Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, April 03, 2019
I killed the bastard

One of the strong points of Dungeons & Dragons is that you don't need to be good to enjoy playing it. A "bad player", who doesn't know half the rules, can't remember his spells, and hasn't got a clue about tactical combat, can still be a fun person to be around, contribute to the story, and be a positive element to the game overall. However, regardless of whether a player is good or bad at D&D, there is a kind of person that can cause problems, the disruptive or "bastard" player. The kind of player who is always shoving his way into the limelight, not giving the others room to play their characters, and who deliberately tries to spoil the enjoyment of everybody by ruining the story.

Unfortunately in one of the campaigns where I am player, we had such a bastard player. Now the general advice on how to handle disruptive players is to do it "out of character", the DM speaking with the problem player between sessions. However that approach apparently didn't work in this case, and the player in question got more problematic with each session. While first he was just trying to steal all the attention, he later became more and more bold in trying to derail the story, and even harm the characters of other players.

The reason that this is problematic is that pen & paper role-playing games have a strong, unwritten, social contract: Whatever characters the players have chosen, they need to arrange themselves in order to end up with a common story, in which the group pursues a common goal. If everybody wants to go in different directions, the game becomes unmanageable, and just falls apart. Thus it isn't uncommon to have let's say both a paladin and a rogue in a group working together, in spite of their values being very different. Conflict between characters can be played out in the form of arguments, but not in the logical conclusion of parting ways, or fighting each other. D&D, especially 5th edition, would be a horrible system for PvP anyway, because players have relatively high damage output and low hit points (while monsters usually have lower damage output and higher hit points). A fight between two wizards of equal level would be decided by the initiative roll. A disruptive player can use the social contract as protection, while making the game less enjoyable for the other players by not being willing to compromise, and effectively forcing them to follow his directions.

So last weekend the bastard player in that campaign I was playing a paladin of vengeance in pushed the envelope too far. Twice during the session he exchanged blows with other players, not deadly, but still doing damage. And then we basically reached one of the climatic points of the story: We had traveled through the jungle for a month to find information about a lost city, and learned that a naga living in a ziggurat had that information; we had reached the ziggurat and overcome its magical protections, which resulted in us being teleported into a small (6x6 squares) room with the naga. And before anybody could say anything, the disruptive player shouted out "I cast fireball!". Which a) roasted the whole group due to the room being so small, and b) would force the group to attack the naga NPC instead of talking to her, which would have seriously derailed the story.

At that point I had enough, and having won the initiative, attacked the bastard player instead of the naga. As I said, D&D isn't really suitable for PvP; my paladin is built around having multiple attacks, based on DEX instead of STR, and dual-wielding a pair of scimitars. Normally the plan is to roll lots of attack rolls, thus increasing the chance of a critical hit, and then using Divine Smite, because critical hits also double the damage dice rolled for that. However in this situation I didn't care about critical hits. I just used Divine Smite on each of my three attacks. In PvE that isn't a clever move, because you burn your spell slots very fast and run out of resources quickly. But in PvP it is all about having the bigger burst damage faster than your opponent, and three attacks with Divine Smite deal an average damage which is far higher than the hit points of a character, especially one who just burned himself with his own fireball. So I killed the character of the bastard player in one turn, and then apologized to the naga, getting the story back on track.

The surprising thing was that the disruptive player seemed to be quite pleased with that outcome. I had the impression that somehow he *wanted* us to kill him, and give him an easy way out of the game, instead of just telling us that he wanted to quit. So he left, and all the other players and the DM expressed their relief of being rid of the guy. I guess that sometimes people have difficulties resolving their problems in an appropriate manner in real life, and that handling the situation "in character" is sometimes easier for them. Well, problem solved!


Given your very longstanding and frequently expressed opinions on PvP, this is perhaps the funniest thing you have ever posted. For so many reasons.
Why was that guy in your group? Was it some kind of tournament where you don't always know everyone?
Perhaps the disruptive player is playing some other game of his own on a “meta” level of how many gaming groups can I piss off and force a pvp situation?
@Bhagpuss: Tobold says "Hold my beer, I'm doing a post about whales now!"
Makes you wonder what kind of behavior this guy displays in an anonymous, online setting.
Makes you wonder after how many years of learning behavior in anonymous, online settings, people will start behaving like internet trolls in the real world.
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