Option for Innovative Player Who Doesn’t Want to Compromise?


Scarab Sages

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i participate in a Pathfinder RPG with a very outgoing and creative male player who likes breaking barriers and boundaries for the sake of doing something new and innovative, but does not want to have to compromise with other players about what he’s doing. He says it spoils the fun for him. In his defense, he does realize that when his play style causes someone else not to have fun, that’s not a good thing.

His unwillingness to compromise was a huge sore spot for me for quite a while and really ruined my ability to have fun with him. I finally left the party because of it, and our GM offered to let me run solo. As long as I wasn’t going to have to deal with him very often and our GM was okay with the extra work, I was perfectly fine with the idea of doing things that way so he could still stay in the party. A few days ago, he announced that he was leaving permanently so I wouldn’t have to leave the party.

We’ve had a pretty good clearing of the air since then, and while I will NEVER sit at another game table with him ever again, things are good enough between us that I could probably have a conversation with him about RL stuff if the opportunity arose. I’m hoping to leave things between us on as positive a note as possible.

On the one hand, I think that his unwillingness to compromise doesn’t really belong in a teamwork-oriented social game like an RPG, but on the other, I can’t help but think that there are other players out there somewhere who want the same things he does who might have some good suggestions.

1. I want to ask experienced GMs to chime in if they’ve ever dealt with a player like this guy and if they know of a way to give him everything I’ve listed here without driving the other players batty.

2. I also want to ask if there are any players out there who really resonate with the idea of pushing boundaries for the sake of doing something new and innovative and how you handle the social aspects of an RPG. Do you refuse to compromise for the sake of your fun?

3. Does anyone know of a game other than an RPG or some pursuit other than a game where the player I’m talking about could combine his desire for socialization, creativity/innovation, and no compromise constructively? Having some adventure in the mix would be good too, but is not a strict necessity.

There may not be an option to let him combine everything he wants, but I’m new enough to RPGs in general that I figure it’s worth asking! You all have experience and expertise that I don’t.

Thanking you all in advance...

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He might possibly be able to be a decent GM. Sure, part of being a good GM is being able to accept others ideas, but as the GM he'd be able to put all of his own in place without dispute.

If he can't do that...creativity, total control, and social involvement is a difficult trio to put in place together. One of those three has to go IMO.

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Well, in retrospect I saw it work once. A toxic player who tried to turn Pathfinder into LARPfinder actually had two fellow players who were mostly fine with being submissive and just dragging along. Bowing to authority can be comfy because you don't have to make decisions anymore, hence you are no longer responsible for failures. Some people even bow to horrible authorities to get that.

We’ve had a pretty good clearing of the air since then, and while I will NEVER sit at another game table with him ever again, things are good enough between us that I could probably have a conversation with him about RL stuff if the opportunity arose. I’m hoping to leave things between us on as positive a note as possible.

Be careful that your strife for harmony doesn't lead you into a toxic friendship / relationship. These narcissists can be quite charming, sure, but at the end of the day most people get hurt when they get too close to them. And if you think about redeeming him, be aware that such attempts usually fail and spoil the redeemer instead.

Before you answer "no, it's not that" or "no, he isn't that way", please take a moment to reconsider.

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Life is short, forget about him and move on to new friends.

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Compromise is a fundamental part of human existence, not just RPGs.

As a GM, I've had experiences with this - and had to just had to sit down with them and tell them that they're going to have to change their behavior or they're not welcome at the table. In some cases, they refused and I kicked them out.

Honestly, it's a difficult conversation but the best thing for a person like this. That said, you personally don't owe this particular person anything.

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Ok, so I don't know you Kere or your fellow gamer IRL so how would I know if I know players like this? Have I had players that were obstinate, needing to have things their way? Of course. The only things I know of this particular player however is that they identify as masculine, they don't "compromise" and they are creative to the point of "pushing boundaries." I' put those words in quotes b/c my interpretation of them and yours might be very different.

I have been running games in TTRPGs for over three and a half decades now. To say I've met a lot of different players is an understatement, but my experience is anecdotal, a small sampling. From the folks I'VE played with though, as I've said I've seen a lot of obstinate individuals.

Of course, when I find these players I start off by testing them in game; set up scenarios where their actions might jeopardize the other characters' safety or autonomy, see what the obstinate player does with those. After that, I take a pulse check of the group IRL - are they still having fun, are there concerns w/how I'm running things, and so on. Often the overly creative, no compromise types are the more vocal about their likes and dislikes.

Then I'll have a chat with the obstinate player privately. Usually at this point I give that player a chance to vent about their need to have everything go according to THEIR plan but also remind them that this is a social game where everyone's plans are valid and so on. I'll end with letting the obstinate player know that if they can't or won't get on board with compromising to the larger group they will not be invited back to my table.

I've had this break one of 2 ways after the talks. Often the obstinate player tries to become more subtle, trying to manipulate other players to supporting THEIR vision of how things should be so they don't HAVE to compromise. I'm not going to tell my players how to live so if others fall for this manipulation I won't stop it. If the obstinate player does keep up their obvious, bad behavior though I have and will ask them to leave my game.

Frankly I can't think of a creative, leisure activity done socially that would lend itself to someone who simultaneously likes to be super creative AND refuses to compromise. Being super creative for the sake of "pushing boundaries" suggests to me someone who refuses to accept things as they are, meaning that the banal status quo of others is likely anathema to them, and the very nature of "no compromise" means that this person needs to be recognized as the final authority in any group decisions.

If I'm playing PF1, or co-writing fiction, or cooking a meal together, or going on a holiday or one of a number of other adventurous, communal activities and this type of person were in the mix, I'd either have to let them be in charge (which I wouldn't like b/c sometimes I LIKE status quo) or I'd have to remove them from situation because their lack of ability to compromise means there's no third option.

But again, I DON'T KNOW you or your fellow player Kere. I have no idea if my extreme examples here match up to the person you're venting about. I AM a person who compromises to the group, goes with the flow generally and has been GMing games so long my natural default IS the status quo.

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The others have covered this pretty well, but I'm just going to say, IMO it's not worth troubling yourself over someone who refuses to compromise.

Just move along.

When that person has burned enough bridges for their attitude they may have a heartfelt change.

Or they may be jerk who thinks everyone else is a jerk for not kowtowing to them.

Scarab Sages

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@SheepishEidolon: Thanks for your concern, but this is an online pbp game. When I referred to never sitting at the table with him again, I was speaking of a figurative game table not a literal one. Mr. Creative is likable but not trustworthy, and in my mind those are very different things. He is married IRL and we live in different parts of the country. I don’t get involved with married men - never have, never will, and I’m old enough to be set in that habit. Any further conversation I might have with him would be online, where limits can easily be imposed, and it would be brief. If I had to deal too much with this jerk, I’d either murder him or I’d become a drug addict or alcoholic, and none of those options particularly appeals to me. :D

@Mark Hoover 330: Would you be alright with it if I took what you said about how you have dealt with people like this and passed it on to my GM? He’s a good GM in terms of the mechanics of the game, but isn’t that comfortable with handling conflict between players. I think he’s wanted to help but hasn’t been sure how. I keep telling him that learning how to deal with player conflict will make him an even better GM than he already is.

Tell me, do you by chance have any games running now that are accepting new players? It would be nice to play under a GM who knows how to deal with jerk behavior.

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I'm a little confused. You say this player is creative, unwilling to compromise and pushes limits. Do you have any examples of this sort of behavior? It's just a very vague description.

And I'll second Artofregicide; this isn't an issue of a difficult player. This is an issue of a difficult person. Being unwilling or unable to compromise, just in general, is akin to lacking empathy or kindness.

Scarab Sages

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@Quixote: Heh. There is so much involved with this story and I can be extremely wordy at the best of times, so I was trying to be more concise.

Creativity: At one point I was playing with him and another person in a homebrew world he created where he was the GM. It was basically an RPG, but much simpler than Pathfinder. Some of of the rules changed as we went along, but many of the places we went to were quite imaginative. I vaguely remember this place we went to that had interlocking clockwork gears we had to navigate through and we were riding on...I forget what it was now, but it was definitely imaginative. Sorry I don't remember better. That was probably the most fun I ever had with him.

Unwilling to Compromise: At one point I asked him for a compromise in how he treats me. I think I asked him to give me a little more breathing room around decisions (he tends to get up in my face and crowd me, especially if he disagrees, and he tends to be obnoxiously argumentative in those cases). I told him I still wanted him to have input, and I said I wanted to do it on a trial basis because I wanted him to just try it out, and that anything he didn't like I was open to improving because that's the whole point of a trial - to see what works and change what doesn't. He point-blank refused. And I tried variations on this approach so many times I lost count that he also refused. It finally became one of the top two reasons I separated from the party.

Pushes Limits: This one is hard for me to describe, because while I can see when he does this in a socially obnoxious way, what I can't see is when he's doing it for sake of being innovative. So I think I'll leave this one unanswered.

He does definitely lack empathy and kindness, except toward NPCs who he can generally manipulate via game mechanics or quest completion into giving him what he wants or in a very shallow way where he comes up with some good thing he wants to get for us, but whether that's useful for us or something we actually want at that moment is never something he considers. If he decides he wants to make armor for the group, we get armor, even if we'd rather put our share of that money toward, say, a headband of some sort.

But in a way, none of this matters, because he *is* leaving. I'm hoping to find someone who thinks similarly to how he does who can talk a bit about their evolution in terms of breaking boundaries and social situations.

I am also hoping to find some alternatives to playing in an RPG that I can suggest to him that would allow him to indulge these three desires without inflicting his lack of empathy on everyone else. In my final words to him, I want to say that lack of compromise can never work in social game like an RPG if he's a player, but that if he wants to combine those three things in a more positive, constructive way that would result in less drama and conflict and a better experience for everyone, some practical alternatives might be X, Y, and Z. Then I'd just have to hope one resonates with him, even if I never hear about it. Sometimes when you plant a seed, it fails to sprout, but if you never plant the seed, nothing good ever has the chance to grow.

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Based entirely on your limited descriptions, this is a problem player. Every story has two sides, but these are telltale signs.

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It sounds like he wants to be the one in charge of the story and has decided what the other characters should be doing / should be getting for gear (and I'm guessing his opinion is that the choices the players are making for levelling up are likely "wrong")

Be glad he's out of the group. Don't put up with people that try to control everyone else that strongly.

He sounds like someone that would enjoy playing a computer game like Divinity or some such game where you can control the entire party.

Scarab Sages

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@Warped Savant: he started off playing a Druid and I started off playing a ranger. I had wanted to play a Druid, but he had already chosen Druid by the time I was recruited, so I chose ranger as a second choice for the sake of team balance. Through the course of our adventure, his Druid got trapped on the Astral Plane but managed to make her way to this magic shop/bank in a pocket dimension that she had access to. The Druid lost contact with nature while there and wound up converting to Arcane Trickster. While that character was trapped in the pocket dimension (which was quite a while; he had to roll up another character to play until we got strong enough to get her out) my ranger converted to a Druid, since that *had* been my first choice. At first, he did kind of try to tell me how to play my Druid (at least in combat), but with respect to how pushy and obnoxious he can be, it was pretty mild.

So he doesn’t really do any of the things you’re talking about, at least not in a way that Is hard to tolerate.

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Kere, I have no issue with stuff I post on these boards going to others if you think it'd help. I don't have any PbP games running and do most of my stuff live or with folks I'd previously gamed live with. Still, I have one campaign where the PCs are nearing a major end, closing in on final villains. I run homebrew stuff using PF1 and the PCs are level 10 now. If I start something new after I'll reach out and see if you're avail.

There are all kinds of gamers out there but it does sound like this person is fairly controlling. Sounds like the uncompromising player's leaving will give you the space you need to breathe. Who knows; maybe you'll even feel inspired to inject a burst of your OWN creativity into the void they leave? Time will tell.

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Kere - Is this the same guy you discussed in a thread back in October last year? Or is this a different person? I ask because there seems to be some commonalities between those two but there also seem to be differences in what you are describing.

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Hey, I understand the struggle to be concise. No judgement here!

So he refused to compromise...on an issue involving compromise? Sounds like a great guy.

The one thing I'll say in his defense is: there is (hopefully) a difference between his character being a jerk and being a jerk himself.
In my opinion, your average adventure is not going to be someone you'd actually want to hang out with. So I'm all for gruff, unpleasant, selfish characters...played by decent people who know when to pull back a little.
But for all that, he doesn't sound like one of those folks.

I've been told I have a very strong, sometimes overbearing personality. And I can say that it has cost me dearly. I like to think I'm much better than I once was, though.
But like I said, this isn't a problem player. This is a problem person. He is morally and ethically wanting on a fairly basic level, by the sound of it.

I'm glad he's not your problem any more, but as to your hopes: there are some of us loud, obnoxious, egotistical types who are aware of our flaws and are trying to work on them. So I think it's a matter of time before you find someone who's similarly creative/fun without all the baggage.

In the future, whenever a friend discussed a problem player with me, my solution was to join the game, at least for a while. Essentially, I would out-strong their strong personality, but push the agency of reason and collaboration and empathy over my own personal goals. The 1-2 punch of "you're loud, I'm louder" and "people actually like what I'm saying" has not been countered yet.

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We're aware that this is a serious issue, but we are obliged to give our standard advice:

Kill the problem player's character, raise them as undead.

Regardless of whether this solves the issue, kill the player, raise them as undead.

Scarab Sages

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@Quixote: You would have made a *wonderful* help in dealing with this guy, and I wish I’d met you several months ago and been able to drag you in to help me out. I love your 1-2 punch approach! I’m a fairly quiet person naturally, but because I have never married and therefore never had anyone else to rely on to stand up for me, I had to learn to do it myself. I certainly wouldn’t say I’m the best at it, but I’m not afraid to call someone out when I think they’re being a jerk. Setting boundaries is hard with this guy because he just bulldozes right through them and then justifies it on the basis of having good intentions or it not being “fun”. This guy has been exhausting for me to deal with and I see some big costs in his future if he doesn’t mend his ways.

I think one of the reasons I’ve kept trying to hang in there with this guy is that I actually DO see evidence of a morality in him, but he totally undervalues people skills - he sees only the objective side of things and has a certain amount of the-ends-justify-the-means thinking, though I wouldn’t call him Machiavellian by any stretch. He out and out pooh-poohs the need for people skills. As far as I’m concerned, he finally pooh-poohed away my willingness to continue associating with him. That said, he will always rush in to aid any NPC he feels is being abused, and his characters tend to talk about morality, they just talk the talk a lot better than they walk the walk. But I think that’s true at one point or another for every person who tries to live by a moral code. It’s part of being a work in progress as a person.

Heck, we even got into an argument about morality one time when he had heartburn over the fact my character was considering using a memory-altering charm if any of our new followers (we had both just gotten the Leadership feat) didn’t want to join us because our party is wanted by the law for murdering a Queen that we didn’t actually murder. We had just confessed that to them because we felt they should know - he loved that idea - and I was concerned that any dissenters would blab it to the authorities (I’ve since learned followers don’t as a rule do stuff like that). His Druid/Arcane Trickster character had started the game having lost her memory, then later both her and her love interest had their memories of each other wiped away when the Druid/Arcane Trickster character tried to strongarm the local fairy queen into doing things the druid’s way and the memory wipe was the fairy queen’s way of saying, “I don’t think so.” He was playing the second fighter character when we had that fight, but his Druid/Trickster had obviously had firsthand experience with the wrong side of memory loss. My character had a particular way she wanted to use a memory charm that was far less invasive than what his character had experienced, and she just wanted to investigate to see if it could be done. (It turned out it couldn’t, so my character discarded the idea.). He got all up in my face over that. He would call himself passionate, and he is, but he’s also obnoxious as hell because of his need to control other people’s decisions instead of merely influencing influencing them. I tried to have a talk with him about the difference, but because that involves people skills, he of course pooh-poohed it.

And even with his leaving, he said he had attended church and his priest had been talking about ways we unintentionally injure other people and something I said in game that day connected the priest’s words with his and my relationship, and so he decided to leave. Personally I think learning to compromise will serve him much better over the long run, but there’s still morality in the choice to leave.

@HighLordNiteshade: Yep, same guy. What differences do you see between what I talked about in October and what I’m talking about here? I mean beyond the fact that then I was asking about ideas for setting boundaries in case I had to deal with him when my character as a solo player had to meet up with the main party to share news, and now I’m just asking for ideas on how he can channel his urges in a more constructive direction now that he’s dropping out of the game.

@Mark Hoover 330: I’ve not done any PF games that weren’t pbp, but do reach out when you get to that breaking point. I don’t generally check my Paizo PM, so let me PM you my email address and you can reach out that way. The highest level character I’ve ever played is level 9, so your level 10 game sounds like a good fit in terms of my experience level. I have a few other questions I’d want to ask before I definitely say I’m in, but I’ll put those in the PM as well.

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