Thursday, January 20, 2011

Discussion: How Do You Handle The Lone Wolf?

So, in the spirit of continuing with shorter posts this week, I figured I'd revitalize the 'Discussion' tag and get going with that. Today's topic, how do you handle the lone wolf?

Now, odds are most of us have been there. You're running the game, you got all your PCs together, the plot is moving forward, and then something happens. Now, it isn't a group issue, but someone - and let's be honest, it is usually the same person, or character, most of the time - suddenly decides that this "acting as a team" thing is for chumps, or that they're safer not with the rest of the group. Then, they run off on their own.

So, how do you handle it when that happens? Sure, there are some standards like giving less screen time, or trying to lead them back to the group, but sometimes even those don't work. I want to be careful and not go into the 'destructive' lone wolf - where they just start smashing things to get it to work - and keep this focused on just a lone wolf. Maybe they're still trying to go with the plot, maybe they are actually being in character and not trying to be disruptive. So how do you handle it?

In one game I was in, one character kept running or leaving when he thought the group's plan was just going to get us into danger. Each time he went off on his own, things got even worse for him, and it ended with the group having to save him while enacting their plan. Eventually he stopped leaving because, sure what we were going to do was stupid, but he'd just end up in the middle of it anyhow. At least with us, he wouldn't be starting off bound and naked in the dark.

In a game I ran, when the player put in the effort they would get pieces of the puzzle, only they were pieces that they'd need specific people in the group to solve/figure out/use, and that would lead them back tot he group. The group took it from there, providing help on the condition that the person stopped lone wolfing.

So, how do you do it? How have you done it? Do you just let it go? Or try to discourage it from the start?


  1. For me, when a character concept that suggests 'loner' is presented, I require that ties to the group be added to flesh things out. If the player does not get why, I will explain that we are playing the game as a group and it will be focused on the activities of the group. If the character desires to be off by himself, then they are the star of a different story... one I am not telling.

    If the player has the tendency to bail on the group at certain points, I tend to do what you mention above with a glossing over of what they did while gone, and a heavy editing of their re-entry point into the group story. If they are content with that... well, eventually I ask them what their next character will be, and if they want to continue having input into this well-developed NPC they have contributed.

    Not all lone wolf behaviour is bad, and some of it can be a huge asset to a game - particularly in conspiracies and counterplots, but the player has to make an effort to at least keep a veneer of a connection to the group and acknowledge that there is no solo in group.

  2. I have a player that tends to forget that he can work with the group. It's not like he's being argumentative and most times it's not because he thinks the group's plan is bad. He just figures that if he's off implementing a different plan, then there are two chances of getting to the goal.

    It's not like I try to be mean to him, actually in some instances I wasn't even GM but almost every time he leaves, his character gets killed. (one time he blew himself up accidentally).

    He eventually made the rule "Never leave the group". In the end he still has to remind himself out loud "Never leave the group."

    So I guess he handled himself? I don't know if that's any help.

  3. Sounds like he had an interesting time at least. Still, there is definitely something to be said about the added firepower 3-5 allies have with them. especially when it hits the fan.

  4. Kill the Lone Wolf.

    No, seriously. It is something that needs to happen once. The lone wolf character decides to go off into dangerous territory on his own, he should run into a full party encounter. Or Full Party Plus. Or Death Trap of Unimaginable Doom. He should die. And then you do not let him replace the character until the rest of the party returns to civilization officially.

    I put up with Lone Wolfism to a point in my party. I mean, I really understand the want and desire to have a stealth character, and it's hard to be stealthy when a lot of people are not. However, to lone wolf just because you don't want to be with others is just bad form in a group game.

    Going Lone Wolf at random times because you think it's 'too dangerous' to be part of a group? Someone needs to learn an object lesson in safety in numbers. In a manner that doesn't let him be rescued.

  5. I'll add to the "let the lone wolf die" chorus, but with a slight twist. I've also used the approach where the lone wolf's actions lead to the lone wolf getting captured or otherwise rendered a liability. The rest of the group then has to go on a side mission just to get the lone wolf back into the fold.

    In these situations, players tend to get rather annoyed with the lone wolf, and they make it clear that the game is about the group, not the individual.