Dealing With That Guy Who Just Wants to Sit in the Woods All Day

Note: I’m leaving for a vacation on September 6th, and I won’t be back until the 14th, so this will be my last post until I return.

I’ve been thinking about this series of tweets from @NewbieDM all day:

I’ve been frustrated by players like this before, and I’ve been wondering how a Dungeon Master should deal with situations like this. Sure, you can come up with some little “side quest” for this guy to do (if you’re nice) or you can do what the quick-witted Charles Akins from over at Dyvers suggests:

My natural inclination is to choose something closer to the latter option, but the fact is that neither of these approaches address the root of the problem and both of them take time away from the other players sitting around the table who have made the decision to proactively engage themselves with the story.

Here is something else to consider if you’re a Dungeon Master dealing with a situation like the one above: it isn’t your fault. The problem in the scenario above has nothing to do with the adventure and everything to do with the player. Now, I’m not saying that this person is “just a bad player.” I believe anyone can be a good roleplayer if they are willing to put forth the effort to understand what goes into making a good character and a good game and are willing to make an effort to apply that understanding. To learn what goes into making a good character, and by extension a good gaming experience, we don’t have to look much further than this excerpt from page 2 of the Fate Core rule book:

…it works best with any premise where the characters are proactive, capable people leading dramatic lives.

I absolutely love this quote about what makes a good Fate (or any) game setting, because it says nothing about the details of that setting and everything about the characters who inhabit it. Characters bring the setting to life as they interact with it, and this is what makes the game engaging and exciting.

So the best way to fix the above problem isn’t with an in-game solution, but with an out of game talk with the player. Ask him what he wants out of his character, or the game. Suggest ways that the player could make his character more of a proactive person leading a dramatic life. There is nothing wrong with playing a druid who has an aversion to civilization, but having such an aversion shouldn’t mean that your character won’t enter a city for any reason, even if a dragon is burning it to the ground. It should be something that creates obstacles that your character is willing to deal with and overcome, and it should be a source of some good roleplaying material. That’s not to say that there aren’t druids out there who just flat out won’t go into a city, and there might even be druids out there who consider a dragon roasting the population of a city to be part of the natural order of things and thus nothing to be concerned with. Just because an argument can be made for those traits to exist in a druid doesn’t mean those traits make for a good player character.

However, if after such a discussion your player still insists on playing some uncompromising stick in the mud who doesn’t want to interact with the game world or the other players in interesting, meaningful ways, you do still have the option to have that dragon set the woods on fire, eat his pet, and call him an asshole.


3 thoughts on “Dealing With That Guy Who Just Wants to Sit in the Woods All Day

  1. …Or you could just ignore the player. I don’t need to check in or moderate mundane daily activities. Soon enough the player will either decide to leave the game or actually adventure, novel idea I know.

    1. I actually made a reply to the original tweet suggesting you could just ignore the player. But then I started thinking about ways to address and possibly correct the issue that had a better chance of not letting a player walk away from the table feeling disenfranchised. The player may ultimately leave anyway, even after discussing character options with them, but I feel like this sort of approach is at least worth an effort.

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