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D&D General I need a D&D counseling session! Help! (Re: Update ("Argument-Stopping Protocols" -- please advise!))


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To our D&D community,

I am the so-named ‘problem player’ - here to offer support to this process.

I decided to make an attempt to make a contribution to this discussion. Are you surprised to find a post from me? I am the ‘problem player’ that my friend Dungeonosophy is at his wits end with. My friend and I have a very open process with each other, and he shared the link to this forum with me, with no comment of inviting me to join in or not, just mentioning that it had lots of views and posts. Reading it, I’m very happy to see the quality of responses to my friend’s thread here.

I have done my best to avoid unclear sentences and knit all these thoughts as essentially as I can. I have limited time again, and took hours already today to get this post to this level of organization. It is long, and covers the key areas I consider worthwhile. I apologize at the start for any mistakes, extra length or missed duplicates as I moved things around.


I’m interested to participate in the quality clarity this community offers.
If I am successful with this post, it would be an example of a good way for troubled friends to review and communicate their experiences with each other, and be witnessed and held accountable by a community of peers.

This post is long inside the spoiler button. But goes into detail.
If you are interested, then click just below here...
I would find it unproductive and uninteresting to anyone if I focused in any way to ‘defend myself’. It is clear to me that many depictions of me have inaccuracies, from my perspective. That is part of life. I know that many people might feel betrayed by a friend for such ‘airing of the dirty laundry’ and more especially from certain depictions that add derogatory elements against me. I am not interested in focusing on that. Rather, I see a person, like always (a compliment to him), who makes attempts to come to clarity, learn something new, and do the right thing; even if his way is an imperfect way. I don’t need him to be perfect. God knows I cannot be perfect. My imperfection, fair enough, is a very real aspect of all that he is struggling with. I will share some thoughts, with the hope also to invite more comments and participation, by giving more context and further thoughtful ideas about this situation. I have the hope the process will be more productive for the both of us, and offer something to the wider community, in looking at the factors that challenge even good friends, to game together. If I advocate in my direction, or share my side of things 1) it is because I am a representative of many others in a similar situation, and 2) because the questions my friend raises is based on real situations, and I can add clarity to the discussion by bringing in my perspective and experience. My experience can’t negate his experience. It is a co-building of a situation, as best we can, so we can look at it honestly and grow from that looking.

About me.
It will help fill in the picture for people to know a few key things. I’m 52. I have a 5 year old son. I am a 50/50 parent with my wife. We both work from home, and juggle the duties involved. In addition to that, for over 20 years I have had digestive issues that make exhaustion a very real part of my life, and this fact contributes to the Rule you read about being tired. Being tired is a fact. And it has consequences for others if it does. I cannot argue that, if he points it out as a problem, it is a problem. Like many areas of challenge between us, there is no easy answer. Yeah, I’m a parent, with limited time, limited physical resources. I am tired on Monday’s. I yawn at times outside of my control. I’m not perfect. The question is: Do you still want to get together even though it is compromising to you? This theme is the one we will see again and again, and each time, it asks each of us to be flexible and resilient, or to make the hard decision, enough is enough. That is fair and a fact. Anyone is free to say no, this doesn’t work for me. I’m grateful for the time we have had this past year. I hope for more, and I must recognize that he is giving me a message: he doesn’t feel he can repeat the past. I have to get clear about this fact too.

This next bit I will share is the essential part of the email I sent in reply to my friend’s email the other day with the new Table Rules.

I will say in brief:

1. I can support you to have autonomy at your table. In D&D style, it can be your world, your table, etc. Nothing to argue with there if that is how you want it.

2. I have already proven that it is hard for me to be a perfect player according to the rules you are presenting. It is clear to me that the majority of those table behavior rules are a direct response to experiences you have had with me that you don't want to have any more. I can say to this: I can work at being better, and as ideals for the game, the behavior you are asking for is positive, but you cannot expect me to be perfect. You can expect me to agree to work against all of my imperfections in these many areas you have detailed. But we both know where my tendencies lie, at least at the game table. Since perfection is not possible, we need to know what is too much for you, and if you decide to try it out with me, we will need to review after some actual play time and see if it works for you or not.

3. If you don't want the 'imperfect me' at your table, you might have to get clear about that and say you don't want to play with me anymore. That might be what you need to maintain the soul state you want to maintain. Each person can decide what they do not want to be exposed to, and set a boundary. I expect that I can accept that and not take it personally.

4. Based on your characterization of our last discussion of a feat, I am stating that we should not discuss D&D rules anymore, or anything like it. You can clarify your rules, and we should leave it at that. Shared world/game building is not possible if one experiences sharing of ideas as crazed wrangling. I don't understand completely how that happens to you, but it is clear enough that it doesn't work. I hope that I can hold my clarity about this. You will also need to help. In the case of the last discussion, you expressly asked for it. I did not bring it to you. I made the mistake to think more was invited than actual fact, because I enjoy the process of looking at rules building so much, and I enjoy being able to create something that I could actually play with. You have made it clear that your table is for your creativity. Now I am clear about that, and I expect we cannot repeat that experience again. For the future, I would like to be more clear about what is really being asked of me, and what not.

5. I would hope that I could adjust to the new process that you are asking for. I think I will have to stop contributing to teaching people at the table, or minimize extremely. Really, best to stop altogether. Because if I am engaged in living in those types of feelings, I am more likely to step on your toes. I need to be just a player among players. Not a co-creator. A spectator in your world. That may take some adjusting, but I think it is what is needed for this to work.


I loved D&D as a teenager.
I have reflected a lot on the situation. I played D&D at a teenager, in the early 80s. Red box basic, and later 1e books. I was blown away by the experience I had from this imaginative world. Even then, I wanted to experience so much of it, the classes, the races, the magic items. After playing for a time formally in a larger group, I played further with one friend, and yeah, we wanted to experience a vorpel sword, or big stats, and we had fun exploring that. Signs of my personal love for the experiences with magic items and all that were there early on. It is a longing I think for the wonders of magic, and spirit, and the way these different classes can do amazing things.

As an adult, I found it a question: What was all that when I was young? So when I was invited to play by my friend, I said yes. But I am not a kid anymore. I don’t have so much free time. For myself, I am not going to play a game for simple fun, I can’t do that with my ideals in life. But D&D offers so much, socially, as ways to develop friendships, engage with people and learn to be a better person, overcome unwanted tendencies, etc. And my friend and I entered D&D this time around with a view to game-building. We have looked at many retro-clones, minimalist rules, and much more, and have enjoyed a great deal looking the game mechanics and such. Because of this I felt our relationship was very much co-creators of a process. It was not, for me, meeting a DM and simply saying I would play D&D. The social aspect, and the personal growth were always in the forefront for me, and these things, as a co-creator, became a big part of why I chose to play regularly, and why I chose to play with this person, who is so different than me. It was never easy, and it has teaches me so much. If it comes to a crisis for either of us, then that needs to be dealt with, and so this process… so here we find ourselves…

And, I have made mistakes.
So now, a big mistake I make, though it is not intended, I bumble, forget, and bring things to my friend that does not show an understanding for where he is at, and what he needs. He came to some crisis recently, that I didn’t fully understand or see building, and then he came to me and developed some list of things he needed in order to be able to play again. I messed up. I did not manage to drop everything that I am inwardly working with and want to further develop with the game, and give him uncluttered time to sort himself out. We can observe together, this friend of mine is very proactive to sort himself out, and he tries to do it by forming things, forming situations he can work in. (hence the points, rules, etc.) And one technique he has attempted to used to avoid getting into wrangling with me was to opt for using RAW. Sadly, I could not meet those impulses as he hoped, and needed.

The dynamic that gets activated.
For me, RAW on the whole is fine, but I have such a strong wish to have freedom to work with any few problems I discover, and tweak the game in order to correct the problem, and also to experience the joy of game development, even in small bits. When my friend as DM then meets my enthusiasm, he feels a rub because he wants to have his RAW request honored, and he takes it hard/personally/upsetting if I come with some point that ends up being perceived as a challenge to his request. So what I am learning about myself is that I don’t want to give up the small bit of creativity I have wanted, and he doesn’t want me nagging him with what he experiences as my ‘complaints’ and satisfactions. Some of what rubs him comes from my enthusiasm and wishes for how I want to play the game, and some of what rubs him are my personal quirks and failings. In sum, the dynamic becomes a battle. And neither of us will win it this way.

So, the 2 fold problem, as I see them today.
This dynamic of wanting different things, and not being able to meet the enthusiasms of the other is the source of a lot of our problems.

The other source is a combination of my poor behavior and his tendency to take things I do personally in a way that he feels he needs me to stop in order to come to peace.

Feeling betrayed.
Unfortunately, and seriously, my friend expressed feeling betrayed. That is nothing I would want another to feel. The situation is a setup for disappointment for both of us. The situation of us being so different in what we are trying to achieve. He reaches for RAW as a way to stop our wrangling. But, oops, that puts me in a place to overcome so much in myself, against everything that I will lay out in this post that pours out of me with enthusiasm. And in retrospect, I wish I could catch myself before I play out my part. He has asked me for what he needs, and I blunder in with my enthusiasm without realizing what it means to him. I regret that many times over.

For the sake of the forum:
One-sided Rules creation: not ideal.

I learned something recently that relates here. My wife and I have seen a counselor at times, to great effect, and once we discussed how she came in one day with a full, finished schedule of how our week will now go. She thought she did us a favor, as she didn’t expect I would do it on my own. But the counselor said: No, that doesn’t work. He has to be a part of building it up. You can’t just bring it to him finished like that, it doesn’t work. With my wife too, when I read her schedule for the first time, I saw a few issues, and when I mentioned that something in her schedule didn’t works so well for me, she got angry. My friend and my wife are similar in many ways. Regardless, I trust the counselor is right in relation to my situation here with my friend; even though I was willing to do my best to go along with it, there are good reasons why it isn’t ideal.

His rules were created to solve one side of the problem only.
When my friend came to me with a list he made, of all he needed to go forward, he made all of that without my participation. And in review, unfortunately, it doesn’t include solving my problems too. Then he asked me if I could agree. Now, this wasn’t just, How about this? No big deal., it was, this is the only way I can go forward, what’s it going to be? How do I answer that? It is a situation of yes and go forward, and any kind of comment or no means no. So I say yes, because I have good will and I’d like very much to do as he asks. But there has been no process for us to see what his requests mean for us as a team. I found that when I questioned things, the response from him was to view me as a complainer, stamping on his enthusiasm. I can blame myself again for not finding a way to create the right conditions to talk about it. I should not expect a better response if I am not clear myself in what he needs and what the situation needs to communicate or for me to see if I could just meet his requests without comment.

And then naturally, time and circumstances move along, I find myself either failing to meet his request (not reading the PHB and DMG in a timely manner, because I really don’t have the time or the same motivation as he has for it now) or I find myself asking questions about what my current process with a few things I hope to tweak, what I find would work better for me, and I fall into the trap of him feeling let down, even betrayed, etc. I blunder. What can I say? It is not easy for either of us to navigate.

But for friends joining on the forum, I want to share something I think we can all benefit from considering: it is clear, for a group to work, one cannot one-sidedly create a ruleset and ask for agreement without a process; that is a recipe for disappointment and frustration. And I will say this: I would love to just say yes to everything he asks for, to be a hero for him. It is just that what he asks is a weak cork on my fountain of enthusiasm, which makes me appear very forgetful, not-understanding, and perhaps he would call me selfish. The self that cannot help but exert itself. What a mess. Sorry, pal. I don’t mean to be obtuse. The lesson is, to go forward, the agreement needs to work for both of us. I didn’t see it very clearly before.

Our D&D explorations have had lots of good times.
My friend is quite unusual in his capacities. His handle, Dungeonosophy is apt. He knows a huge amount of lore, history of D&D, about world building, Tolkein, RPG in general, just so much. So I discovered, not knowing much before, because I followed nothing of D&D for 30+years, that D&D had 5++++ editions, so many clones and such, I found myself loving the game-building big picture. And I wanted so much to have freedom to experience feats, and such, with creativity. I didn’t expect us to clash so often when I brought things forward. As you read below, you will see what I have come to see as the specific trap that we have fallen into.

D&D clones, love of home brew creativity.
Thanks to my friend I have discovered so many clones, like The Blue Hack, White Hack, Heroes and Monsters (perhaps my favorite mechanics), a few others too, and 13th Age looks very interesting too. So I love game-building. I printed these rules out, read them, reflected on how to build a game, the differences of OSR and modern balanced play, etc. Having license to explore this, even in a few choice feats, or cantrips would be a great joy for me. But it has not been welcomed under the conditions my DM friend envisions. I would call this situation, as seen from my position, as no place for what I want, because we already agreed to conditions he set up, and I didn’t know ahead of time how these dynamics would play out. Clash…

Below, I am going to share specifically the way that I ask for things from my DM friend. I will set up Spoiler drop downs for each section, so you can look at the topics you are interested in.

In reflection, my experience of what I ask for, what I wanted to bring with enthusiasm is routinely: rejected.

This could mean more than one thing.
1) we made agreements, and I don’t get it, I just keep breaking agreements. (yes, I now see.)
2) we made agreements that were bad for me, and we are learning the hard way that it doesn’t work. (yes)
3) We did not have foreknowledge to see that our approach won’t work. (yes)
4) Maybe, now that we see it more clearly, we can do something different. (hopefully)

Traps.

He mentioned it, so here is context. I did a lot of online research, and yes, I learned things that really rang true for me personally about traps in D&D, and I had high hopes to be able to explore them in play. I agreed with others writing articulately online, that traps can be tedious attrition, and I found that I would prefer, based on my own experience, to leave them out. My friend unfortunately treats me derogatorily on this matter, as if I am a silly fool. “It’s D&D.” Not for my sake, but for the sake of speaking of ideals that I would advocate, I do not advocate denigrating people for reading online and bringing ideas that they have enthusiasm for forward. I don’t agree that I need to read every word in the DMs guide before I can research a specific rule or gaming observation. I have found that research online (done with some depth) brings one to meet more than the rules from the DMG, but also errata, sage advice and forum discussions. So, whereas I can agree that knowing the rules in good, valuable, etc., I don’t join one to debase a person for researching online and coming with enthusiasm with a hope that one could bring a progressive idea into the game. Playing with traps, or not, is not a deal breaker for me, but I view it as unfortunate example of bad relations between us. Unproductive. Result of my request: No, and exasperation. Options?


Feats discussion. Crazed wrangling? Or creativity welcomed?

I am giving this as context to help our situation. I could drop it otherwise, but thought details will give people room to comment. - I enjoyed researching feats. I found a problem with the Shieldmaster Feat. People had played a long time using the shove with shield bonus action either before or after an attack action. I discovered that at one point that Jeremy Crawford did an unusual thing with this feat. He changed his ruling, and I believe it ended up in Sage Advice or Eratta or something, that shove could only come after an attack action. The sense of that whole thing bothered me. The feat was once great, then not so great. Further thinking and I felt - “ok, I see how powerful it is to shove before an attack, to have advantage on attacks after, it is very powerful. Yet it doesn’t make sense that it can only happen after. When I imagine having that skill, I expect to use the shove first.” So I tried my hand at a compromise. I wrote it poorly at first, but it the idea is this: If one attempts a shove before an attack, failure on the shove will bring disadvantage on the attacks that follow in that turn. I think I also included that the opponent would have advantage on their next attack as well. – The point was to balance the feat, to create a cost for failure to balance the big gain for success. This is only for a shove before an attack action, not a shove after an attack. My friend and I couldn’t come to terms on it. We are talking months ago. I felt that he would only accept an idea from me if someone else somewhere had already made a rule of it. I didn’t understand that take, and I wanted freedom to try it out myself, out of my own creativity. We never really resolved it, and when this new venture was proposed, my friend graciously (another compliment, he meant to find a way to satisfy me) called me and said he would consider including it as an existing homebrew. Then he read what I had written, and 3 things happened. 1) We could both see, it was not yet well written as I last left it. And my friend asked me, and I also saw that 2) There was a question whether other opponents nearby also got advantage on attacking, and 3) My friend raised a new question: what about falling prone? Well, he himself now opened up the discussion on the feat further. What a surprise. He wanted to actually look at it. He mentioned how 3e had more unpacked mechanics for failures etc. I said, well, I wouldn’t want falling prone to be automatic. It seemed to me that either it A) the shove succeeds, great you get advantage if they are prone and all your allies do to. B) you fail on the shove, but no cost, no disadvantage, which is how the feat works now. C) You fail with the disadvantage cost, and advantage to your opponent’s following attack. D) you critical fail and fall prone. - This makes sense to me as a way to be more detailed if one wants to include falling prone. I didn’t bring up the complexity of falling prone, he did. But I happily explored it with him. We didn’t come to a final, since I hadn’t thought of it through, and he wanted, as is a tendency I experience on his part, to solidify it, finish it, agree, and be done with it. I said, we don’t have experience with it yet. Why don’t we just set it up preliminarily, and we can play test it and see. – This would have been a first, to be able to really make a feat and play test it. We didn’t conclude it, and we talked longer than was good for him, and I had one thing more to share, and in the end, I think I have come to understand one more thing that pushed his buttons, as he said in the post, I think I see now, the dynamic is that he wants to finish something, set it in stone and move on, and I want to keep it fluid, and he feels despair, that it will never end. I suspect that openendedness may cause my friend anxiety. This is a new articulation for me. – I can tell you all, it was a surprise to me, to hear the next day that my participation in looking at that feat with him, he described as crazed wrangling. This is what I refer to in the email points I posted to him. – And a last detail on this: Even though he was upset with me, he did create a ruling for the Shieldmaster Feat, in his Table Rules, and it was very generous, in my estimation. And again it seems, by his forum posts, that he assumed he knew my response to his ruling on the feat, and expected me to be upset. I’m not, on the contrary. The ruling is simpler, and basically allowed the original way people used the feat. Why would I complain about that? It is true, it might be fun to playtest my disadvantage idea, but he made the feat playable and solved the problem, even if it is now more powerful than I was asking for. I think he assumes I crave power only. I also can feel when things are unbalanced, and that tempers me. My asks are often treated by him as wanting him to open the candy store (his kind of term, details follow later), and I find that misdirected and unproductive. If I am correct at what I think I see, I ask: How much of my friend’s hard time is due to imagined or exaggerated interpretations? I’ve found many cases where he was upset to include misunderstandings. I am not immune to making similar mistakes, I ask no one to mistake me as pointing a harsh finger. This observation seems a material component to my friend’s level of despair. If others see it similarly, say so, or otherwise.

[Another wish of mine. Too much? Welcome?

I want to share another example of the kind of ask I present to my friend when he is DMing. I have not asked this one of him yet, but it is clear and fresh in my mind, and I welcome people on the forum to comment how they would feel if a player of my age and interests asked what I am going to propose here. - I recently reviewed a Druid guide online, very comprehensive, going through all the spells, feats, races. Pretty well done. It pointed out something I had never notice. 2 of my favorite cantrips, Shillelagh and Magic Stone were both not-recommended cantrips. Weird, I thought. I love them both. Then I looked at what was said, and carefully reviewed the spells. Contrary to most damage dealing cantrips I know, these do not level up more damage as the class level progresses. That seems strange to me. Thorn Whip’s damage levels up, Produce Flame’s damage levels up, Infestation’s damage levels up. How many others. Cantrips as a general rule seem to level up damage. So, for folks to understand directly how I approach my DM, I feel that somehow these 2 damage dealing spells were left out of more typical 5e cantrip mechanics, and I would simply like to tweak them to follow their fellows. This solves the problem that cause them to fall off a recommendation list, and bring them up to making sense and usefulness at level 4, and beyond. I don’t perceive this request as being power-hungry on my part. It seems the natural thing to do, to address what the guide writer rightly recognizes makes it fail to compare to other cantrips. And I have the interest to do it specifically, because the spells are super cool in my estimation. They were some of my favorites.

I invite the community to comment. Would you feel put out to be asked to give a player latitude to explore, experiment and correct the failings he/she perceives in the game. I think it would be appreciated to hear what various DMs feel in response to what I typically like to ask for.

Is one deplorable because they are emotionally affected by a game?

My friend seemed bothered by the fact that I am affected by the game. He mentioned me having nightmares, etc. Here is context: When I had a TPK in Cragmaw Castle, that was a totally new experience for me. I was not just ‘testing my DM’ in some vile way, (I’m sorry to learn that my comment came across so horribly to him, I don’t feel his presentation on the forum meets what it was from my side – more undo suffering? Lack of real understanding? I think so. Unfortunate. All too common.) To be more clear: I was testing the whole game experience, and more. That situation went to TPK because I also struggled to run away and leave some few of my 6 characters dead. I was frozen in a process. It was this situation and a few similar ones that caused me to actually lose sleep. My friend remembers me having nightmares, probably so, but it was more the fitful way a game experience can grip a soul. It was rough, terrible really. I couldn’t sleep for hours and I kept running over the situation again and again. I wonder how many others have had game nights that gripped them for a time. It was the total negative side to the wonderful positive side of fantasy RPG. And I found that experience very difficult to manage for a few days. I had to shift my approach to the game to go on. It was happening to me at one period pretty regularly, then I found a way to stop it, I guess. I would not advocate getting upset with others about that. – Because it is a real question the situation calls for: Am I also deplorable? Who imagines they would want to get away from a player like myself? Who relates to my experiences?

Serenity in play, can we maintain it?

Angry at dice rolls. Yeah, it happens to me. Sometimes. A problem player. Ok. How bad? Each must decide their limits of tolerance when a sore loser takes over the body of our friends.

My friend hasn’t mentioned yet on the forum, but I remember that he played D&D very young with his brothers. I wonder now what effect his brothers had in him developing his attitude with characters dying, etc. He really can play it easy if his characters are in trouble, doesn’t complain about rolls of dice. It’s impressive. Maybe the dynamics with his brothers played a part, maybe they didn’t allow him to act out, maybe he is just naturally able to do what I can’t do? He has something there. I don’t. - I can say, I wish I was more happy-go-lucky with playing games. My friend complains fundamentally about my attitude, and I cannot argue with the fact that I get very stressed in games when I am harrowed with unknowns, potential losing characters, and yes, I have a very hard time with his occassional unnaturally punishing dice rolls against me. (I say this with lightness: He can ‘not believe in luck’, fine, but you should see his rolls at times. It defies statistics. Not always, but what is that? ) So, eating more crow; at my worst, I get quite visibly upset, comment, complain, and suffer more than I show. It is not fun for me, it’s not fun for my friends, and it is not something I have any easy control of, and I am sure I am not alone. And, yes, because of this, my wife does not enjoy my moments. But they are moments, too many moments if you don’t want it at all, but I am working on it. This is a failing of mine. It is my job to work against my weaknesses here. I also have to admit, it’s not good. I would not argue against anyone who decided they didn’t want to deal with it. Lastly, I do wish you all could be a fly on the wall. Then this could be observed in fact and magnitude, and not only on the magnitude of my friend’s current distress about it. So I ask myself: How much can I change and how much will others tolerate? I feel like I am making progress. If it isn’t enough, it is only 1 piece of a puzzle, but one squarely on my shoulders. Sorry pal. Seriously. My bad.

Taking things personally.

There is another side to the angry player, complaining about dice rolls, about modules with generic magical weapons that don’t meet the players where they are at, etc. That other side is to take it personally when a player acts out badly. My friend says he does not believe in luck in rolling. So, if I complain about rolling, I’m a bit nuts, according to his convictions, so why get personally flustered by a nuts player? I am advocating here for not taking the bad behavior of others personally, so much as is possible, and definitely as an ideal, because in the end, a person’s own freedom and peace of mind is at stake. If we leave it that others unsettle us, then the solution is to fix the other, stop the other, rule out the other acting out. That is one way to work with life’s challenging soul states, but I can’t recommend it as desirable and effective long-term. I hold myself to this as best I can. Otherwise I could not engage in this forum with peace of mind, because many of the things said about me, in this forum and in other emails, don’t conform to my sense of truth, right, or kindness. And I got hot about it initially. And I let it go, again and again. If I do that, I can see what my friend is asking for that is right. And there is rightness to asking me to control myself and not grumble and all that too. So I am an advocate for understanding both side of this unfortunate situation, both ways of working for the highest ideals.

Why ask for special dispensations? Character death.

Now, regarding dealing with character death: I will advocate for something here. Being a parent, aged 52, and with limited physical resources and limited time available, I really don’ have much time for gaming. My wife is not thrilled that I do it at all. Some of you may understand me on this. People coming into the house, crossing her living room to get to the bathroom, and I’m ‘playing a game’. I’m lucky I can do it at all at my house. And with a kid, going outside my house would cost me time. I don’t have time to fool around. Regarding my characters dying, I had invested a lot in those characters, so when it was a question of not accepting their death, to keep working with them, a total of 6 basically 4th level characters, or building a whole new crew, is this: I simply don’t have time or resources to invest in making new characters, and based on what I am trying to experience with the game, I didn’t want to lose what I had invested in these characters, specifically the abilities, and all the spell, fighting styles, etc., and I was not finished with that process. What would making new characters amount to: changing the name, the stats, and trying to rebuild the same construct? As an adult where I have to make serious decisions about my time, energy, and investment, I would stand up and support a player who says: I don’t want to throw my real life time away just because that is the usual rule to deal with it. It is not childishness. It is practical. Here is the ideal I advocate for: I am there to play a game and have it serve the players. We do not serve the game. If my DM feels he lost his autonomy or rule to me by allowing my players to continue and not accept death, then I see this: he is creating a situation where one of us has to be a loser, him or me. I don’t support that kind of DMing, not as an ideal, as much as it can be avoided. It’s a game. And I can barely afford the time and space to play. If rules break one’s game, then it is no help. Honestly, I don’t know why he cared at all. What do I care if someone wants to keep a character they love. Yeah, it could get weird, if it happened a lot. In this particular case, I didn’t think it was weird or a big deal. It also taught me something, and as a player, I am now much more conservative than my friend about characters I have a lot invested in, since I know it is my responsibility to not let them die. Even though he offered me to game with no chance of death, he didn’t realize that I experienced that as heavy handed as a solution. I didn’t ask for no risk of death, I asked for treating that specific TPK as a learning experience. Now, I am careful not to let them die. He shares in the forum that some of his died. True enough. But, we don’t play the same. And he expressly told me he doesn’t care if they die, in great detail, so when I DM for him, possible death is a situation he is asking for, in my read. Why would I give him an experience different than he wants? So, if he presents it in a forum like a badge that only his characters have died, I can’t go along with that very far. I feel that if he understood me better, he would perhaps thank me, rather than congratulate himself. I had to overcome myself to let his characters die. It wasn’t pleasant for me. I did it to be true to the game he wants to play. To be clear, I am able to play a game too, where my character could die. It would just be a lot harder for me than for my friend, granted, especially if I was heavily invested in my character. But based on my time and other constraints, avoiding character death serves my game more, in my estimation.

So here I believe we are observing that it is too easy not to see another person. And that there is a matter of different expectations of what is allowed in the game. I didn’t know ahead of time that losing my whole party or half of it could be like that. If I had a different life/parenting circumstance, I would perhaps have let it go. But why, in this case, should I let the game dictate, if practicality of real life can’t support that detail. So I say this here in support of people confronted with a similar situation: Are we more interested in the rules of the game, or supporting people in their lives to be able to get the most out of the limited time they have? - What do we care whether players are willing to let go of their characters when they make a major mistake, or not? Are there extreme circumstances that puts others out if the death rule seems too much of a consequence? How many video games let you continue where you are, and not start over? Sometimes there is good reason to be 100% true to the game. But, if it is a matter of sorting life out, let the game bend. Otherwise, we are back to the same thing: Our unbending self can break the possibility of playing together at all. I vote for making it possible to play by being flexible to people’s needs. And I support people who chose to hold the line and stop playing.

Switching cantrips, feats, similar asks. A game breaker? A nudge?

My DM gets upset if I come and say: When I originally built this class for the 1st time I didn’t know about this spell, cantrip, feat, etc. Now, I realize I want to change it. – My context on this: Similarly, in the same vein as above, friends, I don’t have all the time in the world. I’m an advocate of flexibility for the sake of life over the game rules. I can’t play every scenario out to an end before I move along to something that will help me learn the game better, and experience it widely. I am not in it to play out every bit of minutia, I can’t. So I am grateful if I get support to move along in a way that let’s me meet my personal gaming goals, and not be forced to conform to rules that make sense in a different circumstance, but not in mine. This is how I really feel about my time and what I can say yes to. If I want to experience a different cantrip, feat, etc., then I either have a DM that can make it possible for me to get what I want from the game, or not. Life is too short for little boxes and locked doors, says I. We have plenty of those outside our control. Where I live, I don’t know of another DM to find. So I repeat the ideal: I advocate to let players get the most out of the game, so long as it doesn’t break the game for others.

And practically, the more closely I look at these many situations that can be difficult, I find myself wanting to gain the capacity of my personal flexibility, so that life and people can evolve, and do not have to conform to my personal preferences. Does my DM need to hold every rule RAW in order to evolve? My experience of Dming says no. As a DM myself, I’d rather serve my players. I draw the line for other things, like my friend included in his rules: No drugs, alcohol. I prefer no cursing. I’m a fan of fantasy without gore. We are on the same page on so many of these things, so far as I know. There are times where rules are needed, no doubt. I could imagine a group well established that could be destabilized by a player coming in and wanting/needing something like I express here and it not fitting to an existing gaming environment. That is not us. We are 2 guys in their 40s/50s, even if we invite a group of younger folks to join us, we are carrying the group and trying to play some D&D. So here I am, and I would love to have some freedom to evolve these kinds of details in my own experience. And, I vote for seeking peace of mind to not let the imperfections of others prevent us from hearing what they need from us.

So, I could agree to RAW as a general rule. But the game would open up for me if I have freedom to evolve areas that don’t make full sense.

Another bit of gratitude: Now, on the cantrip switch question, my friend found another way to be magnanimous towards me, in his own way. He said he found a place, was it Adventure League, were it was generally accepted that up to 4th level characters could be reworked. It is heartwarming to me to know that people give themselves the freedom to grow and change as they learn, and so, at least up to 4th level I can overhaul as needed. That is a big gift for me in the game. To give my personal perspective; if I were DM, you can perhaps guess that I would outright reserve the right to allow changes based on life circumstances and a person’s needs in balance with the group, rather than a generic rule and number. But my friend came through for me again here.

Give a feat instead of treasure.

Yeah, I did it, and glad I did; I watched Dungeon Dudes, and they can be quite articulate and creative in a way I respect, and they gave me 2 ideas that struck me as just great. 1) Give a feat instead of treasure; which I see makes the story a way for characters to gain meaningful attributes, and not just from the ‘mechanics’ of leveling. 2) Thaumatergy cantrip for Clerics, Druidcraft cantrip for Druid, etc., the Dudes suggested that a DM can just give these cantrips to a character as part of its class, because people will often pass them by in favor of attack or powerful cantrips, and the DDudes recognize that these minor illusions and powers can add a lot to the social, roll play and creativity at the table, and that, in my opinion, is brilliant, and recognizes the heart of learning to play D&D. Especially, it helps a person like myself who would have difficulty passing on a key cantrip, and still makes it possible to learn the creativity that these cantrips offer. By suggesting this, am I power-gaming in a way to break the game? I don’t think so. And if you compare cantrips in 5e to old school play without them, already our modern D&D is full of powers.

I find it difficult to find actual fault in my request. I find this situation is one of a DM wanting absolutes, in this case RAW only, for reasons of their own, willing to disregard other players. I believe I see in these interactions the sad fact that he experiences his disappointment as valid and lamentable, but does not see my disappointment as the same. I think he puts me in a category: greedy power gamer who won’t stop. Is that your experience of what I am asking for? Other thoughts?

Looking at these things helps me clarify a few things. 1) I know how I would want to be treated, and 2) I would like to treat others that way. Perhaps understanding and help from the community will open up new possibilities for us. Otherwise, I am ok taking responsibility for what I am asking for as legitimate. I don’t get that reflection yet from my co-game creator. And perhaps it is a place where I may chose to say no to playing if we don’t find common ground here.

D&D art, The Black Hat, clarified.

My friend misunderstands me, I think, regarding The Black Hack. I actually really like most of that game in the mechanics, as it is really well built. I don’t like that kind of art, and he is wrong to suggest in a derogatory way that I only like ‘spiritual’ art, not true; essential here, I like the old, non-gore, non-horror D&D art. I have a 5 year old now, and a sense for these things has developed in my life that tells me: regardless of public opinion or mainstream habit, D&D 5e art is not suitable for young people, and I don’t want to fill myself with those images either. Some people may not like to hear that, but I stand by it. Tolkien also understood fantasy, in that he did not get so explicit on the gore, etc. It is not essential to storytelling. And today we find people filling out the details, and that leads us to horror very quickly. I would direct people to develop their finer senses in this direction, and not accept as healthy, entertainment so full of violence and horror as we see in film, books, etc. The images that pass for the public, in my experience, I strongly do not want my little child to see. The New Mutants movie poster; what a disappointment, lack of discernment, in my experience. People are creating a world (the real world we walk around in) that crowds away spaces for children, and fills restaurants and social places with screens, images and so much adult content that young children would be far better free from experiencing. That is my discernment on the matter, and it is this ideal that guides me. So from that perspective, the images and the critical fail mechanics in The Black Hack were not an interest to me. But contrary to the way my friend characterizes my relationship to Black Hack, I have a copy of that Hack printed out, without the pictures, and I spent a lot of time dreaming into it. How my friend experienced my response to him, seems more a matter for his own inner life, but I am not fully clear why I am again called out for dashing his best intentions. - The best I can do with this is: I can look at it and say, it is an another area where I could grow in my awareness of and be considerate of his feelings. That is an ideal I can work towards. It is clear that a big part of his problem with me is that he doesn’t get the response from me he could work with. It’s unfortunate. I would like to do better with this.

Treating my requests as inappropriate.

A recent email, he said this: regarding … times when I'm stating my perspective, especially when it runs counter to just opening up the candy store to whatever you wish. Apparently you're often not able to listen to statements without ill-feelings arising. I'm not here to coddle and please that impulse. - I include this recent quote to clarify something. If I express that the game in some fashion is not meeting me directly, that it is overly generic, for example to run a module where generic magic items are to be found, like a +1 long sword, with no provisions instructing the DM to consider the actual players there, that some players really would love to have a magic item, and they use a short sword, a rapier, dagger, or anything other than a +1 long sword, am I really asking my DM to open up the candy store? If a DM takes a position that a player just shows bad taste, is greedy, can’t get enough, then the attitude can come: I’m not going to coddle that impulse. There is a sharp edge to that. When I am met with that sharp edge, I don’t like it. Yes I have ill feelings in the moment he blocks my contribution. I don’t feel respected, understood, but rather find that I am harshly judged and dismissed.

I advocate for a DM that routinely adjusts a module creatively to meet the unique constellation of the party. Aren’t modules a starting place for a DM, not a fixed dish, handed out as pre-ordered, ready for the generic player? And I don’t advocate a DM to hold the line against such impulses. That is my clear take. Others? Will I ever be satisfied if he holds his position. Probably not. I can own that.

I will generalize this idea, rather than further point to my friend: Are any of us taking a posture to others in the game where we think we need to educate, berate, give tough love, coddle, or not coddle? Do I need coddling or reprimanding or anything like it? I can’t advocate for those kinds of relationships developing.

Am I met with disdain?

In his Table Rule 5 my friend expresses that he always has disdain for people who play games and feel disturbed by things the game asks them to do. He also calls those people engage in sheer foolishness. If my friend is seeking advice, I consider it a problem to ask people to sign a document where they must support the disdain of the DM for their foolish behavior. I was one who was disturbed by the game he spoke of, so he must have disdain for me. I don’t need to take his disdain personally, but I cannot advocate that being a part of written rules.

I also ask: does my friend feels he knows what ideals are the best, old school perhaps, easy going with this or that, and my requests then are rejected as not meeting those ideals, and are not met with understanding, but with disdain towards my impulse. I am calling that out. I wonder what other DMs and players feel about this? I would add, these expressions of sharpness seem to contradict ideals that are thankfully otherwise advocated for. One wants consideration, understanding, not trampling on one’s enthusiasms. Ok. Then, in kindness I would say, we ask for this from others, feel when we don’t get it, but then we all to often trick ourselves, and then act harshly to another. This is not a problem special to my friend, if he is indeed doing it. I would say we can all be trapped in it. Since my friend is putting himself out there, we can observe what there is to observe without adding shame or distain, just clarity. One of his Table Rules he created set a tone in one place for a great and generous attitude at the table. That is a great ideal. And, it is hard then, perhaps, for him to see where he gets his buttons pushed, and the tone is not observed. Others in the forum already pointed this out in productive ways. I’m not perfect in it. It is a work in progress. I have interest to improve here too.

Stop playing together, or go forward?
Early this morning, when I finished reading the post, it seemed that my friend took the experience from the forum to shore up his strength to declare we will not play together. Perhaps that is the right thing to do. But I would not consider that decision to arise out of full clarity of the situation or recognizing the potential to adjust and grow. Still, if that was a decision, I would probably want to support it. I agree with the community, if one is not happy, stopping is a viable, often healthy option.

What could make a difference?

If he sticks to limiting me only to RAW and wants to give me no creative license, then...

I wonder, if I shift my way fundamentally, to being just a player, observer, etc. then perhaps I would stop stepping on his toes regarding the rules, and his despair would fade?

If he found clarity on why he needs what he needs, and finds room to give me some creative license, then...
I really would appreciate having some room for self-expression in forming specific areas of the game to suit my own interests. My exceptions and how I form them are basically set out in this post. I think I have to admit to myself it is important to me, and I would be disappointed if we could not open space for me. But would I not play because of that? It seems if I chose to play, and he draws that line, I would have to really let it go, otherwise I would not be honoring agreements. I find that I hope the space opens a bit.

2 kinds of feedback:
What I expect is:
1) People who see the situation where it is now, will support my friend's clarity as DM to set boundaries, and either of us should either accept that, or move on, and they will suggest that I stop pushing for creative license when he is DM. That seems clear to me.

I'd also like to hear: 2) Ideally, where do people stand in what they advocate for in general? Would they accept my requests, especially considering that the majority of our playing began just the 2 of us, 2 blokes playing D&D with each other. Only recently have people joined. It has been 'our table'. What ideas could both of us carry that bring us new options other than repeating our past mistakes, which are becoming more clear in this process?

Thank you.
Thanks for all the effort the forum community puts into reading and participating with us. It is encouraging and impressive to hear how people engage on these forums. And thanks to my friend for maintaining his openness to engage with me and inform me of his forum post.
 
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Another short post from the 'problem-player'

I hope people saw my prior, larger post before reading this, to know who I am and why I am sharing this context.

The campaign log & pictures
A piece I intended to mention, but forgot until now. There was mention of me dissing my friend over pictures, it requires some explanation to have any sense of it. The context is mostly positive, that my friend created a log of our campaigns. At first, I experienced its amazing detail, and was daunted by it, out of a feeling that I didn't have the resources to contribute to it, and that I wasn't sure what purpose it could serve, so I did not respond much to getting shown the campaign log the first time. That bummed him out.

But the big positive is that more recently when introducing new players to our table, my friend pulled out a great map he created and then read from the campaign log, and the experience was quite surprising, fantastic really. In that experience I learned a very good reason for having such a shared log. I didn't mean be cold with him over it when he showed it to me, I didn't know what he expected of me, and that was my own problem, and prevented any enthusiasm for it.

But the pictures. He expressed a lot of hurt over my reaction to the pictures. That is unfortunate. This is how it is from my side. Our campaigns included a number of characters. For myself, I did not go too deeply into exactly how my characters look, but rather live into them in a vague and unique way that lives inside. One day when I was shown some iteration of the campaign log, suddenly I had pictures for my characters and his characters. From my experience, to put a description to it, it was jarring and abstract in a bad way, there was NO relation at all to my inner experience. So, I'm sorry that I created another bummer experience for my friend. That wasn't intended. But I can't be forced to get excited about something that was distinctly unwanted.

For the sake of relating: I think if a reader were to tell me a name of one of your characters, and the class, and I sent you a picture I found in the internet, I expect we would relate to how foreign the experience would be to how actual characters live in our imagination. That is the gist of it. He had enthusiasm for having pictures, and didn't ask me first if I wanted that, but asked me to come up with some picture of my choice. I could not relate to those pictures, nor did I want to. My inner pictures were meaningful to me, the pictures not so much. I didn't fake enthusiasm, and I didn't get angry, to my memory. I just was caught again off guard and was probably simple cold about it, as a natural response. That was another perceived insult to my friend.

The last word: my friend also asked me to draw pictures of my characters. 2 problems. The same as above, and that I don't have the time/energy for it. I don't have my own motivation for it, really. Sorry. Does that have to cause so much distress? I wish not.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Thanks for sharing your view of things and putting so much thought and effort into posting them.

From a long-distance and completely neutral viewpoint, while I don't entirely agree with all your views and ideas I can at least see the rationale behind most of them. There's only one real place where on a philosophical basis I'd dig in my heels a bit, and it's with this:
Treating my requests as inappropriate.
A recent email, he said this: regarding … times when I'm stating my perspective, especially when it runs counter to just opening up the candy store to whatever you wish. Apparently you're often not able to listen to statements without ill-feelings arising. I'm not here to coddle and please that impulse. - I include this recent quote to clarify something. If I express that the game in some fashion is not meeting me directly, that it is overly generic, for example to run a module where generic magic items are to be found, like a +1 long sword, with no provisions instructing the DM to consider the actual players there, that some players really would love to have a magic item, and they use a short sword, a rapier, dagger, or anything other than a +1 long sword, am I really asking my DM to open up the candy store? If a DM takes a position that a player just shows bad taste, is greedy, can’t get enough, then the attitude can come: I’m not going to coddle that impulse. There is a sharp edge to that. When I am met with that sharp edge, I don’t like it. Yes I have ill feelings in the moment he blocks my contribution. I don’t feel respected, understood, but rather find that I am harshly judged and dismissed.

I advocate for a DM that routinely adjusts a module creatively to meet the unique constellation of the party. Aren’t modules a starting place for a DM, not a fixed dish, handed out as pre-ordered, ready for the generic player? And I don’t advocate a DM to hold the line against such impulses. That is my clear take. Others? Will I ever be satisfied if he holds his position. Probably not. I can own that.

I will generalize this idea, rather than further point to my friend: Are any of us taking a posture to others in the game where we think we need to educate, berate, give tough love, coddle, or not coddle? Do I need coddling or reprimanding or anything like it? I can’t advocate for those kinds of relationships developing.
While your DM's choice of phrasing here is - to say the least - far from diplomatic, the underlying principle behind it is solid as a rock.

I'm a firm believer in the idea of the game world being static with regards to not morphing itself to suit the particular PCs that the players happen to have rolled up.

Thus, to follow your example, if the PCs use rapier, dagger, crossbow and hammer and the adventure wants to give them a +1 longsword then a +1 longsword is exactly what they'll get; and its on them to either find a way to make use of it or to stow it away and sell it once back in town.

If my PC specializes in an exotic weapon (say, glaive-guisarme) then I-as-player have to accept in my meta-thinking that the odds of my ever finding a magic one in the wild are going to be vastly lower than if I'd gone with a more common weapon. Well, so be it. When's the last time you ever found a magic glaive-guisarme in any adventure, published or homebrew?

Yeah, I didn't think so. :)

And while I posit that it's on the DM (any DM) to provide mechanisms by which magic items can be commissioned*, it's not on the DM in any way to plant magic glaive-guisarmes in places where they otherwise wouldn't be just because my PC happens to use them.

* - where you pay an artificer who then takes a considerable time - months at least - to construct and enchant the item you paid for.

The one exception to this would be instances where the party are given customized rewards - usually divinely - for accomplishing a mission of some sort, or before setting out on one, an example being Galadhriel's gifts to the Fellowship on departing Lothlorien. Here the DM really should be tailoring the reward/gift to what the PC either most wants or most needs.
 

ardoughter

Hero
Supporter
To our D&D community,

I am the so-named ‘problem player’ - here to offer support to this process.

I decided to make an attempt to make a contribution to this discussion. Are you surprised? I am the ‘problem player’ that my friend Dungeonosophy is at his wits end with. My friend and I have a very open process with each other, and he shared the link to this forum with me, with no comment of inviting me to join in or not, just mentioning that it had lots of views and posts. Reading it, I’m very happy to see the quality of responses to my friend’s thread here.

I have done my best to avoid unclear sentences and knit all these thoughts as essentially as I can. I have limited time again, and took hours already today to get this post to this level of organization. It is long, and covers the key areas I consider worthwhile. I apologize at the start for any mistakes, extra length or missed duplicates as I moved things around.

I’m interested to participate in the quality clarity this community offers.
If I am successful with this post, it would be an example of a good way for troubled friends to review and communicate their experiences with each other, and be witnessed and held accountable by a community of peers.

I would like to contribute to this thread, but I would find it unproductive and uninteresting to anyone if I focused in any way to ‘defend myself’. It is clear to me that many depictions of me have inaccuracies, from my perspective. That is part of life. I know that many people might feel betrayed by a friend for such ‘airing of the dirty laundry’ and more especially from certain depictions that add derogatory elements against me. I am not interested in focusing on that. Rather, I see a person, like always (a compliment to him), who makes attempts to come to clarity, learn something new, and do the right thing; even if his way is an imperfect way. I don’t need him to be perfect. God knows I cannot be perfect. My imperfection, fair enough, is a very real aspect of all that he is struggling with. I will share some thoughts, with the hope also to invite more comments and participation, by giving more context and further thoughtful ideas about this situation. I have the hope the process will be more productive for the both of us, and offer something to the wider community, in looking at the factors that challenge even good friends, to game together. If I advocate in my direction, or share my side of things 1) it is because I am a representative of many others in a similar situation, and 2) because the questions my friend raises is based on real situations, and I can add clarity to the discussion by bringing in my perspective and experience. My experience can’t negate his experience. It is a co-building of a situation, as best we can, so we can look at it honestly and grow from that looking.

About me.
It will help fill in the picture for people to know a few key things. I’m 52. I have a 5 year old son. I am a 50/50 parent with my wife. We both work from home, and juggle the duties involved. In addition to that, for over 20 years I have had digestive issues that make exhaustion a very real part of my life, and this fact contributes to the Rule you read about being tired. Being tired is a fact. And it has consequences for others if it does. I cannot argue that, if he points it out as a problem, it is a problem. Like many areas of challenge between us, there is no easy answer. Yeah, I’m a parent, with limited time, limited physical resources. I am tired on Monday’s. I yawn at times outside of my control. I’m not perfect. The question is: Do you still want to get together even though it is compromising to you? This theme is the one we will see again and again, and each time, it asks each of us to be flexible and resilient, or to make the hard decision, enough is enough. That is fair and a fact. Anyone is free to say no, this doesn’t work for me. I’m grateful for the time we have had this past year. I hope for more, and I must recognize that he is giving me a message: he doesn’t feel he can repeat the past. I have to get clear about this fact too.

This next bit I will share is the essential part of the email I sent in reply to my friend’s email the other day with the new Table Rules.

I will say in brief:

1. I can support you to have autonomy at your table. In D&D style, it can be your world, your table, etc. Nothing to argue with there if that is how you want it.

2. I have already proven that it is hard for me to be a perfect player according to the rules you are presenting. It is clear to me that the majority of those table behavior rules are a direct response to experiences you have had with me that you don't want to have any more. I can say to this: I can work at being better, and as ideals for the game, the behavior you are asking for is positive, but you cannot expect me to be perfect. You can expect me to agree to work against all of my imperfections in these many areas you have detailed. But we both know where my tendencies lie, at least at the game table. Since perfection is not possible, we need to know what is too much for you, and if you decide to try it out with me, we will need to review after some actual play time and see if it works for you or not.

3. If you don't want the 'imperfect me' at your table, you might have to get clear about that and say you don't want to play with me anymore. That might be what you need to maintain the soul state you want to maintain. Each person can decide what they do not want to be exposed to, and set a boundary. I expect that I can accept that and not take it personally.

4. Based on your characterization of our last discussion of a feat, I am stating that we should not discuss D&D rules anymore, or anything like it. You can clarify your rules, and we should leave it at that. Shared world/game building is not possible if one experiences sharing of ideas as crazed wrangling. I don't understand completely how that happens to you, but it is clear enough that it doesn't work. I hope that I can hold my clarity about this. You will also need to help. In the case of the last discussion, you expressly asked for it. I did not bring it to you. I made the mistake to think more was invited than actual fact, because I enjoy the process of looking at rules building so much, and I enjoy being able to create something that I could actually play with. You have made it clear that your table is for your creativity. Now I am clear about that, and I expect we cannot repeat that experience again. For the future, I would like to be more clear about what is really being asked of me, and what not.

5. I would hope that I could adjust to the new process that you are asking for. I think I will have to stop contributing to teaching people at the table, or minimize extremely. Really, best to stop altogether. Because if I am engaged in living in those types of feelings, I am more likely to step on your toes. I need to be just a player among players. Not a co-creator. A spectator in your world. That may take some adjusting, but I think it is what is needed for this to work.


I loved D&D as a teenager.
I have reflected a lot on the situation. I played D&D at a teenager, in the early 80s. Red box basic, and later 1e books. I was blown away by the experience I had from this imaginative world. Even then, I wanted to experience so much of it, the classes, the races, the magic items. After playing for a time formally in a larger group, I played further with one friend, and yeah, we wanted to experience a vorpel sword, or big stats, and we had fun exploring that. Signs of my personal love for the experiences with magic items and all that were there early on. It is a longing I think for the wonders of magic, and spirit, and the way these different classes can do amazing things.

As an adult, I found it a question: What was all that when I was young? So when I was invited to play by my friend, I said yes. But I am not a kid anymore. I don’t have so much free time. For myself, I am not going to play a game for simple fun, I can’t do that with my ideals in life. But D&D offers so much, socially, as ways to develop friendships, engage with people and learn to be a better person, overcome unwanted tendencies, etc. And my friend and I entered D&D this time around with a view to game-building. We have looked at many retro-clones, minimalist rules, and much more, and have enjoyed a great deal looking the game mechanics and such. Because of this I felt our relationship was very much co-creators of a process. It was not, for me, meeting a DM and simply saying I would play D&D. The social aspect, and the personal growth were always in the forefront for me, and these things, as a co-creator, became a big part of why I chose to play regularly, and why I chose to play with this person, who is so different than me. It was never easy, and it has teaches me so much. If it comes to a crisis for either of us, then that needs to be dealt with, and so this process… so here we find ourselves…

And, I have made mistakes.
So now, a big mistake I make, though it is not intended, I bumble, forget, and bring things to my friend that does not show an understanding for where he is at, and what he needs. He came to some crisis recently, that I didn’t fully understand or see building, and then he came to me and developed some list of things he needed in order to be able to play again. I messed up. I did not manage to drop everything that I am inwardly working with and want to further develop with the game, and give him uncluttered time to sort himself out. We can observe together, this friend of mine is very proactive to sort himself out, and he tries to do it by forming things, forming situations he can work in. (hence the points, rules, etc.) And one technique has has attempted to used to avoid getting into wrangling with me was to opt for using RAW. Sadly, I could not meet those impulses as he hoped, and needed.

The dynamic that gets activated.
For me, RAW on the whole is fine, but I have such a strong wish to have freedom to work with any few problems I discover, and tweak the game in order to correct the problem, and also to experience the joy of game development, even in small bits. When my friend as DM then meets my enthusiasm, he feels a rub because he wants to have his RAW request honored, and he takes it hard/personally/upsetting if I come with some point that ends up being perceived as a challenge to his request. So what I am learning about myself is that I don’t want to give up the small bit of creativity I have wanted, and he doesn’t want me nagging him with what he experiences as my ‘complaints’ and satisfactions. Some of what rubs him comes from my enthusiasm and wishes for how I want to play the game, and some of what rubs him are my personal quirks and failings. In sum, the dynamic becomes a battle. And neither of us will win it this way.

So, the 2 fold problem, as I see them today.
This dynamic of wanting different things, and not being able to meet the enthusiasms of the other is the source of a lot of our problems.

The other source is a combination of my poor behavior and his tendency to take things I do personally in a way that he feels he needs me to stop in order to come to peace.

Feeling betrayed.
Unfortunately, and seriously, my friend expressed feeling betrayed. That is nothing I would want another to feel. The situation is a setup for disappointment for both of us. The situation of us being so different in what we are trying to achieve. He reaches for RAW as a way to stop our wrangling. But, oops, that puts me in a place to overcome so much in myself, against everything that I will lay out in this post that pours out of me with enthusiasm. And in retrospect, I wish I could catch myself before I play out my part. He has asked me for what he needs, and I blunder in with my enthusiasm without realizing what it means to him. I regret that many times over.

For the sake of the forum:
One-sided Rules creation: not ideal.

I learned something recently that relates here. My wife and I have seen a counselor at times, to great effect, and once we discussed how she came in one day with a full, finished schedule of how our week will now go. She thought she did us a favor, as she didn’t expect I would do it on my own. But the counselor said: No, that doesn’t work. He has to be a part of building it up. You can’t just bring it to him finished like that, it doesn’t work. With my wife too, when I read her schedule for the first time, I saw a few issues, and when I mentioned that something in her schedule didn’t works so well for me, she got angry. My friend and my wife are similar in many ways. Regardless, I trust the counselor is right in relation to my situation here with my friend; even though I was willing to do my best to go along with it, there are good reasons why it isn’t ideal.

His rules were created to solve one side of the problem only.
When my friend came to me with a list he made, of all he needed to go forward, he made all of that without my participation. And in review, unfortunately, it doesn’t include solving my problems too. Then he asked me if I could agree. Now, this wasn’t just, How about this? No big deal., it was, this is the only way I can go forward, what’s it going to be? How do I answer that? It is a situation of yes and go forward, and any kind of comment or no means no. So I say yes, because I have good will and I’d like very much to do as he asks. But there has been no process for us to see what his requests mean for us as a team. I found that when I questioned things, the response from him was to view me as a complainer, stamping on his enthusiasm. I can blame myself again for not finding a way to create the right conditions to talk about it. I should not expect a better response if I am not clear myself in what he needs and what the situation needs to communicate or for me to see if I could just meet his requests without comment.

And then naturally, time and circumstances move along, I find myself either failing to meet his request (not reading the PHB and DMG in a timely manner, because I really don’t have the time or the same motivation as he has for it now) or I find myself asking questions about what my current process with a few things I hope to tweak, what I find would work better for me, and I fall into the trap of him feeling let down, even betrayed, etc. I blunder. What can I say? It is not easy for either of us to navigate.

But for friends joining on the forum, I want to share something I think we can all benefit from considering: it is clear, for a group to work, one cannot one-sidedly create a ruleset and ask for agreement without a process; that is a recipe for disappointment and frustration. And I will say this: I would love to just say yes to everything he asks for, to be a hero for him. It is just that what he asks is a weak cork on my fountain of enthusiasm, which makes me appear very forgetful, not-understanding, and perhaps he would call me selfish. The self that cannot help but exert itself. What a mess. Sorry, pal. I don’t mean to be obtuse. The lesson is, to go forward, the agreement needs to work for both of us. I didn’t see it very clearly before.

Our D&D explorations have had lots of good times.
My friend is quite unusual in his capacities. His handle, Dungeonosophy is apt. He knows a huge amount of lore, history of D&D, about world building, Tolkein, RPG in general, just so much. So I discovered, not knowing much before, because I followed nothing of D&D for 30+years, that D&D had 5++++ editions, so many clones and such, I found myself loving the game-building big picture. And I wanted so much to have freedom to experience feats, and such, with creativity. I didn’t expect us to clash so often when I brought things forward. As you read below, you will see what I have come to see as the specific trap that we have fallen into.

D&D clones, love of home brew creativity.
Thanks to my friend I have discovered so many clones, like The Blue Hack, White Hack, Heroes and Monsters (perhaps my favorite mechanics), a few others too, and 13th Age looks very interesting too. So I love game-building. I printed these rules out, read them, reflected on how to build a game, the differences of OSR and modern balanced play, etc. Having license to explore this, even in a few choice feats, or cantrips would be a great joy for me. But it has not been welcomed under the conditions my DM friend envisions. I would call this situation, as seen from my position, as no place for what I want, because we already agreed to conditions he set up, and I didn’t know ahead of time how these dynamics would play out. Clash…

I am going to share specifically the way that I ask for things from my DM friend.

In reflection, my experience of what I ask for, bring with enthusiasm is routinely: rejected.

This could mean more than one thing. 1) we made agreements, and I don’t get it, I just keep breaking agreements. 2) we made agreements that were bad for me, and we are learning the hard way that it doesn’t work. 3) We did not have foreknowledge to see that our approach won’t work.

Traps.
He mentioned it, so here is context. I did a lot of online research, and yes, I learned things that really rang true for me personally about traps in D&D, and I had high hopes to be able to explore them in play. I agreed with others writing articulately online, that traps can be tedious attrition, and I found that I would prefer, based on my own experience, to leave them out. My friend unfortunately treats me derogatorily on this matter, as if I am a silly fool. “It’s D&D.” Not for my sake, but for the sake of speaking of ideals that I would advocate, I do not advocate denigrating people for reading online and bringing ideas that they have enthusiasm for forward. I don’t agree that I need to read every word in the DMs guide before I can research a specific rule or gaming observation. I have found that research online (done with some depth) brings one to meet more than the rules from the DMG, but also errata, sage advice and forum discussions. So, whereas I can agree that knowing the rules in good, valuable, etc., I don’t join one to debase a person for researching online and coming with enthusiasm with a hope that one could bring a progressive idea into the game. Playing with traps, or not, is not a deal breaker for me, but I view it as unfortunate example of bad relations between us. Unproductive. Result of my request: No, and exasperation. Options?

Feats discussion. Crazed wrangling? Or creativity welcomed?
I am giving this as context to help our situation. I could drop it otherwise, but thought details will give people room to comment. - I enjoyed researching feats. I found a problem with the Shieldmaster Feat. People had played a long time using the shove with shield bonus action either before or after an attack action. I discovered that at one point that Jeremy Crawford did an unusual thing with this feat. He changed his ruling, and I believe it ended up in Sage Advice or Eratta or something, that shove could only come after an attack action. The sense of that whole thing bothered me. The feat was once great, then not so great. Further thinking and I felt - “ok, I see how powerful it is to shove before an attack, to have advantage on attacks after, it is very powerful. Yet it doesn’t make sense that it can only happen after. When I imagine having that skill, I expect to use the shove first.” So I tried my hand at a compromise. I wrote it poorly at first, but it the idea is this: If one attempts a shove before an attack, failure on the shove will bring disadvantage on the attacks that follow in that turn. I think I also included that the opponent would have advantage on their next attack as well. – The point was to balance the feat, to create a cost for failure to balance the big gain for success. This is only for a shove before an attack action, not a shove after an attack. My friend and I couldn’t come to terms on it. We are talking months ago. I felt that he would only accept an idea from me if someone else somewhere had already made a rule of it. I didn’t understand that take, and I wanted freedom to try it out myself, out of my own creativity. We never really resolved it, and when this new venture was proposed, my friend graciously (another compliment, he meant to find a way to satisfy me) called me and said he would consider including it as an existing homebrew. Then he read what I had written, and 3 things happened. 1) We could both see, it was not yet well written as I last left it. And my friend asked me, and I also saw that 2) There was a question whether other opponents nearby also got advantage on attacking, and 3) My friend raised a new question: what about falling prone? Well, he himself now opened up the discussion on the feat further. What a surprise. He wanted to actually look at it. He mentioned how 3e had more unpacked mechanics for failures etc. I said, well, I wouldn’t want falling prone to be automatic. It seemed to me that either it A) the shove succeeds, great you get advantage if they are prone and all your allies do to. B) you fail on the shove, but no cost, no disadvantage, which is how the feat works now. C) You fail with the disadvantage cost, and advantage to your opponent’s following attack. D) you critical fail and fall prone. - This makes sense to me as a way to be more detailed if one wants to include falling prone. I didn’t bring up the complexity of falling prone, he did. But I happily explored it with him. We didn’t come to a final, since I hadn’t thought of it through, and he wanted, as is a tendency I experience on his part, to solidify it, finish it, agree, and be done with it. I said, we don’t have experience with it yet. Why don’t we just set it up preliminarily, and we can play test it and see. – This would have been a first, to be able to really make a feat and play test it. We didn’t conclude it, and we talked longer than was good for him, and I had one thing more to share, and in the end, I think I have come to understand one more thing that pushed his buttons, as he said in the post, I think I see now, the dynamic is that he wants to finish something, set it in stone and move on, and I want to keep it fluid, and he feels despair, that it will never end. I suspect that openendedness may cause my friend anxiety. This is a new articulation for me. – I can tell you all, it was a surprise to me, to hear the next day that my participation in looking at that feat with him, he described as crazed wrangling. This is what I refer to in the email points I posted to him. – And a last detail on this: Even though he was upset with me, he did create a ruling for the Shieldmaster Feat, in his Table Rules, and it was very generous, in my estimation. And again it seems, by his forum posts, that he assumed he knew my response to his ruling on the feat, and expected me to be upset. I’m not, on the contrary. The ruling is simpler, and basically allowed the original way people used the feat. Why would I complain about that? It is true, it might be fun to playtest my disadvantage idea, but he made the feat playable and solved the problem, even if it is now more powerful than I was asking for. I think he assumes I crave power only. I also can feel when things are unbalanced, and that tempers me. My asks are often treated by him as wanting him to open the candy store (his kind of term, details follow later), and I find that misdirected and unproductive. If I am correct at what I think I see, I ask: How much of my friend’s hard time is due to imagined or exaggerated interpretations? I’ve found many cases where he was upset to include misunderstandings. I am not immune to making similar mistakes, I ask no one to mistake me as pointing a harsh finger. This observation seems a material component to my friend’s level of despair. If others see it similarly, say so, or otherwise.

Another wish of mine. Too much? Welcome?
I want to share another example of the kind of ask I present to my friend when he is DMing. I have not asked this one of him yet, but it is clear and fresh in my mind, and I welcome people on the forum to comment how they would feel if a player of my age and interests asked what I am going to propose here. - I recently reviewed a Druid guide online, very comprehensive, going through all the spells, feats, races. Pretty well done. It pointed out something I had never notice. 2 of my favorite cantrips, Shillelagh and Magic Stone were both not-recommended cantrips. Weird, I thought. I love them both. Then I looked at what was said, and carefully reviewed the spells. Contrary to most damage dealing cantrips I know, these do not level up more damage as the class level progresses. That seems strange to me. Thorn Whip’s damage levels up, Produce Flame’s damage levels up, Infestation’s damage levels up. How many others. Cantrips as a general rule seem to level up damage. So, for folks to understand directly how I approach my DM, I feel that somehow these 2 damage dealing spells were left out of more typical 5e cantrip mechanics, and I would simply like to tweak them to follow their fellows. This solves the problem that cause them to fall off a recommendation list, and bring them up to making sense and usefulness at level 4, and beyond. I don’t perceive this request as being power-hungry on my part. It seems the natural thing to do, to address what the guide writer rightly recognizes makes it fail to compare to other cantrips. And I have the interest to do it specifically, because the spells are super cool in my estimation. They were some of my favorites.

I invite the community to comment. Would you feel put out to be asked to give a player latitude to explore, experiment and correct the failings he/she perceives in the game. I think it would be appreciated to hear what various DMs feel in response to what I typically like to ask for.

Is one deplorable because they are emotionally affected by a game?
My friend seemed bothered by the fact that I am affected by the game. He mentioned me having nightmares, etc. Here is context: When I had a TPK in Cragmaw Castle, that was a totally new experience for me. I was not just ‘testing my DM’ in some vile way, (I’m sorry to learn that my comment came across so horribly to him, I don’t feel his presentation on the forum meets what it was from my side – more undo suffering? Lack of real understanding? I think so. Unfortunate. All too common.) To be more clear: I was testing the whole game experience, and more. That situation went to TPK because I also struggled to run away and leave some few of my 6 characters dead. I was frozen in a process. It was this situation and a few similar ones that caused me to actually lose sleep. My friend remembers me having nightmares, probably so, but it was more the fitful way a game experience can grip a soul. It was rough, terrible really. I couldn’t sleep for hours and I kept running over the situation again and again. I wonder how many others have had game nights that gripped them for a time. It was the total negative side to the wonderful positive side of fantasy RPG. And I found that experience very difficult to manage for a few days. I had to shift my approach to the game to go on. It was happening to me at one period pretty regularly, then I found a way to stop it, I guess. I would not advocate getting upset with others about that. – Because it is a real question the situation calls for: Am I also deplorable? Who imagines they would want to get away from a player like myself? Who relates to my experiences?

Serenity in play, can we maintain it?
Angry at dice rolls. Yeah, it happens to me. Sometimes. A problem player. Ok. How bad? Each must decide their limits of tolerance when a sore loser takes over the body of our friends.

My friend hasn’t mentioned yet on the forum, but I remember that he played D&D very young with his brothers. I wonder now what effect his brothers had in him developing his attitude with characters dying, etc. He really can play it easy if his characters are in trouble, doesn’t complain about rolls of dice. It’s impressive. Maybe the dynamics with his brothers played a part, maybe they didn’t allow him to act out, maybe he is just naturally able to do what I can’t do? He has something there. I don’t. - I can say, I wish I was more happy-go-lucky with playing games. My friend complains fundamentally about my attitude, and I cannot argue with the fact that I get very stressed in games when I am harrowed with unknowns, potential losing characters, and yes, I have a very hard time with his occassional unnaturally punishing dice rolls against me. (I say this with lightness: He can ‘not believe in luck’, fine, but you should see his rolls at times. It defies statistics. Not always, but what is that? 😊) So, eating more crow; at my worst, I get quite visibly upset, comment, complain, and suffer more than I show. It is not fun for me, it’s not fun for my friends, and it is not something I have any easy control of, and I am sure I am not alone. And, yes, because of this, my wife does not enjoy my moments. But they are moments, too many moments if you don’t want it at all, but I am working on it. This is a failing of mine. It is my job to work against my weaknesses here. I also have to admit, it’s not good. I would not argue against anyone who decided they didn’t want to deal with it. Lastly, I do wish you all could be a fly on the wall. Then this could be observed in fact and magnitude, and not only on the magnitude of my friend’s current distress about it. So I ask myself: How much can I change and how much will others tolerate? I feel like I am making progress. If it isn’t enough, it is only 1 piece of a puzzle, but one squarely on my shoulders. Sorry pal. Seriously. My bad.

Taking things personally.
There is another side to the angry player, complaining about dice rolls, about modules with generic magical weapons that don’t meet the players where they are at, etc. That other side is to take it personally when a player acts out badly. My friend says he does not believe in luck in rolling. So, if I complain about rolling, I’m a bit nuts, according to his convictions, so why get personally flustered by a nuts player? I am advocating here for not taking the bad behavior of others personally, so much as is possible, and definitely as an ideal, because in the end, a person’s own freedom and peace of mind is at stake. If we leave it that others unsettle us, then the solution is to fix the other, stop the other, rule out the other acting out. That is one way to work with life’s challenging soul states, but I can’t recommend it as desirable and effective long-term. I hold myself to this as best I can. Otherwise I could not engage in this forum with peace of mind, because many of the things said about me, in this forum and in other emails, don’t conform to my sense of truth, right, or kindness. And I got hot about it initially. And I let it go, again and again. If I do that, I can see what my friend is asking for that is right. And there is rightness to asking me to control myself and not grumble and all that too. So I am an advocate for understanding both side of this unfortunate situation, both ways of working for the highest ideals.

Why ask for special dispensations? Character death.
Now, regarding dealing with character death: I will advocate for something here. Being a parent, aged 52, and with limited physical resources and limited time available, I really don’ have much time for gaming. My wife is not thrilled that I do it at all. Some of you may understand me on this. People coming into the house, crossing her living room to get to the bathroom, and I’m ‘playing a game’. I’m lucky I can do it at all at my house. And with a kid, going outside my house would cost me time. I don’t have time to fool around. Regarding my characters dying, I had invested a lot in those characters, so when it was a question of not accepting their death, to keep working with them, a total of 6 basically 4th level characters, or building a whole new crew, is this: I simply don’t have time or resources to invest in making new characters, and based on what I am trying to experience with the game, I didn’t want to lose what I had invested in these characters, specifically the abilities, and all the spell, fighting styles, etc., and I was not finished with that process. What would making new characters amount to: changing the name, the stats, and trying to rebuild the same construct? As an adult where I have to make serious decisions about my time, energy, and investment, I would stand up and support a player who says: I don’t want to throw my real life time away just because that is the usual rule to deal with it. It is not childishness. It is practical. Here is the ideal I advocate for: I am there to play a game and have it serve the players. We do not serve the game. If my DM feels he lost his autonomy or rule to me by allowing my players to continue and not accept death, then I see this: he is creating a situation where one of us has to be a loser, him or me. I don’t support that kind of DMing, not as an ideal, as much as it can be avoided. It’s a game. And I can barely afford the time and space to play. If rules break one’s game, then it is no help. Honestly, I don’t know why he cared at all. What do I care if someone wants to keep a character they love. Yeah, it could get weird, if it happened a lot. In this particular case, I didn’t think it was weird or a big deal. It also taught me something, and as a player, I am now much more conservative than my friend about characters I have a lot invested in, since I know it is my responsibility to not let them die. Even though he offered me to game with no chance of death, he didn’t realize that I experienced that as heavy handed as a solution. I didn’t ask for no risk of death, I asked for treating that specific TPK as a learning experience. Now, I am careful not to let them die. He shares in the forum that some of his died. True enough. But, we don’t play the same. And he expressly told me he doesn’t care if they die, in great detail, so when I DM for him, possible death is a situation he is asking for, in my read. Why would I give him an experience different than he wants? So, if he presents it in a forum like a badge that only his characters have died, I can’t go along with that very far. I feel that if he understood me better, he would perhaps thank me, rather than congratulate himself. I had to overcome myself to let his characters die. It wasn’t pleasant for me. I did it to be true to the game he wants to play. To be clear, I am able to play a game too, where my character could die. It would just be a lot harder for me than for my friend, granted, especially if I was heavily invested in my character. But based on my time and other constraints, avoiding character death serves my game more, in my estimation.

So here I believe we are observing that it is too easy not to see another person. And that there is a matter of different expectations of what is allowed in the game. I didn’t know ahead of time that losing my whole party or half of it could be like that. If I had a different life/parenting circumstance, I would perhaps have let it go. But why, in this case, should I let the game dictate, if practicality of real life can’t support that detail. So I say this here in support of people confronted with a similar situation: Are we more interested in the rules of the game, or supporting people in their lives to be able to get the most out of the limited time they have? - What do we care whether players are willing to let go of their characters when they make a major mistake, or not? Are there extreme circumstances that puts others out if the death rule seems too much of a consequence? How many video games let you continue where you are, and not start over? Sometimes there is good reason to be 100% true to the game. But, if it is a matter of sorting life out, let the game bend. Otherwise, we are back to the same thing: Our unbending self can break the possibility of playing together at all. I vote for making it possible to play by being flexible to people’s needs. And I support people who chose to hold the line and stop playing.

Switching cantrips, feats, similar asks. A game breaker? A nudge?
My DM gets upset if I come and say: When I originally built this class for the 1st time I didn’t know about this spell, cantrip, feat, etc. Now, I realize I want to change it. – My context on this: Similarly, in the same vein as above, friends, I don’t have all the time in the world. I’m an advocate of flexibility for the sake of life over the game rules. I can’t play every scenario out to an end before I move along to something that will help me learn the game better, and experience it widely. I am not in it to play out every bit of minutia, I can’t. So I am grateful if I get support to move along in a way that let’s me meet my personal gaming goals, and not be forced to conform to rules that make sense in a different circumstance, but not in mine. This is how I really feel about my time and what I can say yes to. If I want to experience a different cantrip, feat, etc., then I either have a DM that can make it possible for me to get what I want from the game, or not. Life is too short for little boxes and locked doors, says I. We have plenty of those outside our control. Where I live, I don’t know of another DM to find. So I repeat the ideal: I advocate to let players get the most out of the game, so long as it doesn’t break the game for others.

And practically, the more closely I look at these many situations that can be difficult, I find myself wanting to gain the capacity of my personal flexibility, so that life and people can evolve, and do not have to conform to my personal preferences. Does my DM need to hold every rule RAW in order to evolve? My experience of Dming says no. As a DM myself, I’d rather serve my players. I draw the line for other things, like my friend included in his rules: No drugs, alcohol. I prefer no cursing. I’m a fan of fantasy without gore. We are on the same page on so many of these things, so far as I know. There are times where rules are needed, no doubt. I could imagine a group well established that could be destabilized by a player coming in and wanting/needing something like I express here and it not fitting to an existing gaming environment. That is not us. We are 2 guys in their 40s/50s, even if we invite a group of younger folks to join us, we are carrying the group and trying to play some D&D. So here I am, and I would love to have some freedom to evolve these kinds of details in my own experience. And, I vote for seeking peace of mind to not let the imperfections of others prevent us from hearing what they need from us.

So, I could agree to RAW as a general rule. But the game would open up for me if I have freedom to evolve areas that don’t make full sense.

Another bit of gratitude: Now, on the cantrip switch question, my friend found another way to be magnanimous towards me, in his own way. He said he found a place, was it Adventure League, were it was generally accepted that up to 4th level characters could be reworked. It is heartwarming to me to know that people give themselves the freedom to grow and change as they learn, and so, at least up to 4th level I can overhaul as needed. That is a big gift for me in the game. To give my personal perspective; if I were DM, you can perhaps guess that I would outright reserve the right to allow changes based on life circumstances and a person’s needs in balance with the group, rather than a generic rule and number. But my friend came through for me again here.

Give a feat instead of treasure.
Yeah, I did it, and glad I did; I watched Dungeon Dudes, and they can be quite articulate and creative in a way I respect, and they gave me 2 ideas that struck me as just great. 1) Give a feat instead of treasure; which I see makes the story a way for characters to gain meaningful attributes, and not just from the ‘mechanics’ of leveling. 2) Thaumatergy cantrip for Clerics, Druidcraft cantrip for Druid, etc., the Dudes suggested that a DM can just give these cantrips to a character as part of its class, because people will often pass them by in favor of attack or powerful cantrips, and the DDudes recognize that these minor illusions and powers can add a lot to the social, roll play and creativity at the table, and that, in my opinion, is brilliant, and recognizes the heart of learning to play D&D. Especially, it helps a person like myself who would have difficulty passing on a key cantrip, and still makes it possible to learn the creativity that these cantrips offer. By suggesting this, am I power-gaming in a way to break the game? I don’t think so. And if you compare cantrips in 5e to old school play without them, already our modern D&D is full of powers.

I find it difficult to find actual fault in my request. I find this situation is one of a DM wanting absolutes, in this case RAW only, for reasons of their own, willing to disregard other players. I believe I see in these interactions the sad fact that he experiences his disappointment as valid and lamentable, but does not see my disappointment as the same. I think he puts me in a category: greedy power gamer who won’t stop. Is that your experience of what I am asking for? Other thoughts?

Looking at these things helps me clarify a few things. 1) I know how I would want to be treated, and 2) I would like to treat others that way. Perhaps understanding and help from the community will open up new possibilities for us. Otherwise, I am ok taking responsibility for what I am asking for as legitimate. I don’t get that reflection yet from my co-game creator. And perhaps it is a place where I may chose to say no to playing if we don’t find common ground here.

D&D art, The Black Hat, clarified.
My friend misunderstands me, I think, regarding The Black Hack. I actually really like most of that game in the mechanics, as it is really well built. I don’t like that kind of art, and he is wrong to suggest in a derogatory way that I only like ‘spiritual’ art, not true; essential here, I like the old, non-gore, non-horror D&D art. I have a 5 year old now, and a sense for these things has developed in my life that tells me: regardless of public opinion or mainstream habit, D&D 5e art is not suitable for young people, and I don’t want to fill myself with those images either. Some people may not like to hear that, but I stand by it. Tolkien also understood fantasy, in that he did not get so explicit on the gore, etc. It is not essential to storytelling. And today we find people filling out the details, and that leads us to horror very quickly. I would direct people to develop their finer senses in this direction, and not accept as healthy, entertainment so full of violence and horror as we see in film, books, etc. The images that pass for the public, in my experience, I strongly do not want my little child to see. The New Mutants movie poster; what a disappointment, lack of discernment, in my experience. People are creating a world (the real world we walk around in) that crowds away spaces for children, and fills restaurants and social places with screens, images and so much adult content that young children would be far better free from experiencing. That is my discernment on the matter, and it is this ideal that guides me. So from that perspective, the images and the critical fail mechanics in The Black Hack were not an interest to me. But contrary to the way my friend characterizes my relationship to Black Hack, I have a copy of that Hack printed out, without the pictures, and I spent a lot of time dreaming into it. How my friend experienced my response to him, seems more a matter for his own inner life, but I am not fully clear why I am again called out for dashing his best intentions. - The best I can do with this is: I can look at it and say, it is an another area where I could grow in my awareness of and be considerate of his feelings. That is an ideal I can work towards. It is clear that a big part of his problem with me is that he doesn’t get the response from me he could work with. It’s unfortunate. I would like to do better with this.

Treating my requests as inappropriate.
A recent email, he said this: regarding … times when I'm stating my perspective, especially when it runs counter to just opening up the candy store to whatever you wish. Apparently you're often not able to listen to statements without ill-feelings arising. I'm not here to coddle and please that impulse. - I include this recent quote to clarify something. If I express that the game in some fashion is not meeting me directly, that it is overly generic, for example to run a module where generic magic items are to be found, like a +1 long sword, with no provisions instructing the DM to consider the actual players there, that some players really would love to have a magic item, and they use a short sword, a rapier, dagger, or anything other than a +1 long sword, am I really asking my DM to open up the candy store? If a DM takes a position that a player just shows bad taste, is greedy, can’t get enough, then the attitude can come: I’m not going to coddle that impulse. There is a sharp edge to that. When I am met with that sharp edge, I don’t like it. Yes I have ill feelings in the moment he blocks my contribution. I don’t feel respected, understood, but rather find that I am harshly judged and dismissed.

I advocate for a DM that routinely adjusts a module creatively to meet the unique constellation of the party. Aren’t modules a starting place for a DM, not a fixed dish, handed out as pre-ordered, ready for the generic player? And I don’t advocate a DM to hold the line against such impulses. That is my clear take. Others? Will I ever be satisfied if he holds his position. Probably not. I can own that.

I will generalize this idea, rather than further point to my friend: Are any of us taking a posture to others in the game where we think we need to educate, berate, give tough love, coddle, or not coddle? Do I need coddling or reprimanding or anything like it? I can’t advocate for those kinds of relationships developing.

Am I met with disdain?
In his Table Rule 5 my friend expresses that he always has disdain for people who play games and feel disturbed by things the game asks them to do. He also calls those people engage in sheer foolishness. If my friend is seeking advice, I consider it a problem to ask people to sign a document where they must support the disdain of the DM for their foolish behavior. I was one who was disturbed by the game he spoke of, so he must have disdain for me. I don’t need to take his disdain personally, but I cannot advocate that being a part of written rules.

I also ask: does my friend feels he knows what ideals are the best, old school perhaps, easy going with this or that, and my requests then are rejected as not meeting those ideals, and are not met with understanding, but with disdain towards my impulse. I am calling that out. I wonder what other DMs and players feel about this? I would add, these expressions of sharpness seem to contradict ideals that are thankfully otherwise advocated for. One wants consideration, understanding, not trampling on one’s enthusiasms. Ok. Then, in kindness I would say, we ask for this from others, feel when we don’t get it, but then we all to often trick ourselves, and then act harshly to another. This is not a problem special to my friend, if he is indeed doing it. I would say we can all be trapped in it. Since my friend is putting himself out there, we can observe what there is to observe without adding shame or distain, just clarity. One of his Table Rules he created set a tone in one place for a great and generous attitude at the table. That is a great ideal. And, it is hard then, perhaps, for him to see where he gets his buttons pushed, and the tone is not observed. Others in the forum already pointed this out in productive ways. I’m not perfect in it. It is a work in progress. I have interest to improve here too.

Stop playing together, or go forward?
Early this morning, when I finished reading the post, it seemed that my friend took the experience from the forum to shore up his strength to declare we will not play together. Perhaps that is the right thing to do. But I would not consider that decision to arise out of full clarity of the situation or recognizing the potential to adjust and grow. Still, if that was a decision, I would probably want to support it. I agree with the community, if one is not happy, stopping is a viable, often healthy option.

What could make a difference?
I wonder, if I shift my way fundamentally, to being just a player, observer, etc. then perhaps I would stop stepping on his toes regarding the rules.

On the other side, I really would appreciate having some room for self-expression in forming specific areas of the game to suit my own interests. My exceptions and how I form them are basically set out in this post. I think I have to admit to myself it is important to me, and I would be disappointed if we could not open space for me. But would I not play because of that? It seems if I chose to play, and he draws that line, that would have to really let it go, otherwise I would not be fully honest. I find that I hope the space opens a bit.

Thank you.
Thanks for all the effort the forum community puts into reading and participating with us. It is encouraging and impressive to hear how people engage on these forums. And thanks to my friend for maintaining his openness to engage with me and inform me of his forum post.
I did not read all that post but it is clear that you want certain things from a game of D&D, and while there is nothing particularly unreasonable about any of it on its own, no DM is obliged to give you what you want. It is also clear that your friend @Dungeonosophy is not inclined to offer that game.
I think you would be better off finding a more compatible group. That said you should be clear with any new group of your expectations up front.
My own personal philosophy is that, you roll with the game you have joined and not try and force it in to the game you would like. If you really want the latter then run that game or decide that the current game is not for you and find a more compatible group.
I do agree that if your friend does not want to DM for you he should say so.
 
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Nebulous

Legend
To our D&D community,


Thank you.
Thanks for all the effort the forum community puts into reading and participating with us. It is encouraging and impressive to hear how people engage on these forums. And thanks to my friend for maintaining his openness to engage with me and inform me of his forum post.

I know you are new on the forum, but most people are not going to read all of a 10,000 word post. Just FYI. I do find this whole DM/Player conversation very interesting though.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
To our D&D community,

I am the so-named ‘problem player’ - here to offer support to this process.

I decided to make an attempt to make a contribution to this discussion. Are you surprised? I am the ‘problem player’ that my friend Dungeonosophy is at his wits end with. My friend and I have a very open process with each other, and he shared the link to this forum with me, with no comment of inviting me to join in or not, just mentioning that it had lots of views and posts. Reading it, I’m very happy to see the quality of responses to my friend’s thread here.

I have done my best to avoid unclear sentences and knit all these thoughts as essentially as I can. I have limited time again, and took hours already today to get this post to this level of organization. It is long, and covers the key areas I consider worthwhile. I apologize at the start for any mistakes, extra length or missed duplicates as I moved things around.

I’m interested to participate in the quality clarity this community offers.
If I am successful with this post, it would be an example of a good way for troubled friends to review and communicate their experiences with each other, and be witnessed and held accountable by a community of peers.

I would like to contribute to this thread, but I would find it unproductive and uninteresting to anyone if I focused in any way to ‘defend myself’. It is clear to me that many depictions of me have inaccuracies, from my perspective. That is part of life. I know that many people might feel betrayed by a friend for such ‘airing of the dirty laundry’ and more especially from certain depictions that add derogatory elements against me. I am not interested in focusing on that. Rather, I see a person, like always (a compliment to him), who makes attempts to come to clarity, learn something new, and do the right thing; even if his way is an imperfect way. I don’t need him to be perfect. God knows I cannot be perfect. My imperfection, fair enough, is a very real aspect of all that he is struggling with. I will share some thoughts, with the hope also to invite more comments and participation, by giving more context and further thoughtful ideas about this situation. I have the hope the process will be more productive for the both of us, and offer something to the wider community, in looking at the factors that challenge even good friends, to game together. If I advocate in my direction, or share my side of things 1) it is because I am a representative of many others in a similar situation, and 2) because the questions my friend raises is based on real situations, and I can add clarity to the discussion by bringing in my perspective and experience. My experience can’t negate his experience. It is a co-building of a situation, as best we can, so we can look at it honestly and grow from that looking.

About me.
It will help fill in the picture for people to know a few key things. I’m 52. I have a 5 year old son. I am a 50/50 parent with my wife. We both work from home, and juggle the duties involved. In addition to that, for over 20 years I have had digestive issues that make exhaustion a very real part of my life, and this fact contributes to the Rule you read about being tired. Being tired is a fact. And it has consequences for others if it does. I cannot argue that, if he points it out as a problem, it is a problem. Like many areas of challenge between us, there is no easy answer. Yeah, I’m a parent, with limited time, limited physical resources. I am tired on Monday’s. I yawn at times outside of my control. I’m not perfect. The question is: Do you still want to get together even though it is compromising to you? This theme is the one we will see again and again, and each time, it asks each of us to be flexible and resilient, or to make the hard decision, enough is enough. That is fair and a fact. Anyone is free to say no, this doesn’t work for me. I’m grateful for the time we have had this past year. I hope for more, and I must recognize that he is giving me a message: he doesn’t feel he can repeat the past. I have to get clear about this fact too.

This next bit I will share is the essential part of the email I sent in reply to my friend’s email the other day with the new Table Rules.

I will say in brief:

1. I can support you to have autonomy at your table. In D&D style, it can be your world, your table, etc. Nothing to argue with there if that is how you want it.

2. I have already proven that it is hard for me to be a perfect player according to the rules you are presenting. It is clear to me that the majority of those table behavior rules are a direct response to experiences you have had with me that you don't want to have any more. I can say to this: I can work at being better, and as ideals for the game, the behavior you are asking for is positive, but you cannot expect me to be perfect. You can expect me to agree to work against all of my imperfections in these many areas you have detailed. But we both know where my tendencies lie, at least at the game table. Since perfection is not possible, we need to know what is too much for you, and if you decide to try it out with me, we will need to review after some actual play time and see if it works for you or not.

3. If you don't want the 'imperfect me' at your table, you might have to get clear about that and say you don't want to play with me anymore. That might be what you need to maintain the soul state you want to maintain. Each person can decide what they do not want to be exposed to, and set a boundary. I expect that I can accept that and not take it personally.

4. Based on your characterization of our last discussion of a feat, I am stating that we should not discuss D&D rules anymore, or anything like it. You can clarify your rules, and we should leave it at that. Shared world/game building is not possible if one experiences sharing of ideas as crazed wrangling. I don't understand completely how that happens to you, but it is clear enough that it doesn't work. I hope that I can hold my clarity about this. You will also need to help. In the case of the last discussion, you expressly asked for it. I did not bring it to you. I made the mistake to think more was invited than actual fact, because I enjoy the process of looking at rules building so much, and I enjoy being able to create something that I could actually play with. You have made it clear that your table is for your creativity. Now I am clear about that, and I expect we cannot repeat that experience again. For the future, I would like to be more clear about what is really being asked of me, and what not.

5. I would hope that I could adjust to the new process that you are asking for. I think I will have to stop contributing to teaching people at the table, or minimize extremely. Really, best to stop altogether. Because if I am engaged in living in those types of feelings, I am more likely to step on your toes. I need to be just a player among players. Not a co-creator. A spectator in your world. That may take some adjusting, but I think it is what is needed for this to work.


I loved D&D as a teenager.
I have reflected a lot on the situation. I played D&D at a teenager, in the early 80s. Red box basic, and later 1e books. I was blown away by the experience I had from this imaginative world. Even then, I wanted to experience so much of it, the classes, the races, the magic items. After playing for a time formally in a larger group, I played further with one friend, and yeah, we wanted to experience a vorpel sword, or big stats, and we had fun exploring that. Signs of my personal love for the experiences with magic items and all that were there early on. It is a longing I think for the wonders of magic, and spirit, and the way these different classes can do amazing things.

As an adult, I found it a question: What was all that when I was young? So when I was invited to play by my friend, I said yes. But I am not a kid anymore. I don’t have so much free time. For myself, I am not going to play a game for simple fun, I can’t do that with my ideals in life. But D&D offers so much, socially, as ways to develop friendships, engage with people and learn to be a better person, overcome unwanted tendencies, etc. And my friend and I entered D&D this time around with a view to game-building. We have looked at many retro-clones, minimalist rules, and much more, and have enjoyed a great deal looking the game mechanics and such. Because of this I felt our relationship was very much co-creators of a process. It was not, for me, meeting a DM and simply saying I would play D&D. The social aspect, and the personal growth were always in the forefront for me, and these things, as a co-creator, became a big part of why I chose to play regularly, and why I chose to play with this person, who is so different than me. It was never easy, and it has teaches me so much. If it comes to a crisis for either of us, then that needs to be dealt with, and so this process… so here we find ourselves…

And, I have made mistakes.
So now, a big mistake I make, though it is not intended, I bumble, forget, and bring things to my friend that does not show an understanding for where he is at, and what he needs. He came to some crisis recently, that I didn’t fully understand or see building, and then he came to me and developed some list of things he needed in order to be able to play again. I messed up. I did not manage to drop everything that I am inwardly working with and want to further develop with the game, and give him uncluttered time to sort himself out. We can observe together, this friend of mine is very proactive to sort himself out, and he tries to do it by forming things, forming situations he can work in. (hence the points, rules, etc.) And one technique has has attempted to used to avoid getting into wrangling with me was to opt for using RAW. Sadly, I could not meet those impulses as he hoped, and needed.

The dynamic that gets activated.
For me, RAW on the whole is fine, but I have such a strong wish to have freedom to work with any few problems I discover, and tweak the game in order to correct the problem, and also to experience the joy of game development, even in small bits. When my friend as DM then meets my enthusiasm, he feels a rub because he wants to have his RAW request honored, and he takes it hard/personally/upsetting if I come with some point that ends up being perceived as a challenge to his request. So what I am learning about myself is that I don’t want to give up the small bit of creativity I have wanted, and he doesn’t want me nagging him with what he experiences as my ‘complaints’ and satisfactions. Some of what rubs him comes from my enthusiasm and wishes for how I want to play the game, and some of what rubs him are my personal quirks and failings. In sum, the dynamic becomes a battle. And neither of us will win it this way.

So, the 2 fold problem, as I see them today.
This dynamic of wanting different things, and not being able to meet the enthusiasms of the other is the source of a lot of our problems.

The other source is a combination of my poor behavior and his tendency to take things I do personally in a way that he feels he needs me to stop in order to come to peace.

Feeling betrayed.
Unfortunately, and seriously, my friend expressed feeling betrayed. That is nothing I would want another to feel. The situation is a setup for disappointment for both of us. The situation of us being so different in what we are trying to achieve. He reaches for RAW as a way to stop our wrangling. But, oops, that puts me in a place to overcome so much in myself, against everything that I will lay out in this post that pours out of me with enthusiasm. And in retrospect, I wish I could catch myself before I play out my part. He has asked me for what he needs, and I blunder in with my enthusiasm without realizing what it means to him. I regret that many times over.

For the sake of the forum:
One-sided Rules creation: not ideal.

I learned something recently that relates here. My wife and I have seen a counselor at times, to great effect, and once we discussed how she came in one day with a full, finished schedule of how our week will now go. She thought she did us a favor, as she didn’t expect I would do it on my own. But the counselor said: No, that doesn’t work. He has to be a part of building it up. You can’t just bring it to him finished like that, it doesn’t work. With my wife too, when I read her schedule for the first time, I saw a few issues, and when I mentioned that something in her schedule didn’t works so well for me, she got angry. My friend and my wife are similar in many ways. Regardless, I trust the counselor is right in relation to my situation here with my friend; even though I was willing to do my best to go along with it, there are good reasons why it isn’t ideal.

His rules were created to solve one side of the problem only.
When my friend came to me with a list he made, of all he needed to go forward, he made all of that without my participation. And in review, unfortunately, it doesn’t include solving my problems too. Then he asked me if I could agree. Now, this wasn’t just, How about this? No big deal., it was, this is the only way I can go forward, what’s it going to be? How do I answer that? It is a situation of yes and go forward, and any kind of comment or no means no. So I say yes, because I have good will and I’d like very much to do as he asks. But there has been no process for us to see what his requests mean for us as a team. I found that when I questioned things, the response from him was to view me as a complainer, stamping on his enthusiasm. I can blame myself again for not finding a way to create the right conditions to talk about it. I should not expect a better response if I am not clear myself in what he needs and what the situation needs to communicate or for me to see if I could just meet his requests without comment.

And then naturally, time and circumstances move along, I find myself either failing to meet his request (not reading the PHB and DMG in a timely manner, because I really don’t have the time or the same motivation as he has for it now) or I find myself asking questions about what my current process with a few things I hope to tweak, what I find would work better for me, and I fall into the trap of him feeling let down, even betrayed, etc. I blunder. What can I say? It is not easy for either of us to navigate.

But for friends joining on the forum, I want to share something I think we can all benefit from considering: it is clear, for a group to work, one cannot one-sidedly create a ruleset and ask for agreement without a process; that is a recipe for disappointment and frustration. And I will say this: I would love to just say yes to everything he asks for, to be a hero for him. It is just that what he asks is a weak cork on my fountain of enthusiasm, which makes me appear very forgetful, not-understanding, and perhaps he would call me selfish. The self that cannot help but exert itself. What a mess. Sorry, pal. I don’t mean to be obtuse. The lesson is, to go forward, the agreement needs to work for both of us. I didn’t see it very clearly before.

Our D&D explorations have had lots of good times.
My friend is quite unusual in his capacities. His handle, Dungeonosophy is apt. He knows a huge amount of lore, history of D&D, about world building, Tolkein, RPG in general, just so much. So I discovered, not knowing much before, because I followed nothing of D&D for 30+years, that D&D had 5++++ editions, so many clones and such, I found myself loving the game-building big picture. And I wanted so much to have freedom to experience feats, and such, with creativity. I didn’t expect us to clash so often when I brought things forward. As you read below, you will see what I have come to see as the specific trap that we have fallen into.

D&D clones, love of home brew creativity.
Thanks to my friend I have discovered so many clones, like The Blue Hack, White Hack, Heroes and Monsters (perhaps my favorite mechanics), a few others too, and 13th Age looks very interesting too. So I love game-building. I printed these rules out, read them, reflected on how to build a game, the differences of OSR and modern balanced play, etc. Having license to explore this, even in a few choice feats, or cantrips would be a great joy for me. But it has not been welcomed under the conditions my DM friend envisions. I would call this situation, as seen from my position, as no place for what I want, because we already agreed to conditions he set up, and I didn’t know ahead of time how these dynamics would play out. Clash…

I am going to share specifically the way that I ask for things from my DM friend.

In reflection, my experience of what I ask for, bring with enthusiasm is routinely: rejected.

This could mean more than one thing. 1) we made agreements, and I don’t get it, I just keep breaking agreements. 2) we made agreements that were bad for me, and we are learning the hard way that it doesn’t work. 3) We did not have foreknowledge to see that our approach won’t work.

Traps.
He mentioned it, so here is context. I did a lot of online research, and yes, I learned things that really rang true for me personally about traps in D&D, and I had high hopes to be able to explore them in play. I agreed with others writing articulately online, that traps can be tedious attrition, and I found that I would prefer, based on my own experience, to leave them out. My friend unfortunately treats me derogatorily on this matter, as if I am a silly fool. “It’s D&D.” Not for my sake, but for the sake of speaking of ideals that I would advocate, I do not advocate denigrating people for reading online and bringing ideas that they have enthusiasm for forward. I don’t agree that I need to read every word in the DMs guide before I can research a specific rule or gaming observation. I have found that research online (done with some depth) brings one to meet more than the rules from the DMG, but also errata, sage advice and forum discussions. So, whereas I can agree that knowing the rules in good, valuable, etc., I don’t join one to debase a person for researching online and coming with enthusiasm with a hope that one could bring a progressive idea into the game. Playing with traps, or not, is not a deal breaker for me, but I view it as unfortunate example of bad relations between us. Unproductive. Result of my request: No, and exasperation. Options?

Feats discussion. Crazed wrangling? Or creativity welcomed?
I am giving this as context to help our situation. I could drop it otherwise, but thought details will give people room to comment. - I enjoyed researching feats. I found a problem with the Shieldmaster Feat. People had played a long time using the shove with shield bonus action either before or after an attack action. I discovered that at one point that Jeremy Crawford did an unusual thing with this feat. He changed his ruling, and I believe it ended up in Sage Advice or Eratta or something, that shove could only come after an attack action. The sense of that whole thing bothered me. The feat was once great, then not so great. Further thinking and I felt - “ok, I see how powerful it is to shove before an attack, to have advantage on attacks after, it is very powerful. Yet it doesn’t make sense that it can only happen after. When I imagine having that skill, I expect to use the shove first.” So I tried my hand at a compromise. I wrote it poorly at first, but it the idea is this: If one attempts a shove before an attack, failure on the shove will bring disadvantage on the attacks that follow in that turn. I think I also included that the opponent would have advantage on their next attack as well. – The point was to balance the feat, to create a cost for failure to balance the big gain for success. This is only for a shove before an attack action, not a shove after an attack. My friend and I couldn’t come to terms on it. We are talking months ago. I felt that he would only accept an idea from me if someone else somewhere had already made a rule of it. I didn’t understand that take, and I wanted freedom to try it out myself, out of my own creativity. We never really resolved it, and when this new venture was proposed, my friend graciously (another compliment, he meant to find a way to satisfy me) called me and said he would consider including it as an existing homebrew. Then he read what I had written, and 3 things happened. 1) We could both see, it was not yet well written as I last left it. And my friend asked me, and I also saw that 2) There was a question whether other opponents nearby also got advantage on attacking, and 3) My friend raised a new question: what about falling prone? Well, he himself now opened up the discussion on the feat further. What a surprise. He wanted to actually look at it. He mentioned how 3e had more unpacked mechanics for failures etc. I said, well, I wouldn’t want falling prone to be automatic. It seemed to me that either it A) the shove succeeds, great you get advantage if they are prone and all your allies do to. B) you fail on the shove, but no cost, no disadvantage, which is how the feat works now. C) You fail with the disadvantage cost, and advantage to your opponent’s following attack. D) you critical fail and fall prone. - This makes sense to me as a way to be more detailed if one wants to include falling prone. I didn’t bring up the complexity of falling prone, he did. But I happily explored it with him. We didn’t come to a final, since I hadn’t thought of it through, and he wanted, as is a tendency I experience on his part, to solidify it, finish it, agree, and be done with it. I said, we don’t have experience with it yet. Why don’t we just set it up preliminarily, and we can play test it and see. – This would have been a first, to be able to really make a feat and play test it. We didn’t conclude it, and we talked longer than was good for him, and I had one thing more to share, and in the end, I think I have come to understand one more thing that pushed his buttons, as he said in the post, I think I see now, the dynamic is that he wants to finish something, set it in stone and move on, and I want to keep it fluid, and he feels despair, that it will never end. I suspect that openendedness may cause my friend anxiety. This is a new articulation for me. – I can tell you all, it was a surprise to me, to hear the next day that my participation in looking at that feat with him, he described as crazed wrangling. This is what I refer to in the email points I posted to him. – And a last detail on this: Even though he was upset with me, he did create a ruling for the Shieldmaster Feat, in his Table Rules, and it was very generous, in my estimation. And again it seems, by his forum posts, that he assumed he knew my response to his ruling on the feat, and expected me to be upset. I’m not, on the contrary. The ruling is simpler, and basically allowed the original way people used the feat. Why would I complain about that? It is true, it might be fun to playtest my disadvantage idea, but he made the feat playable and solved the problem, even if it is now more powerful than I was asking for. I think he assumes I crave power only. I also can feel when things are unbalanced, and that tempers me. My asks are often treated by him as wanting him to open the candy store (his kind of term, details follow later), and I find that misdirected and unproductive. If I am correct at what I think I see, I ask: How much of my friend’s hard time is due to imagined or exaggerated interpretations? I’ve found many cases where he was upset to include misunderstandings. I am not immune to making similar mistakes, I ask no one to mistake me as pointing a harsh finger. This observation seems a material component to my friend’s level of despair. If others see it similarly, say so, or otherwise.

Another wish of mine. Too much? Welcome?
I want to share another example of the kind of ask I present to my friend when he is DMing. I have not asked this one of him yet, but it is clear and fresh in my mind, and I welcome people on the forum to comment how they would feel if a player of my age and interests asked what I am going to propose here. - I recently reviewed a Druid guide online, very comprehensive, going through all the spells, feats, races. Pretty well done. It pointed out something I had never notice. 2 of my favorite cantrips, Shillelagh and Magic Stone were both not-recommended cantrips. Weird, I thought. I love them both. Then I looked at what was said, and carefully reviewed the spells. Contrary to most damage dealing cantrips I know, these do not level up more damage as the class level progresses. That seems strange to me. Thorn Whip’s damage levels up, Produce Flame’s damage levels up, Infestation’s damage levels up. How many others. Cantrips as a general rule seem to level up damage. So, for folks to understand directly how I approach my DM, I feel that somehow these 2 damage dealing spells were left out of more typical 5e cantrip mechanics, and I would simply like to tweak them to follow their fellows. This solves the problem that cause them to fall off a recommendation list, and bring them up to making sense and usefulness at level 4, and beyond. I don’t perceive this request as being power-hungry on my part. It seems the natural thing to do, to address what the guide writer rightly recognizes makes it fail to compare to other cantrips. And I have the interest to do it specifically, because the spells are super cool in my estimation. They were some of my favorites.

I invite the community to comment. Would you feel put out to be asked to give a player latitude to explore, experiment and correct the failings he/she perceives in the game. I think it would be appreciated to hear what various DMs feel in response to what I typically like to ask for.

Is one deplorable because they are emotionally affected by a game?
My friend seemed bothered by the fact that I am affected by the game. He mentioned me having nightmares, etc. Here is context: When I had a TPK in Cragmaw Castle, that was a totally new experience for me. I was not just ‘testing my DM’ in some vile way, (I’m sorry to learn that my comment came across so horribly to him, I don’t feel his presentation on the forum meets what it was from my side – more undo suffering? Lack of real understanding? I think so. Unfortunate. All too common.) To be more clear: I was testing the whole game experience, and more. That situation went to TPK because I also struggled to run away and leave some few of my 6 characters dead. I was frozen in a process. It was this situation and a few similar ones that caused me to actually lose sleep. My friend remembers me having nightmares, probably so, but it was more the fitful way a game experience can grip a soul. It was rough, terrible really. I couldn’t sleep for hours and I kept running over the situation again and again. I wonder how many others have had game nights that gripped them for a time. It was the total negative side to the wonderful positive side of fantasy RPG. And I found that experience very difficult to manage for a few days. I had to shift my approach to the game to go on. It was happening to me at one period pretty regularly, then I found a way to stop it, I guess. I would not advocate getting upset with others about that. – Because it is a real question the situation calls for: Am I also deplorable? Who imagines they would want to get away from a player like myself? Who relates to my experiences?

Serenity in play, can we maintain it?
Angry at dice rolls. Yeah, it happens to me. Sometimes. A problem player. Ok. How bad? Each must decide their limits of tolerance when a sore loser takes over the body of our friends.

My friend hasn’t mentioned yet on the forum, but I remember that he played D&D very young with his brothers. I wonder now what effect his brothers had in him developing his attitude with characters dying, etc. He really can play it easy if his characters are in trouble, doesn’t complain about rolls of dice. It’s impressive. Maybe the dynamics with his brothers played a part, maybe they didn’t allow him to act out, maybe he is just naturally able to do what I can’t do? He has something there. I don’t. - I can say, I wish I was more happy-go-lucky with playing games. My friend complains fundamentally about my attitude, and I cannot argue with the fact that I get very stressed in games when I am harrowed with unknowns, potential losing characters, and yes, I have a very hard time with his occassional unnaturally punishing dice rolls against me. (I say this with lightness: He can ‘not believe in luck’, fine, but you should see his rolls at times. It defies statistics. Not always, but what is that? 😊) So, eating more crow; at my worst, I get quite visibly upset, comment, complain, and suffer more than I show. It is not fun for me, it’s not fun for my friends, and it is not something I have any easy control of, and I am sure I am not alone. And, yes, because of this, my wife does not enjoy my moments. But they are moments, too many moments if you don’t want it at all, but I am working on it. This is a failing of mine. It is my job to work against my weaknesses here. I also have to admit, it’s not good. I would not argue against anyone who decided they didn’t want to deal with it. Lastly, I do wish you all could be a fly on the wall. Then this could be observed in fact and magnitude, and not only on the magnitude of my friend’s current distress about it. So I ask myself: How much can I change and how much will others tolerate? I feel like I am making progress. If it isn’t enough, it is only 1 piece of a puzzle, but one squarely on my shoulders. Sorry pal. Seriously. My bad.

Taking things personally.
There is another side to the angry player, complaining about dice rolls, about modules with generic magical weapons that don’t meet the players where they are at, etc. That other side is to take it personally when a player acts out badly. My friend says he does not believe in luck in rolling. So, if I complain about rolling, I’m a bit nuts, according to his convictions, so why get personally flustered by a nuts player? I am advocating here for not taking the bad behavior of others personally, so much as is possible, and definitely as an ideal, because in the end, a person’s own freedom and peace of mind is at stake. If we leave it that others unsettle us, then the solution is to fix the other, stop the other, rule out the other acting out. That is one way to work with life’s challenging soul states, but I can’t recommend it as desirable and effective long-term. I hold myself to this as best I can. Otherwise I could not engage in this forum with peace of mind, because many of the things said about me, in this forum and in other emails, don’t conform to my sense of truth, right, or kindness. And I got hot about it initially. And I let it go, again and again. If I do that, I can see what my friend is asking for that is right. And there is rightness to asking me to control myself and not grumble and all that too. So I am an advocate for understanding both side of this unfortunate situation, both ways of working for the highest ideals.

Why ask for special dispensations? Character death.
Now, regarding dealing with character death: I will advocate for something here. Being a parent, aged 52, and with limited physical resources and limited time available, I really don’ have much time for gaming. My wife is not thrilled that I do it at all. Some of you may understand me on this. People coming into the house, crossing her living room to get to the bathroom, and I’m ‘playing a game’. I’m lucky I can do it at all at my house. And with a kid, going outside my house would cost me time. I don’t have time to fool around. Regarding my characters dying, I had invested a lot in those characters, so when it was a question of not accepting their death, to keep working with them, a total of 6 basically 4th level characters, or building a whole new crew, is this: I simply don’t have time or resources to invest in making new characters, and based on what I am trying to experience with the game, I didn’t want to lose what I had invested in these characters, specifically the abilities, and all the spell, fighting styles, etc., and I was not finished with that process. What would making new characters amount to: changing the name, the stats, and trying to rebuild the same construct? As an adult where I have to make serious decisions about my time, energy, and investment, I would stand up and support a player who says: I don’t want to throw my real life time away just because that is the usual rule to deal with it. It is not childishness. It is practical. Here is the ideal I advocate for: I am there to play a game and have it serve the players. We do not serve the game. If my DM feels he lost his autonomy or rule to me by allowing my players to continue and not accept death, then I see this: he is creating a situation where one of us has to be a loser, him or me. I don’t support that kind of DMing, not as an ideal, as much as it can be avoided. It’s a game. And I can barely afford the time and space to play. If rules break one’s game, then it is no help. Honestly, I don’t know why he cared at all. What do I care if someone wants to keep a character they love. Yeah, it could get weird, if it happened a lot. In this particular case, I didn’t think it was weird or a big deal. It also taught me something, and as a player, I am now much more conservative than my friend about characters I have a lot invested in, since I know it is my responsibility to not let them die. Even though he offered me to game with no chance of death, he didn’t realize that I experienced that as heavy handed as a solution. I didn’t ask for no risk of death, I asked for treating that specific TPK as a learning experience. Now, I am careful not to let them die. He shares in the forum that some of his died. True enough. But, we don’t play the same. And he expressly told me he doesn’t care if they die, in great detail, so when I DM for him, possible death is a situation he is asking for, in my read. Why would I give him an experience different than he wants? So, if he presents it in a forum like a badge that only his characters have died, I can’t go along with that very far. I feel that if he understood me better, he would perhaps thank me, rather than congratulate himself. I had to overcome myself to let his characters die. It wasn’t pleasant for me. I did it to be true to the game he wants to play. To be clear, I am able to play a game too, where my character could die. It would just be a lot harder for me than for my friend, granted, especially if I was heavily invested in my character. But based on my time and other constraints, avoiding character death serves my game more, in my estimation.

So here I believe we are observing that it is too easy not to see another person. And that there is a matter of different expectations of what is allowed in the game. I didn’t know ahead of time that losing my whole party or half of it could be like that. If I had a different life/parenting circumstance, I would perhaps have let it go. But why, in this case, should I let the game dictate, if practicality of real life can’t support that detail. So I say this here in support of people confronted with a similar situation: Are we more interested in the rules of the game, or supporting people in their lives to be able to get the most out of the limited time they have? - What do we care whether players are willing to let go of their characters when they make a major mistake, or not? Are there extreme circumstances that puts others out if the death rule seems too much of a consequence? How many video games let you continue where you are, and not start over? Sometimes there is good reason to be 100% true to the game. But, if it is a matter of sorting life out, let the game bend. Otherwise, we are back to the same thing: Our unbending self can break the possibility of playing together at all. I vote for making it possible to play by being flexible to people’s needs. And I support people who chose to hold the line and stop playing.

Switching cantrips, feats, similar asks. A game breaker? A nudge?
My DM gets upset if I come and say: When I originally built this class for the 1st time I didn’t know about this spell, cantrip, feat, etc. Now, I realize I want to change it. – My context on this: Similarly, in the same vein as above, friends, I don’t have all the time in the world. I’m an advocate of flexibility for the sake of life over the game rules. I can’t play every scenario out to an end before I move along to something that will help me learn the game better, and experience it widely. I am not in it to play out every bit of minutia, I can’t. So I am grateful if I get support to move along in a way that let’s me meet my personal gaming goals, and not be forced to conform to rules that make sense in a different circumstance, but not in mine. This is how I really feel about my time and what I can say yes to. If I want to experience a different cantrip, feat, etc., then I either have a DM that can make it possible for me to get what I want from the game, or not. Life is too short for little boxes and locked doors, says I. We have plenty of those outside our control. Where I live, I don’t know of another DM to find. So I repeat the ideal: I advocate to let players get the most out of the game, so long as it doesn’t break the game for others.

And practically, the more closely I look at these many situations that can be difficult, I find myself wanting to gain the capacity of my personal flexibility, so that life and people can evolve, and do not have to conform to my personal preferences. Does my DM need to hold every rule RAW in order to evolve? My experience of Dming says no. As a DM myself, I’d rather serve my players. I draw the line for other things, like my friend included in his rules: No drugs, alcohol. I prefer no cursing. I’m a fan of fantasy without gore. We are on the same page on so many of these things, so far as I know. There are times where rules are needed, no doubt. I could imagine a group well established that could be destabilized by a player coming in and wanting/needing something like I express here and it not fitting to an existing gaming environment. That is not us. We are 2 guys in their 40s/50s, even if we invite a group of younger folks to join us, we are carrying the group and trying to play some D&D. So here I am, and I would love to have some freedom to evolve these kinds of details in my own experience. And, I vote for seeking peace of mind to not let the imperfections of others prevent us from hearing what they need from us.

So, I could agree to RAW as a general rule. But the game would open up for me if I have freedom to evolve areas that don’t make full sense.

Another bit of gratitude: Now, on the cantrip switch question, my friend found another way to be magnanimous towards me, in his own way. He said he found a place, was it Adventure League, were it was generally accepted that up to 4th level characters could be reworked. It is heartwarming to me to know that people give themselves the freedom to grow and change as they learn, and so, at least up to 4th level I can overhaul as needed. That is a big gift for me in the game. To give my personal perspective; if I were DM, you can perhaps guess that I would outright reserve the right to allow changes based on life circumstances and a person’s needs in balance with the group, rather than a generic rule and number. But my friend came through for me again here.

Give a feat instead of treasure.
Yeah, I did it, and glad I did; I watched Dungeon Dudes, and they can be quite articulate and creative in a way I respect, and they gave me 2 ideas that struck me as just great. 1) Give a feat instead of treasure; which I see makes the story a way for characters to gain meaningful attributes, and not just from the ‘mechanics’ of leveling. 2) Thaumatergy cantrip for Clerics, Druidcraft cantrip for Druid, etc., the Dudes suggested that a DM can just give these cantrips to a character as part of its class, because people will often pass them by in favor of attack or powerful cantrips, and the DDudes recognize that these minor illusions and powers can add a lot to the social, roll play and creativity at the table, and that, in my opinion, is brilliant, and recognizes the heart of learning to play D&D. Especially, it helps a person like myself who would have difficulty passing on a key cantrip, and still makes it possible to learn the creativity that these cantrips offer. By suggesting this, am I power-gaming in a way to break the game? I don’t think so. And if you compare cantrips in 5e to old school play without them, already our modern D&D is full of powers.

I find it difficult to find actual fault in my request. I find this situation is one of a DM wanting absolutes, in this case RAW only, for reasons of their own, willing to disregard other players. I believe I see in these interactions the sad fact that he experiences his disappointment as valid and lamentable, but does not see my disappointment as the same. I think he puts me in a category: greedy power gamer who won’t stop. Is that your experience of what I am asking for? Other thoughts?

Looking at these things helps me clarify a few things. 1) I know how I would want to be treated, and 2) I would like to treat others that way. Perhaps understanding and help from the community will open up new possibilities for us. Otherwise, I am ok taking responsibility for what I am asking for as legitimate. I don’t get that reflection yet from my co-game creator. And perhaps it is a place where I may chose to say no to playing if we don’t find common ground here.

D&D art, The Black Hat, clarified.
My friend misunderstands me, I think, regarding The Black Hack. I actually really like most of that game in the mechanics, as it is really well built. I don’t like that kind of art, and he is wrong to suggest in a derogatory way that I only like ‘spiritual’ art, not true; essential here, I like the old, non-gore, non-horror D&D art. I have a 5 year old now, and a sense for these things has developed in my life that tells me: regardless of public opinion or mainstream habit, D&D 5e art is not suitable for young people, and I don’t want to fill myself with those images either. Some people may not like to hear that, but I stand by it. Tolkien also understood fantasy, in that he did not get so explicit on the gore, etc. It is not essential to storytelling. And today we find people filling out the details, and that leads us to horror very quickly. I would direct people to develop their finer senses in this direction, and not accept as healthy, entertainment so full of violence and horror as we see in film, books, etc. The images that pass for the public, in my experience, I strongly do not want my little child to see. The New Mutants movie poster; what a disappointment, lack of discernment, in my experience. People are creating a world (the real world we walk around in) that crowds away spaces for children, and fills restaurants and social places with screens, images and so much adult content that young children would be far better free from experiencing. That is my discernment on the matter, and it is this ideal that guides me. So from that perspective, the images and the critical fail mechanics in The Black Hack were not an interest to me. But contrary to the way my friend characterizes my relationship to Black Hack, I have a copy of that Hack printed out, without the pictures, and I spent a lot of time dreaming into it. How my friend experienced my response to him, seems more a matter for his own inner life, but I am not fully clear why I am again called out for dashing his best intentions. - The best I can do with this is: I can look at it and say, it is an another area where I could grow in my awareness of and be considerate of his feelings. That is an ideal I can work towards. It is clear that a big part of his problem with me is that he doesn’t get the response from me he could work with. It’s unfortunate. I would like to do better with this.

Treating my requests as inappropriate.
A recent email, he said this: regarding … times when I'm stating my perspective, especially when it runs counter to just opening up the candy store to whatever you wish. Apparently you're often not able to listen to statements without ill-feelings arising. I'm not here to coddle and please that impulse. - I include this recent quote to clarify something. If I express that the game in some fashion is not meeting me directly, that it is overly generic, for example to run a module where generic magic items are to be found, like a +1 long sword, with no provisions instructing the DM to consider the actual players there, that some players really would love to have a magic item, and they use a short sword, a rapier, dagger, or anything other than a +1 long sword, am I really asking my DM to open up the candy store? If a DM takes a position that a player just shows bad taste, is greedy, can’t get enough, then the attitude can come: I’m not going to coddle that impulse. There is a sharp edge to that. When I am met with that sharp edge, I don’t like it. Yes I have ill feelings in the moment he blocks my contribution. I don’t feel respected, understood, but rather find that I am harshly judged and dismissed.

I advocate for a DM that routinely adjusts a module creatively to meet the unique constellation of the party. Aren’t modules a starting place for a DM, not a fixed dish, handed out as pre-ordered, ready for the generic player? And I don’t advocate a DM to hold the line against such impulses. That is my clear take. Others? Will I ever be satisfied if he holds his position. Probably not. I can own that.

I will generalize this idea, rather than further point to my friend: Are any of us taking a posture to others in the game where we think we need to educate, berate, give tough love, coddle, or not coddle? Do I need coddling or reprimanding or anything like it? I can’t advocate for those kinds of relationships developing.

Am I met with disdain?
In his Table Rule 5 my friend expresses that he always has disdain for people who play games and feel disturbed by things the game asks them to do. He also calls those people engage in sheer foolishness. If my friend is seeking advice, I consider it a problem to ask people to sign a document where they must support the disdain of the DM for their foolish behavior. I was one who was disturbed by the game he spoke of, so he must have disdain for me. I don’t need to take his disdain personally, but I cannot advocate that being a part of written rules.

I also ask: does my friend feels he knows what ideals are the best, old school perhaps, easy going with this or that, and my requests then are rejected as not meeting those ideals, and are not met with understanding, but with disdain towards my impulse. I am calling that out. I wonder what other DMs and players feel about this? I would add, these expressions of sharpness seem to contradict ideals that are thankfully otherwise advocated for. One wants consideration, understanding, not trampling on one’s enthusiasms. Ok. Then, in kindness I would say, we ask for this from others, feel when we don’t get it, but then we all to often trick ourselves, and then act harshly to another. This is not a problem special to my friend, if he is indeed doing it. I would say we can all be trapped in it. Since my friend is putting himself out there, we can observe what there is to observe without adding shame or distain, just clarity. One of his Table Rules he created set a tone in one place for a great and generous attitude at the table. That is a great ideal. And, it is hard then, perhaps, for him to see where he gets his buttons pushed, and the tone is not observed. Others in the forum already pointed this out in productive ways. I’m not perfect in it. It is a work in progress. I have interest to improve here too.

Stop playing together, or go forward?
Early this morning, when I finished reading the post, it seemed that my friend took the experience from the forum to shore up his strength to declare we will not play together. Perhaps that is the right thing to do. But I would not consider that decision to arise out of full clarity of the situation or recognizing the potential to adjust and grow. Still, if that was a decision, I would probably want to support it. I agree with the community, if one is not happy, stopping is a viable, often healthy option.

What could make a difference?
I wonder, if I shift my way fundamentally, to being just a player, observer, etc. then perhaps I would stop stepping on his toes regarding the rules.

On the other side, I really would appreciate having some room for self-expression in forming specific areas of the game to suit my own interests. My exceptions and how I form them are basically set out in this post. I think I have to admit to myself it is important to me, and I would be disappointed if we could not open space for me. But would I not play because of that? It seems if I chose to play, and he draws that line, that would have to really let it go, otherwise I would not be fully honest. I find that I hope the space opens a bit.

Thank you.
Thanks for all the effort the forum community puts into reading and participating with us. It is encouraging and impressive to hear how people engage on these forums. And thanks to my friend for maintaining his openness to engage with me and inform me of his forum post.
I have found that, in my experience, it is far more productive to introduce new experimental ideas into my own game than to try to convince another DM to try it. And I get it, you would like him to implement these ideas because you feel that it will improve your own experience. However, while you can inform him of a cool idea that you've heard about, you shouldn't pressure him. If he doesn't like the idea and you do, try it in your own game first. This has the additional benefit that you each get to experience it from the other side of the screen. You as a DM and he as a player. After doing so, you might find that it wasn't such a good idea at all. Or he might see that it's not the issue he anticipated it would be.

For example, you mentioned that you see no reason that Magic Stone and Magic Stick cantrips don't scale. Consider that they do in fact scale with number of attacks. Additionally, unlike other cantrips, these allow you to add your ability score modifier to damage. If you allow them to scale, then they would be arguably overpowered in the hands of any character that can make extra attacks. Certainly far more powerful than any cantrip is intended to be. You can't just balance a rule for the standard use case. You have to look for obvious ways it could be unbalanced in non-standard cases. For example, a monk with the magic initiate feat would be obscenely powerful under this proposed buff.

The Dungeon Dudes have some interesting ideas. But they don't need to run the campaign that arises from those ideas. They don't need to deal with the fallout if the proposal proves overpowered or otherwise problematic. If you convince your friend to implement the idea in his game, then he does. If you implement the idea in your game then it is your problem. If he is reticent to try something unproven, then the right thing is either to drop it politely or be the test subject by adding it to your own campaign.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Welcome to another old fart who is out shape also.
1. If the DM wants to run as written, let them. When I started running again in 2016 that what I did. Now days I let some stuff ride.
2. "My wife is not thrilled that I do it at all," This a major problem especially as game is at your house. No comment.
3. If you have time to read the net on builds, you have time to read the PHB.
4. Rebuilding your pc by swapping out cantrips etc. I have no problem with this. BUT TELL ME FIRST and do between sessions.
5. No adjustments to feats, etc. See 1.
6. My players love me when I roll low initiative and low hits. They hate me when I roll 4 20s in roll. BUT Griping about it has become an issue with your DM. Stop it. Me and some other gamers got verbally slap from a player by ragging on a mistake they made 6 months ago with a different PC. It was funny until they got tired of the ragging. The DM is tired of the ragging.
7. Death sucks. So does gripping about it. Skully two has over 80 names on him. My players know I will kill them. But I will not go out the way to do so. However I do Adventure League (AL) and Season 9 is in hell. I have told every one most of the monsters will be evil. But if I was homebrewing, after a death I do allow the player to build a new pc of the same level they lost.
8. Swapping out magic in modules to support pcs. If was homebrewing, and the player was not a problem, I would do so. I quit in 2000 trying to bribe people with magic to behave.
9. Traps. Build your pc with a high passive score. In AL that finds most traps.
10. Wall of text need paragraph breaks just to break up the wall.
 

You guys are great. I lament how long my post is, but had to make a choice against much more time to condense it. If you like the topic, we appreciate the honest perspectives.
 

Welcome to another old fart who is out shape also.
1. If the DM wants to run as written, let them. When I started running again in 2016 that what I did. Now days I let some stuff ride.
2. "My wife is not thrilled that I do it at all," This a major problem especially as game is at your house. No comment.
3. If you have time to read the net on builds, you have time to read the PHB.
4. Rebuilding your pc by swapping out cantrips etc. I have no problem with this. BUT TELL ME FIRST and do between sessions.
5. No adjustments to feats, etc. See 1.
6. My players love me when I roll low initiative and low hits. They hate me when I roll 4 20s in roll. BUT Griping about it has become an issue with your DM. Stop it. Me and some other gamers got verbally slap from a player by ragging on a mistake they made 6 months ago with a different PC. It was funny until they got tired of the ragging. The DM is tired of the ragging.
7. Death sucks. So does gripping about it. Skully two has over 80 names on him. My players know I will kill them. But I will not go out the way to do so. However I do Adventure League (AL) and Season 9 is in hell. I have told every one most of the monsters will be evil. But if I was homebrewing, after a death I do allow the player to build a new pc of the same level they lost.
8. Swapping out magic in modules to support pcs. If was homebrewing, and the player was not a problem, I would do so. I quit in 2000 trying to bribe people with magic to behave.
9. Traps. Build your pc with a high passive score. In AL that finds most traps.
10. Wall of text need paragraph breaks just to break up the wall.

Thank you. You are a sharp person. You got me on reading the PHB, time wise. It is a matter of also finding the drive to do it. But I like your responses.

Could you please say more about #8: what do you mean, bribe people with magic to behave?

Oh yeah, and what do you mean by paragraph breaks? I learned how to use BB code to remake my wall into a sane post using multi-tier spoilers. Is that what you mean, or did I miss another method? How does my post look now? Any advice?
 
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I have found that, in my experience, it is far more productive to introduce new experimental ideas into my own game than to try to convince another DM to try it. And I get it, you would like him to implement these ideas because you feel that it will improve your own experience. However, while you can inform him of a cool idea that you've heard about, you shouldn't pressure him. If he doesn't like the idea and you do, try it in your own game first. This has the additional benefit that you each get to experience it from the other side of the screen. You as a DM and he as a player. After doing so, you might find that it wasn't such a good idea at all. Or he might see that it's not the issue he anticipated it would be.

For example, you mentioned that you see no reason that Magic Stone and Magic Stick cantrips don't scale. Consider that they do in fact scale with number of attacks. Additionally, unlike other cantrips, these allow you to add your ability score modifier to damage. If you allow them to scale, then they would be arguably overpowered in the hands of any character that can make extra attacks. Certainly far more powerful than any cantrip is intended to be. You can't just balance a rule for the standard use case. You have to look for obvious ways it could be unbalanced in non-standard cases. For example, a monk with the magic initiate feat would be obscenely powerful under this proposed buff.

The Dungeon Dudes have some interesting ideas. But they don't need to run the campaign that arises from those ideas. They don't need to deal with the fallout if the proposal proves overpowered or otherwise problematic. If you convince your friend to implement the idea in his game, then he does. If you implement the idea in your game then it is your problem. If he is reticent to try something unproven, then the right thing is either to drop it politely or be the test subject by adding it to your own campaign.
This was very helpful to me, about the spells, thank you. I had forgotten about the modifiers to damage. I missed that. It shifts the bar a bit. I wonder why the writer of the Guide wrote them off so quickly, if you see these spells as still buff?

On experimental ideas: I know, I am a bit stuck in my situation. I want to experience certain things as a player, and certain other things as a DM. It is disappointing to imagine my only option in this situation is to be a DM with creative license, and not also as a player. Disappointment aside, a lot of aggravation would have been avoided if I let it go, as you wisely advise.
 

Thanks for sharing your view of things and putting so much thought and effort into posting them.

From a long-distance and completely neutral viewpoint, while I don't entirely agree with all your views and ideas I can at least see the rationale behind most of them. There's only one real place where on a philosophical basis I'd dig in my heels a bit, and it's with this:
While your DM's choice of phrasing here is - to say the least - far from diplomatic, the underlying principle behind it is solid as a rock.

I'm a firm believer in the idea of the game world being static with regards to not morphing itself to suit the particular PCs that the players happen to have rolled up.

Thus, to follow your example, if the PCs use rapier, dagger, crossbow and hammer and the adventure wants to give them a +1 longsword then a +1 longsword is exactly what they'll get; and its on them to either find a way to make use of it or to stow it away and sell it once back in town.

If my PC specializes in an exotic weapon (say, glaive-guisarme) then I-as-player have to accept in my meta-thinking that the odds of my ever finding a magic one in the wild are going to be vastly lower than if I'd gone with a more common weapon. Well, so be it. When's the last time you ever found a magic glaive-guisarme in any adventure, published or homebrew?

Yeah, I didn't think so. :)

And while I posit that it's on the DM (any DM) to provide mechanisms by which magic items can be commissioned*, it's not on the DM in any way to plant magic glaive-guisarmes in places where they otherwise wouldn't be just because my PC happens to use them.

* - where you pay an artificer who then takes a considerable time - months at least - to construct and enchant the item you paid for.

The one exception to this would be instances where the party are given customized rewards - usually divinely - for accomplishing a mission of some sort, or before setting out on one, an example being Galadhriel's gifts to the Fellowship on departing Lothlorien. Here the DM really should be tailoring the reward/gift to what the PC either most wants or most needs.
You make a sound argument. There is merit to your position. Myself, following your logic, I would prefer to make easy change where it makes sense, long sword to short, or to dagger, etc. Whenever I look further at this 'problem' I find then I'd need to create a mechanic to sell, trade, buy, create magic items. That seems like another skill set for me as a DM. So, in a way, I see that what I suggest is a shortcut to change a module created by another person to suit the style and needs I see in the players at the table; one thing for people who wish for lots of magic, something else for others. My friend is more your style, for sure.

As a player, my druid wanting non-metal armor brought a similar problem to me. There was no easy way with my friend to work with that, so I just passed on it. It was never pressing. But I have read interesting solutions for druid armor. It seems it thrives more in a homebrew environment.

And hey, I think there just aren't enough magic glaive-guisarmes in the world. Perhaps with a few more Pole-Arm Masters around the demand would rise and we would see them around! Where is that artificer when I need one?

Regardless of my personal preferences to the above, I really enjoyed your train of thought and way with it. Clear and worthy.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
@Droop-in-soup: I get the impression that what you’re looking for in D&D would be much better satisfied by DMing than by playing. As you say, you’re not in a place in your life where you can just play a game to have fun; you are seeking a greater enrichment from it, and in particular you are looking to experience game design. I think a big part of the tension you are experiencing is coming from the fact that you are trying to remain a player, when the way you really seem to want to engage with the game is as a DM. As a result, you are feeling too constrained by the player’s role, and your friend is feeling like you’re stepping on his toes. It’s not leading to an experience that is satisfying or enjoyable for either of you, and I think the best solution at this point would be for you not to play D&D together, at least until you can sort out what you both want and need out of the game and whether or not both can be satisfied by the same game.

Now, I understand that you have limited time to devote to gaming, so it may not be possible for you to DM a game, but if you can find the time, it seems to me like you would find that much more rewarding, and more fun. The ways you describe yourself engaging with the game - researching rules interpretations online, developing house rules to address problems you perceive with the rules as written, thinking about things like traps and magic item distribution and how to tweak them to make the best experience for the players, and just generally treating D&D as a creative endeavor rather than “just” a fun game? These are all ways a DM typically engages with the game, not the ways a player typically does (and players doing these things are often seen as engaging in “back-seat DMing,” which is generally considered poor form.) If that’s what you enjoy in D&D, I think you would enjoy DMing a great deal.

Lastly, if your wife doesn’t like that you play D&D... That’s a problem that needs to be dealt with. I can’t tell you what solution is right for you, but it’s not healthy to have one partner regularly participating in a hobby and the other partner resenting them for doing so. Sounds like you already see a councilor, which is great, I might recommend talking to them about D&D as well (if you haven’t already).
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
But the pictures. He expressed a lot of hurt over my reaction to the pictures. That is unfortunate. This is how it is from my side. Our campaigns included a number of characters. For myself, I did not go too deeply into exactly how my characters look, but rather live into them in a vague and unique way that lives inside. One day when I was shown some iteration of the campaign log, suddenly I had pictures for my characters and his characters. From my experience, to put a description to it, it was jarring and abstract in a bad way, there was NO relation at all to my inner experience. So, I'm sorry that I created another bummer experience for my friend. That wasn't intended. But I can't be forced to get excited about something that was distinctly unwanted.

Maybe you can't be forced to be excited, but you still read like you're being kind of a dick about it. Maybe he's overreacting a bit too, but "jarring and abstract in a bad way"? Really?!? The art your friend picked may not fit your conception of your character, but then find some that does. Find the time to find something that will suffice even if it's not perfect - it will help you communicate if nothing else.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Thank you. You are a sharp person. You got me on reading the PHB, time wise. It is a matter of also finding the drive to do it. But I like your responses.

Could you please say more about #8: what do you mean, bribe people with magic to behave?

Oh yeah, and what do you mean by paragraph breaks? I learned how to use BB code to remake my wall into a sane post using multi-tier spoilers. Is that what you mean, or did I miss another method? How does my post look now? Any advice?
This post looks find. In wall of text post, when I create a new paragraph about every 4 lines of text. The original post is fine now. I am old fart and have to set the display at 125% or my eyes get tired.

Bribing people with magic items. I use to have some problem players who either pouted when they did not get a magic item in a session. Or even when I seeded the adventure to match their wish list, their bad behavior still happen. Some I talked to some and the behavior lessen. Another I bounced from the table but not the house. I would play with him with my pc but if I dm; he would have play cards, or watch tv with the other non gamers.

With my stay at home orders. I have finish reading the DMG cover to cover. It was boring in parts and took a week. Xanathar's is my next read through. That and what ever the wife has on the honey do list. Hey I am 6 weekends ahead on the list right now.

I am currently running Adventure League. The main two rules are RAW with some errata but Crawford tweets are DM's decision. Second play nice with others. I do have some minor problem players. Most of them are due to them having special needs which sooner or later get on other gamers nerves. Two gamers we only allow to play together when there is only one table. And I an other players smack both down both players when they get on each other nerves or ours.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
This was very helpful to me, about the spells, thank you. I had forgotten about the modifiers to damage. I missed that. It shifts the bar a bit. I wonder why the writer of the Guide wrote them off so quickly, if you see these spells as still buff?
Because class guides are generally written from the perspective of that class (that's what I'm assuming you mean by guide). Shillelagh and Magic Stone aren't that great for a druid (by which I mean there are better options amongst the cantrips). Although I did have a high level druid in one campaign who used a Staff of the Viper in conjunction with Shillelagh when he was forced into melee. It was reasonably effective.

As written, they're also decent but not amazing for non-druids. However, were you to buff them by scaling as cantrips normally do, they'd be OP in the hands of a non-druid. Imagine an 11th level fighter making 3 attacks with Shillelagh for 3d8+mod damage. Now imagine that their Shillelagh is a Staff of Striking! It would be completely over the top.

FWIW, if I were to do anything with Shillelagh it would be to have it grant Extra Attack at 11th level. This buffs the druid without buffing the fighter. Even here, however, you need to be somewhat careful as there might be some unreasonable combination out there that could exploit this. Ultimately, I don't think Shillelagh is so weak that it really requires a buff. Some options will always be on the lower end of the scale. 5e is pretty good about ensuring that no options are unviable.

On experimental ideas: I know, I am a bit stuck in my situation. I want to experience certain things as a player, and certain other things as a DM. It is disappointing to imagine my only option in this situation is to be a DM with creative license, and not also as a player. Disappointment aside, a lot of aggravation would have been avoided if I let it go, as you wisely advise.
By using my own campaign as a test bed, over the years I have actually convinced the fellow DMs at my table to incorporate some of my ideas (which they balked at when I first proposed them in conversation).

Of course, some of those ideas were complete disasters and caused the campaigns I tested them in to do their best Hindenburg impression. Others worked fine in my games but my fellow DMs chose not to incorporate into their own.

The point is that if you use your own campaign as the testing ground, then your friend may like some of the ideas and might then use them in his own campaigns, meaning that you would then get to experience them. It's only a maybe, but it's something.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
I'm going to echo and comment on some of these responses to Droop-in-soup since Jasper summarizes them so well.

1. If the DM wants to run as written, let them. When I started running again in 2016 that what I did. Now days I let some stuff ride.

Agreeing to play a game by the rules as they're written for six months (or even longer) isn't really a bad agreement. You have to start somewhere and it often works better to learn a game as it was written and become familiar with it before going off the rails with modifications. Turns out the game works pretty well if you sit back and let it be what it is.

2. "My wife is not thrilled that I do it at all," This a major problem especially as game is at your house. No comment.

Yeah, this can be a tricky thing. Does she not like it because of its affect on your emotional state? Because people are tramping through the house? Because it takes up time? Because it takes you (but not her) away from the 50/50 parenting? There are remedies to each of these things but that's something between you and her.

6. My players love me when I roll low initiative and low hits. They hate me when I roll 4 20s in roll. BUT Griping about it has become an issue with your DM. Stop it. Me and some other gamers got verbally slap from a player by ragging on a mistake they made 6 months ago with a different PC. It was funny until they got tired of the ragging. The DM is tired of the ragging.
7. Death sucks. So does gripping about it. Skully two has over 80 names on him. My players know I will kill them. But I will not go out the way to do so. However I do Adventure League (AL) and Season 9 is in hell. I have told every one most of the monsters will be evil. But if I was homebrewing, after a death I do allow the player to build a new pc of the same level they lost.

The important thing here is it's a game. It's not out to get you. Weird things happen because dice are random number generators. That's part of the challenge - playing to defeat the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune as well as have fun interactions with the other characters. And yes, luck can turn on you. The full consequences of a game can be determined but it has to be with the agreement of the full table. If the other players are OK with their PCs dying and you're the only one opposed, you either need to accept their decision or find a new group to play with. Complaining and griping won't get you there. You need to model good and gracious behavior for your 5 year old. And then maybe your DM friend doesn't have to ask for stifling group guidelines.

Part of the issue here is it sounds like you think creating a new character requires a ton of investment - it doesn't have to. You can invest a lot if you want, but if you don't have the time, then don't. Find some creative shortcuts, model characters on ones that you've encountered in other media like books and movies, throw a few ideas in a hat or roll for them and see what you get - then run with them. This doesn't have to be deadly serious, carefully crafted as a tome-like novel like War and Peace. Bubblegum pop and pulp can be just as fun.

9. Traps. Build your pc with a high passive score. In AL that finds most traps.

I kind of understand the whole traps thing. Stylistically, they work for some people (and are genre appropriate) but they can also really irritate because they really slow things down, particularly for paranoid players. Like character death consequences, this is a style thing. If the other players are OK with them, you should align to their preferences. But if you find they agree with you, then Dungeonosophy should relent on them recognizing that his players just find them boring.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Maybe you can't be forced to be excited, but you still read like you're being kind of a dick about it. Maybe he's overreacting a bit too, but "jarring and abstract in a bad way"? Really?!? The art your friend picked may not fit your conception of your character, but then find some that does. Find the time to find something that will suffice even if it's not perfect - it will help you communicate if nothing else.
This may be a bit of a tangent, but I think it’s worth bringing up - “finding art” to represent your character is... kind of an iffy practice. If you want art to represent your character, I recommend either making it yourself or commissioning it from an artist whose style suits your taste. Repurposing art that was made for something else to represent your character not only forces you into a position of having to compromise on your vision of the character, it’s also generally considered theft among artists. You’re benefiting from the artist’s labor without providing any wages for said labor, which they may rely on to make a living, and at the same time misrepresenting their work as a depiction of your own character instead of the character it was created to depict.

It’s one of those offenses, like piracy of digital content, that is generally considered socially acceptable because “everyone does it,” but if nothing else it is really disrespectful to the artist whose work you “found” and used to represent your character.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
This may be a bit of a tangent, but I think it’s worth bringing up - “finding art” to represent your character is... kind of an iffy practice. If you want art to represent your character, I recommend either making it yourself or commissioning it from an artist whose style suits your taste.
Make it myself?

If I did that I'd have run a collection of nigh-identical stick figures over the past almost-40-years. :)

Commission the art? I'm not sure any artist would want me as a customer. I know in my head what I want the character to look like but I'd be crap at describing it as I only know what's right when I see it, meaning the artist would probably end up doing gobs of pictures before finally getting it right when expecting to only do one. That, and there's the question of affordability...
 

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