*** Edited for mistakes
So, before I go into this story, I should describe myself. I got started playing DnD and other tabletop rpgs in college, and I was INSTANTLY hooked! The main thing I saw in these campaigns is that they were often times written to fit certain shows, games or any specific franchise. This ranged from Avatar the Last Airbender, to Men in Black, to Welcome the Nightvale. This is how I became the reference loving DM I am today. Often times my campaigns were either directly from a show or game, or they had several references to different things all over the place (stuff like Alien, Monster Hunter, Attack on Titan, Cube, Futurama, you name it!). That being said, I've had my fair share of creating or using homebrew mechanics in tandem with using an established system. I should also mention that while I do throw decent challenges at my players (for example, throwing 3 Red Slaads and 10 tadpoles in rough terrain at your level 3 players!), I am also a big softy and I love spoiling my players. I'm talking making brand new (and totally over powered) items, or even just allowing them to take a proficiency in some feat that isn't aligned with their class because it matches their back story. Just tell me what you want, and most of the time if it's reasonable I'll give it to you. The bottomline is that you're with me to have fun, so I'll make sure of it! BUT, that doesn't mean I'll let you push me around either! I learned that the hard way.
That brings me to the one guy that taught me how to have a shiny backbone, and not take crap from my players. This is the story of how this one guy that ruined a birthday one-shot planned just for me, as well as him killing a campaign with an intricately created homebrew system that I had been desperate to try out after months of writing it. Let's call this guy… Todd.
Todd was a friend of my other regular DnD buddies, but they certainly had their fair share of problems with him too. He was loud, and foul mouthed in such a way that it was obnoxious. Don't get me wrong, my friends and I curse all the time too, but not like HIM. And on top of that he was INCREDIBLY hostile and over bearing when playing games in general, not just DnD. He would often get mad in any game he was losing, and would start to whine, complain, and throw around harsh and DEFINITELY unwarranted insults towards the person that slighted him. Despite this, I considered him a friend and included him where I could in our DnD goings-on. Such was the first case with a birthday of mine.
I had asked one of my best friends to DM a one-shot for my birthday, and he agreed. I was so excited, because 1) he always comes up with THE BEST stories and encounters, and 2) I was going to try out the Druid class for the first time. I made the mistake of talking about these plans around Todd, who seemed excited and interested. This is when I stupidly invited him into the one-shot, much to eveyone else's horror. They later that day told me how bad of an idea it was to invite Todd, but I felt that we should give him the benefit of the doubt. HOLY GOD, HOW I WAS WRONG, because it all spiraled down from there.
I had everyone come over to my appartment, including Todd. That was my first mistake. Since it was my birthday we were going to make this a drunk DnD session. This mean that none of us were going to take it seriously. Unfortunately, Todd did.
We came up with these ridiculous level 10 characters that we loved, and I'll admit that at first Todd's character was actually pretty great as well. There was a Monk who was inside a rolling iron ball (think like a hamster in a hamster ball), but no one ever saw what was in the ball. We had an human ex-town guard turned wild magic Sorceror, who kept spouting nonsence. It was heavily implied he was let go from his guard job because of insanity, but we were too afraid to ask him. I was a wood elf Druid who carried about 30 small potted plants on my person in order to cast my spells, including a 4 foot tall potted shrub strapped onto my back who I claimed was my brother. (The DM allowed me to do this, as I soon learned much to our amusement that our one-shot would be on a ship in the middle of the ocean). Technically, I was the only healer of the party, although that's not the style of play I was intending to focus on. Most everyone was fine with this because it was a silly one-shot, except Todd who I would discover much later was not okay with it. Finally, Todd's character was a minotaur cowboy Barbarian. Of course his character was loud, boisterous, Southern and he made damned sure he was THE MAIN DPS of our group.
I can't remember everything about that game because of the booze, but ultimately I remember it was a fun time (sans Todd)! There were several encounters with seafolk, and we used our characters liberally with no holds back. It was AWESOME! That is, until Todd would take his turn. His character would get angry and challenge the other characters if one of them got a hit in that did more damage than his attacks. He would become a show off, and demanded that the DM decribe the kills in the most gore-filled ways. While in his turn he was able to hit 2-3 enemies because of his multi-attacks, this still wasn't enough. The casters would get wider ranges, hit more targets, and Todd would get even angrier. After each battle, he would spout off how great he was until no one would listen. We laughed it off, drank and enjoyed ourselves, but Todd seemed to be upset by the lack of attention. Along with this, Todd would interupt other players with his own terrible ideas, and tried to make himself the center of attention. When we didn't go with his ideas, he of course became even angrier.
Then came the final battle, which we were being swarmed and cornered on our ship by kobolds and seafolk. Everyone hid in barrels or behind other objects, but my character unfortunately wasn't fast enough to grab one of those hidding spaces before they were completely filled. This is when in my drunken haze, I made an honestly stupid yet hilarious idea. If I couldn't have a barrel or a spot behind our freight, then I'd hide in the shrub! My DM looked at me funny.
"The shrub is only 4 feet tall, and you're 5' 4" tall." He told me.
"Well, can't a shrub technically be a small tree?"
He thought for a moment, and answered, "Sure?"
That's when I announced my plan. I told him I would blow my 5th level spell slot to use Tree Stride, and hide in the trunk of my small tree! Granted, it wasn't how the spell was supposed to be used, but most everyone laughed at the idea. All except Todd who grumbled about how stupid it was. While I would have normally agreed with him in a normal campaign, this was a drunken one-shot, so ultimately no one was taking this seriously. My DM laughed and shrugged, allowing it because it was amusing.
Hilariously, my suprise attack out of the bush wasn't effective at all, but our party brushed it off and began combat! We were doing well for a bit, having a fun time until our rolls started to turn a little unlucky. The kobolds and seafolk were swarming us in growing numbers. The Monk, the Sorceror and myself took the most damage, starting to get below 15 hp from our original starting point of 60-80 hp. Meanwhile, Todd's character who started at about 95 hp was JUST starting to get through half of his hp into the 40s. Guess who complained the loudest?
This combat took almost 3 hours. At that point my buzz was starting to wear off, and I was quickly running out of spell slots. I used one of my last remaining spell slots to heal the group for about 10 hp, but that was all I could do. After another round of combat and taking some minuscule damage, Todd began to hassle me directly, yelling, "Why aren't you healing me?!" To which I told him I couldn't because I didn't have the spell slots for it. He got angry with me, and got passive agressive after that. Everyone else was worse off and not complaining, yet he continued to moan and wail about how he wasn't being healed. It was either, "OH, IF ONLY SOMEONE WOULD HEAL ME!" this or, "BOY, I'M TAKING SO MUCH DAMAGE!" that. At one point I started to quietly beg the DM for my 5th spell slot back, embarassingly saying that the Tree Stride was a bad idea. No one else spoke up at the awkward scene, but Todd of course roared once again about how it was the stupidest move he had ever heard of! While I do love my DM friend, he unfortunately didn't give me my spell slots back. At that point I mentally checked out on the game, and my DM noticed. I can't remember how it ended, but we ended up defeating all the enemies and sailing off into the distance for a birthday party. Todd was jovial and happy, while I sat there quiet and mortified over getting yelled at for wanting to joke around and have fun.
Outside of the actual session, Todd also did several things that just made us regret having him there. He was especially fouled mouthed that evening, which the neighbors on the other side of our very thin walls angrily let us know the next day. Along with that, he was getting way too close to my fiancé, invading his personal space by leaning over him, getting in his face, and scooting into him several times over the course of the night. He ALSO kept grabbing at my cat, who tried to get away from him. Todd wouldn't allow it, and I watched my cat drag her claws across the floor trying to find anything to grab onto just to prevent him from picking her up. My fiancé asked him to stop several times, but he just kept doing it. FINALLY, right before the session started, Todd went to the bathroom and came out IN PAJAMAS. No one was going to be spending the night at my appartment, so WHY WAS HE IN PAJAMAS?!?!
Needless to say, I learned the hard way that my friends had been right about it not being a good idea to include him. I should have learned that on that day, but unfortunately I didn't.
The next time I spoke with him was a week or two later. We happened to be in the same Discord lobby playing video games, and I had been in the middle pitching an idea for my next campaign to my friends when he joined in the voice chat. I was working on a Monster Hunter World themed game, one that I had spent months trying to write out a home brew system for. I wanted desperately to test it out, and figured who better to ask than my regular DnD buddies who were also DMs. Maybe I could get some feedback and pointers! In my system, you could build weapons with specific abilities, armor that gives you buffs and resistance, have a palico as a side kick, pick up items to craft potions and buffing items, the whole works from Monster Hunter! I had devised a smaller system from the DnD 5e system in which the players were supposed to pick one of 5 certain classes (no magic users), a certain weapon from the guide I was using, and one of only 4 races. I was SO PROUD of all the work I did to say the least! After pitching this idea, Todd of course spoke up about how he was interested, and told me he wanted to join. I should have told him no, but I didn't have the heart to. I gathered about 5 players in total, told everyone the rules, directed them to the step by step guide on how to build their characters, and after a little less than a month from then we had our first session!
For those who don't know about the mecanics of the Monster Hunter games, I'll briefly go over my plot and some rules that I set out for the players…
First, in regard to the plot, the players all had to start off as students ready to graduate from the Astera Monster Hunter Academy, their last objective to guide younger students in the field to show them the ropes of hunting. I told them this, and they all agreed.
Second, the players could build up their weapons and armor in specific ways by hunting specific monsters. For example, if you wanted resistance to paralysis for your armor, then you would request to hunt a monster called the Great Girros. In fact, I gave the players a list of lower tier monsters from the game that they could use as their first set of armor! Each armor either had 1-2 abilities and/or buffs that the player could get. For example, your armor could have provided faster speed, resistance to certain damage, increased elemental damage, etc. After each hunt, I would roll up what parts they got from carving up the monster, and give them plenty of resources for ALL PLAYERS to use as they wished in order to customize their armor and weapons. Their hunts were meant to inspire teamwork, so they all understood that resources were communal and they all had to do their fair share of work.
I thoroughly went over all the rules and guidelines, and it seemed as if everyone was in agreement. Or so I thought…
So the day arrives, and the first session begins. Everyone introduces their characters. I ask who wanted to go first, and of course Todd spoke up.
"My character's name is Norri! I have a wife and about 20 kids! I wield the mighty and powerful gun lance! And I'm basically a Scotsman, in that I only wear my kilt!"
I speak up, "Uhh, you don't want to wear your armor?"
"No! A man of my calliber doesn't need armor!"
"Okay," I said, "But you won't get the benefits of wearing the armor."
I sighed. After hearing him go off about how he should be able to wear what he wants, I caved and told him he could have the benefits and wear the kilt only. Despite winning and getting his way, he was still mad at me for trying to have him fit the narrative. He brushed it off, and continued with his intro.
"I'm a professor at Astera Academy! A professor on how to murder!!!!"
I thought he was joking, and laughed. "Haha, yea! You're a self appointed teacher on how to kill things!"
"NO! I'm an ACTUAL teacher!"
At this point I stepped in again to moderate. "Uhh, no. I explained that you're all starting out as students. You're all on the same level. No teachers."
He went into a fit hearing this, spatting at me about how it's not fair to limit his back story! How he should be able to make whatever character he wants! At this point I was getting uncomfortable, and one of the players (an absolute saint, and a great friend) spoke up to put him in his place. She told him that it was the DM's call, and that as a player he needed to respect that. The other players voiced their agreements, which of course made him as mad as a hornet. After that, I asked him nicely if he wanted to continue with his character intro. He agressively told me no, and played the quiet game for about 30 minutes or so after that. I shrugged it off, moved through the other character intros, and proceeded to start the session's plot. He only spoke up once during those 30 minutes, openly complaining to everyone about how he was supposed to be THE MAIN DPS when another player explained how her character was using a hammer as her weapon (a weapon that's honestly on par with the gun lance in the actual games).
He quieted down again, and the group began their quest by exploring the map I provided them. The Academy had given them a goal to hunt the Great Jagras to demostrate to the newer students that were shadowing the group. At this point Todd started to speak up again, and his character took a liking to one of the kids that seemed the most like him. He told me that his character gave the student a spare "baby's first gun lance" that he just so happened to have. I tried to laugh and say no, but this time he just blatantly ignored me.
"No, I'm still going to give them their first gun lance!"
I sighed, "You can't do that. You can't have more than one weapon on your person."
"No, I have 20 kids so it makes sense that I have an extra tiny gun lance! I give it to him!"
I took a moment to compose myself, sighed, and caved yet again. Anything to shut him up and just move on with the plot.
The party continued exploring, traversing rough terrain while tracking the monster. They come across a shallow river with mossy stones. Time to make a DEX check for rough terrain. Everyone makes it accept him. Nat 1.
I tell him that his character slipped and fell face first into the river, smacking his nose and taking 1D4 of damage. My players laughed, one of them making a comment that I honestly don't remember. Todd flew into a rage.
"SHUT THE F*** UP!!!" He yelled, followed by an awkward silence from everyone.
We moved on the best we could, trying to forget what just happened. That's when they finally found the Great Jagras, laying around with a bunch of the minor Jagrases. The players huddled, wanting to devise a plan to sneak up on the monster. Nope. Todd doesn't allow it. He proudly exclaims that he charges at the Great Jagras, much to the exasperation of the other players. So I start the initiative order. Unfortunately, Todd rolls low on the order, so he's one of the last players to go.
There is one Great Jagras, and about 10 minor Jagrases, and they quickly work together to designate who takes on which monsters. Not Todd though. He INSISTS that his character sets his sights on the Great Jagras. The combat goes fairly well, except for the very few times Todd doesn't hit the Great Jagras. His failed attacks often resulted in loud complaining, and demands that the others go faster so he can take his next turn. Admittedly, he did the most damage, but I was so sick of his complaining I modified the Great Jagras to have 20 less hp MID-COMBAT just so we could get the session over with. Todd of course gets the final blow to the monster, and he tells me to describe it in the most brutal way possible.
"As the Great Jagras makes one final roar, you take your gun lance and jab it right into his mouth. You fire off one blast, and-"
He interupts me, "NO NO NO! That's not what I do! I take my lance and I shove it through him all the way from his a****** to his mouth!!!"
Everyone was disgusted, but I was beyond done with him at that point. I just went along with it. Anything to make the session end earlier.
With the end of the session, I tried to cheerfully congratulate everyone on a successful hunt. I started to tell them what parts they carved from the monster, when Todd once again interupts.
"Uhh, no! I did most of the work! I'm taking the body home and stuffing it so that it can decorate my living room!"
I had had it, and told him no. It was a team effort, and that the main loot comes from the monster parts. Everyone deserved to share in the reward for their hard work. He argued against me, saying he deserved it more. But, I put my foot down and told him that this campaign wasn't going to be all about him. With that, he was done, and he hung up on all of us. With that final awkward note, the session ended and there with it the campaign. Todds attitude had killed the enthusiasm to play the game again. After spending a week torn up over what to do, I remorsefully made the decision to close the campaign and try again at some other point in time. I haven't touched it since then.
I tried to move past it the best I could, and remained cordial with Todd since he was also friends with other friends. However, the straw that broke the camels back happened about a week later.
I had been talking about my campaign with two friends, one of them being the DM who ran my birthday one-shot. After telling them what Todd did, the DM friend spoke up. Apparently, Todd had messaged him shortly after my session, apparently complaining about how bad of a DM I was. He told my DM friend that I wasn't letting him have his way with his backstory, that I chose terrible players that did nothing but laugh at him, and made him feel like he didn't do any of the hard work. My second friend spoke up as well, and this is where I turned LIVID. Todd complained to him DURING MY CAMPAIGN, immediately messaging my second friend when I wouldn't let him be a professor of murder.
With that, I cut ties with Todd, blocked him on social media and Discord, kicked him from any and all servers that he was on, and refused to speak with him again. Last I heard he was confused as to why I was mad, and then got mad himself and called me a b**** to my friends. My other friends slowly but surely stopped hanging around him, all coming to the conclusion that he just wasn't worth the trouble of having to deal with his complaining.
With this, I learned my lesson. I'm now able to watch for warning signs and act before it gets worse. I will say that dealing with Todd allowed me to become a much better DM with dealing with problematic players, so at least something good came out of it! Take this story as a warning, and watch out for players like Todd!