Dealing with problem players

The CANDID Model

The CANDID model is a way of dealing with difficult conversations in such a way as to meet the right objective without escalating tensions. You can use it with any difficult conversation you have, at the table, with your boss, with your significant other. Learn it, live it. These are the steps you should follow, in order.

  • Contain – Tell the person what you want to talk about. Set the stage and the boundaries. “I need to talk about the way you speak to other players, and the way you interact with me as a DM” Don’t deviate from this. If they try to stray from this line of conversation, accept it, perhaps come back to it but state firmly “That’s not what this conversation is about”. Keep bringing it back to the immediate issue.
  • Ask – Get the player to think about their actions.”How do you think your behaviour is? How do others see you?” This is really important because it gives you chance to back out if information comes to light that surprises you. As an example, he/she may have received some abuse/bullying from your other players first, or they may have been provoked. The player might be going through personal stuff at home. Some people are confrontational and selfish and there’s a real possibility that this person just doesn’t care but you owe it to yourself before wading in and being wrong. I mean, if he’s just lost a loved one and you don’t understand the context, you’re instantly the “asshole DM that kicked Dave out of the group after his Dad died”. It’s OK to stop the conversation here if new information comes to light.
  • Normalise – You need to understand that people act a certain way for a reason. “Look, it’s understandable that sometimes people get a little emotional/over-excited” or “Its normal to get frustrated when a new DM/player hasn’t put the preparation in”. You want that person to understand that these things happen, that this doesn’t make them a horrible human being, and it allows you to focus on resolving the issue. Remember, you’re trying to reduce confrontation because anger is a barrier to communication. He may not be a bad person, just a bad player.
  • Discuss – Talk through the situation. This might be the players first time hearing this. They may be totally unaware of the impact their actions are having and they may be mortified.
  • Incentivise/Impact – Let them know what the result of their actions are likely to be. Based on what you’ve heard in the conversation so far you get to make a call. Is this player gone, do they get a two week timeout, or it a final warning? Incentivise is “If you apologize and set this right. You can stay” Impact is “There’s no reconciliation here so I’m afraid I have no choice but to remove you from the group” or “if you carry on I’ll remove you from the group.
  • Disengage – This is really important and allows you to move past the conversation. If the player is being given another opportunity have a conversation about something else. Ask about his character. That way it’s done with. If you end the conversation without moving onto another subject, the next time you ask to speak to that player, they will immediately assume the disciplinary action is the topic of conversation. A simple “Did you see the <insert TV show> last night?” serves as a break so that your next conversation is a fresh start. If you’re removing the player, politely wish them the best. Let him know that your action is final but that you’re drawing a line here.

You can be passive aggressive. You can just tell them that you don’t have to explain. But then they don’t learn and neither do you. I’ve had players that have been a massive pain in the ass but, when you speak to that person and they understand the implications of their action, go on to be some of your best, and most supportive players.

And your other players will respect you for it. You’ll teach them the lesson that, if they step out of line, you’ll treat them with care.

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