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D&D General DM Authority

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Well, think about what you just said a bit.

If their is a social problem, it is the DM's problem. So, if a social problem comes up, a player by not being the DM, doesn't have the "role" of dealing with it.

That is where this idea of "social suppression" comes from. Because the player has this understood mentality that they are not supposed to get involved.

But, there is not a single real reason why a conflict at the table between two players has to be resolved by the DM. Anybody could handle that. But we default to the DM, because we think they have some extra weight or authority, whether or not they actually do.

That's putting the cart before the horse, assuming there is any "social suppression". I also disagree, groups can be dysfunctional for a lot of reasons including a player that dominates the game even though they aren't DMing.

I can only relay what I've seen. When there's a problem player there can be some feedback from other player but eventually it's up to the DM to deal with it. It's happened in games I've been involved with when I was just a player and when I was a DM. Without the DM there is no game, the DM can choose to not include the player in future games.

Ideally it would never get to that point, but then again if wishes were horses we'd probably be knee deep in horse crap.
 

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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Huh?

How is it not fair? I get no one wants conflict, but saying that everyone should be empowered to weigh in and feel like their voice matters to the discussion isn't a burden that is unfair to put on them.

That's not what I said or even close. As a DM if there is a problem player, I'm not going to make other people resolve the problem for me.
 

FrozenNorth

Adventurer
I personally don't think the book is a great teacher itself. However, I recognize the possibility that this is fine, because it could easily be that folks learning from the book is a rare occurrence. Online actual play, tutorials, and people bringing their friends in may be taking the teaching role, so that the book simply doesn't have to do that job.
To be fair, D&D has a separate resource to teach beginning players: the Beginner Box.

No defence for the DMG though, that book is terrible (who begins their DM focussed book with 2 chapters on planar cosmology? Something that could be entirely excised from the game without most people noticing?)
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
It's not the players' job to outright cheat - I'd never in my life promote that!

It is, however, clearly in their interests to advocate for rules favourable to the PCs and to seek out advantageous loopholes in the rules that already exist. It then falls to the DM to push back against that advocacy when it goes too far, and to close loopholes either before they're discovered or as soon afterwards as possible.
When I was running LFR game days, we had a group of players that would always want to sit together. We called them the "rules lawyer cheese weasels group" because they would exploit every nook, cranny and vague wording out there to their advantage. They also always chose to game with the DMs that didn't have as firm a grasp on the rules or that were easily bullied.

So to say that all players will always want or vote for balanced and fair rules is, IMHO, male cow poo. The other problem is that it only takes one or two players with that attitude to be the loudest voices at the table. If everyone including the DM likes this style of play there isn't a problem. Personally I would not and we've had other threads where people were on the verge of quitting DMing because of similar issues.
 

Campbell

Legend
The idea that you need a final arbiter in order is provably false because people roleplay without RPGs all the time. They also play games that lack GMs without major issues. The idea that without a GM our games would descend into chaos or unruly players would be able to "ruin" it is just provably false because people do this all the time without that happening. A group of people is just as able to deal with unruly behavior or address player behavior which is a hindrance to the experience.

There are a lot of reasons to pursue a more top down arrangement. Particularly for more exploration focused play. You just do not need it to have a functional game.
 

Campbell

Legend
It's not the players' job to outright cheat - I'd never in my life promote that!

It is, however, clearly in their interests to advocate for rules favourable to the PCs and to seek out advantageous loopholes in the rules that already exist. It then falls to the DM to push back against that advocacy when it goes too far, and to close loopholes either before they're discovered or as soon afterwards as possible.

I do not do this and would not play with people who did in any game. It's poor gamesmanship. It also does not require a GM to deal with. It's no less problematic in card games or board games and yet people find a way to deal with it.

From my perspective a lot of the stuff players try to get away with is similar to the rebellious outbursts of teenagers with strict parents. It's finding out where their barriers are.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
The idea that you need a final arbiter in order is provably false because people roleplay without RPGs all the time. They also play games that lack GMs without major issues. The idea that without a GM our games would descend into chaos or unruly players would be able to "ruin" it is just provably false because people do this all the time without that happening. A group of people is just as able to deal with unruly behavior or address player behavior which is a hindrance to the experience.

There are a lot of reasons to pursue a more top down arrangement. Particularly for more exploration focused play. You just do not need it to have a functional game.
I agree that a top-down arrangement isn’t needed to keep the game from descending into chaos. It’s just the way D&D is designed to work. As you say, such an arrangement is desirable for what you call “exploration focused play”, which from my understanding of what you use that term to mean is precisely the type of play D&D is designed to facilitate.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
The idea that you need a final arbiter in order is provably false because people roleplay without RPGs all the time. They also play games that lack GMs without major issues. The idea that without a GM our games would descend into chaos or unruly players would be able to "ruin" it is just provably false because people do this all the time without that happening. A group of people is just as able to deal with unruly behavior or address player behavior which is a hindrance to the experience.

There are a lot of reasons to pursue a more top down arrangement. Particularly for more exploration focused play. You just do not need it to have a functional game.
I also don't need a deck of cards to play monopoly. D&D can be very collaborative but it needs a lead storyteller that sets the stage, sets up challenges. Even if you resolve all rules disputes by vote there still has to be a DM that has a certain amount of authority.

I've never seen a game that the DM wasn't the owner of at least the current scenario and final rules referee. Have you? Or is this just hypothetical "I play with friends so there's never a single disagreement ever"?
 

Campbell

Legend
I also don't need a deck of cards to play monopoly. D&D can be very collaborative but it needs a lead storyteller that sets the stage, sets up challenges. Even if you resolve all rules disputes by vote there still has to be a DM that has a certain amount of authority.

I've never seen a game that the DM wasn't the owner of at least the current scenario and final rules referee. Have you? Or is this just hypothetical "I play with friends so there's never a single disagreement ever"?

Of course when we play D&D the GM has the specific authority over some areas such as framing the situation. I'm just saying that does not extend to generalized social authority or being completely unbound by social norms or the rules of the game.

Personally when I run roleplaying games I leave rule arbitration or the introduction of house rules as a group matter.

Also on the contrary I play mostly with friends so we disagree all the time. We just work it out.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Any advice on how to do that?

For me, I have a wiki type campaign documents in Obsidian Portal*. In it I have an intro page that describes what type and style of campaign I'm going to be running with a short intro story and a "current situation" and a link to the known timeline. I also have links to character creation guidelines and restrictions, other links include the pantheon of the region, maps and so on. It would take a while to read everything if people are interested so I do a quick "what I do" on the invite/intro post or email. If it's not clear that I value RP and story from everything, it should be.

But even with all of that, hundreds of words if not thousands I'm sure I don't communicate everything. How could I other than to stream some of my old games?

*Not the greatest site in the world, but I've been using it for a while now and transferring all my info would be painful.

Common language

I really wish pages 34-41 of the DMG (Playstyle and Type of Fantasy) were in the PHB

To me, one of the basic problems with D&D is that the community has grown so large and aged so much that we don't have common terms for the descriptions on worlds and campaigns. Well we don't use them.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Of course when we play D&D the GM has the specific authority over some areas such as framing the situation. I'm just saying that does not extend to generalized social authority or being completely unbound by social norms or the rules of the game.

Personally when I run roleplaying games I leave rule arbitration or the introduction of house rules as a group matter.

Also on the contrary I play mostly with friends so we disagree all the time. We just work it out.

I'm not even sure what "generalized social authority or being completely unbound by social norms" means other than "the DM doesn't have license to be an a**hole" or that they shouldn't tell the players what their PCs are thinking or doing. Well, duh. As far as the rules of the game, it's up to the DM to decide how to interpret rules. If it's not then it's the loudest voice in the room that wins, which in some cases from my experience will be someone who is trying to exploit every loophole, "creative" reading of the rules, doing everything they can to gain advantage. See my post about the "rules lawyer cheese weasels" table.

Personally I don't want rules discussions to disrupt the flow of the game any more than necessary. The DM makes a call to keep the game going and further discussion happens after the game. Sometimes there just is no consensus. If it works for your group that's great but I suspect it's the exception, not the rule. It's also something that generally happens the most with a new group, if you've been playing together long enough I would assume most issues have been hashed out already.

For house rules? Again, I discuss with the group and obviously I'll take their opinions into consideration.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I do not claim the DM has unilateral authority. The DM is the arbiter of the rules, and often the curator of the setting. D&D is also a group activity, and navigating it therefore requires consideration for the other participants. And yes, that means the players can collectively decide not to support a DM’s rulings or creative decisions. These statements do not contradict each other.

All what talk of the DM’s absolute authority? The only people I see claiming the DM has absolute authority are the anti-DM authority crowd.
@Chaosmancer is correct. There are a number of us that know that the DM has absolute authority. Those on our side also say, though, that the DM should not be a jerk about it and should if necessary, discuss things with the players before issuing the ruling.

I'm curious about the first paragraph. Should the group not support a ruling or creative decision, what other than remove themselves from his game can they do? If nothing, then the DM has absolute authority over the game.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
It's not the players' job to outright cheat - I'd never in my life promote that!

It is, however, clearly in their interests to advocate for rules favourable to the PCs and to seek out advantageous loopholes in the rules that already exist. It then falls to the DM to push back against that advocacy when it goes too far, and to close loopholes either before they're discovered or as soon afterwards as possible.
Meh. I'd rather play with people who are just there to enjoy the game. I'm not into an adversarial relationship like that.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I'm just saying that does not extend to generalized social authority or being completely unbound by social norms or the rules of the game.

So, just to be clear, it does not appear to me that Oofta is claiming any such authority. You seem, intentionally or not, to be arguing against a strawman, rather than what he's actually saying. How about you take a step back and not do that, hm? Thanks.
 

Campbell

Legend
I'm a member of a sort of club / extended friend group that consists of around 30 people. Almost all of us are either actively running games or have run games in the past. We play a variety of games, but mostly OSR and indie faire. There's a great deal of social equity because people do not feel bound to any particular setup. We can freely join and leave games without much social cost. I do not feel like we are super unusual. I mean none of us are shrinking violets. We have disagreements, but we just handle them socially. Everyone takes responsibility for the way the games they are in play.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Paladin player at my table argues that expending a spell slot does not count as it being gone as long as it's in the same turn, and that she should be able to use the same spell slot to use Divine Smite.
That's not a loophole. That's the player not knowing the rules.
 

G

Guest User

Guest
When I was running LFR game days, we had a group of players that would always want to sit together. We called them the "rules lawyer cheese weasels group" because they would exploit every nook, cranny and vague wording out there to their advantage. They also always chose to game with the DMs that didn't have as firm a grasp on the rules or that were easily bullied.
Play that occurs at Conventions, or other Public Tables, be it AL, the RPGA, or other similar entities is a fringe element of the limited slice of persons that play Roleplaying games.

Perhaps, something in the structure of Public Games facilitates disruptive play.
Perhaps, something in the structure of Private Games, dissuades disruptive play.

I assign very little probative value to personal anecdotes about A-holes on Discord Severs, or A-holes in AL, or A-holes in Living FR or Greyhawk.

Most games of D&D, past and present, are not public. Most participants in RPG games, past and present, were not involved in public games.

Crying out "What about Adventure League Games?!" is like the cry of
"What about the children?!" from the great satanism/suicide outcry of the 1980s.

It seemingly leads to proposing overreaching and authoritarian policies, in response to issues that are not well understood, and is 'fixing' a problem, most games, don't have.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I'm curious about the first paragraph. Should the group not support a ruling or creative decision, what other than remove themselves from his game can they do? If nothing, then the DM has absolute authority over the game.
If the whole group “removes themselves from the DM’s game,” what’s happening is that the DM is the one getting kicked out. He can tell himself they “removed themselves from his game” if it makes him feel better, but the fact of the matter is still that he refused to accommodate the group’s interests and they stopped playing with him because of it. Likely, one of them will step up to DM and the group will keep going without him.

If the people can vote out the authority figure, their authority is not absolute.

None of this changes the fact that the DM is the final arbiter when it comes to their game.
 

Alright, this thread has moved at friggin' light speed, so I'm only going to respond to people that quoted me for now. We'll see if I can keep up later.

What can I say? I've run games in the same campaign world for decades now. There are some restrictions and structures in place that I don't feel the need nor do I want to change.

Changing things would matter much.
That's kind of intended. Change requires adaptation. Adaptation is a vital DM skill. Players always provide a source of change, but becoming too comfortable with too many unchanged world elements seems a real risk for this style.

I don't feel as though I am twisting the example here, further than it's already twisted. It sounded to me in the original example as though there wasn't any conversation about it at all.
Considering "the DM failed to inform the player" was the point, I don't see how that's "twisted" at all. Literally the entire point was what to do when this sort of breakdown DOES happen. Because, despite the protests that no one here would do such a thing, I have seen it happen. Personally. DMs that think "like Lord of the Rings" means "gritty survival," or who say "inspired by Greek Myth" when they mean "inspired by Greek tragedy" specifically. And these were good DMs, mind--ones that were not acting in bad faith. They literally just didn't understand that what they meant by their seemingly-specific description, and what could be understood from it, could be pretty different.

Where in the example does it say they're the first three sessions? I'm making the not-unreasonable presumption these three sessions are sometime after the campaign has already started. If so, there are lots of things that can happen in a campaign that might shift it (probably temporarily, because we are talking D&D) in a less-fighty direction.
Perhaps it did not, but the overall tone of the thread has pretty specifically been about the start of games, and more importantly, if this DID happen for just some random 3-session interval, it is trivially obvious that the player is being petulant. When you have a choice between interpreting someone's intentionally hypothetical question in such a way that makes it interesting and not obvious to solve, or completely trivial and obvious, maybe don't take the trivial interpretation?

So, if this is the start of the campaign, I think Bob needs to talk to Alice about how things are going and how his character isn't getting any opportunities to shine. <snip> I think the best-case outcome here depends on the rest of the table and how long the campaign has been going. If the other players want more fighting, I think Alice should probably provide it (and should probably rethink her narrative). If the other players are happy with the campaign as it is, I think Bob really has two choices: leave the campaign, or--especially if the campaign is just getting started--adjust his expectations (and probably re-spec his character at least a little).
Does this mean Alice has some kind of responsibility toward Bob? Because that's kind of the point here, asking whether Bob is being reasonable to expect certain things from Alice because of her choice to take up the DM role. In particular with that last bit: can Bob expect Alice to accept him re-writing his character (at least mechanically, even if not narratively)?
Having a series whether novels, film or comic books set in the same world is pretty common. How many mods have been written for the Forgotten Realms over the years?
You may not be terribly surprised to hear that I don't have a particularly high view of the Forgotten Realms as a setting, and have been continuously frustrated with how fixated the community seems to be upon it.

As for the rest: Sure, but I see the whole series of books as one campaign. It's relatively rare to have more than, say, two or three completely distinct epic-length stories all set in one singular world that is so tightly defined that nothing unknown could lie beyond the horizon. Which was a key point from the previous thread; we're not just talking about a world, we're talking about an ultimately closed world where every location of relevance is already so well-defined that any new worldbuilding would break things, every culture is so fully-developed that the (player-side) discovery of a species they'd never heard of before would derail the world, and every history and horizon is so well-known (by the DM, at least) that it's not possible to add/remove/modify anything without severely damaging narrative consistency. Few authors ever define their worlds so thoroughly--even FR's authors, both at the module level and the novel level.

As far as running in the same campaign world, I have a tendency to run multi-year campaigns averaging at least a year or two. That and the stories we tell are different. The world changes because of PC's actions, the style of campaign changes based on player preferences and so on. It's a big world, the current campaign is set in the ashes of the ruins from the campaign before last, the last campaign was in a different region, when eventually this campaign wraps up we'll probably be somewhere completely different.
Sure, I grant that. I could potentially see squeezing ten years total out of the world I've got now (we're at about two years now, so two five-year games in total seems reasonable). But that's in part because so much of it has very light definition, such that going there or living there would be a new discovery for everyone, including me. But given how precisely, comprehensively, and interconnectedly you've explicitly said your world is, I just can't imagine there being enough things to fill 20+ years of gaming. I have a pretty active imagination, and I guarantee you I couldn't have imagined all the stuff to make even three years of playable game for the world I actually run.

Demand is a strong word.
Could not think of a lighter way to say "Hey buddy. You did not tell me that this campaign would barely have real fights."
I would have not put the word in all-caps, then, but fair. But "request" or "ask for" seems appropriate, or "challenge" if you wanted to emphasize the "pushing back against a perceived reversal" angle.

I'm not entirely sure what you are asking. I will say that authority figures can be questioned.
Well, the whole point of claiming that one's power is absolute is that you don't have to listen to any questions. That's literally the idea behind the divine right of kings and such. E.g. from Wikipedia: "Absolute monarchy[1][2] (or absolutism as doctrine) is a form of monarchy in which the monarch holds supreme autocratic authority, principally not being restricted by written laws, legislature, or customs.[3]" (All emphasis and links in original.) That seems like a pretty cut-and-dried statement that nothing limits the exercise of that authority, hence the mention of "customs" in addition to formal limits like laws and legislatures.

And as many rebellions the world over have proven, absolute authority is actually granted by the subjects of that authority. In RPG terms, all of the players can quit the game leaving the DM without players.
In general, it is understood that these rebellions have been proof that absolute power doesn't actually exist in the first place, not that it is given by anyone to anyone. (Because by being given, it can be taken away, and is thus not absolute.) Power that can be so revoked is not absolute.

I would posit that the player would speak up and tell the whole group that they want more combat. If the entire group is happy without combat, then the Barbarian player is again left with the original options of either making a new character or leaving the game.
Alright. What happens if the entire group is either (explicitly) ambivalent, or also combat-positive? Are there any valid expectations Bob might have of Alice? Does Alice have any responsibilities to Bob, or the group at large, because of their request?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
If the whole group “removes themselves from the DM’s game,” what’s happening is that the DM is the one getting kicked out.
Kicked out of what? The campaign and game, which the DM still has and controls, and can get more players for. They haven't removed him, they have quit.
He can tell himself they “removed themselves from his game” if it makes him feel better, but the fact of the matter is still that he refused to accommodate the group’s interests and they stopped playing with him because of it. Likely, one of them will step up to DM and the group will keep going without him.
It's not only not a fact, but it's flat out wrong. They cannot take the game with them. Even if one of them "continues" the game, they are in fact starting a new game under similar circumstances that will not play out in the same way.
 

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