Side-Quests in TTRPGs (D&D 5e) - Advice Request

So a group of friends are playing a D&D campaign. One of the players, a Dwarven Warlock, has had to drop out due to work obligations.

However, before he did so, he requested that I shift the way he interacts with the group. He is struggling against a heavy dose of Quarterbacking… he really wants to tell everyone else what to do, how to do it, and where to do it, but he knows that nobody else wants that from him. As a result, he wasn’t having fun.

He asked if I could come up with some way that he can do a thing in parallel with the group that would allow him to still play, but not in the “traditional” RPG sense.

For context, he is a huge fan of things like Kerbel Space Program or any of those “build a factory” style games. He loves optimizing and designing systems to make things flow.

My initial thought was something like “Space Cadets” where I would assign a puzzle or task and every time Graham hit a milestone of some type he would bestow a bonus or boon of some type to the group. Basically have 3 levels of puzzle each session, let him work on those while the game was going on, and when the players asked him for help he could grant something if he had completed any of the puzzles at that time.

Second thought was to do something with a singular, more complicated task that he could play before the session and, if he managed to complete it I would feed him a few pieces of information or a spell or two or something that he could then share with the group later.

Since he’s bowed out (at least temporarily), this isn’t a pressing concern, but I also thought maybe minds greater than mine have already had this sort of idea?

Just looking for advice/thoughts, if anyone has any. Thanks!



You seem to be implying that the player would be doing his “thing” during play sessions, dividing his attention between the normal run of play and the puzzle. Is that correct?

Do you envisage the puzzle or whatever having any existence in the game world?


In narrative terms are you looking for a B plot for this player?


Not quite. The player (Graham) wouldn’t be playing his character (Mazkir) in the same way as the other players.

His initial suggestion was to become a patron of some sort for the other characters, assigning them missions “or something,” but he doesn’t want to be the storyteller. He just doesn’t want to be involved with the minutiae of the specific session. So, he wants to be part of the group (he still wants to hang out with us), he still wants to be involved “on some level,” but he doesn’t want to directly interact with the other PCs through the game.

I don’t know.
My initial thought was to use the “Professor Layton” games I own: pick 3 of different difficulties, and assign those to Graham to solve as Mazkir (the Warlock) sits in a room/castle somewhere and attempts to “unravel the threads of fate that bind the characters” (or something). Mazkir would channel magic/power to the group whenever Graham solves one of the puzzles.

But I’m not convinced that there isn’t a better way? There probably is.

No, not really? I’m looking for something Graham can do so that he can hang out and still “play” with us without him having to be a character, I guess? I think that’s the best I can explain it. He wants to play with us, but his urge to “fix” all of the other player’s games is strong, and he recognizes it, and so isn’t having fun struggling with that on his own.

Does that make sense?


You have a much kinder take on this than I would. To me, if a player doesn’t want his player character to interact with the other PCs then they’re asking to leave the game cos they aren’t taking part in it.
Do you understand where his frustration (is that the right word?) with the other players is coming from? Was his presence disruptive?


I think I get it. The player either knows the system better or just has his own ideas of the optimal way for the other players to act in the game, and seeing then act in a suboptimal way is frustrating him.

Still, I think I have to agree with @Hiro here, in thinking D&D may just be a poor fit for this player. Would it be possible for this player to hang out with everyone on days spent playing board games, and leave D&D to the other players?

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To be fair, there’s probably a GM out there would say I was that player too but the solution wasn’t finding me stuff to do that wasn’t directly part of the game, I left the game. I get that it can be frustrating, I know why that game was for me but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

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But not a co-operative game! :scream:


That is a very good way to describe it. Graham has almost as much experience with D&D as I do, but he’s much better with rules and systems than I am (for example, he was the one that pointed out that a Druid with the Goodberry spell can create 10 berries that heal 1 hit point each, and a Cleric with a particular focus gets +3 to all their healing meaning that each berry from a Druid/Cleric multiclass heals 4 HP… 40HP with a single 1st Level healing spell ain’t nothin’…).

We play remotely, and his partner is having a great time in the campaign. I think he wants to be involved because he likes us, but he’s struggling with the sub-optimal (in his consideration) way that everyone else plays the game.

Note: I am making an unfair judgement call here. I’m not saying that because the rest of us are playing a more narrative-focused game that this is a “sub-optimal” choice, or that players who don’t min/max systems are wrong (or vice versa that plays that do min/max systems are wrong). I think there is a style of RPG for everyone, but I have a strange situation where one player wants a different style but also doesn’t want anyone to change to his style but also doesn’t want to keep playing with the style that everyone else is enjoying.

It’s weird, I get it, but I figured that smarter minds than mine (hello everyone!) might have already encountered this sort of thing and maybe there is a really clever “Cover your ears and drum the back of your head with your fingers” solution that I have just never heard of.

I think the issue I have with this is the professor Layton stuff just seems to be busy work.

Here’s a question, is all your focus at this time going to be on the other players or can you devote some time to them?

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I want everyone to have fun, and I am absolutely willing to divide my attention as necessary to make it as fun as possible for everyone involved.

I think the rest of the group would be okay with some division as long as it doesn’t make the sessions drag. Basically, as long as whatever I’m/Graham is doing doesn’t make it drastically less fun for everyone else, it’s probably worth trying.

From my little experience in D&D, and a long time ago on other games, I think you could introduce his quarterbacking or metagaming by limiting it according to the narrative. Let me see if I can explain this.

The good thing about D&D or RPGs is that they allow for a lot of flexibility. He is a warlock, so why not design with him a sort of system where he gets visions or messages from his patron, but limited in numbers between short or long rests? So let’s call it Dark Scry or something similar. Let’s say it counts as a lvl 2 spell when he uses it (I don’t know what level he is at, but you are the DM, make it costly, but not too much). When he uses it, he can actually reveal to the group what his patron is thinking as the best way to proceed. It doesn’t even have to be an action, it could be a bonus action.

That way, he can use his knowledge, include it in the game, not lose his focus while solving a puzzle (although that is a great idea), and avoid overusing it (or overuse it and then run out of calls). And if he is so much into being superefficient, why did he create a dwarven warlock instead of half-elf or tiefling?? They have way better Charisma bonuses to start with.

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