I’m not going to recount anecdotes here; if you’ve ever played in or ran more than one campaign in your tenure as a tabletop gamer, you surely have stories of your own. Moreover, too many people I game with know about and read this blog, and the last thing I want is one of my friends wondering whether I’m describing them or someone else they know under the title “problem players and drama llamas”! Particular people isn’t what this is about.
Instead, I’ll offer the best general advice I’ve received (and employed) on the topic: if you ain’t havin’ fun, you’re doin’ it wrong. Identify the issue, address it with the player/s in question, and see if you can come up with a solution.
In my experience, the most common sources of intra-party conflict are mismatched gaming expectations and personality clashes (or grudges, or other OOC issues). The former could be addressed by taking the time to check in with everyone and ask them what the truly want from the game. What type of player are they? Page 6 of the 5th edition DMG has some good breakdowns, as does Robin’s Laws of Good Gamemastering and Ron Edwards’s notes on GNS theory. Is this campaign giving them what they want? Can it give them what they want? Dealing with the latter source of conflict, however, might mean having to play group therapist, which is not something many game masters have the training to do.
Sometimes there isn’t a solution that makes everyone happy. If being able to have fun again means asking players to leave or departing from the group yourself, then so be it. There are other gamer-fish in the sea. Meetup.com, local game stores, and virtual tabletop groups will help get you back in the game, and hopefully with a group that doesn’t cause you stress, GM burnout, or OOC arguments. Here’s the post I wrote on Day 3 of the challenge on how to find players.
How do you deal with problem players and drama llamas? Link your answers in the comments below! You can find the rest of the 30 Days of Gamemastering Challenge prompts here. And stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on game masters as players. Thanks again for reading!