-- ~~ Part I ~~ -- All Alone
So I learned that nothing sucks more in life than owning a fuck ton of D&D rule books, accessories, mini's, maps, etc and having no one to play with.
I go on twitter and watch as the creators of D&D are busy setting up their live stream set for a gaming group to play the new Storm Giant's adventure released for 5th. Or on Facebook groups where D&D players are posting happy photos of their friends around the table having a blast being silly and playing D&D, but when I go to my game now (after 13 years) no one is there! Or even worse, only two people show up and we don't play. I just want to play D&D! It is sadly a game that depends on others to be there for you to have fun. You can't play alone!
I go home and sit there with my books and thoughts of what adventures we could go on or play and indstead twiddle my thumbs as I can't do that by myself. Uhhhhh frustrating. I watch Critical Role and write up adventures for no one since we aren't playing and again am watching others play.
I try to think up ways to do something that involves D&D alone. A podcast? A video on YouTube? Anything! Fuck, we played for 13 years and in this unlucky year the group falls apart and finding new people isn't easy. You would think finding players who are in the same boat, sitting there wanting to play but having no one to play with would be easy to find, but nope. Not to say 100% no one is available, but only complete city strangers might be interested. At this point I don't even care who they are, I just want people to play with, anyone will do! Getting desperate to player here.
So I think back to how this all started, and how I had to split the groups because people can't play together when they all want the same things. Which brings me to the second half of this blog, why can't anyone get along in D&D? What is it that EVERY game of D&D played by everyday people to rich famous actors all have the same problems of "fuck you, your a dick, I quit". Why does this happen?
-- ~~ Part II ~~ -- Why Can't We Get Along?
Getting along at a table is hard. Characters clash, don't like each other, or have conflicting views. Players clash, don't like each other, or have conflicting views. So how do get people to play together?
I find this is much different than all the articles in magazines and online that talk about dealing with a disruptive player at the table. Most of them are exactly the same and say "Just stop playing with this player." Ya well that doesn't work, it don't work because sometimes this person is a friend and should not be kicked out of the game, or the player might be someone I could do without, but then again I would be too low on players and it's too hard to find more and in truth they are not that bad.
There are lots of sides to blame in every argument that comes up:
The PC causing the argument has most likely taken a selfish action due to boredom, or done something that effects the way the other players are able to play their PC's.
The PC's are working on a discussion and another PC races in due to boredom and ruins things for everyone.
The PC has chosen a rogue or evil path, while the other players are good aligned or do not allow stealing or roguish actions.
A PC murders a NPC or something the others deem non-evil and believe should not have died.
A PC lords his strength or ability over another forcing him to do what he wants or face him in battle of which he will clearly die.
A PC uses his magic to force another PC to do what he want's and takes away his free will.
These are some of the issues that ALWAYS come up, no matter what, that pisses off a player and stops them from playing. A player has to be able to play their PC the way they wish, but this should not affect the rest of the way the groups plays their PC's.
So if all these issues arise, what also add's to driving people from the game?:
Player lectures other players at the table out of character asking why his/her character would do that?
Player at the table questions another players stats or abilities or spells and tells them to prove how they arrived at such an outcome.
A PC in game refuses to change their coarse of action even when presented with in game mechanics such as diplomacy or a good reason why they should stop.
A PC is seen as not trying or seen as sabotaging his party when he is just playing in character having fun, while the others are more insistent on "winning" the encounter.
There are no right or wrong answers for these situations, for even with a DM's hand a selfish player will continue to be selfish if he/she thinks everyone is now ganging up on them.
Examples from Critical role were when Percy was greedy and opened a trap that got Vax's sister killed (All PC's). He later went up to him to apologize and got punched in the face for his trouble. You would think this might piss him off as he was saying sorry for what he did, but character Vax could not accept this apology and thought Percy cocky and a know it all so smashed him in the face. Instead of pushing the situation Percy simply took the punch and said goodnight. From that Vax also said goodnight and the situation was over with that. It could have taken a more nasty turn, but both playing in character (one accepting the repercussions of his actions, the other playing the moody rogue who upholds his sisters health before any others.)
PC's can interact by hitting someone who was wrong and that player accepting it or feeling he/she did not deserve it, but they should never immediately say "They attacked me!" and go full force weapons out into attacking the other PC back. This is not what party members who have similar goals and have known each other for years would act in reality.
Another example would be when an evil magical item was a way for the party to solve a goal quickly and one player wanted to use it, while the rest of the party was worried about releasing the evil inside. The one PC defended it against the other players with his weapon out saying "Fuck it, I'm going to use it" against their wishes. While this player is in the wrong (believing his PC is doing what he would do). The others tried to persuade him before taking actions to get the evil item away from him for his own good. Though this upset him, he understood they were trying to get the item to keep him from releasing evil and took no actions against them once the items fate was finally put to rest by an NPC who arrived during the skirmish. He did not pursue it or break past anyone, ignoring the story to complete his task as a clear head told him it was a bad idea and the situation was over.
An example from our game was a new player had come in as a rogue who disarmed traps to join the party as they investigated a house. As they went into the house, the other players knocked him into a hole while screwing around and not allowing him to check the trap, only to have him fall through a deadly trap and die, catch on fire and dissolve in acid.
So with all this that can arise, how do we actually solve issues? So no one get's up and says "fuck it, I'm out."
-- ~~ Part III~~ -- How Do You Fix, Broken?
There is no answer for this, for each situation is different and requires it's own answer. If players do not like each other, they will come to blows no matter what. The only thing someone could do in this situation would be to see the larger picture and realize if they quit, they will have no game to play again. I would hope they would think or walk away before our right quitting.
Here are some examples of how somethings could be fixed:
Players learn to separate themselves from their characters
Players talk about the issues out of game and work through them
Players play with "teamwork" in mind, no matter the vice of personality flaw their character has that works again the group or other PC's.
Players don't drink at the table, if they realize it affects their behavior in a negative fashion
Players don't take an alignment or view in direct opposition of their party's
Players know when their PC has to take a backseat to the other players at the table and let things happen that they are not into, such as non combat exploration or diplomacy
Players learn to talk in character to each other to solve issues, not yell at each other at the table as players.
Players who are bored can work on their characters goals and fix their notes, etc while the other players are busy doing what their PC's want to do, instead of making issues of it
Players who don't like each other or clash, need to keep their PC's out of direct interaction in game or when it is needed, instead of being rude, treat the other players PC as they would a friendly NPC
Player complains openly at the table about not knowing why they are doing what they are doing. Instead should be asking in character and seeking answers to his/her questions to get answers that might be an adventure in it's self!
Player instead of stopping another player from doing an action, let's them do it then finds an interesting way to bring up why they shouldn't have done that or starts up a conversation about doing the wrong thing. This shows his characters values in game so others will learn of them
Players must realize their PC's are part of the story, the story isn't about their PC alone. Help everyone to get some stage time and have the light on them during the game.
Players should never do something to another character because they know they can get away with it. You have to realize the player at the table isn't having fun if your openly fucking with them. Instead realize this PC is on your PC's side and your buddies or at least after the same goal, if you wanna fuck with someone, fuck with NPC's and include the other PC's in your actions
Players need to understand the DM has the final say about a rule and should not openly argue at the table, but instead write it down and plan to bring it up later to get an answer
Players who are distracted by their phones, games, or other issues, should stand up and leave the room for a while. Everyone needs to be 100% focused on the game even if you are bored with the action happening at the moment, have that respect or take a break for the sake of the others
DM can end the session early and break out another game for the players to play until things can be settled out of game
DM can take clashing players and make their PC's use in game skills to diplomasize each other or talk it out to solve the issue.
DM, instead of questioning the player about his/her choice can make them roll a check if they are doing something he believes is out of character for that player.
DM can bring about divine karma to a players PC if he/she is running wild murdering NPC's or ruining things for others, making it clear that for every action there is a reaction
DM can suggest that the player think about his/her actions if they affect the rest of the party, before letting the action continue
There are no clear ways to fix this unless everyone wants to fix it and in the end when they are sitting at home having stopped everyone from playing by shrinking the group size, I think we can gather and talk things out and get the game back on track. Which, is the only thing that matters in the end, because without anyone to play with you can't play.
Alone forever, bored for life, not just for your turn in a game where you can have endless fun, for just a small investment in tolerating other people.