Hail, and Well Met.
I once again arise, from my soul-crushingly boring office job, to relay another tale of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). Instead of a specific story, however, I wish to tell of a common situation that arises out of the scariest force imaginable: humanity.
Before I begin, I wish to clarify terminology for those unfamiliar with D&D. This is found below:
Player Character (PC): This is fairly self-explanatory, but it is the players within the game.
Dungeon Master (DM): The big head honcho that runs the game. They referee and guide the players along a story, reacting to their decisions and altering events as they see fit.
d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20: These are the various dice used to complete tasks in Dungeons and Dragons. One usually rolls a d20 to decide ability checks or if they hit an enemy. There are tons of other uses, but dice make the world roll ’round in D&D.
Ability Check: Whenever a PC wants to do a task that requires a good amount of skill, they will need to roll an ability check for it. The ability, the score needed, and whether or not they have advantage or disadvantage.
Advantage/Disadvantage: When a PC rolls, depending on the situation, they could gain a benefit or a loss. When they roll with advantage, they get to roll their d20 twice, and take the highest number. But if they are at a disadvantage, then they take the lower of the two results.
DON’T TARGET ME
You get a group of close friends together. You’ve known each other for years, understand each other’s history, flaws, bonds, and goals. A close band of adventurers in real life.
But you’ve never played D&D together, which is a very social game that requires cooperation and strong communication. You, despite that devious character you may be urging to play, must work together with your friends to succeed, or the game is not fun. That’s an unfortunate fact about the game. If one player deviates from the pack to be a lone wolf, it creates a lot of awkward and frustrating problems. Arguments will break out, and people will get very bitter.
However, if a player begins to show deviant behaviour, do NOT let your emotions turn to vindictiveness. In other words, do not target a player, whether you are a PC or a DM.
If you are a DM, and you have a player that is obnoxious or is ruining the game, you can give them a light, but not obvious punishment. A simple one that works very effectively, is to steal from them. It can be a strong adventure hook to lead them to a destination, while also masking a light penalty. Do not obviously punish them with garbage like “A random bolt of lightning comes down from the sky and fries you ur ded c ya nerd.” That’s so obvious, and it makes your players lose faith and respect in you. And once respect is lost, the dynamic storytelling between the DM and PC’s is lost.
But even worse, if you are a player, and you vilify an individual in your group, then that is when targeting becomes toxic and bitter. At the end of the day, a D&D session is about enjoying yourself and having a fun session of gaming for a few hours. It’s different from all other games. You live your friendship and camaraderie vicariously through the characters you create.
So when the group shuns a player or forces them to do something against their will, that’s when the ugliness of humanity shows. In my first game, my group immediately turned one player into their servant who has to obey them, because of a single dice roll. Again, due to my inexperience, I did not do anything to stop this, and of course, the servant was mad about this. However, the rest of the players were insistent that, 20 minutes into our very first session, this person is now a permanent slave.
Already, one player’s experience is ruined. They might as well just commit suicide and make a new character. They have no right to subject themselves to that, and why should they? It’s hours of their free time doing something miserable. Might as well take that time and do something either more fun or productive.
If a player is acting irrationally or obnoxiously, do not shout at them or make them feel uncomfortable. Just let them know that you would like to focus on the game and that their behaviour is distracting. Most of the time, a player won’t notice if they are being disruptive, and a calm reminder can quell issues.
If a player is on their phone or is distracting themselves through another means, a small remark, like asking “oh did you hear that?” will let them know that their behaviour is rude to the DM and other players. But it doesn’t make them feel shame. Maybe they had an important message to check, or are expecting a call. People have busy schedules and social lives, and cannot devote themselves wholly to D&D.
Ultimately, never single anybody out. It is blatantly obvious when a group of friends begins to dogpile on another. It ruins their fun, and destroys the cohesion of the group. Just don’t be an asshole, man.