How to Resolve Conflict & Prevent a D&D Group Breakup
Conflict between players or between players and DM are bound to happen. When the players only know each other through role playing and are bound by that activity exclusively, mitigating problematic behaviors can be a little easier. When the players are bound by friendships outside of the game, which is often the case, things can get a little more emotional.
Knowing that problems can happen, it’s best to have a game plan. One way that can work well is to set up ground rules in advance. Let everybody talk about troubling behaviors that they don’t want to see. Set up rules that everyone agrees to and also establish consequences. Help others understand why something needs to be a rule. For instance, you might have a rule that states, “Unless there are extreme circumstances, no side adventures.” Then you might explain that side adventures divide the DM’s time and makes gameplay boring for those who are waiting. Roleplaying is always more fun when the group stays together.
Try to imagine as many troubling behaviors as you can and establish as group rules and consequences. Ground rules might not foresee every possible scenario, however. The flowchart below provides a step-by-step process to work through disagreements between all involved. Your group might even establish early on that this is the flowchart that you will use when people are getting upset with each other.
Even with a flow chart, mitigating issues between players and DMs can be tricky because, as mentioned, friendships can be on the line. Knowing in advance that issues will likely occur, however, is the best way to head them off. Whatever game you’re playing has rules and that’s what makes it work. Establishing rules for player and DM conduct can go a long way towards making your group work and keeping the main thing the main thing – which is having fun and excellent adventures!
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Here is a perfect example, from my own life, highlighting what can happen when conflict isn’t resolved in your D&D group:
Tom didn’t talk to us for months. It all seems pretty silly now, but at the time it felt pretty serious. How did our group of three friends become a group of two friends? Dungeons and Dragons. Roleplaying when at its best can offer the greatest time for friends to be together, use their imaginations, experience adventure, and eat lots of junk food. When it goes south, however, it can go really bad really fast.
You see, Tom didn’t even like Dungeons and Dragons, but Scott and I had been invited into a game with two of our older friends. Tom didn’t really want to play, but he also didn’t want to be left out. The guys we were joining ran great campaigns and took roleplaying very seriously. Three years their juniors, we felt honored to be invited. Scott and I were on our best behavior. Tom, not so much.
Bored by roleplaying, Tom spent most of his time joking around. He deliberately had his character do things that threw off the momentum of the game. During a conversation in a tavern with a disgraced duke incognito who wanted us to rescue his captured daughter, Tom said, “I get up, go behind the bar, and kick the bartender.” Bill, our DM, said, “Your character is a High Elf. He wouldn’t do that.” Tom laughed. “Yeah he would. He’s high!” What followed was a ridiculous bar fight and then Bill having to concoct some way for us to meet with the disgraced duke again.
Tom always behaved this way. He might play seriously for 40 minutes, but he would inevitably get bored and intentionally hijack the game. When we met with the duke again, Tom said, “I reach over and slap the duke across the face.” That was that. We all turned on him. Shouting ensued. Bill told him to get out, and we all backed Bill up. Crestfallen, Tom looked at Scott and me. He expected us to leave with him. We didn’t. We wanted to play. Eventually, many years later, I would stand in Tom’s wedding as the best man but, in the months that followed that D&D session, it didn’t seem like we would ever be friends again.
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