Xanathar's Guide to Cleavin' a Goblin Clean in Twain (feat. D&D)


Ttrp is an intensely social activity and, like all social activities, involves a constant dynamic of push and pull, always dilating and constricting your range of acceptable inputs and outputs. Exactly how much barging-in-without-scouting are your fellow players going to tolerate? Depends on their natural predilections, the character they’re trying to play, the game they envision in their head, how much they personally like you and the length and quality of your shared history, whether their spouse yelled at them that morning, etc. Social generosity is always being balanced against self-care and -integrity.

Unfortunately the type of people who are most enthusiastic to play ttrpgs tend to be the type of people least able to read a room and manage this dynamic. I think that’s often why they’re attracted to it - the layer of mechanical rules and geek context security blanket gives them a structure they can practice and experiment in, without all the crushing anxiety that might come from a more chaotic and freeform social situation like a party. But that puts one in the position of being these people’s guinea pig. Not fun real quick.

I dunno - at some point you just have to decide your tolerance level for other people’s bullshit, and if the friction grows too hot, have a talk. Unconsented pvp is a big old red line for me, any reasonable person should be able to understand that. If this guy (and it’s gotta be a guy right) won’t get it, you’re within your rights to make it a “me or him” situation.


Yeah, I dunno what 5e is contributing to this. I’ve heard of stuff exactly like that happening in every popular RPG since…forever.

Group is pretty much always more important than game system, IME.

You should talk with your group about what everyone wants out of the game, and if you all want different things, you might want to look for a new group. No gaming is better than bad gaming. D:


it’s good that you told the player your thoughts!

“It’s in character” defenses are rarely worthwhile. There has been a lot of (some good, some bad) rpg theory about the social contract of playing RPGs. The things you describe doing would be fine in a lot of games/with a lot of groups but would fall afoul of some groups’ expectations. ie that players won’t have their characters take intentionally stupid actions even if those actions are entertaining.

5e is popular in part because its… well its not a blank slate, but its a grab bag of game stuff that can be bent into many shapes. It’s also popular because it’s called D&D. Anyway, because its so group-neutral it has the drawback that the game doesn’t give you any tools to support a particular playstyle.

The ideals, bonds, and flaws are supposed to help with this but I find that they’re somewhat underwhelming in practice. They should serve as flags of PC behavior but they’re just invisible to the other players from what I’ve seen. The ones in the book are also often so distant from what players actually do in a D&D game that they feel extra-useless. If your barbarian had the flaw of “Charges in without warning” or something like that, it would at least have been clear to the table.

I feel that in a good game the people at the table can lay out some ground rules for what they expect from the game, like “we don’t like pvp even if it makes sense in-narrative”


Or you can just play with a group of really good old real-life friends who can all intuit each other’s limits and apologize for overreaches without shame and never have any need for a somewhat awkward “ground rules” talk.

You know. If you’re lottery-level lucky you can do that.

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well sure, but that would be impractical!

Especially for a trad game like D&D which doesn’t allow for much systemic expression of player preferences, its helpful both for the group in general and the DM in particular if players weigh in with stuff like “I don’t like PvP but I like getting the group into situations from my character’s bad decision making”, “I like treating the combat like an optimized board game”, “I like having opportunities to express my character’s alignment esp when it conflicts with other characters”, “I prefer if our group makes decisions as a group”, etc.

Like, none of those kinds of statements are awkward to say and it helps a group come to some sort of consensus. It can help transform a group of acquaintances into a group of old friends who intuit each other’s limits and apologize for overreaches without shame.

Like, I don’t know if you remember but I totally had an awkward aside in the lost session 0 where I was like “We don’t all know each other super well, so if I overreach as a DM or you’re not enjoying some aspect of play just talk about it and I’m perfectly fine dropping something I had planned if it ruins your good times.”


Bullshit we’ve always been effortlessly perfect


you can’t deny my awkwardness

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(To clarify, this wasn’t a huge deal, the player was apologetic about it and I think they just made an evil character for a one shot and were exploring that. Hopefully we are still on good terms.

If it had been an ongoing game I probably would have stopped the game and asked them not to do it. Maybe I should have done that anyway, idk.)


Our early games are very hazy to me, maybe I should have taken notes

We all learned a lot about ourselves when we killed those guys


I got The Expanse RPG book recently and they have this whole section in the back about “problem player types” that speaks to this, particularly the Thespian:

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a videogame where you play as a dm and have to solve your players personal issues and emotional hangups to keep the game running smoothly


I’ve seen write ups like this before and I’ve always felt that its perhaps too reductive about categorizing people and psychoanalyzing your players rather than just… talking things out

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Yeah, true. I will say that I like how the solution they present for each of these “problem situations” is to talk it out with the player.

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yeah the actual advice listed is good, but it still depends on this very old school categorization.

It’s weird to list this all as ‘problem players’ too because each description opens up with “this isn’t a problem unless”


as much as I make fun of the prevailing trend toward “we took a genre and made it a visual novel about mental health” this would actually be extremely good


generally decent person Ewen Cluney made a tabletop rpg around this concept


I’m glad you said this because I was about to say the exact same thing except I would’ve had to qualify it with “I’m not a DM and have dramatically little ttrpg experience, but…”


I hadn’t listened to those episodes yet so I’m going through them in reverse now and there’s lots of little things

For instance: near I can tell, we were just supposed to get the accurate map in exchange for introducing Fatgris


you’re right! It’s a good thing the azure company is very drunk right now or else I would have just given you a map