Roleplaying games are a cooperative storytelling experience. While one might argue this way and that about what each part of the definition “cooperative storytelling experience,” I think it’s worth discussing the “cooperative” part.

There are a lot of reasons why a player might “strike out on their own” in a game, whether it’s because they disagree with what the rest of the party or players are doing, maybe it’s because they’re bored — it could be a lot of things.

Sometimes the only way to get the party to move forward is to confront them with the possibility of “splitting up.” Sometimes the party does decide on a course of action however, and one player inexplicably chooses to remain behind.

This has happened again, and again in my current gaming group. I consistently have one player who decides on a course of action and strikes out on their own, however we aren’t talking about the same player each time — they rotate.

I think this is indicative of my players are missing the “cooperative” aspect of the game. Perhaps they lack leadership, which would help them see the alignment of their goals, or perhaps they don’t trust each other.

Whatever it is, I see that from one situation to another — the majority of the party will move forward and one player will remain behind (and vice versa).

It seems to me like it might be cruel, but should the answer to this be some kind of punishment? It seems like there are enough things to worry about, and it isn’t like the behavior is consistent to one player — it’s all of them. They might not even get the message, it might be a situation where each thinks “I never do that.”

For a time, I tried providing individual incentives and rewarding good behavior but it’s exhaustive to keep up in practice. Plus, I don’t always feel like the best judge.