5 Helpful Tips to Jolly Cooperation in DND
Updated: Oct 16, 2018
Are your players bickering? Get ready for 5 ways to improve the situation!
One of the major challenges when playing a game of tabletop imagination with other people is the probability of infighting. The solution comes down to one word, really
If you want your players to work together, they have to be engaged. There are many reasons why players may not feel like engaging with each other. I have 5 situations outlined below, with some possible solutions to take care of creeping issues before they become full-fledged problems.
1.) Ego vs. DM
This is especially true when running a game with players that are very experienced.
New players might want to work with the DM to garner favor while learning, but more experienced players will often milk the rules for every single possible advantage they can.
And why not? It should be your goal as a player to outsmart the DM and overcome every obstacle, but you shouldn't strive to piss off the guy running the game unless you enjoy the consequences.
As a player, when you know all the rules by heart, it is tempting to try to bend the more vague rules in your favor, but don't take offense when this also serves as a point of contention with the DM.
As the DM, it is your job to dictate the "house rules" to everyone and to take a stand if they are broken. You have the ultimate deciding power, and your players are just going to have to deal with it or pull you aside when not in the middle of a game to talk about it.
If players don't get the hint, punish them with super threatening encounters that run a high risk of killing off their character. Demand respect by playing the game better than them! As the DM, you are in the right.
Alternatively, you could try having someone else run the session or alternate DMs on occasion. Players that take on group responsibilities are less likely to disengage and cause problems. And when they are running the show, they can make the rules.
2.) Too many chiefs.
Beyond fighting between the DM and players, there are downtimes during gameplay when players have a chance to bicker about a recent encounter or quest gone awry. When the story is a bit more "up in the air," discussions that lead to arguments can happen, especially when dealing with which path the group should take moving forward. When very strong personalities have strong opinions that may differ, there is a chance for heated debate to erupt, and it is best to plan for that ahead of time.
As a DM, you should get to know the general personalities of your player groups. Unless it is a player's first time, you'll have a good understanding of how players experience the game with you. Use that to your advantage to prevent potential arguments from happening. For example, you can take one or more of the players aside and give them missions which separate them in-game from other party members they may butt heads with. If they are truly immersed, the players cannot interact while remaining in character, so the more opinionated players cannot rule over the more open-minded players.
3.) Player boredom
As players lose focus and energy with the current story, their lives seem to seep back into the mix. And that in itself can be the problem. The goal, of course, is to help players by removing them from their daily stressors by adventuring. Coming up with effective challenges requires an active imagination and a firm hand.
A great way to keep the game fun and interesting is to develop more of each PC's backstory. Make side quests for each player and force them to delve deeper into their character's past to enhance their attachment to their character. A series of PC one-shots focused on a particular enemy and how each character has been greatly affected by that enemy will create a united front against that enemy for each character's mission. Since each party member bears witness to the atrocities inflicted by the enemy, it is much easier to relate to and combine forces to eliminate the threat.
4.) Conflicting Alignments
Players sometimes take their alignment, bonds, and flaws very seriously, leading to a confrontation between players when other party members act outside of their comfort level.
For example, if you have an outspoken nobleman who insists that the rogue in your party's theft of some gold from the shopkeep is against his personal alignment enough to argue about it, then perhaps there needs to be some communication with the party about what is and what is not acceptable, agree on it as a group, and move forward. Now, there is something to be said for arguing during a session while in character, if it adds to everyone's enjoyment overall. Afterall, there isn't a perfect situation. People are flawed, which is why every character has flaws designed into them. These flaws don't always mesh well with the ideals (flaws) of other player characters, and that should be understood.
When situations like this arise, casting a spell of suggestion, or a deception check should make for an interesting altercation (handled in-game with storyline elements), or a funny scenario, where the nobleman must clearly be blind to an obvious burglary. The whole table can find the humor here.
But if there is just no getting around the argument, it is your job as a DM to play the judge and jury. Put your foot down, or at least make it well known that time is being wasted and enemies are surrounding you.
You can also remove character alignments entirely from the game if issues persist. Remember that you have control over the outcomes, but there are more exciting ways to deal with character alignment issues.
For example, every time there is negative energy at the table, you can roll a die, and add up "evil energy" counters that eventually summon hellspawn for a surprise attack. Roll for initiative, ya asses! Muahahahahaah!
What's more is you can assign penalties to players who argue during battle. Argumentative statements can cost an action point, for instance. "You decided to shoot your mouth instead of your bow, Ranger. You lose an action this turn."
Finally, you can disallow the creation of parties where characters have polar opposite traits. Everyone wants to be the bad guy sometimes, so maybe organize a mini-campaign where the player who wants to be evil, creates an evil character and plays as the enemy to be defeated. This can add even more depth to battle encounters, but I don't recommend having extended sessions where players gang up on each other. You want everyone to remain friends or at least friendly toward each other.
5.) Out - of - Realm and Personal Attacks
When players can't seem to leave their baggage at home, and they beef with other players about personal matters, it can spell trouble very quickly and destroy even a very well-established campaign. Out-of-realm attacks include anything that others would consider a personal dig, remarks about how a player conducts themselves, or anything that is obviously NOT in-game.
Create a policy that everyone agrees to when they join that states something about how arguing while in-character is fine, but if anyone resorts to personal attacks, the rest of the group should call them out on it. If the issues persist, take away experience points from the offending player, or if you must, ask them to leave the group for that day and come back next time with a better attitude. Then, either discuss it with them after they have cooled off or before the next session.
Get to know your players
Find out what is happening in their lives, as most negative energy brought into the game comes from negative energy at home. Maybe they just need someone to listen to them. What is causing their behavior to change? What is motivating them? Conduct periodic one-on-one interviews with your players to check up with them.
Ask for feedback
If you are not sure how much your players are enjoying the game, create some sort of forum where you can talk about the game while not in session. I like to use a Facebook chat group for group chat, but interviews should be personal.
Here you can ask some questions like:
What did you like about our last session?
What might you not be a fan of?
How can we improve?
What is your character feeling/thinking about the current story?
What would you like to see happen next for your character or party?
You can alleviate tension by nurturing bonds with everyone individually. Tell each person a secret only they will know. This can be to your benefit too. If you have a goal for a specific story element to take place, it might help to have a willing participant amongst the players to actively push the party in that direction.
Dealing with the tension between players is a fact of life. Knowing of and preparing for those moments will ensure you maintain control of the game. Have you had issues with other players during your tabletop games? Leave a comment below about your most tense moment while playing Dungeons and Dragons.