PC death and crumbling storylines; real-life psychological trauma!

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One of my two original players is an evil vampire spawn/cleric. My three other players were introduced into the campaign and they chose to be non-evil, all of them pivoting around shades of neutrality. I allowed a vampiric/undead character because my campaign setting is often twisted and the world is rife with corruption. Since the Vampire had been in the story/world the longest, I decided to have all of the players meet up with him (they all joined at roughly the same time) and join to hopefully form a team of adventurers, which was what everyone wanted. So I wrote in a line of prophecy that made it reasonable for the rest of the players to follow an NPC to a dungeon where they'd be able to not only have a good fight, get loot and XP, but also be able to meet with the Vampire and go on some adventure or other together.


My problem? It's been a dozen sessions since they met up, the vampire has fled and tried to escape every attempt at having even as much as a conversation with the other player characters, and my game is slowly being sundered. 


Not everyone is going to agree with a sadistic vampire's ideals and his agenda to annihilate all life, but I figured if I gave the players a common enemy to fight, they could either set aside their differences or learn how to capitalize on them and form a stronger party. Yet this has not been the case. It's been a wild game of "chase the vampire" and every time the players have a chance to unite, the vampire feels threatened and runs away again. To rectify the situation I've had to loosen up, but it's only made it worse. Instead of just running around a desert, it's turned into an interplanar teleporting spree of unimaginable scale that makes me cringe, and I feel wholly responsible because it's the NPCs, typically, that have these powers (most of the PCs are not magic-based). I made a common enemy for them but he's too powerful and they managed to fight him way before I anticipated.


Based on a very long discussion I had with a player after our session last night, I realized that the only way for this group of PCs to collaborate is either to destroy the vampire or run two separate campaigns, one just for the vampire and one for the others. And I don't want to do either of those things because it'd be unfair for the group, impossible for me to work into my real-life schedule, and boring. In fact, at times it feels like I'm already running two separate campaigns, because in order for it to "work" sometimes the turn of a single PC lasts an hour or more. And it drives me crazy that I can't figure out how to stop it.


The key issue is that my player is so attached to his vampire PC that it is visibly causing him, as a human being, real psychological damage/trauma. Whenever his power is challenged, he begins to get very stressed. If there is even the hint of a threat to his character, he gets anxious. Two sessions ago he almost had a panic attack when his PC was under the effect of Control Undead (perhaps a mistake on my part). I get frequent phone calls asking when the next session is going to be, but sometimes it becomes unbearable pestering (we play once a week), and it's all this anxious panic over the idea that his PC might be defeated. I feel like a horrific DM, and like everything in my campaign revolves around a single PC -- it's totally unfair for everyone else, and I personally am not having much fun forcing events to happen just to try and remedy this insanity. If the vampire is defeated, I fear everything will be too far gone, the campaign will collapse, and I will have psychologically harmed my best friend. 


Please help.

It sounds like it's time for him to retire the character. Or find another hobby for a while. Though he may be your best friend, he is also being selfish and immature. It sounds like he's being a bully, too.

If something his character goes through affects him to such a degree, he's got bigger problems than your campaign. 

One of my two original players is an evil vampire spawn/cleric. My three other players were introduced into the campaign and they chose to be non-evil, all of them pivoting around shades of neutrality. I allowed a vampiric/undead character because my campaign setting is often twisted and the world is rife with corruption. Since the Vampire had been in the story/world the longest, I decided to have all of the players meet up with him (they all joined at roughly the same time) and join to hopefully form a team of adventurers, which was what everyone wanted. So I wrote in a line of prophecy that made it reasonable for the rest of the players to follow an NPC to a dungeon where they'd be able to not only have a good fight, get loot and XP, but also be able to meet with the Vampire and go on some adventure or other together.


My problem? It's been a dozen sessions since they met up, the vampire has fled and tried to escape every attempt at having even as much as a conversation with the other player characters, and my game is slowly being sundered.


After the second attempt, you should have just asked the vampire to play along for the sake of the game progressing, instead of letting him shoot your plot in the foot again and again. It's one thing to respect your players' freedom; it's another thing to let a player run rampant and completely jumble the game to the point where things are falling apart.

Based on a very long discussion I had with a player after our session last night, I realized that the only way for this group of PCs to collaborate is either to destroy the vampire or run two separate campaigns, one just for the vampire and one for the others.

... Or you could just sit the vampire's player down, bring up the fact that the game has spiraled into oblivion because he keeps avoiding the inevitable, and be honest - that, for the sake of the game, the vampire's days of hopping from place to place need to stop because they have taken a hatchet to the game. 

The key issue is that my player is so attached to his vampire PC that it is visibly causing him, as a human being, real psychological damage/trauma. Whenever his power is challenged, he begins to get very stressed. If there is even the hint of a threat to his character, he gets anxious. Two sessions ago he almost had a panic attack when his PC was under the effect of Control Undead (perhaps a mistake on my part). I get frequent phone calls asking when the next session is going to be, but sometimes it becomes unbearable pestering (we play once a week), and it's all this anxious panic over the idea that his PC might be defeated. I feel like a horrific DM, and like everything in my campaign revolves around a single PC -- it's totally unfair for everyone else, and I personally am not having much fun forcing events to happen just to try and remedy this insanity. If the vampire is defeated, I fear everything will be too far gone, the campaign will collapse, and I will have psychologically harmed my best friend. 

Please help.


That sounds... extremely unhealthy, to put it politely. If your friend is letting his imaginary vampire's fate cause him severe distress, then... maybe he needs to take a break from the game. It sounds like he doesn't want to confront anything that has any chance of being dangerous, which is rather silly. "Defeat" doesn't mean death, but if he is paranoid that he might come close to losing a battle or being wounded, then his vampire should probably settle down and open an inn or something. You don't sound like a horrific DM, just one who has been too lenient for his own good.

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Until you've had an in-law tell you your choice of game was stupid, and just Warcraft on paper, and dumbed down for dumber players who can't handle a real RPG, you haven't lived. You haven't lived.
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Lady and gentlemen.... I present to you the Edition War without Contrition, the War of the Web, the Mighty Match-up! We're using standard edition war rules. No posts of substance. Do not read the other person's posts with comprehension. Make frequent comparison to video games, MMOs, and CCGs. Use the words "fallacy" and "straw man", incorrectly and often. Passive aggressiveness gets you extra points and asking misleading and inflammatory questions is mandatory. If you're getting tired, just declare victory and leave the thread. Wait for the buzzer... and.... One, two, three, four, I declare Edition War Five, six, seven eight, I use the web to Go!
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D&D should not return to the days of blindfolding the DM and players. No tips on encounter power? No mention of expected party roles? No true meaning of level due to different level charts or tiered classes? Please, let's not sacrifice clear, helpful rules guidelines in favour of catering to the delicate sensibilities of the few who have problems with the ascetics of anything other than what they are familiar with.
56760448 wrote:
Just a quick note on the MMORPG as an insult comparison... MMORPGs, raking in money by the dumptruck full. Many options, tons of fans across many audiences, massive resources allocated to development. TTRPGs, dying product. Squeaking out an existence that relys on low cost. Fans fit primarily into a few small demographics. R&D budgets small, often rushed to market and patched after deployment. You're not really making much of an argument when you compare something to a MMORPG and assume people think that means bad. Lets face it, they make the money, have the audience and the budget. We here on this board are fans of TTRPGs but lets not try to pretend none of us play MMORPGs.
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Adding options at the system level is good. Adding options at the table level is hard. Removing options at the system level is bad. Removing options at the table level is easy. This is not complicated.
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56902838 wrote:
Something like Tactical Shift is more magical than martial healing.
Telling someone to move over a few feet is magical now? :| I weep for this generation.
Given the laziness and morbid obsesity amongst D&Ders, being able to convince someone to get on their feet, do some heavy exercise, and use their words to make them be healthier must seem magical.
158710691 wrote:
D&D definitely improves mental health; Just as long as you stay away from these forums ;)
Ok, this sounds like an extremely difficult situation.  Now I have a few questions and I don't want you to take any offense to these questions as they are not meant that way, I am only trying to get a sense of things.

1) How long have you been a DM?
2) How long have your players been players and/or DMs?
3) What ages are you and your players?

I ask these things for several reasons.  First off, I want to get an idea of the amount of experience you have in running games.  This is because sometimes newer DMs will get really excited about running a game that they have an idea for.  They also want all their friends to have a good time (this is a good thing).  These two things can lead to a newer DM allowing his players to come up with some crazy character combinations that he may not be able to deal with in a constructive way.  Likewise if a newer DM has a "Great campaign idea" they may put themselves in a situation that they are unprepared to handle just to try to make their idea a reality.

For newer DMs I encourage that you start out with basics until you're entirely comfortable then move onto adding a little bit more each time.

Now if you're a more experienced DM and just have gotten into a rough situation that will take some extra effort to get yourself out of it.  However, if you are going to have a campaign and allow characters that have very different ideals (vampire that wants to kill/maim/destroy, and others who are strongly against that) then you really have to set it up for the characters so that there is a driving reason that they all want to cooperate.  Apparently having one BBEG that they all need to go up against isn't the best method for your group.

So to help with that the biggest thing is that you need to talk to your players OUT OF GAME about this situation.  First, ask them ALL if they are having a good time.  Some may be while others may not.  Work Together as a group to find out a compromise that all of you can accept that will be fun for all involved and will alleviate the problems you're having.

The second and third questions are because I want to get an idea on your players experience as well and the overall maturity of the group.  I am not saying your friends are not mature, however I remember when I was a teenager playing D&D that there were people in our group that would become SEVERELY emotionally attached to their characters and it's not healthy.  This is a game.  Yes it can be fun and even I can become attached to my characters, but not to the point where I'm almost having a panic attack when something goes wrong for that character.

The most important thing IMO though is what I have already mentioned above.  Talk to everyone as a group out of game and work together to come up with a solution for your group that everyone is happy with.

First of all, thanks babcock3030. I'll respond in order.


@LordManshoon


After the second attempt, you should have just asked the vampire to play along for the sake of the game progressing, instead of letting him shoot your plot in the foot again and again. It's one thing to respect your players' freedom; it's another thing to let a player run rampant and completely jumble the game to the point where things are falling apart.


That's an excellent point. I convinced myself over and over that it had to be resolved in-game with reasonable in-game solutions, such as a specific role-playing encounter, something NPC(s) could do, or whatnot. It's an attempt at immersion, I suppose. Though at this point, you're right: the plot has been shot in the foot and it's gotten so bad that I've started killing the storyline for the sake of the vampire. Ugh.


That sounds... extremely unhealthy, to put it politely. If your friend is letting his imaginary vampire's fate cause him severe distress, then... maybe he needs to take a break from the game. It sounds like he doesn't want to confront anything that has any chance of being dangerous, which is rather silly. "Defeat" doesn't mean death, but if he is paranoid that he might come close to losing a battle or being wounded, then his vampire should probably settle down and open an inn or something. You don't sound like a horrific DM, just one who has been too lenient for his own good.


Well, thank you for the encouragement, then. I often feel too heavy-handed in pushing things around; I guess that's my greatest fear as a DM, because it happened to a ridiculous degree in a campaign I ran years ago, and I swore never to let it happen again. In terms of "taking a break" -- well, I think I'm going to discuss this with him one-on-one, directly, as soon as I'm able to. It's surely reached that point. (The destroyer of all life opening an inn gave me a good chuckle).


@jplay36



You bring up a lot of good points, and no offense was taken. I'll try to answer the best I can.


1) How long have you been a DM?


For approximately 8 years.


2) How long have your players been players and/or DMs?


I am the only one with DM experience and the technical know-how (in terms of the rules; we use 3.5e). My players vary. One has been doing tabletop for a few years (World of Darkness, I believe) before he joined up; for two players, this is their first D&D experience (somehow they're enjoying themselves); for the vampire, he's been playing for about two years, since the campaign began. 


3) What ages are you and your players?


22-23 years old, the lot of us, college seniors.


I absolutely agree with you on your point about the teenage years and emotional attachments to characters. I played in a campaign that lasted 7 years of real-life time and approx. 30 years of in-game time -- nuts! I was really attached to my first characters, but they were killed in action. I was satisfied with their mostly epic deaths, though. Took four well developed characters until I found the combination that worked for me and was the hardest to defeat. It was a bit tragic in the end but, after all, it's just a game.


So to help with that the biggest thing is that you need to talk to your players OUT OF GAME about this situation. First, ask them ALL if they are having a good time. Some may be while others may not. Work Together as a group to find out a compromise that all of you can accept that will be fun for all involved and will alleviate the problems you're having.


I'm going to take this advice ASAP. I've already been talking to one of them, so I'll open the discussion to the others as well. Might ruffle some feathers, though, that's for sure, but it seems like everyone but the vampire is more or less stable and okay with the fact that it's simply a game. One of my players recently lost their bodies and became a brain in a jar and he's still hopeful and amused with it all. 


You have been given some good advice, and not much I can add that hasn’t been hashed out, but wanted to point to some things.

First of all; I do like that you allow the players such a degree of freedom, I’m in a campaign right now that the DM is determined to play the story laid out in the book and conflict sometimes arises because the party “breaks” the story (because our chrs don't fill responsable for whats going on); so kudos for allowing such freedoms.

But Such freedoms are only helpful usually as party decisions, only due to it being a TEAM game, not a 4 players doing one thing while the 5th does something completely different game. If it’s his character choice then it might be time to switch characters.
My group recently had a player who hated the chr he had written up so he was allowed to switch (For an XP tax) and we where kidna iffy about how the RP would go, but I found out that if you are friends with your group sometimes the awaked “this RP is a bit iffy” moments can do done with tongue and cheek and allow the party to move on.

It sounds like he has become to solid to an idea of how his characters should and would act; I would sit and remind him that it’s a game, and that if he just will relax and play with the party you all will have fun. If he is just to dedicated to the idea of his character it might be time to ask him to retire it for abit (Something easy to do with a vampire since they sleep off centuries like I do a hangover) and try an entirely new character who would have reason to help the party.

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It sounds like it's time for him to retire the character.

Yup. Tell the player that his PC now really only fits as a powerful NPC.

I'd speculate that the player might even desire to play a vampire hunter PC next.
Time and again we see that fixing out-of-game issues with in-game methods is the hard way to do things. At some point, maintaining immersion is not worth the destruction of the game.

You had a talk with one of the players and that's good. Talk to the vampire player. He seems pretty... involved... but I think maybe you can involve him and get him to have his character adventure with the others, but you might need to make some concessions.

He doesn't like his character being attacked. As mentioned "defeat" doesn't need to mean "death," so maybe there are ways to challenge the vampire that the character is interested in. Talk to him. In the meantime, ease off on things like "Control Undead."

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

No campaign should be based on one player character.
The group are the stars of the game.

By giving the player a level of power that exceeds the rest of the party, you have given that player more trouble than benefits to him.

If the player was willing to beome one of the undead, then he should be converted to a NPC. That is truly wanting to be an evil being.

If he became one unwillingly, then it could be handled in one of several ways:
1. he hides the fact (will not be a secret for too long)
2. he seeks a way to be mortal again (hates this curse)
3. he is not given the full powers of a spawn at once (there was a WotC 3.5E article of a slow-change over a 6 or 8 level progression timespan)

I once played a Vampirized warlock in a 3.5E game.
Changed via a ring that once belonged to a vamp lord.
GM made a big error on his part.
I actively RP from neutral to evil.
Fled the party, travelled back to the town where the group first gathered and was hired.
By the time the party left the dungeon and returned to the town (a week later), they faced a town of spawns courtesy of me.
Sorry, guys...no reward from the vamp mayor, no free drinks and cheers from the vamp innkeeper.
Campaign ended right there.



 
It has been said multiple times already, but to emphasize, talk to everyone out of game if at all possible, and before the next adventure.  If you think you can speak with the player with the vampire spawn separately and get good conversaton out of it, you may want to go that route instead.  I like the idea of pitching to him making the vampire spawn in to a powerful villain for the PC's to try and go up against.  If you can get the group to agree on course of action, this would be the best method.  You dont want to embarass this player by calling him out in front of everyone, so if you think a group intervention isnt the best method, then you should set some time aside before the game begins on your next session to talk to him alone.

Key factors in talking to this player specifically:
Let him know he is disrupting the game for everyone.  While you want him to have some time in the limelight and enjoy himself as much as possible, it cannot come at the cost of everyone else's enjoyment of the game.

Let him know this is just a game and he shouldnt be so attached to his characters.  Inform him that it is possible his character may come to an untimely demise if chance intervenes.  Just as his rolling of the dice and RP affects what NPC's and characters you throw at him, so too shall they affect his character.

Let him know your goal as DM is to have fun, and ensure everyone has fun.  Tell him exactly how it makes you feel; annoyed, angry, sad, happy, etc etc.  If hes 20+ he should be able to take that to heart and understand where you are coming from.  If he doesnt "get it" you may have to amp up and inform him that without solution you may need to look at alternatives (tossing him from the campaign).  Its not the most desirable thing to do, but from time to time, some people just take this hobby too seriously and/or dont respect the fun others are trying to have.

I'm sure with good conversation you can find a middle ground.  It sounds like your other players are doing their best to enjoy the ride and are willing to go along with most things that are happening (which tends to happen with newer players).  However, there will come a time very soon when they realize this level of play is really dampening to their enjoyment and might get a little jaded.

Maybe you can start with asking the player what is his goal in playing the game?  What is his characters goal?  He needs to know the difference between player interests, and character interests.  This may give you a window in to his thought process and ask the appropriate questions.  Just keep putting in there, the game is to be fun for everyone, and that is the goal when coming to the table.  Define, what is fun, what is not fun (thus far in the campaign).

Hope you have a good conversation
LOL.  How do i deal with a friend who is having a real nervous break down because of his PC situation, chased down by other pc's...man oh man.  LOL.  Well you must be doing something right in your game for him to feel this connected with his PC.  Sheesh it be hard for me to take that away from him too.  But how on earth you engineered the environment for your other friends having a hard on to go after him?? LOL.

Perhaps reverse engineer an environment so they are not playing inter-planer cat and mouse with each other?  Makes me laugh thinking about your situation.

A set of circumstances that you can create with predictable result of your friends joining hands with your nervous wrack vampire friend fleeing for his life from them, to work together for a common cause...

Your 1st attempt failed.  Perhaps wasnt engineered right.

There is your DM challenge...lol
 

This:
It's been a wild game of "chase the vampire" and every time the players have a chance to unite, the vampire feels threatened and runs away again. To rectify the situation I've had to loosen up, but it's only made it worse. Instead of just running around a desert, it's turned into an interplanar teleporting spree of unimaginable scale


And this:
The key issue is that my player is so attached to his vampire PC that it is visibly causing him, as a human being, real psychological damage/trauma. Whenever his power is challenged, he begins to get very stressed. If there is even the hint of a threat to his character, he gets anxious. Two sessions ago he almost had a panic attack when his PC was under the effect of Control Undead (perhaps a mistake on my part). I get frequent phone calls asking when the next session is going to be, but sometimes it becomes unbearable pestering (we play once a week), and it's all this anxious panic over the idea that his PC might be defeated.


is hilarious

Good luck fixing your friend & your campaign, and thanks for the story.
If social engineering fails to bring your outcome, then hardware engineering perhaps.  Design a magic rings like Lord of the Rings, cool item with somewhat powerful benefit that players can't ignore or sell.  One for the vamp, one for the most righteous good player with the hardest boner to kill vamp.  Rings are divinely/magically sealed onto finger when both are on each player.  Rings side effect?  When one is hurt so is the other, equally.  When one is healed, so is the other.  Ring of Divine Union...perhaps created by a unk deity to bring together a warring brothers...

Lol see how that plays out between them.   
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