WISH #94: Obnoxious Characters

The WISH #94 question (Internet Archive):

How do you handle an obnoxious character who has habits that annoy other PCs? What do you do as a fellow player/GM? What has worked and not worked for you?

As other respondents to this particular WISH noted, we need to differentiate between obnoxious characters and obnoxious characters.

Obnoxious characters are fare less problematic than their player counterparts, and in my campaign, I think they’re largely self-regulating. Oh we’ve got a few truly obnoxious characters — Gnarth, an annoying gnome who loves practical jokes and often takes things to far (played by me), Malphas (the wily elf and master of the Blackrazor Guild who’s probably pissed of everyone in it at one point or another, usually through ill-placed area affect spells), Kalib (who is a strident Trithereonite cleric, and whose hard and fast rule against charm person has nearly caused the party to come to blows more than once) but while these characters may have intense personalities that can be infuriating, they also provide much of the friction that drives conflict in the campaign. And usually that’s a good thing.

Obnoxious players are far more problematic. Generally speaking, I’ve found that these players aren’t even aware how aggravating their behavior is to their fellow players, and seem bound and determined to fulfill the stereotypes of geeks as freaks incapable of picking up simple social cues.

When I’ve got a player who’s style is jarring with the rest of the party, I generally wait until that person leaves, and then discuss the problem with the rest of the party. We then determine what steps to take — have a sit-down with the player and explain the problem, work with them to alleviate annoying habits, or simply asking them to leave the group.

After one particular incident in our campaign, in which we tried to mentor a player for months, I’ve got to admit that my patience for this sort of thing has been greatly reduced. Our efforts failed miserably, and this player proved to be increasingly disruptive to the campaign. It would have been much better if I’d simply cut him loose early on, rather than letting the situation fester for weeks. Nowadays, I think I’d give an obnoxious player two or three games to get his act together before dropping the axe.