How to deal with a "true roleplayer".

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
I have this friend. I'm willing to bet a lot of you have a friend like this. He is convinced that "making a good character" consists of the following steps:

*Give the character a detailed backstory.
*Give the character unoptimized ability scores, justifying them with said backstory.
*Have the character make decisions based on the personality he gave them.

Now some might say this is a great way to go about things, and I used to agree, but lately, I've grown tired of it.

His idea of a great character is making a Rogue with 16 Strength, 12 Dexterity, and playing them like a Fighter in D&D. Or playing a Fighter and giving that character a 16 Intelligence and Charisma. Then, rather than take actions that directly help the party, he'll fiddle with torches and oil for a few turns to hit enemies for 1d6 fire damage, running the risk of lighting himself or his allies on fire as well.

In a recent battle, the party Wizard cast Web to give the group some breathing room while fighting some zombies. At which point my friend goes "great, now that the zombies can't move, I'll light them on fire!", which of course, destroyed sections of the Web. When pressed on this, he stated "it's what his character would do".

Further, he seems to have a terrible attitude towards players who don't make characters the way he does, even when he struggles in combats to hit enemies because he's decided a 12 Dexterity makes him a perfectly acceptable archer, or he'd rather use a sling than select an attack cantrip. And when he talks about his characters, he brings up all of these things as evidence for how "superior" his characters are.

It came to a head last session where we had a TPK because he got it into his head to attack a Hill Giant that was in the area. The DM had told everyone they spotted the Giant, and could easily avoid it; it was simply a warning that there was a Giant in the area, not an encounter. My friend fired a crossbow at it to get it's attention, and said he would run from it and then the party could attack it from behind. So they all hid, and he led it on a chase into the woods.

Well, he thought it would be a chase, but the Giant has a speed of 40, and his Dwarf has a speed of 25. He tried to hide in the underbrush, in heavy armor, with his Dexterity of 9, and failed to get anywhere near the Giant's passive perception. Now, remember, this wasn't intended to be an encounter at all, and I don't think the DM was trying to kill anyone. Instead of attacking, the Giant taunted the "silly little man".

"I don't take insults at all!", says the Dwarf. "He has offended my honor! I jump out and attack him!"

The result was one splattered Dwarf, and the rest of the party decided not to engage the Giant. Afterwards, my friend had nothing but scorn for us for not following his "foolproof" plan, and complained that the DM was a "killer DM" for using a Hill Giant as an encounter. When the DM said that's not what was intended, the response was, "I'm a Dwarf! We hate Giants! If I see a Giant, I'm going to try and kill it! So yes, that's an encounter!"

I haven't heard anything but complaints from him since, about how it's the DM's fault, it's the system's fault for not rewarding his "good play", and then he backhandedly insulted me, because I'm playing a "min/maxxed character". I'm playing a Kobold Wizard with more Dexterity than Intelligence, who took the Healer Feat to help the Cleric keep the party healed! What in the...

I've known this guy for awhile and I consider him a friend, but what can I say to him to get him to realize that "good roleplaying" doesn't necessarily mean "sabotage your character, then try to blame everything else for your bad decisions"?
 

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GMMichael

Guide of Modos
I can relate to the self-sabotager - I like to make characters that feel like characters, not little war machines. However, I wouldn't expect to go toe to toe with a giant and win (unless I had done it before). That just sounds like a weird sense of entitlement.

I doubt there's anything you can say to instantly fix that, but maybe some expectation management is in order. Your friend may be expecting something different from a "game session" or "campaign" than other players are. It's probably better to say "this is what we expect from the game" than "hey, you're doing this wrong."
 

He seems pretty inconsistent - he's "doing what his character would do", but he's criticizing you guys for not following along? What if that's what your characters would do?

I mean yes, I love having a backstory for my characters and sometimes I do feel a need to give them their head and let them do something suboptimal... But this is still a social game. Bringing about a TPK for the sake of roleplaying is just not cool. Maybe he needs to come up characters that actually fit into the group?

And making a character who can't or won't perform their role in the party is just dumb. That's not roleplaying, that's suicide. What, are his characters incapable of learning that burning a Web is a bad idea?
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
The way I look at it is, it's ok to do things differently than other people. Unusual characters can be a lot of fun. But what I understand is, choosing to swim against the current is going to complicate things for you.

My friend, sadly, seems unwilling to accept that his choices will lead to consequences, not just for himself, but for others.

When I first started playing AD&D, the rulebooks led me to believe that I could make whatever character I wanted. But after many failed characters, I realized that this was only half-true; I certainly could make a character however I wanted, but the game never promised to support my choices. So when I chose to use a Broadsword instead of a Longsword, or I thought Charisma was more important for my Gladiator than Strength, there was no guarantee that these choices would ever pay off the way I thought they would.

So I had to change my approach, and make sure I never dragged the group down just because I thought it would be fun to play a Tabaxi Wizard with a 14 Intelligence (actual character I have played).

Unfortunately, when I try to point this out to my friend, he just scoffs and continues to play this way, and when his decisions don't pan out, he doesn't want to accept that he might be responsible in any way for it- that he's playing the game "right" (as if there is a right way to play any TTRPG) and we're doing it "wrong" somehow.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
He seems pretty inconsistent - he's "doing what his character would do", but he's criticizing you guys for not following along? What if that's what your characters would do?

I mean yes, I love having a backstory for my characters and sometimes I do feel a need to give them their head and let them do something suboptimal... But this is still a social game. Bringing about a TPK for the sake of roleplaying is just not cool. Maybe he needs to come up characters that actually fit into the group?

And making a character who can't or won't perform their role in the party is just dumb. That's not roleplaying, that's suicide. What, are his characters incapable of learning that burning a Web is a bad idea?
I remember the incident well. "The Wizard never explained to me what his spell did, so I had no reason to know the Web would burn".

And really, while you could say "well, common sense", the fact is, it could have produced non-burning webs, the same way magical Grease may or may not burn (depending on which edition of D&D you're playing in, or what the DM rules).

We had a similar situation come up with Hypnotic Pattern, where he attacked a charmed character because "I had no way of knowing why he was just standing around not attacking anyone!".

And while that's true, the only thing stopping him from asking was "my character has a low Wisdom, he's impatient". To which I replied, yeah, but you were the person who decided that!
 

And while that's true, the only thing stopping him from asking was "my character has a low Wisdom, he's impatient". To which I replied, yeah, but you were the person who decided that!
Ugh. Let me guess, he likes to play Chaotic Neutral?

Yes, I've met people like that. In at least some cases, I suspect passive aggression.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Explain to them that D&D as a game system has few points for supporting roleplaying with mechanics, and in order for the game aspects to work well for both them and the rest of the party, they need to focus on making sure that their roleplaying concepts are translated as mechanically faithfully as possible. For example, a high STR character played as a fighter should likely have the fighter class. They can absolutely be a rogue, criminal, thief, brigand, highwayman, or whatever, but that is less controlled by the class and more controlled by the background. So take a criminal background, realize that your in-game actions will be a better match for the fighter class and marry those together.

As for the giant encounter, you may need to explain that the DM did his job - he telegraphed that there was something lethal in the area. That the player decided everything that can be attacked is fair game isn't the sign of a roleplayer at all - a real roleplayer would consider the fear such a powerful foe would instill in his low level dwarf. Roleplaying isn't just him applying his will, it's reacting appropriately for his character.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
Ugh. Let me guess, he likes to play Chaotic Neutral?

Yes, I've met people like that. In at least some cases, I suspect passive aggression.
No, thankfully he's not quite that bad, lol. But it's like, he'll sit down with this backstory of why he's playing a Street Urchin Paladin, and roleplay accordingly, and at first, it's a lot of fun.

Then suddenly he'll declare that he refuses to use Thieves' Tools (despite being proficient in them) because he sees it as "dishonorable" and a reminder of his past transgressions. And you know, that's a cool quirk but when you point out he's putting himself (and possibly the rest of the party, if no one else can use those Tools) at a disadvantage, he just goes blank faced and says "but I'm roleplaying my character".

I don't really know what to do with that, and I'm pretty sure no one else does either.
 



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