D&D General Roleplaying Powerful Beings versus Smart-Aleck PCs


Magic Wordsmith
Oh yeah, on the list of Ravenloft stories, I should also mention how they can never show their faces in Vallaki again because when the burgomaster sent a guard to fetch them, they zapped him with hypnotic pattern, pulled down his pants, and left him standing in the street that way...
Haha, that's amazing!

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I admit that there are times when the players joke and bring in comments from movies and change names to something funny. Separate that from actual roleplay. I like to ask, "Is that what you really say." Players tend to correct themselves then. Failing that, the one PC pays the price. Perhaps there is a warning from a guard or other henchman by saying, "That's 1, there is no 2nd." Perhaps a god-like being can cause the PC's mouth to disappear- Roll a DC35. Perhaps forced to leave the room. Perhaps squishy you head.

Another option is to feign boredom and do not give it attention. Stop looking at the player and give a bit of smirk of boredom and look at you nails like you just painted them. Give it a few seconds and then look at another player and say something such as; "Anyone have something worth my time" or "Do you wish to insult me as well."

Some of this goes to other threads with players wanting to derail the game. Something like having my thief sneak around the small town peeking in windows and trying to break into the mayor's house to steal some coins. I want to take an hour of game time for my PC stuff.


The PCs have come into the presence of some being of great power--good, evil, or neutral, anything from a local noble to an actual deity. It's a serious situation where, realistically, there would be severe consequences for inappropriate behavior. But players are players, and they're going to have their characters mouth off to this powerful being.

I figure this must be something a lot of DMs deal with. How do you handle these situations? How do you keep the whole thing fun for all concerned without sacrificing the impressiveness of this important NPC? Is that even possible?

Note: I'm more interested roleplay solutions than mechanical ones. Obviously, as the DM, I could easily say "The guards haul you off and execute you on the spot for rudeness to the emperor," but I don't think that would be fun for anyone.

I've tried a few solutions with varying levels of success:

  • Jeny Greeneeth in Ravenloft may have been the most successful. She'd just smile sweetly and say, "Don't be impolite, dear. I'd hate to have to rip your guts out unnecessarily." But that may only have worked because the PCs needed her help.
  • Later in the same campaign, Rahadin wouldn't let the PCs into Castle Ravenloft unless they surrendered their weapons and swore an oath to behave peacefully. The players assumed they could talk their way around this, but Rahadin told them they could either agree to the terms or leave. So they went along with it, but I think the players were unhappy at feeling forced into a corner.

In the next session, they're due to meet an archfey whom I want to come across as powerful and mysterious. I fully expect the players to be snarky to her, so I want to be prepared for that. Any suggestions on how to deal with this situation?

(ETA: Since some have asked for more details on the archfey: the PCs are searching for the source of magic that's infusing the local countryside. They're going to find out that it's due to this archfey's lair being adjacent to an underground river. They're not expecting to meet her and aren't seeking anything from her. If things go well, she might have a quest for them and/or offer them the opportunity to make a pact with her, i.e. take a level of fey pact warlock.)
I aim to make some of my NPC antagonists / villains just as feisty and flippant as the more instigating-type players at my table.

I try to avoid direct threats – like your "rip out your guts" example – or active demonstrations of power – like annihilating a town or NPC before the PCs' eyes – which only tend to incite players further, and instead I look for cunning comebacks or verbal sparring that lean into specific story beats associated with the PCs.

In other words, the gravitas you're trying to impose/inject for the NPC doesn't primarily rely on foreshadowing (though that helps) or lush descriptions of silently intimidating elements (though that also helps), but it primarily relies upon how well the NPC can flip the script and turn the repartee back upon the players. In other words, it's through adaptive and feisty role-play, ideally bringing in a touch of something personal – but not to the point of direct threats – or even reframing a past event through a more sinister lens, that's where the players will be impressed by the NPC.

If only because you've temporarily defused their itch to drive the scene toward conflict where they star as the rebellious force, and instead reframed their expectations of the powerful NPC.

Some example comeback lines that I'm spitballing for your archfey – only knowing what you shared to date in your OP:
  • (narrate white roots emerging thru ceiling...) (if PCs critique her underground abode) "Fine words from a jackal making its living stealing from corpses in deep dank dungeons." (if PCs follow up with a threat about 'making some corpses') "My dear jackal, did you think those were white roots hanging in my foyer? Perhaps you should pay deeper respects to my past guests?" (reveal the 'roots' are actually muddy overgrown bones from dozens of humanoids)
  • (if PC makes flippant comment like 'you're shorter than I expected') "Short I may be today, yet even when I finish my elfwine, tomorrow you shall still be an ugly ape. Disappointment is part and parcel of life, alas."
  • (if a rogue PC steals a jeweled necklace, she notices, and PC lies about it) "I didn't realize you've come to exchange gifts. For such a cursed necklace, a suitable gift would be a similarly cursed relic, wouldn't you agree?" (screws with the players' minds through artful deception, leans into the difficulty to get rid of cursed objects in typical D&D, and encourages rogue PC backpedaling to try to give back necklace, in which case...) "Oh that would be impolite of me to take back what was freely given. But I suppose, as you are my guests... I could take it back but leave you with my... blessing... instead?" (and here you'd prep a double-edged blessing/curse, such as 'may you never leave the seat of your power' or somesuch)

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