Ben talks to us on his way to his first D&D game in years, and then again afterwards when things do not go as planned!
Check it out here!
Hi, Ben! Man, I’m sorry to hear about the problems you had. I’ve been there; I had a session in which one player (playing a goblin) decided to eat the corpse of a recently slain human enemy, and the intraparty conflict it brought on ruined the whole campaign.
Here’s what your story got me thinking about: I don’t think the problems you had are really caused by D&D. I think the problems came from the way the party set up their characters, in such a way that conflict was unavoidable . There’s a very good reason that many DMs either have their group all make their characters together as a coherent group, or else just ban certain alignments and character types altogether. If you’ve got criminals in a party with your paladin, things are guaranteed to to go wrong at some point. You need to either preemptively make sure you don’t have a party like that, or else make sure all the players agree to let it happen and have fun with it.
Now, the specific manner in which the conflict occurred here is also due to player misbehavior, which made things even worse. One thing that is true about D&D as a system is that it doesn’t give you very many tools to address this sort of behavior in the game. Since it is gamist/simulationist, there’s an ethos of just letting the dice determine what happens for good or ill, with narrative coherence taking a backseat. Some players will think of this as an excuse to take reckless actions, or to use “it’s what my character would do” as an excuse for nonsensically destructive behavior (I’d argue that robbing a priest while sitting in a leaky rowboat next to a paladin is suicidally stupid, and is not something any criminal would actually do).
Because of this, D&D really requires a solidly understood social contract among the players, that they’ll intentionally stick to the story and not use the freedom of the rules to screw each other over. I’d recommend before your next session, talking to your players (especially individually with the klepto-guy’s player) and letting them know what your expectations and hopes for the campaign are. I think that can help you have a smoother game next time.
Thanks for your ideas! I definitely think that the social contract among players is very important.
If you’re interested in a REALLY long discussion of this, one popped up on EN World:
I just recently discovered the podcast and just listened to this episode this morning. I must say that I agree with Ethan 100%. I strongly dislike intra-party conflict—we may disagree on this; I disliked the Vampire: The Masquerade campaign I played because the game itself seems to actively encourage it—so I would be kind of horrified if one of the first things a player decided to do during a game is steal from another party member for no good reason.
It was happy to hear your next session went better. Did you find the Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure fairly easy to convert to 5e?
The forum discussion seems like it’d be really interesting, but the link doesn’t work. Has the discussion been removed?
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