We have all experienced tough dealings with our tablemates. It happens. Bashing of heads, glory hogs, rules lawyers, that one person that might as well let Siri play their character because she’s the only one doing anything at that corner of the table. Though they may seem troubling, they are just annoyances. You and your group will live.
I am talking about truly troublesome players (TPs). The ones that make you feel like a thermal detonator has been stapled to your genitals. You only think it hurts now, but you know it’ll be so much worse once it blows. The DM Doctor is in with three ways to deal with a troublesome player and (maybe) save your friendships.
I know. You’ve done this already. Right?
You have given TP several warnings, countless ‘last times’, group meetings. Everything (including an abrupt, table-flip-accompanied end to your last campaign). What more is there to talk about?
Just one thing: Their decision.
Put the ball in their court and let them decide. Do they wish to contribute to the group’s quest for fun? Or are they just in it from themselves? Let them know that if they stay, there are no more warnings. No more ‘last times’. They will be TOLD, not asked, to leave and never return. This applies even if they are the GM and/or host. You do not need them, but apparently, they need you. Don’t be afraid to let them know it.
#2- Ghost ‘Em
It should go without saying, ALWAYS start with the talk. Always. Whether they leave by choice or voted off the island later, you may find TP still haunts you worse than your last ex.
No matter how difficult of a task, your next option will be to ghost them. Ignore them. Never tell them when, where, or what you will be playing. If they manage to show up anyways, ask them to leave. If there is just no physical way to escape them, switch to an entirely different type of game, or try playing your campaign as a play-by-post for the time being. Make TP think the group is dead. If you need a safe, online-gaming space, ask around on your favorite gaming forums (or ask me).
#3- Light the Fuse and Burn it Up
Despite everything you try, the inevitable will happen. You will feel the ‘joy’ of that fist-sized explosive take away all that you hold sacred. There is no turning back.
Decades of friendships are irrevocably lost. A complete and utter gaming Armageddon. What now?
Like a great forest fire clearing thousands of square miles of century-old proud giants, the only thing you can do is let it burn and then wait for the ashes to settle. Move on to other things. It is going to hurt. It is going to suck. However, when the time is right, nature will take its course and life will return to that barren wasteland. Much like the mighty phoenix, you will rise from the ashes and soar to new adventuring heights.
Things will never be the same, but time will bring you greater things.
So, wait… How does this save my friendships?
It doesn’t. The only thing that is going to save your friendships is YOU. It will not be easy, but only you can save them. You will have to be sincere, and above all, be the ‘you’ that always connects with your friends. You all have a special connection. Remember it. Treasure it.
Those are the Doctor’s Orders. Please remember, games are about having fun. Social games are about having fun with those you cherish.
Donald Robinson With more than twenty years of experience in various RPGs from both sides of the table, Donald took the leap into freelance game design. A Paizo RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 contestant and freelance writer, Donald posts tips and free role-playing game resources on his blog: www.thedmdr.blogspot.com. You can follow him on twitter, facebook, and google+.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.