Han Shot First, And We Hate Him

Tonight heralded my first night as a player in what will hopefully be a continuing campaign. A friend of mine has been playing D&D for a little more than half a year now, and wanted to try his hand at being a DM. More importantly, he and the rest of his players were able to do so on a night I’m able to take the time to play. Unfortunately I missed the first session with character generation, so after surveying the other players for what they had created, I decided an elven fighter would fill a useful slot in the party.

We are using The Slaying Stone as our first adventure, and things are off to an okay start. It is clear that the DM has little experience with skill challenges, but that is something easily forgiven. Time and experience behind the screen will certainly help fix that. We ended up in an encounter with goblins (more on how in a moment) and he ran them rather well. They ganged up on us until the tide turned, then attempted to flee as we chased them down and put an end to their miserable little lives.

While the encounter itself was fine, I did take issue with how we got involved in it. This had everything to do with another player and nothing to do with the DM (save that the DM allowed it, but again, such is a pretty common thing for newer DMs). There was no tactical map out yet, and the DM described the goblins guarding the gate but suggested we might also be able to find another way in. This is new-DM-speak for “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” We’ve all heard it at some point in our RP career. Nevertheless, one of the players took it upon himself to pick a fight all the same. Another player had her character interject, and naturally the DM called for a roll to “see if she stopped him.” (Rolling for absolutely everything is another new-DM habit.) Fortunately, success.

That settled, we began to say we ought to look for another way in. All of ten seconds had passed when, yup, the same player decided to attack again, starting the encounter.

Some might call this “roleplaying,” but I have very little time for such an argument. Players who engage in such behavior invariably call foul when one of the other players eventually decides to kill the offending character in his or her sleep, which is a perfectly natural course of action when you are among a group of dangerous semi-strangers in a life-threatening situation and one of the strangers always seems to get you into trouble. The offending player always hides behind cries of “roleplaying” or making a “fun” or “zany” character. Well, in these cases, “fun” comes at the expense of destroying the very same fun of everyone else at the table.

You might find all kinds of things written about in-character solutions to such problems, but those are inadvisable. It isn’t a character problem.

There are no problem characters, only problem players.

Anyway, that aside, the ensuing encounter was reasonable enough. I enjoyed the company of the other players and the DM, and it was interesting to observe his style and how he dealt with problems he’d never had to deal with before as a player. I intend to offer him a few pointers before the next session, especially regarding skill challenges.

In the meantime, I’m mulling over how to address the issue with the problem player tactfully. It’d be a great world if you could just bring it up politely and they said, “Oh, I didn’t realize that was the case. Sorry about that, I’ll be more cooperative.” Who knows, maybe I’ll be lucky!