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D&D 3E
Confusing PCs 
23rd-Nov-2005 08:04 am
Hi, all. I have a question for some of you DMs out there. I have a PC that confuses me a great deal, and his explanations just don't help any. I told him right from the start that my campaigns weren't heavily skill-based, so running a straight rogue might be tough, especially for someone who hasn't gamed in a while. He insisted upon it, so I let him.

At first, he tried getting into manufacturing weapons, didn't seem to get a lot of enjoyment out of it. Then he moved on to working as an herbalist/poison expert. Upon finding out that poisons don't deal a lot of straight-out damage, he's started making inquiries about "buying and selling illicit goods". (He's good-aligned.) He has plans he's hoping to further, but doesn't want to tell me, so I can't really advocate him. I keep trying to ask him what he's looking to get out of the campaign, and he constantly replies "a good story", but then gets REALLY easily frustrated in the roleplaying aspect. At one session he'll tell me he's a hobbit, then this week he said, in all seriousness, "You see...I'm Batman."

My main concern is that he just doesn't seem to be getting what he's looking for out of the campaign, and it's really stressing him out. In the meantime, my attempts to deal with all of his problems is taking a TON of time and will soon start detracting from my ability to provide a good experience for the other characters. I'd really like to include this guy in our sessions, as he's a good friend and it's hard to find roleplayers in our social circles, but this is just driving me nuts.

Any suggestions? I'd be glad to fill in information where needed.
23rd-Nov-2005 01:40 pm (UTC) - I personally...
... would just run the campaigne in a way that everyone else is happy, and let him figure it out on his own.

There's a certain level of confusion you can help a player through using leading questions and the like. It sounds like your player is on the other side of that line. Until he comes back to this side of it, there isn't much you can do.
23rd-Nov-2005 01:44 pm (UTC)
How do the rest of your players react to his antics?

If he keeps it up, and it's not something you want, simply reward the other members for good role playing etc., while not giving him as many rewards (unless he deserves them). Ask the players what their character has done that relfected personality, class, alignment, etc before giving xp. Finally ask him where he is going with this character. Remind him of his alignment and say that his character seems "one-sided" or "cookie-cutter". Ask him to show more of his character's personality.
23rd-Nov-2005 02:57 pm (UTC)
He says he is a hobbit? Then in seriousness, he claims to be Batman?

Good aligned rogue?

Fight fire with fire. Tell him he is now a spoon.

Wait calmly for about 20 mins then say "there is no spoon" and ignore his character until he gives you a straight answer about who or what he is trying to be.
23rd-Nov-2005 07:34 pm (UTC)
26th-Nov-2005 01:54 am (UTC)
This is the best answer I've gotten to any post, in any community, ever.
26th-Nov-2005 03:13 am (UTC)
23rd-Nov-2005 03:05 pm (UTC)
Buh? If he's the only one that's having a problem with the campaign, then he has to deal with that. If he can't find his place in the campaign, then he just doesn't belong there.

It's sad, but it's true.

You don't have to do anything for him, especially not if everyone else is content. Take him aside and tell him "Dude, you're fucking nuts. Get with the game."
23rd-Nov-2005 03:11 pm (UTC)
Other than your efforts to try and help him out, is he actually disrupting the game? If not, how about you let him be and figure out what he wants to do himself? It's not your responsibility to tell his character what to do so that he has a good time.

That's really what you want to find out. "What are you looking to get out of the campaign" is a really bad question. Every player I've ever dealt with could probably give you one answer: to have fun. It's a game. People want to enjoy playing it. What you should be asking is "what do you want to do IN the campaign?" What does the player want to do so that he will have fun?

I also question how serious your player is. We had one player a while back who insisted his familiar was an icecream-crapping taco and that every monster he summoned was actually a giant strawberry (with the same stats as the normal monster). He goofed off a lot; weirdness WAS his character. Overall it worked out pretty well. He was fun to play with, though occassionally it got difficult to do anything serious (which is nice occassional). Your player strikes me kind of like that. When he says he's a hobbit, does he mean he's now a halfling? Does he means he's playing a food-loving creature who's stuck on an adventure? When you say he says he's batman "in all seriousness", does that mean he wants to play a dark-caped avenger? Perhaps more specifically, does he mean his CHARACTER is Batman or that he is? If he's refering to himself, the player, then he's probably goofing off. If he means his character, either he's trying to tell you what he wants his character to be (if the seriousness is sincere) or he's playing an odd/crazy character. I get those a lot in my game. Like the wizard who claims he's an archer and refuses to cast spells in the presence of NPCs. A lot of people find these quirks fun, and they often make the other players laugh, which is always a reinforcement.

So he's playing an oddball or psycho PC. If it's not hurting anyone else in the game, just don't worry about it. Let him figure it out for himself.

Oh, and poison dealing ability damage is much cooler than just HP. Much more helpful too ;p And a CG character could easily work for the black market.
23rd-Nov-2005 03:14 pm (UTC)
I've had a few of those. The worst I can recall is one of my friends who I will refer to as Mr X. He wanted to get cash, his only real skill was in archery, so he had the cunning plan of challenging the locals to a contest. Sounds sane so far, doesn't it. However, instead of challenging people directly, he goes into a crowded pub, spots someone with a bow, goes over and purposefully spills his pint on them, then shouts at them "you git, you knocked over my pint, I challenge you to an archery contest!"
Of course they declined to a contest, but settled for trying to beat the hell out of him outside. It was meant to be a fist fight, but Mr X got his sword out and butchered the two feeble NPC's. He then became an outlaw. What was he thinking?
The only way he carried on in the game was because the rest of the party spent almost all their cash getting the two NPC's resurrected so he technically couldn’t be classed as a murderer. He never even said thank you.

My friend sounds a lot like your problem player. I have never been able to cope with the spurious things he does, and now, unfortunately, I won’t have him in my games anymore. He was too distracting from the plot, took up too much time, and left the rest of the players bored while I tried to deal with his insanity. He’s a great bloke, but a nightmare to play with. My advice to you is either ditch him, or get him stuck in the middle of a plot where he HAS to focus on that rather than fiddling around with trading etc. However, you must also make it pretty vital that the rest of the PC’s need to be included too, or that will screw up your game. Failing that, just let him get on with it and don’t give him any extra time. He’ll either get sorted, or leave, which is good however you look at it.
23rd-Nov-2005 03:51 pm (UTC)
Now all I have to go on here is what you have written, so consider that my disclaimer.

If what he is interested in is his skills, and he wants to be really good at what he does, then your player is a "Pro from Dover" archetype. He wants to have a moment in each game when he really shines.

Since you are asking for advice, I presume that "do nothing and let him figure it out" isn't the answer you are looking for. Instead, what you want to do is put a challenge in each night's adventure that can only be overcome through the use of his skills.

This should be more than a simple disarm trap check. For example, maybe a hero is poisoned, and the rogue's knowledge of poisons allows him to come up with an antidote. Maybe the heroes are thrown into a room bereft of their weapons, but the rogue can use his weaponmaking skills to improvise a knife or two, allowing escape.

Do this once or twice, and see if he continues his "illegal goods" angle, which looks to be a huge campaign derailer. If he does, apply renewed pressure to know what he is up to, "so I can work it into the plot." If you have given him more reason to trust you by spotlighting his character's skill mastery during the game, he will probably "let you in on the secret." He wants to anyway, to show you how cool he is, but he needs a good excuse.

Pick up Robin Laws' book, "Robin's Laws of Good Game Mastery." It's inexpensive and the best DM advice I've found. Much of it is summarized in the first chapter of the DMG II, which Laws wrote.

Good luck,
23rd-Nov-2005 05:03 pm (UTC)
The only problem with setting up a 'skill' based problem in the game is that you either have to make sure the event is only available to the crazy rogue guy
you have to have a back up plan in case the rogue misses/ignores the cue and the other party members (for example) want to save the poisoned hero. The rest of the party probably will need a *non-skills* based option as they have been playing to the tune of the game being not so skills heavy as they were informed. (They'd probably have to go find a doctor/cleric/etc in town or they would have to carry him to one to save the poor chap.)

Mind you, you may have some grumbles from the others if you give a special event to the rogue for being difficult (even if it is to work him in) while they have been patient. *shrugs* Just a note.

Personally, you have told him it's not really a heavy-skills game and I think you should stick to that at least, continue running things the way you have been running them. It's only fair to the others that way. You really don't know what this other player wants AND he isn't willing to tell you. As much as I (if I was DM) would want him involved, he does need to be willing to work with you or it doesn't matter what you try. Anything you try will be a shot in the dark which partically why there are a lot of 'leave him to his own whims' answers.

You just have talk to him and straight out explain the situation (as the_never was saying), that he needs to talk to you about what he wants to do, he needs to have a non-changing character sheet, and you need to tell him what boundries you want to keep for your game. Do you want to keep it low/less skill based? Tell him. Do you think that he should have a good reason for his good-aligned character to be dealing in illicit goods? Give him a reason if need be.

(If he's doing it for his own self gain/interest, that would be more CN aligned I think. If he's good, it would have to be a situation like where he's trading for medicine that has been deemed illegal in his country. Him getting the medicine to a doctor he is working with to save a small town of people who are sick.)
23rd-Nov-2005 03:52 pm (UTC)
First of all- (you may have already done this) don't try and sleuth it out or ask leading questions. Cut to the chase and ask directly.

24th-Nov-2005 03:22 am (UTC)
It won't serve anyone if he keeps the DM in the dark. It's fine not to tell the other players, but at least let the storyman in on your plans. Many of my best ideas in-game were thwarted by not having the DM on the same base.
23rd-Nov-2005 05:57 pm (UTC)
Let him know that what he is doing does not work with the kind of game you are running. He can either work it out or sit out of the game. It might sound unfair but why mess up the game for everyone else?

24th-Nov-2005 03:28 am (UTC)
I had to give this speech to a player in my campaign a while back. The next session he doublecrossed the party and killed off the other player and the last surviving NPC vital to the plot. I immediately had him redoublecrossed and killed as well and was forced to attempt some hairy "after death" roleplaying in order to resurrect my plotline.

I only have one player I'll even trust to play an evil character and not destroy my game. It's not that guy.
24th-Nov-2005 07:09 am (UTC)
Evil chaacter's are always risky though. Personally I prefer to launch evil campaigns instead of as adventures, but as settings where the characters get to perform there misc. misdeeds at random. the consequences of there actions inevitably make up an adventure for me.
23rd-Nov-2005 07:10 pm (UTC)
Ya know, sitting back and thinking about it, you use skills in every battle. Almost every round is going to start with a spot or listen check. A rogue will be moving silently and hiding in shadows in order to sneak attack. They may use knowledge; tactics to help set up a battle or knowledge:arcana to identify something the party has found. These are all skills. It wouldn't hurt to have a strange piece of writing for him to use decipher script or a situation where he had to forge a document etc.

Skills are useful at all times.
2nd-Dec-2005 06:24 am (UTC)
If you get really frustrated you could throw some magic item in that royally fucks up his character, changes his gender, race, alignment, everything. Because it sounds to me like he really doesn't find his character very interesting. In fact, he sounds a little like me when I play a character I end up hating...minus the batman.
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