Dealing with a DM who takes things too literally


There's an important aspect of this that's being ignored: The flavor description.

The italicized description of Frontline surge doesn't actually use the word "push" at all. For the GM to ignore the description of what the power does in-game and instead derives his descriptive understanding from a power's technical shorthand is ridiculous.

The power says that the opponent is "beat back", and I'm happy to let the OP and his GM argue about whether or not that's possible. But to skip past the Italics and make your call based on the word that WotC happened to choose for a specific effect is as silly as saying "The monster doesn't loose any hit points to your fireball because you burned him instead of hitting him with something."

It's really important to recognize that "push" is a mechanical term that means "cause to move away from you." It does not mean, literally, "put your shoulder against the target and shove."

That's why the above is so important. As arscott points out, this DM is making a call based on his narrative interpretation of the word "push." While power flavour text is not binding to the rules, it does illustrate that how the mechanical term can represent a range of narrative interpretations. That's what the OP's DM really ought to consider.

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First Post
One major point here, is that the dm has invalidated one of the player's options, without beforehand giving the player warning that the power would not work in such a fashion.

In older editions, this equates to telling a fighter that he can't attack a creature with his sword, or a thief cannot sneak attack someone even with a successful roll, simply because the dm decided so, with no beforehand warning that would let the players know such things would be houseruled. This was bad in those editions, and it is still bad.

Houserules should be applied before starting play, so the player can choose a different option if he doesn't like the change.

Combat in 4E is a competition between you and the DM where he can attempt to do anything he wants to against your PCs, but he still must follow the rules of the miniatures game before getting back to "roleplaying".

I disagree with this part. IMHO combat in any edition of D&D should never be viewed as a competition between the DM and the players. The DM should be a neutral referee in a conflict between the PC's and whatever challenge they are facing. D&D is not set up to be a competetive DM vs players type of game and twisting the rules to try and make it into one will get messy.

A DM trying to be actively "against" the players isn't a fair game unless the DM isn't permitted to make judgement calls, use anything outside the RAW and the players are well aware of all such rules. How boring.


First Post
I suggest you just sit down with your DM and try to explain to him the narrativist aproach. Heck you could just DM a 1 shot adventure( or just run a mock combat) and exploit all those narrative opportunities as an example to him.

If that doesn't work and you still want to play with him as a DM, just introduce ( or re-introduce) him to 3.5.


First Post
As 4E's combat system is strictly resolution, then the rules should be known and followed by everyone at the table. The DM isn't a "DM" in that instance. Once the minis hit the table and the game board is exposed the DM has no authority over how that narrative resolution game plays out.

That's not even true by the basic rules (e.g. DMG page 42), much less the advice given in the DMG. You're implying that stuff that isn't mechanically represented has no importance in the game, and that "The DM should pretend to be a robot" approach isn't supported by the text at all. Judgement calls are welcomed where relevant, they're just not required to get the system to work.

Besides, you can still fudge as much as you did in earlier editions, the biggest difference is that it doesn't let you hide that behind something else. Instead the book says "Fudge it if that'd work better for your group," by which they mean with their consent.
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First Post
Judgement calls are welcomed where relevant, they're just not required to get the system to work.

Yeah, Mike Mearls was saying some interesting things on RPGnet about how restoring the power of the DM's judgment call was a significant design goal. Hence things like p. 42.

Try checking out the game, howandwhy99. You don't want to rely on criticism from the previously biased; there are things that 4e could improve on, to be sure, but actual open-minded reading of the game might help you identify those points better. The fabricated points of contention don't help talk about the demands and discoveries of actual play.


First Post
I'm wondering how to deal with my DM. The issue I have with him is that he often takes the wording in conditions or effects far too literally and then raises issues that don't exist by the RAW.[...]
I think, I like your DM :)

Am I the only one who thinks it's paradoxical to complain about someone taking wording too literally and refusing to play using RAW at the same time? :)


In an effort to try and stop a derail, I'd like to remind folks that howandwhy99 uses a different definition of "roleplaying game" than you and I do. :)

Trust me - examining his definitions will not address the OP's concerns at all, and will end up with three or four pages of discussion about whether or not it's okay for a DM to adjust adventures on the fly and improvise when players do the unexpected. It'd be a great fork, though. :)



First Post
Am I the only one who thinks it's paradoxical to complain about someone taking wording too literally and refusing to play using RAW at the same time?


The trouble with the word "push" here is that if you take it too literally, you're not fully understanding the RAW. This is true of many game terms. Consider denying someone the ability to base his Will defense off Charisma, arguing that "charisma" does not imply "willpower." You can argue that from a literal standpoint, sure; consider charismatic celebrities who can't help cheating on their spouses. But that decision just out-and-out shafts sorcerers, bards, and all the other classes whose best attribute is Charisma yet who have no need for Wisdom. Basing Fort, Ref and Will on the best of two attributes in each pair lets players get more of the characters they want without losing any rules advantages.

Now, you can still make rulings like this, no question. (Hopefully you will give a player some advantage to his pushing power not given in the rules in return for taking one of the cool things he can do away from him, yes?) But it's never ever a bad thing to reexamine a tendency to be over-literal. You wouldn't want someone saying that your wizard can't get above a 10 AC because "Armor Class means armor", right?


First Post
Well no, because as I see it there are actually two games going on simultaneously during the average D&D game: The "game world" and the "metagame". The effect "push" is a metagame term, and doesn't necessarily imply a physical shove in the game world; it's a status condition. Same with immobilized; the term's context in D&D is a status effect and doesn't necessarily mean that you're paralyzed.

My DM is confusing the two and thinking that the metagame definition for something is also what happens in the game world (e.g. "You push your foe 1 square" => My dragonborn shoving someone backwards) when that's not always true. I think part of this comes from the fact that he only played 2nd edition and then skipped straight to 4th - as I recall the rules were more literal in the 2E days.

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