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It's Just A Game - FAIL

Well, that sucked.

If you've got me your flist, you've probably seen the session write-ups for the Dungeons and Dragons game that I'm running. Tonight it all managed to go rather wrong.

This isn't the first time we've had interpersonal conflict with this group. A little over a year ago, same people, different campaign, we had a rather heated argument between my dad and another woman in the group I'll call Paula. Their characters had very different styles, her being a seer, oracle, and diplomat while he was playing a druid who was slowly taking over the world with his economically-sound delivery and message service (E-Haul and Fed-Ex, animal message and package service). They had two different approaches to getting information out of an NPC (non-player character) and Paula felt Dad's character was treading on her character's toes. So much so that when it happened, she wanted her character to attack Dad's character with lethal intent.

I put the kibosh on that and tried to figure it out over e-mail. After some histrionics on everyone's part, I just did a Mulligan (do-over), erased that the fight had ever happened in the campaign, and we went on.

Now this same shit is happening again. This campaign is city-based, and all the characters have jobs that tie them to the city. While some of them have shady business, they all present themselves to be above-board, and when they've encountered crime in the past, they tend to turn over miscreants to the city Watch instead of dispensing justice themselves.

I don't allow evil alignments in my campaigns I've played with this group, because there's so much scope for additional drama over and above the plot, but we do have neutral characters in the current party. Paula's character, Evelyn, is Chaotic Neutral, essentially a free-spirited type not overly concerned with either rules or morality. She does what she feels is best for her, neither actively being overly cruel, nor going out of her way to do good deeds, and only obeying laws because she'd rather not be locked up. Her character is a fashionista sorceress from somewhat impoverished nobility, and is a character of great ambition.

The other gamer in this drama is a guy I'll call Brian. He's playing a Neutral Good gunslinger, Charissa, an alchemist and weaponsmith. His character wants to make new innovations to her guns (he's playing a female character), help her family prosper (merchanter background), and maybe figure out why her parents left her to be adopted by a gnome clan. (Her "brother" is played by my dad, who's playing a gnome rogue locksmith.)

Now, Paula's character is forceful. That's the personality of the character - she's opinionated, certain she's right, and occasionally can deliver some excellent inadvertent burns to players and NPCs (everyone knows this and has been amused by it). And since the campaign started, both Paula and Brian's characters (and indeed the whole party) have found themselves in peril, entangled in a plot that has certainly endangered their lives more than once. They've been attacked by all manner of ruffians, some desiring their deaths for their inadvertent involvement in this main plot, some just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Most recently they investigated a shop the city Watch had searched, being as it was the shop of a man arrested for theft and fraud, and sentenced to exile in Undermountain (tantamount to death). They had gotten the location of a secret room in the shop from the condemned man, as he wanted them to search it for evidence as to this plot they're inadvertently embroiled in. As they came out of the shop, they were attacked by what amounted to a vicious gang that had claimed this turf for their own. If these creatures were killed, they died in a explosion of light, leaving behind no body. The group killed two, stunned one, and the rest ran away. They captured the stunned one and took him back somewhere safe to figure out what to do with him.

Here's where the "fun" started. The dark creeper (the name of the species that attacked them) was unrepentant and swore his clan would wreak dire vengeance upon the party for honing in on their turf. He didn't seem to be part of the ongoing conspiracy, just one of the many factions of the city's underworld fighting for recognition and street cred. They party, as they saw it, had a couple of options:

1. Turn the dark creeper over to the city Watch - this had the virtue of letting the law be aware of their menace, but the downside of the dark creeper being able to truthfully say he saw the party break into the shop of a condemned man and emerge with another person (a golem they'd liberated, see notes from Session 10).

2. Let the Shadow Thieves deal with the dark creeper. If he was part of a group operating in the underworld without the sanction of Waterdeep's biggest thieves' guild, the Shadow Thieves would deal with him most harshly and the party wouldn't have to deal with him. That had the virtue of expediency (Dad's character was a member of the Shadow Thieves) and the downside of drawing yet more attention to the group, which had quite enough already, thank you very much.

3. Let the dark creeper go. This really had no compensating virtue other than the fact that it'd be fast. Basically the dark creeper would run home and end up starting a damn blood feud with the party, and that would be bad.

4. Kill the dark creeper. This had the virtue of speed, as there'd be no body left behind. And there would be no one left to cause trouble for the party about their visit to the shop. But it had the downside of they'd be killing a bound and defenseless being.

Several things happened in quick succession - Paula's character Evelyn tried to stab the dark creeper in the eye (missing, wonder of wonders, all the vital bits, and just wounding him), saying there was no good reasons to keep him alive, as alive all he'd do was cause them endless trouble. She was tired of trouble. The party cleric (my Neutral Good NPC) protested and healed the dark creeper, not willing to be the cause of death of a prisoner. Brian's character and my dad's character tried to haul the dark creeper out of the safehouse bodily, while my husband, who is playing Evelyn's protective twin brother, was going to let her do what she felt was necessary to the dark creeper. Brian's wife (we'll call her Jane) also protested the killing, as her character was the only Lawful Good member of the party.

At this point, with so many people trying to do things at once, we were going to go into initiative, which is what you do in combat so everyone gets a chance to do things in turn and no one gets skipped. Brian went off the rails right then, going off on Paula, saying that she was forcing her opinion on the party and he was sick of it. (BTW, that was the first time I'd heard of him protesting the way Paula was playing her character, before then he'd been chortling with the rest of us at Paula's fashionista socialite sorceress.) He couldn't deal with her arbitrarily trying to kill the dark creeper, though I did feel it was in-character for her Chaotic Neutral character.

I suggested that Brian and Paula try to talk it out like adults, because I felt they were both mature enough to handle it, and I didn't want to have to deal with it like last time. They got themselves into this mess, and they could get themselves out of it; my intervention in the last gaming group drama only seemed to exacerbate the situation, so I was going to stay out of it. But Brian said he couldn't have such a conversation at this time and his temper was on the verge of snapping entirely. So he and Jane left, with at least at hour to go in the session, which we only get to play once every other week.

Since there had been no real indication that Brian had serious issues with Paula's roleplaying style of Evelyn before this, we were all taken off-guard. Paula waited until everyone else had gone home and spoke to Mr. Chat and me about what could have brought this on, and I told her I had been pretty pleased with her roleplaying and hadn't seen or heard any warning signs from Brian prior to this. I know Brian's been under some stress from going to school, working, and both him and Jane looking into buying a house, so I could understand some of his short temper, but damn, I wish he'd brought up these issues before taking his ball and going home.

And yes, Paula having Evelyn going for a coup de gras without prior discussion from the group might have been good roleplaying, but was bad for both inter-party and inter-group dynamics. Paula said she was going to try to talk to Brian tomorrow to try to clear the air, hopefully once Brian had his temper under better control. She seemed to be calm about it, so I just hope they can figure things out.

Because I seriously do not need this kind of drama in a game I run for fun.

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
perdiccas
Mar. 2nd, 2013 12:25 pm (UTC)
Jeez, that sounds rough. I mean, it's all roleplaying! If Brian's character objected to Evelyn going for the stabby-stabby of her own accord, that could have made for a good meaty roleplaying situation instead of having an out of game outburst about it :/

I hope they manage to sort it out. It's not fun to be stressed out about something that's meant to be a good time. But how fun that you play with your dad! :)
jaune_chat
Mar. 2nd, 2013 01:07 pm (UTC)
I do too. I thought that had great potential for role-playing as well, if it would get Brian to bring up more of Charissa's actual personality (he often focuses on the mechanics of his characters and I would have liked to see more of Charissa's reasons behind wanting to stop Evelyn). But just stopping the game and walking away basically ruined the session for the other five people who were playing.

The fight with the dark creeper was mostly meant to be a diversion, a reminder that danger can come from many different places, not all from the same grand plot. I had a lot more fun and different things planned for after that. They're supposed to talk today, so I should have an update for later tonight.

I really like playing with my dad. :) He taught me how to game in the first place (second edition D&D) and since his own gaming group has long since scattered, now I run the games. He's got so many great ideas, and it's a lot of fun.
game_byrd
Mar. 2nd, 2013 02:49 pm (UTC)
I've seen two kinds of people who disrupt games like that. One kind says, "This isn't the kind of game I want to play. I was mistaken about things. I'm leaving." and then they leave. They might do so emotionally, evincing a feeling of being betrayed by their friends playing in a manner different from their personal morals, but they don't try to blackmail or bully the group. They're the same fish as the ones who leave quietly between games with a polite note to the DM, except they get emotional and loud about it and it happens during the game. Otherwise, same motivation.

The other kind of person who disrupts games like this is doing so for the express purpose of manipulating the game and players to their advantage. Lundy Bancroft gave a good example in his book on partner abuse and I think it clarifies the situation to see it in another context (I'm paraphrasing here):

A family has agreed to take turns washing the dishes. Tonight is Dad's night, but Dad doesn't want to wash the dishes. He feels put upon and entitled to have other people wash the dishes for him. He'd rather watch his TV shows tonight and sees no reason why he shouldn't do just that. He ruminates about this during dinner. At the end, the daughter cheerfully announces that it's his turn. He flies into a rage, throws his dirty dish on the floor shattering it, and shouts at her about how happy she must be to see her father cleaning up after her like she's a little queen. He rages abusively for a bit, then stomps out to the living room, angrily flips on the TV, and watches his shows. The family, intimidated and reeling from his outburst, quietly clean up the broken dish and reassign washing duties so he's never called on again for that. They might even blame the daughter for being disrespectful of her father.

It's abuse. It's pure and simple bullying in a domestic context. What you've described in your game is the same thing. Brian wants to get his way in the game. Going to initiative would NOT be to Brian's advantage, because it would give each character a chance to act fairly on their turn. So he heads that off, forcing the confrontation to occur in a forum where he can benefit from raising his voice and standing up, maybe grabbing his dice and books with a lot of energy (all forms of intimidating posturing). Then he stomps out of the game, taking his wife with him, because he will make it very clear to her that she must choose between backing his play or "siding" with his enemies.

I am sure that he will attempt to slur Evelyn for the entire incident and any misbehavior on her part (like raising her voice to defend herself, etc.) will be things he tries to get the group to censure her for. He will try to cast himself as the victim of her long-standing issues even though, as you've noted, he laughed along with it before when it suited his purposes. He'll also offer to rejoin the group if and only if she is penalized or he gains some advantage. At the very least, he'll want full experience for the session he blew up.

It may be that I see this abusive pattern of behavior where it isn't, because I've lived it for most of my marriage. What you've described fits to a T what I've seen, though. The best thing you can do for yourself is immediately advertise for new players. New people takes the attention off Brian and it puts him on notice that he can be replaced if he misbehaves. It also strips him of his greatest threat, which is not playing anymore. Plus, if he carries through with that threat, wave him good-bye and continue the game with the new faces. I would suggest taking Brian's wife aside and telling her that you know what he's doing in forcing her to side with him, you're sorry he's putting her in that position, and if she ever wants to play without him, you'd welcome her. That's really all you can do for her.
jaune_chat
Mar. 3rd, 2013 09:30 am (UTC)
Well, it turned out to be not as quite as bad as I had anticipated. We had a long discussion on Saturday, when we game our other game (same group, minus my dad, playing Shadowrun), and cleared the air about many things.

I knew Brian was under a certain amount of stress - he's in school and thusly not earning a paycheck right now, he and his wife Jane are living with Jane's parents at present, he is butting heads with Jane's father but doesn't say much while living under his roof, Jane and him are looking for a house of their own, and Jane's father is taking an involuntary 20% pay cut (due to the whole government sequester financial mess they can't seem to fix) and thusly Jane's parents are concerned they won't even be able to pay their bills, which just adds to the stress.

So, in short, after a confrontation with Jane's father atop all these other stresses, Brian's temper was exceedingly short. And he said he chose to leave the gaming session while he was still able to talk calmly rather than remain, try to explain, and end up exploding in a fit of yelling and name calling. (He has explained to all of us some years prior that, like over half the group, he's struggled with mental health issues much of his life. In his case, depression and temper. He didn't want to subject any of us to an outburst.)

He'd discussed his specific issues with the dark creeper confrontation with Jane, and then discussed them with us on Saturday. We had another member of the group who has since moved, whom I'll call George, that Brian had issue with. George was an assertive gamer, and often liked to (from Brian's point of view) dictate how we were going to do things during the game, which Brian resented greatly. Paula's actions brought up this old sore point, apparently.

Also, Brian and Jane were unaware that Paula's character was Chaotic Neutral (they thought she was True Neutral), and so her actions seemed less chaotic and more crazy to them. When Paula explained they'd misremembered her alignment, it was like a lightbulb went on.

Paula, Jane, Brian, and Mr. Chat discussed what they wanted out of the dark creeper encounter, and what had brought the session to such a screeching halt. During the dark creeper encounter, Paula's character had discussed her intentions in a language only half the party spoke (Mr. Chat and Jane's character), which had added to the impression that she was going about things randomly to Brian's character.

With everyone's intentions and the consequences for each thing fully explained (everyone hadn't realized that turning the dark creeper over to either the Shadow Thieves or the Watch would result in exposing the party's secrets), the group had a much better idea of how they would go about handling their prisoner.

Everything thusly discussed, I said I'd rewind the encounter to when they first start talking about what to do with the dark creeper, and we'd go from there. A do-over. And everyone seemed good with that.

Also, I received apologies from Paula, Jane, and Brian for the whole situation.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I need a drink.

*flops on the floor*
game_byrd
Mar. 3rd, 2013 03:43 pm (UTC)
Glad it got worked out!

There's the possibility of other resolutions with the creeper. Could they employ him/her/it? Are there any rehabilitation programs run by Good organizations that attempt to talk/coerce/brainwash Evil creatures into changing alignment? Are there Helms of Opposite Alignment available for rental? Could they threaten its loved ones? Could they realistically threaten to kill its allies/packmates/gangmates one at a time if he/she/it tattled on them? Could they convincingly pretend to cast a spell and then tell the creeper that they've cast a marking spell on him/her/it that allows them to find it anytime, anyplace so they can track him/her/it down and kill him/her/it if it he/she/it tattles on them? Or the same as the previous, but pretending to use a (fake) magic item for the (fake) marking spell effect?

Or they could kill it. Killing's easier.
jaune_chat
Mar. 3rd, 2013 08:04 pm (UTC)
The trick is that the party is only 3rd level, so they're rather limited in their knowledge and resources at this point. Many of things you raised are possible outcomes, though the party would have to think of them first. They've more or less decided to kill it, and while honestly that'd be the easiest, if they decided to go another route, I can work with that too.
\
jaune_chat
Mar. 27th, 2013 02:27 pm (UTC)
Okiday, I ended up using the good church doing rehab of evil characters thing you suggested (my NPC cleric rolled very well on her Knowledge: Religion check), and that worked out marvelously for the group, and led to a very funny role-playing bit with a reformed beholder. Crisis averted! :D
game_byrd
Mar. 27th, 2013 09:54 pm (UTC)
Woo-hoo! That's great!

If I had more time, I'd read up on the chronicles you post. I'm sure they're fab. So much to read, so little time!
bellonablack
Mar. 2nd, 2013 08:50 pm (UTC)
Oh...but isn't that uh, god-modding?

I mean, I don't know, but I thought you were supposed to 'ask' if you can kill someone else's character? Or I'm misunderstanding the entire thing. I never thought it was good to ask, hence warning them, but I don't know, I've heard it was polite. But it's a different game I haven't played before.
jaune_chat
Mar. 2nd, 2013 11:44 pm (UTC)
Since Paula was trying to kill the dark creeper, who wasn't anyone's character, it didn't reallymatter to me if he died. The dark creeper didn't have any particular plot relevance - if this were a movie, he'd be "Bad Guy #2." But some warning on Paula's part that Evelyn was going to stab the dark creeper to death would have given everyone a chance to react and figure out a solution that maybe didn't involve killing a bound prisoner. That's what made Brian so mad, that Paula's character was killing a prisoner without any warning.
bellonablack
Mar. 2nd, 2013 11:57 pm (UTC)
Ah, I see. Well, that's a little different. I think I myself may have been a little 'meh' at someone randomly doing that, but not enough to end an entire game. That's a bit iffy behavior, and I can see where it'd be a great plot point too, so. It's not very much fun when you can't 'make a mistake' without people exploding at you, and not calmly saying 'this isn't what I'd prefer'. Man. :/ Sorry for the chaos in your game, it is just to have fun. I think it's easy to get invested into a character especially if you are having a hard time in real life--like Brian seems to--so I think for him it meant more, but still, he kind of did what the character did, force the group into a standstill:/ Not cool.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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