Because roleplaying is social, creative, fun… and kinda cool!

How Not To Be A Really Annoying Player

Beyond finding the treasure, rescuing the princess, and saving the village / town / nation / world, every game of Dungeons and Dragons has a higher goal… that everyone playing has fun. In that sense D&D is very much a team sport, dependent on the co-operation of all gathered. As such it can quickly be ruined, or impaired, by someone that doesn’t buy into the team mentality, usually because they want, consciously or subconsciously, for the game to revolve around them.

Just like a game of soccer can be spoiled by a Lionel Messi wannabe who attempts to take on the entire opposition and shoot every time he gets the ball, a game of D&D can quickly be compromised by a selfish player who monopolises the DM’s attention and tries to take control of everything from the party’s strategy and decision making, to NPC interactions and combat scenarios. Whether that Messi wannabe has the skills to back up their selfishness is besides the point (in soccer at least they invariably don’t!); because by their singular approach, this one person excludes the other party members from playing a full role, reducing them to spectators for much of the session.

Partly for cathartic reasons, partly for educational ones (feel free to subtly share this with any friends who are guilty of one or two of the misdemeanours below!) and partly to remind myself to improve my own gaming behaviour (as I’ve ticked off most of the below in my time!) I’ve compiled this list of specific things that players do which the game could really do without.

One type of annoying player… according to Dorkly.

So without further ado, let’s take a look. Which of these bad gaming etiquette traits are you guilty of?

10+ Things Annoying Players Do in D&D

1. Control Familiars, Pets, Steeds, Henchmen

For many it’s one of Dungeons & Dragons most loved spells, but my number one pet peeve in the game is the Find Familiar spell as it’s a massive time sink, especially in the hands of someone who constantly abuses it. Much of D&D is waiting for your fellow party members to act, and that’s fine, but when someone’s turn consistently takes twice as long to act because they are commanding their pet hawk / bat / cat / guinea pig / woodlouse to perform some additional task I start to think how much better this adventure would be without the animal in question. Familiars also are also a massive cop out for most adventurers, allowing parties to scout way too easily, possibly infringing on the rogue’s role (see point 3. below) and perform a host of minor tasks without character involvement or risk. Worse still than familiars however are creatures that PCs control that get an attack. Do I really want to spend my precious Sunday afternoons watching someone roll dice to see if their warhorse or henchman scores a crappy hit? Unless it’s a solo campaign, I really think the game is much better when players control nothing other than their players…

2. Start A Fight At Every Opportunity

We get it. You’re a real tough guy. Everyone should be quaking in their boots the minute your half orc barbarian walks into the tavern with his two handed axe. You’ve written “quick to anger” on your character sheet just to make sure that it’s perfectly ok to start a fight at every single opportunity… except it isn’t. It’s really fucking dull, and it negates any opportunity for people with actual roleplaying skills to negotiate, charm, deceive, flirt, banter, or beguile with NPCs – which you may not realise it, is what some people actually most enjoy about D&D. Just because you’ve built a character for combat doesn’t mean you should reduce every D&D encounter to a combat situation as soon as possible (nor does it make you real world tough by the way, just in case you’re confused). For one thing it’s plain ridiculous. Even in more lawless times very few people drew swords the moment an insult was exchanged… and if they did they wouldn’t live very long. Nor would your character if I was DM. For another thing it is just plain downright selfish to those PCs with non combat skills. In every adventure I’ve ever played in 75% of encounters are combat anyway, so there’s really no need to bring the remaining 25% down to your level.

3. Usurp Others’ Jobs

Since the very beginning D&D was engineered to be a team game, with each player bringing something to the table, dictated to a large extent by which character class they choose to play. For sneaking around and disarming traps there’s the rogue, for healing and turning undead the cleric, for mass damage and special effects there’s the wizard, and for hand to hand combat and sucking up damage there’s the fighter. It’s part of what makes D&D so much fun, because – at least in a well-balanced adventure – every character gets their moment(s) in the spotlight. There are few things more frustrating then than the player who insists on performing multiple roles, especially if in doing so they tread on the feet of the other PCs. If you’re the party’s fighter don’t try to be the guy that sneaks round the back to take out the guard, even if you have Stealth proficiency: let the rogue do his job. Similarly if you’re a barbarian with Intelligence 8 don’t take advantage of the game mechanics and declare “I roll Arcana” the moment magic happens… let the sorcerer or warlock have their moment in the sun. Bear this in mind especially if / when you start multiclassing. I for example currently play an assassin / wizard, and whilst I do have fireball in my spellbook, unless I’m predicting a particularly tough day in the office, I rarely prepare it, because doing mass damage to a rank of foes is the sorcerer’s job in our party. Rather I use my spells to enhance my character’s role as the Rogue.

4. Constantly Call For A Roll (Especially At The Wrong Time)

This one annoys me both as a player and as a DM… a player interrupts proceedings to loudly shout “I roll Insight / Arcana / History” and then clatters his dice over the table with the expectancy of being told something on a high roll. First of all a player should never declare he is rolling, they are not the games master… they should start by asking the DM if it’s appropriate to roll a skills check. But first of all they should wait as long as possible to allow the roleplaying in question to pan out. If for example the DM, speaking as an NPC, is acting out a conversation with another PC in your party, then let them talk it out as much as possible and see if this NPC seems trustworthy by, you know, roleplaying. Rolling dice and demanding answers is the crudest way to play your characters, and certainly should never interrupt gameplay.

5. Don’t Accept That Shit Can Happen To Them

This annoys me more when I’m the DM, but it can come into effect as a player too if refusal to accept a bad outcome ends up in a lengthy argument between PC and DM that wastes gameplay time. If bad shit happens to your character accept it without too much fuss. Speaking from my personal experience, it can be really irritating when it happens to you, especially if you feel the DM hasn’t judged the situation well or enforced the rules properly, but ultimately a large part of the fun of D&D is the risk of your character dying, so certainly things like being injured, maimed or weakened should be water off your feathered back. If you want a narrative where your character succeeds every time at everything and is all powerful then stay at home and play with yourself. Certainly don’t get in a sulk and a protracted argument with the DM that wastes everyone else’s time.

6. Play Disruptive Characters (Then Justify It As “Roleplaying”)

If your favourite alignment is Chaotic Neutral then no need to wonder who the dick on the table is… it’s you. Chaotic Neutral is the alignment the worst type of players invariably choose because it allows them to do what the fuck they want whenever they want, without doing anything as difficult as roleplaying a realistic character. Instead they can just respond on a whim to situations in order to get the best advantage of themselves without abiding by any consistency of behaviour. In fact many Chaotic Neutral players will insist that their character’s dick moves are in fact testament to their brilliant roleplaying because stealing the ally’s magical weapons or starting a bar fight for no reason is exactly what a Chaotic Neutral person would do. What they fail to see is that manufacturing a character in order to give themselves carte blanche to be a dick is even worse than just being a dick. In general PCs that are disruptive to the the rest of the party’s goals are incredibly frustrating for fellow players and DMs, usually selfishly choosing their own sense of what’s entertaining at the expense of everyone else’s.

(Castles and Cooks say it best: you don’t have to pickpocket every NPC. The inn is perfectly fine without you setting it on fire. It doesn’t matter how “cool it sounds”… Betraying your fellow adventurers for the fun of it does not make you awesome. The name for this behavior is Chaotic Stupid, and it sucks).

7. Powergame

Powergaming is of course the practice of min. / maxing all your attributes, and selecting your skills and feats to be as powerful as possible, especially in combat. Whilst a little powergaming is rarely too damaging in itself, it’s often symptomatic of someone who is going to try to steal the limelight and do everything themselves. Someone who is trying “to win D&D” as if it were a board game. The real danger here is if someone, whilst sharing the same level as other PCs in the group, has managed to make their character grossly overpowered, then it may leave other players with less to do or feeling redundant. If you catch yourself powergaming either in the character creation process, or as you level up, then start to focus instead on who your character is instead, and determine your attributes and skills based on their personality and life story, not what is going to give you the best possible damage modifier in combat.

8. Cheat (By Actively Metagaming)

Metagaming, as I’m sure you know (if you read any roleplaying blogs), is when you act on your personal knowledge of the game’s rules and mechanics, above and beyond what your character knows. It’s almost inevitable to some extent, and it can actually be tedious not to metagame at times (for example it’s usually much easier to assume that something an NPC tells one PC in private gets relayed to the rest of the party than have to act out the charade every time it happens), but it can also be abused. What I would call “active Metagaming” should be strongly discouraged. This could be doing something illogical or outrageously out of character because it confers an advantage, when you know something your character doesn’t, or for example deliberately checking the Monster Manual in between sessions to find out a foe’s prepared spells or weaknesses. It is basically cheating and can take a lot of fun out of the game for everyone – including the person that does it.

9. Get Drunk / Wasted

(I have a feeling this one just applies only to my specific group of hedonists in Barcelona! Take note guys!). Just like playing football with someone who is struggling to control the ball quickly becomes really tedious, so is roleplaying with someone who’s crossed the line of being tipsy into drunk. Communication slows down, situations have to be explained again and again, there’s a lot of shouting over one another, and arguing with the DM, as well as a lot of reckless decisions that don’t make any sense in the context of the game and break the illusion of reality you have tried to create as a group. Tea on the other hand is awesome.

10. Mistake Themselves For The Dungeon Master

This often happens when one or more players know the rules better than the Dungeon Master in session, and therefore they constantly intervene to contradict and overrule said DM’s decisions. It’s perfectly ok to point out the rules from time to time, but often a DM makes a decision based on his judgement of the scenario that effect A causes effect B to happen, and trying to argue it doesn’t because you haven’t used your Bonus Action yet is all a bit petty and trite. A sense of logic and realism is always more important that the wording of the rules and, even if you don’t agree with the DM, it’s definitely not your job to arbitrate what happens, rulebook in hand. Furthermore players who constantly badger and petition the DM for breaks or situational advantages are almost certainly doing so to the detriment of the rest of the party, who are operating under the same circumstances but are polite enough not to spend the whole session whining / arguing about it.

No, no, and thrice no…

11. Take Forever On Their Turn

You know the scenario. Goblin arrows are raining from the sky, orcs are piling over the parapet, and a monstrous ettin is bearing down on the party, spiked club in hand. The heat of battle is furnace-like in its intensity, the time for action is now – there’s no time to think. Only one player is leafing through the Player’s Handbook for the best possible spell to utilise. No not this one. Maybe this one. What’s the range again? Then he suddenly remembers his new feat could come in handy. Or is it a 5th level character ability? I’ll just look it up. Cue eyerolls. You know what instead of a normal attack action I’m going to use Acrobatics to [insert outrageously improbable trick] and appear behind the ettin so I get advantage on my roll. Just to get it over with the DM consents and the player’s turn is finally over… surely? Wait, I still have half of my movement left and my bonus action! Please God, make it stop! Ok and now it’s my warhorse’s turn. He breaks free of his reins in the stables and bursts into the courtyard and tramples on the nearest orcs as he makes his way towards me…. If you recognise yourself reading this, please change yourself! Whilst considering your options in combat is one of the fun dilemmas of any D&D session, there needs to be some respect for time both in terms of realism (snap decisions!) and basic respect for your fellow gamers. Meanwhile memorising your commonly used spells and abilities can save a lot of faffing around during the time-limited Sunday sessions you and your friends have to play D&D.

Agree with this list? What other annoying things do characters on your table do? What is the best way to discourage them from doing them in future?

Apart from avoiding the above, I’ll be back with a list of awesome things you should do to make yourself a better gamer very soon! Update… it’s live.


How To Play A Rogue Assassin


A Quick & Easy Flanking Optional Rule


  1. Shannon String

    If you are a good DM you can counter act any these problems by story. If the person like to fight everything then write it in the adventure( maybe someone you beat up or killed has high powered family that seeks revenge ?) . Familiars is not a cop out give them quirks or make them a part of the story ( ex : maybe the hawk is a spirit of a imprison maiden? ) I think most younger DM’s make the mistake of thinking its “their ” game, when really it belongs to the players as well.

    • duncan

      Hi Shannon, you’re right in that D&D is a space for players to express themselves, and DMs should allow them to do so as much as possible… provided that in doing so they don’t monopolise the game and impeach on other people’s fun by taking up an unreasonable amount of playing time.

      The problem with familiars is they, almost without fail, lead to one person taking twice as long, which is unfair on other players. It is even worse when it performs a task that a player could have done. Standing around watching Jerry the Gerbil stealth down the corridor when you’re a rogue is pretty much as depressing as it gets in terms of playing D&D. No one wants to be usurped by an NPC rodent.

      By the way, most of the complaints here are voiced from a player perspective, not a DM’s perspective.

      Regarding a player who wants to fight everything… should four people have to accommodate their (dumbed down, IMHO) version of the game? DM David has some good advice on this matter…

      • JP

        I’ve only played in two campaigns, had pets in both of them. Kind of made me feel like the other players were cursing me behind my back haha

        • Dennis

          The GM might have been cursing you, but probably not the players. At least from what I’ve seen online it’s GM’s not players fretting about the effect of pets (pets have been innocuous in the campaigns I’ve played in and I haven’t heard any in-person concerns about them).

  2. Brian

    Excellent list! There was one issue that I had, however.

    “First of all a player should never declare he is rolling, they are not the games master… they should start by asking the DM if it’s appropriate to roll a skills check.”

    I disagree with this completely. As you said in this very article, a sense of logic and realism should triumph, so what is actually stopping a PC from attempting a skill whenever they want? Looking at it realistically, when I decide I want to attempt something in real life, do I first have to look to the sky and ask God if this an appropriate time to attempt one of my skills before I’m allowed to try it?

    As a DM, I always encourage my players to take initiative when it comes to making skill checks, but that doesn’t mean I never call for them myself. Of course, I’m careful to temper this as well. In the majority of cases, any skill checks made that aren’t called for will be “dead rolls”, or rolls that won’t produce anything of value, even on a nat 20, and I make this known beforehand. Sometimes skill checks just aren’t appropriate, or there simply isn’t anything there to see, hear, know, etc. However, they’re still allowed to make them, since there isn’t anything that could realistically stop them.

    In my experience, I don’t normally have the problem with players spamming skill checks all of the time, whether it’s because they know they’ll tend to be worthless or for some other reason. I just don’t want to tell a PC that they can’t do something that they realistically should be able to do.

    Just my 2 cents.

    • duncan

      Hi Brian, hmmm, fair enough… this became something of a pet peeve of mine when a friend I played with would constantly interrupt the DM to say “I roll insight” or whatever, breaking the narrative as the other PCs tried to listen and let the situation unfold. Out of politeness if nothing else.

      For me it’s still jars even at the appropriate time, just as I don’t feel it’s good gaming etiquette. I think it’s better to say. “Can I roll insight to see if he’s lying?” Or otherwise describe what you’d like to do, eg.:

      PC: I want to check the letter to see if I can spot if it’s been tampered with or there is a hidden message.

      DM: Ok, make an Investigation check.


      PC: I roll Perception to see if the letter has been tampered with *clatters dice on table*.

      In the former example the PC also knows if they have the DM’s attention and that they are using the right skill for the check… in the latter the DM might be listening to someone else, not paying attention to the roll (meaning the PC may be tempted to gather up the dice if they don’t like the roll), or they might feel another skill is required.

      I see what you mean about player agency, but I guess the point is… yes you should be able to try anything your PC is capable of trying, but you should wait until the DM is paying attention, and I also prefer to let the DM call the nature of the skill check – and set the DC, when appropriate.



    • Sean

      Brian, I respectfully disagree. This is actually one of my biggest pet peeves and I’m a PC, not a DM. Nothing is stopping someone from saying “I check the room for traps or secret doors”, anyone can do that. It is up to the DM to decide what happens next. If requested, a roll is to determine if anything is identified (not to determine if you actually look around the room). The DM may decide not to request a roll because their is no point, or there is something that the DM does not want the players to find, for whatever reason. The way I see it, the PC should never request a roll of anything. You simply play the game and rolls will be requested of you depending on the situation, as the DM is the one aware of the game mechanics and has access to the information that the player is seeking. Just my opinion on it.

  3. Brant

    It’s frustrating playing a wizard with great area-of-effect spells and then watching other party members charge into melee in the same area you want to target.

    • duncan

      haha, yeah I can imagine. You could discuss some battle strategies before your next combat, or if the rest of your party are dead set on charging in the minute the bad guys show up, then you could take the Alert feat. Plus 5 to initiative is usually enough to make sure you go first more often than not!

  4. Nightshade

    We have a player in our group who is “the strategist”. Before battle begins he’s always talking for 20 minutes about the best strategy, even if this is technically the surprise round. If the resulting plan works well, he’s brilliant; if it fails, it’s our fault somehow. Worse, he’s also #1 — he always plays a spellcaster, and if his class doesn’t get Find Familiar, you bet he’s getting Ritual Caster and adding that spell to his list. In one game he made it his entire motivation to find the materials required to cast this spell (and then, in an ironic turn of events, got frustrated with his character and committed suicide during the following session).

    My only thought on how to deal with this guy is to get a minute hourglass and use it. Everyone has *one minute* on their turn (or during the surprise round as a whole) to figure out what to do, and if they haven’t taken their turns, they don’t get one.

    This is largely a decision based in frustration as both my husband and I are DnD veterans (12 years playing) and our group is entirely new. We met them just a few months ago and they’re still learning. At one point we were in a party of 8 and it took 20 minutes for a single round of battle. My husband and I, though? Our turns were over in 30 seconds or so, because we know what we’re doing and can get it done.

    • duncan

      Oh no! Sounds like a bit of a ‘mare. New players of course need some time to work these kind of things out, but I do think an hourglass / egg timer is a decent idea… I was close to buying one myself for a problem player in our group. If you do go that route then try to broke the situation gently as possible, so as not to ruffle feathers or make a player feel victimised.

      In general I feel the DM has to take the final responsibility of keeping players on point, and you could also have a quiet word with them about your concerns that a lot of game time is being used up unnecessarily.

      Hopefully with a bit of diplomacy and discussion you can move forward to a better game experience for all!


    • Dave

      As a long time player who’s Bi-Polar with ADHD I am eternally grateful to friends who who were patient and helped me become aware of the effect my behavior had on myself, others and on the game. There are reasons people, like me, act in unsocial ways and often we may be unhappy with ourselves but not know why we act like we do. And we just end up driving people away. So maybe talk with him, try and show him you care (as a fellow human being if nothing else), be specific concerning the issues and see if he can start to change. Sadly, it doesn’t always take. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. But it’s worlds better than sitting and seething as I know from both sides, as a seether and a seethee(?) The most helpful thing for me is when someone, who I know still accepts me, calls me on something. It helps me examine behaviors I’d otherwise miss.

      Anyway, That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

  5. Nice post ! You choosing the excellent list about annoying players in D&D dice games. Because most of the players should never declare they are rolling or not during playing.

    • duncan

      That’s my feeling Anthony, although you’ll notice Brian (in the comments above) did have an interesting counterpoint.

  6. Vlad Taltos

    I play a rogue who is CN and has the back story to justify his actions. Doing my own thing is the only option in a campaign where the other players do nothing but rush into rooms to kill anything that moves. It makes my skills useless so occasionally I will head off in another direction looking for treasure or something else to do. I played this exact same character in another campaign and was actually used as a supporting member of the party. CN is not stupid, it just allows you to be a narcissistic sociopath. If you do it right it can be beneficial, and other times you can be annoying. Every alignment has its place. Do you think LG is fun to have in a party?

    • duncan

      Hi Vlad, I think Lawful Good is one of the most interesting alignments, if not the most interesting, because it forces you to roleplay… having LG PCs creates dilemmas and interesting situations. You could cast fireball on the thief, but you might kill an innocent bystander. You are about to thrust your sword through the heart of the arch villain when he begs for mercy… is it still ethical to kill him? LG characters have a code that demands playing in character, which is the definition of roleplaying after all. Chaotic Neutral allows you to basically do whatever you want, ie. skip the whole roleplaying aspect of the game, and just act on a whim to achieve the most obvious and nearest attainable goals (murdering bad guys and grabbing loot). It doesn’t sound like your party are really looking for roleplaying opportunities anyway, so maybe CN character doesn’t make any difference, but if someone turns up to play a heroic campaign where the party is supposed to be motivated to do good deeds and someone wants to play a CN character, that person is almost certainly going to have a negative impact on everyone else’s fun. The exception might be those who like in-party fighting and struggles of will with characters of different alignments, but I find such struggles exceptionally tedious for the most part. Usually only the CN character seems to get off on them.

      • Dennis

        Many “Lawful Good” characters are actually Lawful Stupid tyrants. Like the Paladin who turns has the town guard arrest the party rogue/thief. In every town the party visits. They choose strict and inflexible code of conduct and try to impose it the other player characters, thus forcing the game to revolve around themselves.

        It’s just as disruptive as Chaotic Stupid.

        The Lawful Stupid character is probably Lawful Evil, or in milder cases Lawful Neutral, but they invariably have Lawful Good written on the character sheet. Players who choose Lawful Neutral, or even Lawful Evil, usually create more nuanced characters.

        Similarly the Chaotic Stupid character is Chaotic Evil but has Chaotic Neutral written on their character sheet because the DM prohibits evil characters.

        • mick

          You know, I’ve never had a chaotic good character hurt a campaign, but every campaign I’ve been in had at least one chaotic stupid a**hole who made everything about themselves and their stupid impulse decisions.

  7. Firstanold

    I’m in a group right now with a healer who has never once healed anyone without being prompted and who is always the first to charge in, ruining any chance the rogue had at doing any stealth. As well as a fighter who has used her specializations to focus on crossbow, treading on the ranger’s role. This also often leaves us without two vital roles filled: tank and healer. We all frequently come close to death and I’ve been catching myself powergaming and taking too long on my turns just because I like my character and don’t want him to die due to something moronic my team mates get up to.
    Last round the healer (druid) charmed a wolf and instead of ordering it to attack had it come to her so she could baby it. It just never occurs to her that we’re in combat and healing or dealing damage might be a good idea.
    The fighter also came in new and I’m usually very patient with new players but we frequently have to re-teach her the same rules every round–not every session, she isn’t just forgetting in the days between sessions but in the minutes between rounds.

    We’ve also got a someone who is a great player but CONSTANTLY talks about the game-side of things and does not engage in any role-playing at all. It thoroughly ruins the immersion.

    • duncan

      Arghhhh! Lots of sympathy here Firstanold. In my experience it’s very hard to ask players to play better (essentially), without coming across as a bit of an ass and them resenting your comments.

      A open dialogue during a session zero could be useful, although a bit late for your situation I guess.

      Maybe a chat with your DM, who is perhaps the best person to address these issues diplomatically with the others.

      As well maybe you need to compromise your vision and try to enjoy this crazy, unorthodox party? Maybe you could even build that into the roleplay… play your character as a grumpy seasoned adventurer, who gets frustrated with these zany impetuous kids who are unable to concentrate on the job at hand?

      One thing I tried, which didn’t actually go down that well, was share this video with my party.

      I think they felt I was being patronising (although the video was for me as much as anyone else)… on the other hand, I think we have improved our game, so maybe it was worth it!?

      • Dave

        I’ve run off several articles from this sight and we’ve discussed them as a group and had had good success with them. My group says thanks! Definitely very helpful and well written.

        • duncan

          Hi Dave

          Thank you for that very encouraging feedback!

          I saw the other comment you left too, and it seemed a great call to empathy.

          Cheers for now…

  8. Laptus

    I love this game, but where I live, I rarely get a chance to play.
    I found a local shop that runs D&D recently, and got my fix going (I also brought a bunch of D&D 5th edition materials for DMing, currently writing a sandbox and trying to drag my brothers and a friend into it).

    So far I’ve checked off several boxes on this list, a player in our game has the positive version of one of them, and another one is a sad typical example of another.

    Controlling familiars:
    The group I play with has two older members. They are the best part of this group, and handle themselves excellently. Both of these guys take the lead when it comes to decisions and RPing with important individuals [e.g quest givers, bbeg]. They need to, because us other members of the party are young and flustered when it comes to serious roleplaying. We roleplay, but we goof around a lot and try to be funny. So it’s important to have these more experienced players take the lead in roleplay interactions, and keep things serious.
    One of the older men has an owl familiar. He uses it to look ahead, to hunt down npcs, ect.
    It is never abused by him, technically. Considering our younger less experienced nature, it helps us out a lot when he uses it, and keeps the flow going when we’re stuck.

    Call for a roll (when it’s not needed or disruptive):
    I do this all the time. I kinda panic in a situation. I know alot about the game, I read up on it all the time, I just have so little experience actually playing.
    Every group is different on how they handle things. I know that at least. But this is still something I have to work out myself. Knowing what skill is appropriate, and when it is the right time to try and apply it, or wait and be asked for it.

    Play a Disruptive character:
    Of course, there is one. And he’s mid-level type of bad too.
    He plays the Paladin, but he also has a long backstory about how his parents where killed by vampires, so he gets triggered by vampires [or anyone of the undead class]. It doesn’t help that our BBEG is a vampire. He also has PTSD because of this backstory, so his character is technically insane. To top it off, he is, as a person, obnoxious.
    He constantly roleplays outside of the Lawful Good nature that a Paladin is required to have, and to a ridiculous stupid level. He act selfishly, violently, and doesn’t hold have any moral values (he smartly stays clear of breaking the Paladin rules outright, but he’s always on the border). When challenged, he always points out that his character is insane.
    We all are paying for fun. The DM has let us get off with bad decisions, so that we can have a laugh learn from our mistakes, and continue on without rolling up new characters.
    Thankfully, the DM has been leaning harder and harder on him, and the other layers will call him on his bullshit. Last I played, he almost got us killed at the gates of a city because he shot his mouth off at the guards without realizing the situation of the campaign. Long story short; horror campaign, guards are paranoid about anything weird or supernatural. He’s a Tyfling Paladin, so, magic divine demon creature that acts like a psycho. He’s got to get his shit together. He can be genuinely funny, but he keeps relying on this uncreative and selfish style that is apparent to anyone who has experience with D&D.
    For a good example of a “chaotic” character that doesn’t disrupt the experience much, and actually brings a lot of laughs and entertainment. I highly HIGHLY recommend Dusty from the Party Roll podcast. He has a very weird, creative, and colorful sense of humor that makes you hold your head dying from laughter. He’s a perfect example of how to play a crazy PC, without deriding the experience, and only adding to it. The perfect “Chaotic Neutral” type player.

    Once again, I’m the example here.
    I grew up on and still heavily play video games, and I do my research and try to play the best way I can, outside of a few particular types of games.
    n D&D, I always have a basic idea for a character with personality and color. But I find it incredibly hard to resist maxing out my class potential. It’s like a separate management game to me, outside of the main game.
    It’s tough, because my current group shuns powergaming and metagaming, but they will mock you for fucking up rolls. It’s all in good fun, but it can feel schizophrenic.
    At the end of the day, it’s all based on a roll of the die. Making the best stats guarantee nothing. If you’re like me, you mid-maxed your Rouge, and then ate shit with the rolls and got made fun of for it anyway.

    Just have fun. Learn how to treat people, and grow as a person by meeting new people and doing your best to be cool.

  9. Ian

    Solid Post!

    The one discussion point I would raise against aspects of it though, is what I call ‘the warcraft effect’ – where parties seemingly must be built with and for specific roles (as if to prep for the perfect 5-man raiding party.) So the risk becomes that only a life cleric perfectly generated and only with specific spells can be a healer, or a rogue with a specific set of skills can be a rogue, etc. This to me is as great a risk as any in the list.

    It’s perfectly possible – and often a better game when roles are no longer slotted, or roles are not aligned to pre-disposed character types…

    One of my best teams ever was back in 3e, where the players came into the party without any foreknowledge of each other. The four of us partied from level 1 through 14 before our first death, and consisted of three wizards of differing schools, and a single rogue. no tank, no healer, nadda… and the play style was epic – diplomatic intrigue ruled the day, followed by blindingly fast fights of control/damage spells; that if a boss lasted past the second round, we were screwed.

    In my current 5e campaign, it’s about the RP; and its why my squishy sorcerer has multi-classed out into a fairly surprisingly successful sorcerer/blood-hunter (mutant) spec class…

    I think one of the joys of 5e is the ability for the same role to cross multiple, or all classes, and be found/managed by each in fairly surprising and creative ways…

  10. Cory

    I’m a pretty new player (only done about a dozen sessions with a single group), and I’ve been trying to research how to be the best player I can be, and I agree with a lot of the points you make, but I’m surprised to see that you get upset when someone says they roll without asking first… during combat, when my DM tells me I’m on deck, I look at what I’m about to do, and I do my necessary rolls ahead of time to streamline my turn.

    I find it odd that a DM would want me to ask if it’s okay if I try to attack the monster in front of me with my sword before rolling to see if I’m successful. Of course, I have enough dice to leave my rolls all visible on the table, and I would completely accept if I said “Okay, so I’m gonna try to swing my sword into the right leg of the goblin, and I rolled a 19 for attack, does that-” and the DM said “Actually, I’m going to have you reroll because you need to state your intent first, and then roll.”, I would completely go along with it, I would just find it odd and wonder if the DM believes I’m being dishonest.

    Also, I see no harm in someone saying “I roll insight!”, interrupting the flow of the game, and the DM chuckling and saying “Actually, it doesn’t matter what you roll, you are suddenly overtaken by weariness and fall asleep, unable to perceive anything external for the remainder of this conversation.” Or “Hah, okay, but roll with disadvantage because you’re too busy trying to watch his facial expressions so you miss the words he’s speaking.” Or “You can’t really tell if he’s honest or not, he hasn’t spoken enough to leave an impression on you, also, please plug your ears for the rest of this conversation, you’re too busy trying to insight to pay attention to the content of the conversation.”

    The DM is basically God. If a player is being annoying, there is no shortage of in-universe ways of handling it. If I’m playing the game the wrong way and annoying everyone, I fully expect my character to suffer consequences.

  11. Amanda

    Im a new DM and I’ve recently been faced with the PC that thinks they’re the DM. I’m kind of at a loss with how to deal with them to be honest. He’s constantly pulling out the handbook to double check the effects of other character’s spells or the specifics of someone else’s feats. Even when I’m familiar with the spell or feat or have the book out in front of me, he double checks anyway. It’s getting to the point where it’s slowing down the pacing and starting to tick off the other players. Not to mention it completely undermines my position as the DM. At this point I either need a creative solution to turn his attention towards something else, or I need to be upfront and tell him to stop.

    • duncan

      I would suggest you be upfront and say, “hey, appreciate your attention to getting the rules right, but it is slowing down the game (plus it makes me uncomfortable as it undermines me as the DM). I think the best solution would be to put the Player’s Handbook down during the session, and then between sessions if you want to double check something or you feel we have misinterpreted the rules, then we can correct ourselves for the next session, or make a house rule that everyone is happy with.”

      Let me know how it goes!

  12. Johan

    Some of these I agree with, but others I think are problems with your DMing, and perhaps even an inherent problem with D&D’s system (i.e., essentialized alignment being one of the most boring and juvenile game mechanics).

    You shouldn’t be complaining about people wanting to play with familiars or trying to force people into specific roles with no overlap. This “balanced party” insistence is a mindset that comes from video games, not from tabletop play. I’ve played in all-mage campaigns, because everyone wanted to play one, so the DM just worked an adventure that was focused around that, and everyone had a blast. If you have two people who want to fill the thief role, or a jack-of-all trades, you just create scenarios where you’re going to need multiple people do those tasks.

    Sometimes (but not always) players doing shitty things that wreck the party are a simply a sign of their lack of experience or boredom. If they are guilty of playing a CN character the way its described in the rules, then the problem is the rules, not the player. Why D&D still insists on this asinine alignment system after 5 editions is beyond me. Other times, the DM might be paying too much attention to one player, or ignoring someone, so they act out by causing some havoc, because no one wants to sit around for hours listening to other people talk about their characters.

    Other issues are things that occur in every group setting, and just are more personality issues, rather than role playing ettiquette per se.

  13. Elizabeth Bailey

    Thank you for this list! I’m a new player playing my first-ever game with a great, more experienced group, and I read over this to make sure I wasn’t being annoying to them. My one question is this; I’m playing a level 2 ranger, and I would love to get a familiar or animal companion somewhere down the road, but more for character roleplay than to use in combat. Is there a way I can give my character a dog that won’t derail turns or anything else you described? I definitely don’t want to step on anyone’s toes! I mostly just want my ranger to have a pet.

    • duncan

      Hi Elizabeth

      I think pets themselves needn’t be especially annoying, it’s more when they become an additional player character that I personally get frustrated at least. It’s probably worth noting that I am also grumpier, less tolerant, than the average person on a D&D table!

      One thing you could do is just ask if anyone is going to mind. Or else ask the DM how a pet might work on the table, and what their thoughts are. They are the boss at the end of the day. Some players might actually appreciate having a dog around if it means they don’t have to stand watch at night, or if it can perform some functions the rest of the group aren’t able to.

      The real problem with pets comes when they start to perform tasks instead of a skilled party member. For example if you were a paladin with a pet dog, you might be inclined to ask the dog to track down fleeing enemies etc., which would be really annoying for the ranger in the party. But since you are the ranger in your party, a dog shouldn’t tread on any toes. It’s more an extension of your role.

      I would say if you use common sense and just introduce your dog’s capabilities in moments when no one has a skill that helps, you should be fine. If your DM decides that the dog can attack and take part in combat, make sure its turns are short and don’t hog too much game time. The dog might help other PCs as well as your own, and be affectionate with them… if so the rest of the party are sure to appreciate it more!

      The best pets introduce a good element of roleplay and provide plenty of comic relief, rather than interfere too much with the main plot, IMHO.

      Let me know how you get on!



      • Elizabeth Bailey

        Thank you for the great advice! My group does debriefs at the end of each session to see how everyone is feeling about the game and I brought up the possibility of getting a dog during one of those, and we talked it over for a while. To my happy surprise, my party said they would love one! Our campaign has gotten a little gloomy of late and we all agreed that having a dog around for some sweet or funny moments might make the game more lighthearted. I asked my DM about combat as you suggested, and he seems to agree with you; quick turns are fine, and it should work well with my role as ranger.

        I really appreciate your help! Its tough to get the confidence to ask questions as a new player and you’ve made things a lot easier. Thanks again!

  14. Victoria Freemonte

    I’ve never seen a game where people don’t break all these rules to some degree. The main thing is to just have fun and not take it too seriously while trying actively not to be a jerk.

    • duncan

      Hi Victoria, maybe you’re right. This post is certainly somewhat idealistic. But I hope it helps people at least consider the impact of their behaviour and self-moderate if needed!

  15. Kyle

    Good list but there’s 1 point I have to disagree on: usurping roles (and by extension pets). You can have multiple people in the party be able to do the same thing, I’d even say it’s extremely limiting to say otherwise. Can I not play a barbarian or paladin because the fighter is the only damage dealing tank? Can I not be allowed to sneak because the only the rogue should ever be allowed to sneak? If I spend a feat to get a familiar, or I’m feeling risky and actually play a beastmaster, am I not allowed to use my pet to scout?

    I feel this just raises even more issues, like if we have a druid and a Rogue should the rogue never be allowed to do the sneaking in case they usurp the druid or should the druid never wildshape into something like a rat to sneak? If I have a bard and cleric should the bard never cast any spells the cleric might know? If I have a fighter who plays an archer is he usurping the ranger? Even when they both get the same fighting styles and weapons and the fighter is the only one with an actual archery subclass?

    • duncan

      Hi Kyle

      I see the logic of what you’re saying.

      Personal opinion, but I see combat as a shared responsibility, so I never really consider that tanks or damage dealers are treading on one another’s feet.

      I would however get frustrated if I created a sneaky rogue and then had to play with a druid or the dreaded wizard/warlock with a familiar.

      Similarly I wouldn’t want to play a bard if there’s an enchanter in the party etc.

      Before the start of any campaign I always initiate a conversation about what classes my friends intend on playing, before I create my own character, to try and avoid these situations and create a PC with a unique skillset. Not only is this useful to our capabilities as a party, but it creates a more harmonious table in my experience.

      Having said that, it’s no disaster when PCs have similar skills, provided the players have some self-awareness and are able to share those roles, and do not try to monopolise them.

      • Dennis

        Scouting is dangerous. I’d rather that some other character’s familar/pet stumbles into a trap or room full of guards and dies than my character. Stealth remains useful for ambushing enemies, getting into a flanking position, or moving around melee combatants to attack the ranged combatants and casters behind them.

  16. erin

    Oof… I’ve been called out. I’m definitely that one jerk at the table who plays a disruptive chaotic neutral character.

    I play a human cleric, but my background is a pirate, so I’m granted the luxury of having the Bad Reputation skill. I can go to any civilized town and get away with minor criminal offences, and I abuse the hell out of it. I’ve broken windows, broken down doors, refused to pay for drinks, stolen from stalls and even held a knife to the neck of a shopkeeper who’s prices were too high- he was charging 100gp for a bag of 12 arrows.

    I admit, I can be a douche sometimes…

    • duncan

      That actually sounds quite entertaining. 😂

      It’s the player on player behaviour that tends to threaten the game, or else the over-the-top chaotic behaviour that belies credulity. I can imagine a real world asshole doing all those things you mention, but someone who sets fire to the inn during a roleplaying scenario because they’re bored is just taking away from other peoples’ fun.

      You just have to use your judgement and ‘read the room’ to see if your character is impinging on others’ enjoyment, or preventing them use their own different skills and ways of dealing with situations.

      • erin


        The only reason I held I knife to the shopkeeper’s throat was because everyone in the party was getting annoyed at how high the prices were. We were heading into a dungeon, so we needed gear and potions, but we didn’t have enough money to be able to pay the ridiculous prices. All of the party members tried in some way to get him to lower his prices: we used persuasion, tried bargaining with him, and even tried to steal stuff while he wasn’t looking, but none of it worked. I was basically forced to intimidate him, to make sure that the party had enough equipment so that we wouldn’t die in the dungeon.

        I only use my skills to be a jerk when it doesn’t threaten the party’s wellbeing, or when npc’s are being jerks to me. I would never do anything that I know would make any other members of the party upset at me.

  17. Beth

    I am new to D&D or any role-playing games. I have played 3 games total and I really enjoy it. The 2 most experienced players take turns being the DM. One of them in the last game murdered one of my contacts I had just spent winning over to our side to help us find a hidden chamber where the wizard was we were supposed to kill. After he successfully murders him he tells the DM that he can’t change his alignment from chaotic good because my contact communicated telepathically to us and his character’s fatal flaw was he kills anything that “touches” his brain. Is this really the case fatal flaws are a scapegoat to not get consequences in the game?

    • duncan

      Hmmm, well there’s no mechanic ‘fatal flaws’ that I have heard of, and in general I don’t really like character traits that state when x happens happens, I must do y… (especially where y is killing someone… there are very few triggers in real life that would automatically and without exception cause us to kill someone!) it’s a very robotic way of playing, and in this case it undermined something you’d worked hard on. So I’d put this down to bad gaming. I would maybe let the incident fly this time, as it may have just been a one off and not worth making an issue of, but if it becomes a regular thing it would be worth raising the topic and letting that person know that their pre-determined reactions are not necessarily good for the table.

      As for consequences, those are very much for the DM to decide. Depending on the level of law and order in your campaign world, and the ability of the officials of the law to pin the murder on the PC in question, there could easily be very serious consequences.

  18. Jonathan M Lewis

    Someone who behaves in a crazy way, doing anything he feels like doing isn’t Chaotic Neutral; it’s chaotic evil. An evil person doesn’t care about the consequences of what he does. If a player is claiming to be chaotic neutral and he constantly causes trouble, the DM should remind him that his actions have moral consequences and he is bordering on evil.

  19. Brent

    Now see, I have to disagree with some of this. I have been a Dungeon Master for coming on 13 years or so. What you’re saying is that the party should always just sing Kum-ba-yah and never have internal conflicts. There is NOWHERE in the rulebooks saying that internal party conflicts cannot happen. It discourages it but it’s ultimately up to DM discretion. You can’t shoehorn this sense of security on a game that stresses character personalities and individualities, and player freedom of choice and prevent characters from doing what they would do– I mean what else are alignments and traits for? It breaks immersion if I am a lawful evil thief and I want to steal the mage’s expensive looking staff and make profit, but oops, forgot there was an imaginary wall the DM made because he/she doesn’t want us to do any harm to each other. It just speaks laziness to me — the better way to say your argument is to make consequences for the player.

    They want to start random fights, have the guards surround the character and off to the dungeons with them — Or the other characters in-party can fight back. When I have internal conflict in a dungeon, I’ll just roll for random encounters because they are making excessive noise and I usually pull mobs from higher CR tables. Maybe if they see a couple of Mind Flayers or something their attitudes will change about fighting each other and their characters will remember they’re in a hostile environment, or they can die after being mind blasted and left to rot with an empty skull. The DM’s job is not to be a referee. You are a story teller and just there to play out the consequences of the player’s actions. I mean if you railroad this then the logical question roleplay-wise would be “What is this character to me? Why shouldn’t I do to this character? Did I grow up with the character or did I know him/her well in my backstory? Am I morally obliged to do this?” stuff like this. One thing I hate about some DM’s is that they railroad the party because they don’t want to have challenges in the game for their party. The most annoying thing to me is that players get WAY too attached to their characters that they forget this is a game.

    The proper DM is unbiased. It’s like you were trying to make more out of the Charisma attribute than what it is. Not everyone plays a bard.

    I play my tables hardcore. Point and blank. The characters know nothing about each other at first except that they can assume that the others in the party are wanting fame, fortune, or some other reward by partaking in the quest with them. It is through the characters that they learn from each other, or by using magical means to figure each other out such as “Know Alignment”. I hate when tables are just all clapping along and jerkin’ at the circle because they think the “party status” means that they can instantly trust each other — this should go into your “Metaknowledge” section. Unless otherwise stated your character has never met John the fighter in their life, even if the player is sitting right next to you. This leaves room for cool campfire discussions when the party decides to make camp for the night, like asking the character “Hail, John, why did you decide to join this quest”. I’ve done several things to make this apparent in my table. The biggest game changer was that I made up an assassin that was actually on the side of the BBEG, and the party instantly just trusted him and we got to the BBEG and the assassin just backstabbed the cleric and it all went south from there. The party had to actually think on how to beat the battle. You don’t have to make the game’s difficulty like Dark Souls but Monty Haul and kum-ba-yah because you have DM protection is just incredibly boring. It adds to the bias of the DM to the players.

    As far as pets and animals that the player purchased or summoned, I consider those to be NPC’s, meaning the DM controls them. If the animal has received special training, like a bloodhound was trained to smell for danger, I roll for that accordingly. This takes care of excessive min/maxing.

    And before you say “Is your players not having fun with this?” Yes chief, I’ve had about a dozen or so tables that have told me personally after sessions that I am one of the best DM’s they’ve ever had because the mystery I create in the game where they know nothing until they learn it makes it far more immersive. When they have to physically play the game instead of being spoon-fed makes it rewarding feeling to overcome the challenge.

    • duncan

      Interesting perspective, and there are definitely many pros about this ‘old school’ style of DMing… that’s exactly how I remember DMs acting in the 80s and 90s, and I really enjoyed those games.

      But, personally, I find the players turning up to a new adventure not knowing each other and having to work out each others intentions is tedious far more often than thrilling. I’ve done that a thousand times, and for sure one is an assassin, one is spy etc., one plans to steal the loot at the end for themselves. None of these feel like reveals when they happen, just inevitable.

      I find it more realistic for D&D players to create backstories that narratively justify why the party are working together, and why they trust each other. Most people wouldn’t go into life and death situations with a bunch of strangers… they go with friends or family, or people they’ve worked with before, or people that share their values. So the ‘party status’ should be based on back story.

      DM bias is very interesting topic actually… it’s a matter of preference I believe, rather than something we can be definitive on.

      I like the tough unfeeling DM where you don’t have any plot armour and you can die at a wrong turn… but I notice that most players don’t actually like that. They invest in their characters and story and don’t want them to die because they rolled badly, or they made a ‘bad decision’ (when in fact bad decisions can be based on good logic).

      Ultimately, it depends on if you want a more narrative experience (heroes questing while developing their characters and sharing great moments) or a more strategic one (heroes pooling their skills to overcome challenges and complete quests).

      I actually like both these ways of playing, but in all cases I prefer to do it collaboratively, knowing I can trust my fellow PCs. Antagonism and D&D don’t go well together for me… betrayals always feel cheap, and never clever, and strong ideological differences are more likely to be a grind than illuminating (they CAN be very fun IF they are played for comedy… but usually they are not!). If you want to play against someone get out a board game where the rules are rigidly defined, and ill feelings don’t flourish.

    • Dennis

      Speaking or immersion and realism: is the next campaign or story arc the betrayed characters, or their friends and family, hunting down and horrifically murdering their betrayer? The real life parallels for the group dynamics you describe are mostly criminal gangs (probably a good model for the typical band of D&D murder hobos…) and blood thirsty rebellions – in both cases betrayal is discouraged by the guarantee of terrible vengeance if the betrayed either survive or have allies.

      • duncan

        True. At least in the old school loot the dungeon type of scenario.

        I find that the type of player who likes playing out a betrayal is usually the least committed to the group, so they often don’t even stick around to play out the vengeance… ergo are not dissuaded by it. You can’t really successfully roleplay the vengeance anyway, unless the character that betrayed you becomes an NPC, so then you’ve either got a scenario where you’re trying to get vengeance on the NPC of a player who’s left the group (no thanks!), or even more weirdly you’re going to get vengeance against an NPC with the person that plays them as your ally, playing a new character (history repeating).

        The problem is you never truly disassociate the player and the character… so the person you hate is the player as much as their character, and you don’t care about their NPC or trust your new ally. It’s just a crap dynamic for a game, IMHO.

        But to bring it back around to your point… yes for immersion and realism you can often justify for betrayals and in-fighting, but the fact that D&D is played in a group, using emotionally-invested-in avatars that represent the players, and that communication (and player intent) is relayed openly to the DM, who in turn uses an interpretative rules system to determine results, means that the game works really well as a collaborative effort, and quite badly as an antagonistic one.

    • Leviatiem

      FUCKIN THIS^. I just experienced this in my last game, the players hated me and my character for not acting like she auto knew them. I had said in sesh 0 that she would not act that way as it feels like meta gaming. They, and the DM hated that I didn’t play my character with knowledge from the other parties interactions with something; when my character wasn’t there, was focusing on something else, and/or the info was not specifically directed at the character because again, metagaming. It was miserable for me and I had to leave after they voted me out, telling me I played the victim card(explaining that my disabilities do get in the way and I can’t 100% control them), played the pity card, and wasn’t a team player(again, disability conflicts). I was told I needed to work on myself when I had already explained( repeatedly) that I am already in therapy, I was NOT supposed to do everything everyone else wanted and focusing on their happiness and fun. This caused so much anxiety I had to take a round of Prilosec OTC AND Tums extra strength. I also ended up using even more of my medical cannabis, even during games, to calm my nerves and not have a constant anxiety attack in the game(PTSD factor too). I tried so hard and it was draining to play. I’m kinda afraid to try again. I play chaotic neutrals because it’s less strict and I struggle playing lawfuls. I could play chaotic good as well. I do play well and am a team player, but if my stat rolls suck and dice rolls suck then I can’t do shit about it. But they act like it’s my fault they had to heal me when I got attacked by a creature. I love dnd and want to play, even DM! But I run into this 50% of the time. Emphasis on the fact I try really hard to not let my disabilities come through, I can’t be perfect and be in controll 100% of the time with my emotions and separating my character from me. Making decisions the character would make, and not myself. There are YouTube recordings of the last group I left and I streamed a few.

  20. Pete

    Hey Duncan,
    thanks for the great post! Maybe all of you have a advice for me concerning players. We are currently playing RoT, with a group consisting of two older, experienced players (one is the GM), four younger players (24). Turns out, that the younger players try to treat the game as a therapist session for personal problems. That means, they create characters for the sake of conflict, namely a Human Shadow Monk (who keeps largely out of combat, can’t control his emotions and endulges in murder), one Lizardfolk ranger (who disrupted the group every session since he joined and replaced the lesbian bard with drug problems, and endulges in cannibalism), and a dwarf fighter (the tank and elected leader of the party, normally a great player, but gets carried away because of INT 9 and tossing a coin to make decisions which lead the party deeper into doom). The other younger player really tries to improve his roleplaying, tries to come up with solutions and new ways, so no complaint here. Now we older players are really contemplating to just shut down the campaign, and yes, it starts nagging at the personal out-of-game relationsships.
    When I asked them to read a bit about Faerûn, determine what they might know about the world and what not, coming up with character backstories, and the DM did the same, nothing much happened. It appears that they try to just consume with a minimum of own effort.
    Any thoughts on this?
    I should mention that we play via Fantasy Grounds, so everything runs without real contact.

    • duncan

      Hi Pete

      Wow, yeah, difficult situation.

      The textbook answer would no doubt mention the importance of a Session Zero, where the DM, and players, can talk about their expectations for the campaign and check that everyone is on the same page. Saying things like: “in this campaign you’re going to go on a quest against evil, so it’s important that characters are good-aligned and ready to work in a team.”

      Rather than shut down the campaign without warning, and without giving folk a chance to understand the problems / change their behaviour, I’d try to host a non-game playing session to discuss these issues (“this campaign is designed to be a heroic campaign with collaborative players working to the same goal” and “it’s important that each PC has a back story that ties them to the adventure and their fellow PCs”). I think the worst that can happen is that the problem players will leave the campaign of their own volition, seeing that the game the DM wants to run doesn’t match their expectations, rather than feeling they were thrown out (and this will be better for your personal relationships outside the game!). The best result is that they maybe reframe their PCs, or make new ones, that fit the campaign better.

      On a specific point, the old “I’ve got Intelligence 8/9, I need to roleplay my character as if they’re the village idiot” trope is one that annoys me greatly! A 5% less chance to succeed on an academic-based check like History and Religion doesn’t make you an idiot. You could easily be smarter than average in fact, just not very bookish. I’ve played extremely sharp-witted rogues with Intelligence 8…

      There’s a bit more on this theme here:

      Hope that helps!

  21. Bouncer the Familiar

    I like to read list like these and try and process what someone actually sees as a problem from the perspective of it affecting the game or whether the person with the problem only sees it as a problem when it affects them. In this case I agree that starting fights for no reason is a dick move, taking forever to make a decision when you had probably 8 other peoples turns to think and narrow the choices helps no one. But other issues such as Familiars and Metagaming are more delicate. First, the admonition against splitting the party is newer to me that to many young players back in 2nd Edition it was hard to keep the party together because of traps and Thiefs wanting to run ahead an do their thing. So it seems weird that parties don’t like to let the Rogues get too far ahead. What good is stealth when the Plated guy is 10’ behind you? But no one wants to be out of the picture when initiative is rolled. Rogues and Fighters get uses for their bonus actions do we complain when they attack and hide or action surge getting even more attacks, hopefully not so why would a Wizard with his one action per round seem like the ball-hog because he let his familiar have an action. If you think a Wizard should just Haste you and sit back fire a cantrip and then watch you make use of the extra actions then I wonder who is the real ball-hog. On to metagaming, I love playing Divination Wizards portent is awesome but what is more awesome to me is using it on someone else’s turn. Letting someone else’s big spell hit, giving the Paladin a crit when I know they love rolling all those dice. But two things are essential in playing a Divination, paying attention to what is happening when it is not your turn and knowing what effect your portent could have in the outcome. This by definition is metagaming so to justify it I try and roleplay asking questions about preferred moves and combos. So always playing a character with a high Int makes me feel like they would be observant enough to realistically know when to apply their influence. One last point if it were not for metagaming when would anyone cast Protection from Evil and Good. Do you roleplay getting knowledge of which creatures would get disadvantaged? Or do you think well it is a 1st level spell and my character has bad wisdom saves so thinking that even without an exact list there are many creatures that it would effect and many of those charm, frighten and possess which usually requires wisdom saves then it would be a good idea to have the spell available. But I hear how it is circumstantial this and circumstantial that so much that I just say you make your spell list and I will make mine. On that note an asshole DM can just double down with those creatures the minute you take it of your list, circumstantial that.

  22. Joel Arther

    This mostly comes across as a pompous excuse to complain rather than actually offering help

  23. Margaret

    I really wish someone had told me all of this before my first campaign, I was such a pain in the ass and I didn’t even know it because I was having fun. It’s quite embarrassing to recall now. I was recently in a campaign with a new player who committed a lot of these errors but I was able to be sympathetic remembering my own first campaign and I was able to just be proud of him for putting himself out there and diving into the complicated (but endlessly rewarding) world of dnd.

    • duncan

      Hi Margaret, I think we’ve all been a PITA at some point! And no doubt we continue to be, but hopefully in smaller and less obtrusive ways. And yes new players get some extra slack.

  24. Caedus

    I have been a gamemaster for over a decade and I can say one thing. While you have the control over everything. Letting the players have control just as much as you makes a story. A lot of what was said is true it happens and needs to be changed or find a new group. However some players like to do what they want without the fact of an alignment hanging over their heads. Or that the DM will not follow the rules on a spell that they have casted. You have to find a balance on how you want the game to be played that makes it fun for everyone. You can never expect something from anyone, though you can have standards on how you want it to go.

    • exactly, im a player in my group and nothing freakin happens cos the DM doesnt let us have any autonomy, hell the other players in my group dont let ME have any. I wanna do anything off the track they say no and we continue like i never said anything. like maybe I want to steal the thing nobody will miss or see me do it but its good for me.

      literally cant tell you any of the “good times” ive had cos its a blur, there are no derailments and the DMs sister is the star of the show (despite being twice my age lol).

      being a loose cannon makes it fun and funny!

  25. I think you just have a real attraction to being fully in control of everything. DnD is a lot about player autonomy. if a player wants to do something that isnt actively screwing another player over all the time. why not let them? this adventures for them, since when were the players the DMs little minions?

    the player wants to smack my NPC around? do it! ive got a reaction in mind.
    the player wants to steal something? go for it! consequences though if you fail.
    the player wants to do something rogueish that kinda makes him look like a dick? do it, just not alllll the time

    in the end its whatever is fun.

  26. Leviatiem

    I do struggle with some of these due to mental disabilities. I try very hard, to the point I get physically sick trying to think up how to make everyone else happy in a game(as a player). This last game I was in, the other players were all spread out and doing something and I thought looking around too would be okay. I made a character with weapons that went with her backs story. These weapons didn’t 100% become useful at level one. I ended up leaving the group because I was feeling very sick and was regressing on my progress with my therapist by going back to focusing on everyone else’s wants and needs and ignore my own. This effectively makes it unfun for me as I get scolded by the party for not playing a character they want it to be played while they had characters with lots of spells and cantrips they could use at level one. I don’t think I’ll ever play a halfling or paladin again after my last and most recent experience. I’ve already begun the process of joining a westmarches style dnd server, I still feel really anxious and am struggling with understanding if I really was a toxic player or if the group was.

  27. Daniel Braun

    Players ignoring penalties and or hampered terrain, claiming turns were missed and more damage done to a creature(s) when theoretically not possible. Guessing the AC and metagaming on it instead of roleplaying it.
    Players seem to remember a bonus to their rolls and are quick to point out negatives or disadvantage to the NPC’s/creatures but seem to be on Pluto when they themselves have to take a penalty/disadvantage. I’ve gotten to the point, I just subtract the modifier in my head from their roll and say something like, “You was close but no cigar.” This keeps the suspense up of whether they made the roll or not. If a player questions, the roll, I then explain the modifier, also telling them that they ignored the modifier for a long time, that from here on out, I will be mentally noting the modifier. They know I’m an honest DM and already have proved and imbarrassed them of not cheating (rolling several rolls in front of them, showing them crits and referring to a page number for a rule for them to see themselves). Most come up with this, “I believe you, no need to show me the page, I just thought it operated different.” And I’m thinking, in two ways here, that 1 it is possible you did not understand the intent of the rules as I the DM rules them OR “No you didn’t, you just trying to see what you can get away with via inturpetation of the rules your way and trying to get other players behind you. I once again, in a mocking sort of way, refer them to a page number, section and explain this is how it works in my campaign. I by the way try to play 100% of the rules, 100% of the time.
    2nd) You tell a player that the terrian is hampered/hindered/difficult and they ignore it, move full movement, move through trees (that they claim they didn’t see) move through tons of dead bodies like their on the enterprise at warp 7. When I catch this, I make them remap their movement even if a turn later or if I’m getting too much slack, they just lost XP for that particular creature their getting too by doing this. I understand people forget, there is a difference in forgetting once or twice and accidentily forgetting all the time. Once for lack of space, told the players that the 8 horses pulling the vardo took up 10′ spaces and roughly 60′ long, (5′ space between the horses and hitch gear in pairs of 4). I swear every player ran through the horses as if they weren’t there and even marked with word “horses” in a rectangular block. I falsely assumed that while I was doing other things to move the game along, the players were moving correctly their movement around the horses via double moves, ect. Talk about a nightmare when I caught on a few minutes later. So now unfortunately, I have to watch their movements like a hawk and the other stuff I was browsing to move game along has to wait.
    3) I run two-three games a week/two weeks and play in two others, their not all dnd games either, Gamma World and Paladian and PF and play in Rifts and play a different 3.5. In all the games with the exception of one, I run do the players accuse me of skipping their turn or worse another players turns. Of course, I’m human and slip up, but have been doing this for 20+ years and I use an magnetic initiative tracker. I’m very much in the habit of when someone goes, I move the tracker down to the next creature, and when the bottom is reached, I announce lingering affects, saves and then call out the next round, “We are now in round 6”. Players get wrapped up in the game and will swear they didn’t do anything and sometimes other players will chime in. I have to remind the chiming in players this discussion is between me and the claiming player, then have to tell the claiming player what he did on his turn. I have pointed out several times, if you do nothing on your turn because of your own inaction, that is still a turn. Delaying, readying an action and then choosing not to do it or forgetting it is on the player and yes I try to remind them when I myself am not running 10-15 npcs. If it becomes a habit, I let the player go again for brevity (a few times) but I’m going to add hp to the creature you hit, because I know I keep very good track of initiative or I’m just going to wipe the XP from that creature and say its dead (this is a low-level campaign so far) and move on. As a player, if your having a tough time actually remembering if you had a turn or not all the time, then maybe you should go play twiddly winks. It also waste other people’s time, it is metagaming, cheating and really just fucking annoying. Btw I do not ever tell how many HP a creature has remaining. I say it is weak, blood flowing, doesn’t seem to put any Str behinds its blows, ect.
    4) The same here, I keep meticious hit points of what creature takes what. I have a preety good eye of what mini is what on the battlefield. Any GM worth his salt should be able to keep track of 5 npcs/creatures at least. Fucking annoying when a player says “You say he has not been hit, and looks healthy and I know I hit him hard at least three times.” I’m usually telling them, “No, you hit this one that move pretty hard and he is feeling it, this is a fresh one.” Once again, other players will chime in just to chime in and really need to butt out, as I explain what happened. I have on occassion let them hit again knowing better and just not record any damage. You got to be devious and match the players tit for tac sometimes when their trying to get one over. Sure, rarely, I look at my notes, multiply 2 to the monster factor, scratch my head and figure out they were right, creature A does have more damage. Screw me once, its on me, screw me twice or more it is gonna hurt you. This goes hand in hand with players removing creatures from the map that you told them not too yet. I have a rule, don’t touch my damn mini creature, until I tell you to remove it. I use a felt pad under the creature with a number on it, that way, if wolf #1 is killed and removed, the felt pad with #1 still represents a dead wolf. I rule that a certain amount of dead bodies depending on their size do represent hampered/hindered/difficult movement across.
    5) Metagaming the AC once figured out. It is no secret if you fail to Hit on a 19, but hit on a 20 and no big modifiers, it is safe to say the creature has AC 20. Players will then roll a 19, and search and swear and swear again that they have a +1 to hit with that was not factored in, be it an ability, subability, ongoing spell that has expired, ect. This is bad form, it waste time. I have the characters sheets on my laptop and made sure that everything except on the cuff modifiers is factored in. Even so if you do have an overlooked ability that gives you an additional +1 to hit and it takes you five minutes to find it, skip it for now and catch it on the next round. What is worse is a playing remember the mid turn of somebody else their ability. Sorry, card laid is a card played. Remember it for next turn. I hold myself to the same merits, if I can’t find it in a few minutes, I skip and look for it while players are going, though I rarely need to look for something that long, I’m fairly organized. On the occasion when a creature has a lot of special abilities that take up a few pages or not familar with like all the feats, I tell the players I need a few extra minutes to sort it out, even still 5 minutes is about my limit and lots of time I don’t need that much time. There is a difference between absolutely forgetting an ability and the GM lets you renig to hopefully help you remember the next and constantly forgetting that ability. Think I said a mouth full.

  28. Rick Coen

    Thinking about familiars, let me raise three examples. In the campaign I play, I am a paladin/genie-tomelock, with a waterspirit as a familiar. The rest of the party is a pure talismanlock, and a battlemaster; we recently were joined by a druid. I use my owl constantly to fly ahead of us to scout, or leave him perched somewhere to watch our backs. Occasionally, he is sent on a wide reconnaissance. No one minds, because the original three of us have no other scouting capabilities. The new Druid player doesn’t mind, because he can use his wildshape and spells for other things. Only once have I changed the owl’s shape to a rat, to unobtrusively explore a suspicious village. And I will readily admit… none of us had “fun”. The GM revealed each map, gave me information (which I dutifully repeated to the other players), and moved to the next building. *I* was rushing things by the end because it was so boring!

    In another campaign I played, I was a rogue with Magic Initiate, and a lightning-spirit familiar. 9 times out of 10, I forgot I had a familiar, and would do all the scouting myself anyway!

    In the campaign I run, *two* PCs have Familiars. The bard has a “normal” familiar, “Hawkie”. Actually, Hawkie 2.0; 1.0 was shot down by some goblins. Again, he uses Hawkie for aerial views and scouting; the rogue uses her Stealth mostly for ambushes, letting Hawkie take the risks of scouting instead. The bard does not ever change Hawkie’s shape.

    In the same party, the “tank” is a fighter/rogue (arcane trickster). We decided, due to Story, to flavor his “spells” as all nonmagical; his “Color Spray” is a packet of cooking spices blown into people’s eyes, for example, while his “Silvery Barbs” is actually “just a trick I picked up while in the Marines” (i.e. a martial exploit, not a magical effect) – and only works for himself. Then we started veering a little into “psionics” as the explanation, latent TK vibrating his sword (thundering blade) and lifting small objects (mage hand). So when he said “I want Find Familiar”, we made it a slightly *more* effective Clairvoyance effect, but limited strictly to the 100′ range a normal familiar could communicate with its master. Within that range, he can see and hear into any space he can “move” his psionic awareness (a tiny eyeball-sized sensor). And – having already established having TK through Mage Hand – he can shift light objects… again, about the same as an actual familiar. It’s come up a few times in tight spaces where Hawkie’s flight is curtailed, or into some damaged buildings where Hawkie refused to fly. Of course, the psionic sensor can’t be killed or blocked – but requires Concentration!

    So we’ve got a party with an actual familiar, and a “psionic” familiar, and a rogue. The players and party have adapted to each other, accepted some story and gameplay limitations to keep everyone “useful”, and we’ve had no issues. Last night, for example, Hawkie 2.0 was attacked by a pair of Owl familiars that were scouting the party, while Hawkie was trying to find an ambush. Meanwhile, the rogue was hidden in the tall grass setting a counter-ambush, and the tank was “driving” the party’s wagon (with disadvantage, as he was scanning the path ahead out to 100′ for pitfalls and lurkers). [Don’t worry, the owls missed, the tank then shot both down, Hawkie was able to warn the party about incoming worgs from the north… while they were fighting the goblins and worgs from the south!]

    Ultimately, it comes down to good players, and everyone agreeing that the goal is to have fun together for the session. And that applies to all the etiquette examples you listed!

  29. Anthony

    It doesn’t matter what alignment they are, if they refuse to work as a group, then they are derailing the campaign.
    In my experience, it’s the lawful characters that can tend to be worse, because they often have an extremely set in stone idea of morality that cannot be swayed. And that lawful reason is external, meaning it cannot be changed from through logic, reason or discussion. Side note, this is why I think oathbreaker paladins are a really cool concept. It’s not about being evil… it’s about being free from a handwritten set in stone code of ethics/behavior.
    Chaotic characters tend to follow their own code, which leaves them open to rational discussion because they are the ones who can choose if their code changes… In simple terms, a chaotic neutral is more likely to be able to be convinced to go along with what their party wants, and more likely to work as a team towards a common goal.
    Again, it is all about if the player is willing to work with the group. If a player merely sees the game as an opportunity to impose their will without consequence, then it doesn’t matter what alignment they pick. I’m sorry if you have had bad experiences with chaotic neutral players. But maybe try to recognize that those experiences are anecdotal and try harder to look at the bigger picture.

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