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Biggest DM regret

Nevvur

Explorer
When I first started cutting my teeth on DMing 5e, I did it in Adventurer's League right when the system launched, weekly Expeditions at the FLGS for about 9 months. I had GM experience in 4e and other systems, studied the 5e texts before committing, and even now I recall the experience as generally positive. Met lots of new players and inducted dozens of them into the game. A couple of them are regulars at my table almost 5 years later.

There was one incident that sticks in my craw as the worst mistake I've ever made as a DM, however. A group of 4 high schoolers had arrived for this drop-in style of play. I'd had 3 older-aged regulars and 0 drop-ins before that, so it was a bit of shock. Still, 7 players = legal table, so I took it in stride and I feel like I handled it well.

On the last fight of the module, one of the brand new players landed a pretty hefty sneak attack against the boss with her rogue. DM fiat, this 'drew aggro' and his next attack would target her. It crit hit and maxed both damage dice, instant kill at level 1. During this particular phase of my DMing career, I was pretty anal about sticking to the rules and I rolled everything in the open, so I thought it would've felt squickier to retract than to confirm the kill.

The look of disappointment and confusion on her face haunts me to this day.

What's your biggest DM regret?
 
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Mycroft

Explorer
You didn't do anything wrong, but I can see how you would feel empathy for the crestfallen player. This is a tough one, do you go into fudging territory, and we know how those debates go...
 

Shiroiken

Explorer
Since this was AL, you did the correct thing. A DM running a non-AL game has a lot of lee-way with the rules and even "fudging" dice. At an AL event, however, the DM is expected to be a neutral arbiter of the game. The only thing you could have done is explain that unfortunately death is a possibility in the game, especially at lower levels.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
My biggest DM regret, not tossing the goobers aka problem beep due to social contract or just wanting to play.
 

AriochQ

Explorer
The 5e insta-kill rule is problematic at first level. It makes more sense at level 2 or higher, but at level 1 it breaks down and just becomes a bad rule. I would guess 80-90% of the time I have had an insta-kill due to massive damage, it is against a level 1 character. I don't believe that is how they intended the rule to function. The interaction of monster damage and character hit points is most disproportionate at level 1, making the insta-kill somewhat random at first level. Getting insta-killed by an ancient red dragon is one thing, getting insta-killed by an orc just seems wrong.
 

AriochQ

Explorer
The OP did not mention use of the death by massive damage variant.
"It crit hit and maxed both damage dice, instant kill at level 1."

See above. If it was a normal hit, the character would have been making death saving throws. Also, it is not a variant rule. It is a base rule listed in PHB.
 

Mycroft

Explorer
"It crit hit and maxed both damage dice, instant kill at level 1."

See above. If it was a normal hit, the character would have been making death saving throws. Also, it is not a variant rule. It is a base rule listed in PHB.
Ah, do you mean the rule where you die if you take enough damage to reach negative your hit point max?
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I hit basically the same scenario as the OP on my first AL game. I wouldn't do it again in a public game. I don't really care if "it's the rules" or not, in a public game you can't have a session 0 to discuss preferences on death and dying.

One hit dead is not fun for most people, we play the game for fun. So personally? I'd either just fudge the roll or ask the player what their preference was.
 

AriochQ

Explorer
Ah, do you mean the rule where you die if you take enough damage to reach negative your hit point max?
Correct. Adventurer's League follows RAW with no optional rules allowed (Although they sometimes include funky seasonal rule variants).
 

iserith

Adventurer
Biggest DM Regret:

Trying to run a given game as if it's some other game. A lot of DMs run every game they pick up the same way regardless of the rules or the game experience the rules intend to create. I see this a lot with experienced DMs and it was very apparent that I was doing this when I transitioned from D&D 3.5e to D&D 4e. Because the games were dissimilar in a lot of ways - yet my style as DM remained the same - the game experience was quite a rocky one at first.

At the time, I gave it some serious thought and decided that the best way to correct this was to forget what I knew about D&D 3.5e and everything I had learned about DMing since the AD&D 2e days and try to relearn everything, adding back old skills to my repertoire only if they were truly compatible with the new game. I would treat the new game as a separate and distinct game, not an "update" of the previous edition. I would examine every trick and tip I had picked up over the years to see if they still had value in the new game, discarding legacy thinking that didn't actively contribute to a better game experience.

It worked, immediate improvement was realized, and now when I learn a new game I follow the same process.
 

jaelis

Explorer
Literally my main regret as a DM is that I don't play enough. Like, I wish I put more effort into getting games organized.
 

Mycroft

Explorer
Correct. Adventurer's League follows RAW with no optional rules allowed (Although they sometimes include funky seasonal rule variants).
Gotcha, I thought you meant an actual insta-kill rule, like Death from Massive Damage. I have no problem with the standard drop at - HP Max rule, though for a wizard with a low Con, it's a bit rough (dying at -6).
 

billd91

Earl of Cornbread
Since this was AL, you did the correct thing. A DM running a non-AL game has a lot of lee-way with the rules and even "fudging" dice. At an AL event, however, the DM is expected to be a neutral arbiter of the game. The only thing you could have done is explain that unfortunately death is a possibility in the game, especially at lower levels.
Even in AL, the GM has some leeway. The GM's guidelines emphasizes the golden rule - make rulings and decisions to enhance the fun of the the adventure. Plus, there's always the unconsciousness rule - if you take a creature to 0 or below, you can always decide to KO instead of kill.

But the big question - did that player ever come back? Does the OP have any idea whether or not that player ever continued playing? If yes, then the player was resilient enough to shake it off and get back up with a new PC. If not or unknown, the OP will always have that nagging feeling, "Was it because of that kill?"
 

Nevvur

Explorer
Even in AL, the GM has some leeway. The GM's guidelines emphasizes the golden rule - make rulings and decisions to enhance the fun of the the adventure. Plus, there's always the unconsciousness rule - if you take a creature to 0 or below, you can always decide to KO instead of kill.

But the big question - did that player ever come back? Does the OP have any idea whether or not that player ever continued playing? If yes, then the player was resilient enough to shake it off and get back up with a new PC. If not or unknown, the OP will always have that nagging feeling, "Was it because of that kill?"
The killing blow was a ranged magic attack, so KO was not technically an option.

That player did not come back. The other three highschoolers did return for two more sessions at my table, and the week after that, one of them was running his own table! But I never saw the girl with them. I feel like I might've completely turned someone away from the hobby. That's the real source of my regret, but I'll admit I'm also neurotic and self-conscious. For all I know she had a great time and just started playing home games.
 
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Inchoroi

Explorer
My biggest regret for this current campaign is probably not allowing one of the players to play the homebrew that they wanted (after I fixed it, of course). I know they're not having as much fun as they could have, and is frustrated by the fact that they can't do the things they want to do; compounding this is the fact that I know I could have fixed all the issues with the homebrew and made it balanced and fun. But, I didn't want to. I wish I had, because, out of all the player's, this player is one that isn't having fun with the character they have. Lesson learned on that one. I'd rather fix the balance on something that a player's really passionate about than force them to play something that they're not going to have fun with.

I'm not sure I'd call this a regret, but I'm almost wishing I hadn't run the campaign that I did. On the one hand, it did get me a job writing for the game, but on the other hand it has been a metric :):):):)-ton of work, and I'm still not finished with it; I still have so much more to do, and so much more I could have done for things that have already passed. I think my feelings on this latter subject might be too complicated to be easily summarized as a "regret".
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I hit basically the same scenario as the OP on my first AL game. I wouldn't do it again in a public game. I don't really care if "it's the rules" or not, in a public game you can't have a session 0 to discuss preferences on death and dying.
Why not? Doesn't take long - 5 minutes tops to tell any new players "this is how things work: bad things, including death, can and likely will happen to your characters at some point(s); we go by the rules-as-written; and [any specific table social rules regarding e.g. interruptions, phones, snacks, etc.]." No discussion involved - take it or leave it.

One hit dead is not fun for most people
True, when they don't know it's coming - which makes that 5-minute intro all the more important; so they do know it's (maybe) coming and are thus not so taken aback if-when it does.

we play the game for fun. So personally? I'd either just fudge the roll or ask the player what their preference was.
In a home game you can do this. In organized play? Not sure if that's entirely kosher...
 

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