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.