? DEPENDS - and now they need to weigh the good vs. evil of the situation based on their own personal character values.  If the good outweighs the evil, its still good (the whole greater good argument).  In every example you mentioned, the subject in question starts out with all the good intentions, but at some point fails to evaluate a decision and starts down the "path to hell." (or they just have mixed up values, in which case their intentions were never actually good - see "cleanse the world").

I understand your point though. Supposedly R.A. Salvatore wrote a lot of novels about the short-sightedness of PC action. Not grifting them for that. And you're correct that I really ought to have questioned them with regards to the "why"; it seemed on-the-nose at the time, but things are rarely as clear to the players as the DM.


i appreciate this.  my point was exactly that (assuming i'm reading your comment correctly).  PCs can't be held MORALLY accountable for what they may not know - gotcha moments and the like.  The law can hold them responsible, or it could get them in trouble via ambush, or whatever, but a character doesn't become "less good" because he killed a person being portrayed as an evil mastermind or something when in fact unbeknownst to the player he was an undercover (good guy) guard.

The example, as portrayed by the OP, just struck me as, at best, morally ambiguous.  I really REALLY feel strongly that if a DM is going to place any sort of morally ambiguous situation in front of the players, then he/she needs to not throw a fit over which choice they choose.   It was every bit the DM's choice to say "hey, i'm going to put some innocent people in front of my BBEG to see what the PCs do" - so why the surprise when they choose one of the TWO most logical choices.

I do think that the DM is somewhat right to have a beef with his players.  But it comes after asking them WHY they did their action.  it could be they honestly thought the innkeepers were bad people, they could have tried to internally weigh the good vs. evil of the situation, or they might just plain not have been thinking, either a moment (however common they may be) of dumb, or caught up in the excitement of the moment.  Assuming a high level of DM <-> player trust, the players verbally spelling out their reasoning for any big decisions like that can really enhance the game, as it gives the DM more to work with when designing the overall story. 

I don't judge whether a PC is a sociopath because they break my plots; just the usual way where they demonstrate a disregard for the well-being of others. It would make my day if a PC hopped the railroad by acting more heroic than I expected. A man can dream...



This just happened in one of my games!  The PCs happened across some vampires who were digging in ruins that they obviously didn't live in.  The vampires escaped (at least the relevant ones) which always infuriates my players and hooks them tighter into the game, and was going to be basically a cameo appearance by a villain set to show up later.

The PCs didn't manage to save the prisoners (that they weren't actually there to rescue, it was just a surprise addition to the situation), but recovered what they were there for. 

Instead of returning the items they were to retrieve, they actualy split up (jinkies!) and 2 of them tracked the vampires, while 2 others travelled to sharn to deliver the item. 

I was floored that the players took the path that FELT right rather than what they assumed the campaign intended.  I had to do some fast thinking, but i managed to bounce back and forth between the groups, give them both useful information, and honestly make them feel like they got more out of splitting up than just all returning the items.  

What started out as a (as iserith would say) "closed dungeon" designed to get the player's feet wet and test their reactions to each other and NPCs is now turning out to be the driving plot in an awfully grand adventure.         

What started out as a (as iserith would say) "closed dungeon" designed to get the player's feet wet and test their reactions to each other and NPCs is now turning out to be the driving plot in an awfully grand adventure.



A good old dungeon and a little quick thinking can set the tone for the campaign that follows.

Your last two posts are very insightful, Tubaman. Thanks for them.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith