FAQ: Problem Players & DMs

Here are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about dealing with interpersonal conflicts at the D&D table:

Player Conflicts

How do I resolve an issue with a problem player?

If the problem is something that can be fixed, talk to the problem player separately. Explain why their behavior is making things Not Fun for other members of the group.

If the behavior continues, consider confronting the player as a group. If they didn’t take the hint the first time, you can reinforce how the group feels. You should save group confrontation as a last resort, since it can make the player feel singled out and reflexively defensive.

Is it OK to punish a character for a problem player’s behavior?

No. This will only heighten hostility. Always address player problems outside the game.

Talking to the problem player did not work.

Unfortunately, if someone isn’t willing to abide by the social contract of your game, the only solution is to remove them. Tell them that they are no longer invited to your table. Be firm in your decision. This is your fun. You don’t need to sacrifice it for someone else who isn’t willing to show you the same courtesy.

Do I need to explain why I’m removing a player?

You do not owe the problem player an explanation. You already gave them explanations when you addressed the behavior. Explanations will likely only give fuel to a person who has already demonstrated that they are argumentative. If they were going to listen and correct the behavior, it would have happened already.

I am afraid how a problem player might act if we uninvite them.

You do not need to specifically uninvite someone, although it is the courteous thing to do. If your group fears for their safety or sanity, that takes precedence. You can just reschedule future sessions without the problem player.

DM Conflicts

I have a rules dispute with my DM.

Accept the DM’s ruling in the moment. Sit down and read through the text together, after the session. It’s likely you will come to a consensus. If you don’t, consider checking the relevant errata and Sage Advice Compendium to see if that brings you any clarity. If you can’t agree, the book says it’s the DM’s call.

My DM is changing rules in the middle of a campaign.

This is poor form. Generally rules changes and homebrew should be explained to the players ahead of the campaign in a “session 0” before the adventure starts.

If you’re the DM and you notice you’d like to run a rule differently, save it for the next campaign if possible. Otherwise, seek the input of the entire table before you change anything.

My DM nerfed my class feature/spell.

Typically this is poor form. If a DM decides that some class feature (e.g. sneak attack) or spell shouldn’t work as written, it should be explained to the players in a “session 0” before they start making decisions about what kind of character they want to play.

Talk to your DM after the session. Explain that their change is making it Not Fun for you. If they refuse to relent on the rules change, ask if you can roll a new character that will be more fun within their rules. If they don’t let you change characters, you can probably figure out a brute force way to make it happen.

My player/DM is exploring adult/graphic/sexual themes that I am uncomfortable with.

Before playing any RPG, you need to get a baseline for what kind of content is acceptable for the other players at the table. The Consent in Gaming form from Shanna Germain and Sean K. Reynolds is a wonderful tool for making sure all the players feel safe. You should tackle this in “session 0” but there’s no harm in using it now if you’re already mid-stream. You can also ask your DM to install a safety mechanism like an “X card” or to make sure players have an abort mechanism if things go sideways.

If you are DMing and you have a player forcing themes you’re uncomfortable narrating, you can make the scene “fade to black” and then address the content with the player after the session.

Talking to the problem DM did not work.

Unfortunately, not every table is for every player. If you’re having a bad time, you’re likely suited to another group. Your party is out there!

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