Our Group's Dynamic
I DM for a group of roughly 12-14 players, nearly all of which are personal friends. Throughout our 5 year run together, we've had and overcome many problems. For the most part, those problems are not relevant, with the exception of a few:
-Nearly all of my players are hardcore power gamers. Out of actual D&D, I normally spend an hour or so a day comparing characters with most of them.
-Most of my players have tendencies to metagame. It has been curbed somewhat, but it still shows from time to time.
-Our party has one fairly unique problem: many players still think solely in terms of the Striker role: Do as much damage as possible in the shortest period of time, and combat is the ultimate solution to any problem, from political intrigue to foraging.
To curb metagaming and attempt to bring more roleplaying into the group, the group as a whole decided that backstories should be mandatory. The decision was mandatory. There were kinks, but efforts to award good backstories with situational bonuses were successful, and for a while everybody seemed happy. That all seemed to change at the start of the current campaign, a few months ago.
But it's in my Backstory!
We have a few players that repeatedly abuse the backstory. I have broken this abuse into subcategories:
-I'm not evil! *wink*: This is somebody who plays a Drow Assassin following Lolth, who also slaughtered innocents for no reason. But if you ask, the alignment is good, and you're metagaming by not trusting me! The problem with this is that its obviously superficial and disruptive, but when I pressure them to be more realistic, they will quote a single exception "Drizzt was good! Artemis was a "good" assassin!" or some such.
-Grand Theft Dragon: This is somebody who makes me shudder by telling me his alignment is "Unaligned", and then using that to justify everything from saving the orphans to burning them, and all things in-between. I tried forcing them to use the 3.5 alignment system (we play 4.0) but they just say...Chaotic Neutral. This behavior is very disruptive to the campaign for obvious reasons.
-I got a bonus for that: This is somebody who constructed their backstory to gain a situational bonus in almost every conceivable situation. Nature check to follow tracks? Was a hunter. Streetwise check to find a rumor? I sold my hides in the city to black market dealers. Arcana check to identify creatures? I hunted these creatures...and the ones we just fought...and the ones before those... This approach takes obvious advantage of my attempts to encourage good backstories.
What I cannot do
-I cannot simply kick players from the group. These are friends and I feel my friendship with them would be negatively impacted by kicking them.
-I cannot simply outlaw whole categories of backstories. The players are constantly wary of my power as DM (perhaps a remnant of player VS DM mentality) and I have to justify myself constantly.
-I don't WANT to outlaw whole sections of the gods and the alignment system, but the disruption from these sources is growing so much that I'm beginning to lose my patience everytime I hear "ok DM my new character is a Elf who worships Zehir...but isn't evil...and is unaligned..." If nothing changes I'm considering retiring as a DM, which would mean the effective end of my group.
With those things in mind, I was wondering if anybody on these forums had any advice?