Color me baffled.

I have a player who occasionally does totally random things. Now, I don’t mind players doing unexpected things. When they investigate or veer off into odd and obscure territory, I do my best to seed information or resources useful to the scenario in those directions, to reward engagement. My plans tend to be the back-up, and the information and NPCs I thought through ahead of the game are more of a safety net in case the players don’t go in unique and creative directions.

My last game session, I had a player who left the scenario for no reason I could detect. To me, this is highly unusual. I’m still trying to figure out what was going on there.

In the previous session, his monk character crept up on a camp on the moor, noting the presence of a handful of mercenaries and some women in a caravan. That’s where he was when the last session ended.

He was alone, only having had conversation with two of the other player characters. He had not sought out the others, the other PCs had not introduced him, and even when the two were discussing the mystery of the house he made a point of not listening.

So, returning to his solo excursion on the moor. He snuck up to the camp and watched for a while, then when everyone went to bed he used winter apples that were on hand and made friends with a horse. Then he put a blanket on its back and the harness on it, and stole the horse.

I don’t see any way to connect this to an investigation of the situation at the house. He was a wandering monk, and didn’t particularly want money or the horse. He compounded general disconnection with the game, with random crime that is a hanging offense. I just don’t get it.

He rode to the house, where the NPC stable groom told him he’d have to hide his horse in an outbuilding, not in the Lord’s stable. So he rode on to town, found a road leading away from the whole village, and took it.

I put two of the mercenaries guarding that road, because it was one of the few ways out of town. Maybe I wasn’t seeing his overall plan and he had a way to pull all this back into the scenario. He fought past them and escaped fair and square (not too tough for one of his talents.) So I let him go.

He spent the rest of the evening alternating between sitting at the table and sitting on the couch, watching. He expressed no displeasure at what was going on in the game, and no regret at leaving the scenario. I’m not sure what he thought was going to happen; did he think he was going to have fabulous solo play parallel to the whole rest of the group in his exciting journey to points far away?

I think we all would have been better off if he had just sent me an email; “Hey, I don’t feel like playing, so my monk sneaks away.” Then he could have played video games and gotten some extra sleep.

It’s sometimes frustrating when players don’t give you anything to work with. On the bright side, I think everybody else had fun. At least he didn’t try to wreck it for those who actually wanted to play the scenario.

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4 Responses to Color me baffled.

  1. I’ve been in a game with a similar player. Not quite that bad, but he was playing the only commissioned officer in our little military group. When we were given a mission, he got the absolute bare minimum of supplies to complete it, then half way there informed the driver that our APC would only have enough fuel to return to base if we turned back now.

    As the commanding officer, we had no choice but to go along with it. the GM was clearly trying to get everyone engaged, with a skirmish on our way back, but since we were in a heavy piece of armour, we were ordered to not return fire and just speed up past the threat.

    Now I think on it, I’ve seen the same player take some small pleasure in not doing what the meta game would have expected of him, all for reasons of ‘personal story’ role playing. In one game, not one I was in, but my GF ran it and told me all about it, the group had walked for weeks to enter a tournament, with adventures on the way, but the tournament being the crux of the plot. When they arrived, problem player said he didn’t need to enter the tournament, as he was only doing it to make money, money which he had already earned on the journey. He declined to travel back alone – the road was a dangerous place – and instead spent four game sessions spectating the contest that the other players were involved in.

  2. fictivite says:

    For some players, it does seem the rewards in the game are more important than the fun of playing (like the money for the tournament you mention.)

    A guest DM in our group for D&D years ago said wizards could make potions for free with stuff in the wizard’s guild (no money or xp cost). One of my players actually showed up for the evening, then said his character was going to be making potions to sell instead of going on the adventure. He took the time to haggle with the DM (who didn’t care) about how many he could make. We went on the adventure without him. He was delighted he was getting away with something.

  3. Karlen says:

    Shorty: So wait, she didn’t have a side adventure for that player or any interactions for them? Or was the player so much of a problem that they just wanted to spectate and let everything pass along as usual?

    I like when players do unexpected things too but there’s a point where they are derailing the fun for everyone else, and that’s not cool. So often I will spend more time with the other players who are wanting to advance the story and come back when I can to the problem player with some motivations to stay with the party. I mean, splitting the party is a PK offense….am I right? 😛

  4. Karlen says:

    Also, there’s a point where you as a DM need to actually halt play and ask them to cut it out. If they persist then you have every right to cut them out of the story based on their decision. In the case of the potion making wizard if he didn’t want to join the adventure after you talked to him then I would have just given him a large sum of gold and not included them in the rest of the story because they were too busy with shenanigans. Mostly cuz that’s rude when a guest DM is trying to give their story a legit chance.

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