You're describing my unfortunate behavior of the past, and I acknowledge that problem. I asked the question of GMs that can actually enjoy joining players who want to be creative at the table.
I realize I have a question to add to your post. And I would love to hear some people at least verify the validity of the point I would like to add.
I have to agree with your assessment of my situation - with this specific DM.
I would add this too, that also no DM wants me to act out about dice rolls, etc. Any bad behavior I have to own and deal with. That is universal.
But I am not yet convinced in overly fixing the separate rolls between player and DM . If I have potential as a DM, then it is clear that a DM (me) would be very happy to have a player engage on the level of correcting facets of things that might offer rich experiences and learning. Feats, spells, whatever. Isn't this the basis of friends who like to home brew? Sure, I'd have limits, but I expect I can't be the only one who imagines a friendly partnership between players and DM in this way.
I don't see myself as pure DMs nightmare. I do see myself as a nightmare for my friend DM. Are people going to insist that my asks are in the majority a problem, or ok in themselves and just need the right DM. My asks are one thing. Bad behavior is another thing.
I am separating the two things and looking for whether another culture exists here than those who relate to my friend as DM.
Welcome buddy. I admire your courage in wading in. Bold move! Well done.
(Fine handle: Your "Droop" goblin sidekick really jumped into the "Soup" this time. )
There are two priority issues:
1) That we remain good friends.
2) That we as individuals, devote our time to what is nourishing (=fun), edifying (=virtue-building), and healthy (=sane). In my case, the question is whether (or how) I am able to game with you (and especially DM with you) without feeling crazy.
I've already sent my best hand-written letter through the local post office. I have already decided that I cannot DM with you any more, barring an unprecedented change in character.
What is an unprecedented change in character?
Some things you say here, seem to be a continuation of changeless misperceptions. Which I could and may (or may not) respond to in detail.
@Sabathius42OP is short for Original Poster. In this case, your friend.
"Trolling" is an activity in which a person or persons deliberately stirs up drama instead of genuinely engaging in whatever activity the medium is there for.
A "Sock Puppet" is a separate account a troll might use to help create drama. A lot of times you can identify a sock puppet by comparing the style, vocabulary, and format of one accounts posts versus another.
April 1st (aka April Fools Day) is a day where many on websites and forums takes the opportunity to "trick" people into believing and engaging in a story that is fiction.
If you are exactly who you say and represent yourself to be then great! Welcome to ENWorld!
If you are interested in this community then it really is a great source for discussing D&D and other RPG topics.
First, thanks for everyone's feedback, even those who felt off-put.
Context: it's not a school club, it's a house game of adults ranging from 20s to 50s. We just call it the "D&D Club."
I admit that the language is hard and confrontational and wounded (non-secure) in places, because I have felt repeatedly chafed and crazed by certain experiences. It came to a head this week, and I felt I was living in a crazening co-dependent DM's nightmare.
These Table Rules were a first draft, which I may (and probably should) further hone, thanks to your suggestions. I haven't yet shared it with the other members of the group (beyond my problem-player), and it makes sense to tone down and streamline some of the wording.
Yet I'm hoping that this ultra-frank draft will sink into the player's memory, because the player has a tendency to forget things, and to renege on agreements, and we repeatedly fall back into difficult dynamics.
I'm sorry to say: there's a reason why each point is there.
This was my attempt to salvage the group, by making a frank inventory of my sore spots, and presenting it in an actionable way.
In regard to the parts of Rule Zero which chafed the most readers in this thread:
The DM can make up rules on the spot, fudge the dice, repeatedly change rules, alter a monster's hit points and stats on the fly, retcon the story, switch to a different rules system, and even modify your character's traits, stats, and features!
Well, I have not been that way as a DM -- if you read some of the other, nicer table rules, you'll see my more usual tenor. Yes, if that was the invitational document to a new player, I can see how it'd be daunting and off-putting...yet at this point, this document is more a "medicinal" antidote and "wake-up call" directed to this specific player. The intense wording is a countermeasure, to moderate the opposite expectation--for the past year, the player has expected me to bend and sway to entertain his wishes.
For example: I told the table that I want to play 5E RAW. I wanted to spend 6 months running a straight RAW campaign, so that I have that as skill-set, and then at the end of the 6 months, I'd be open to considering new house rules, or switching to another RPG system.
So, a day or two later, the player calls me and says he saw a cool Youtube video where the DMs recommend giving out bonus feats as story rewards. At the end, he's like: "So, are you up for that?" I was like: "That's cool, but no, I'm playing RAW". And he got angry. He can't take "No" for an answer.
He was like: "But you gave us other stuff, like letting us become Knights of the White Dragon and Saints of Namyats, and we received titles from the Harpers and Lords' Alliance." I was like: "I'm glad you enjoyed those. But that's story! There were no mechanical benefits. But a bonus feat is a big mechanical boon. Gaining a feat is really rare in 5e." He didn't know what Factions and Renown was -- and he thought that those are commensurate to receiving bonus Feats. He was disappointed that I wouldn't hand out Feats as treasure, like I handed out titles for Faction rewards.
If I say "no", he pouts, and grumbles about me being a stingy, un-free, box-minded, linear DM. (At the same time, last summer, I invented a freeform LARP version of D&D which he enjoyed playing -- somehow he forgets that. But now I want to play 5E RAW.)
As for emotional serenity. He gets disturbed and has nightmares afterward. He grits his teeth and yells loudly in anger when he rolls low or makes a mistake. Which is a bummer.
At some point in the Phandelver adventure, I got tired of coddling his party with kid gloves. (At that point, we were playing one-on-one, since we hadn't found other players yet.)
So I resolved to play Cragmaw Castle with my very best monster tactics.
So he went up to the side door and found it locked. He was running multiple characters, one of which is a thief, with proficiency in lockpicks. But he said: "Well, I guess there's no other way than through the front gate." Long story short: after a long attricious fight in the entryway, one thing led to another, and the doppleganger drew him into the central room...where he was surrounded by dozens of goblins + the big boss and his pet, and the doppleganger. And his entire party was felled. Total Party Loss. I played it totally straight.
Two characters made their death saves and were made slaves of the Cragmaw boss. I was ready to move on -- I was planning to pick up a Slavers adventure. But he was like: "I don't have time to make up a new character! I didn't sign up for this!" I'm like: "You didn't sign up for the possibility of your characters dying in D&D?!"
He was emotionally bent out of shape. So basically, I felt I was at the mercy of his wishes and emotions and distress - like I'm just there to entertain him and make sure that his PCs don't die, no matter what. So I let him replay Cragmaw Castle, and retconned the previous TPL to be a dream-sequence.
And I even flat out told him: "Okay, for the rest of this adventure, so let's just play that your characters can't die." And he was happy with that. And I even said: "If you don't like how a scene went, you can either replay the scene, or just retcon it yourself, and tell me how the story actually went." haha - I thought was being pretty generous as a DM. But seriously, I was trying to be 'therapeutic' when faced with some major emotional troubles.
In regard to the Cragmaw TPL, he even admitted later that "I was testing you to see how far I could go."
Last adventure, I just gave up, and decided to fulfill his wildest dreams. He had repeatedly griped that he should have a +2 weapon by now (he was 4th level), and that since the Lost Mine of Phandelver is rumored to have a magical forge, then the module is dumb for not having magic weapons lying around, and that I should change whatever magic weapons are in the adventure so that it matches his own character (e.g. instead of a magic sword, it should be a magic pole arm -- which is not a terrible idea, but I simply prefer to play the module-as-written, like I did back in the old days of BECMI. And he doesn't like it.)
Anyway, for the final room of the Lost Mine, I filled the treasure room with 101 magic items, including a vorpal sword, and all the specific magic items he'd asked for (ring of protection, cloak of protection, girdle of giant strength, etc).
Result? As I read the list off, the player's face drooped more and more, and he became emotionally distressed. He was totally unhappy. Afterward he said he "hated that", and said I was being "vindictive". I was like: "Vindictive is a strong word. My jest was no more intense than your repeated griping."
Another example: he would get angry that I don't accept his proposed changes to the class features of his character (to make them more powerful) -- for example, he wanted me to house-rule that a Fighter could take more than one Fighting Style, and switch between them, from round to round. I'm like: "Dude, I told you I want to learn to play RAW." And he pouts and gets angry, and labels me as being "constrictive of player freedom."
He'll read some article online, and then swear by it. Even though he hasn't read the PHB or DMG himself. Ever since he read some article about how there shouldn't be traps in D&D, he wants me to delete all traps from D&D adventures. I'm like: "Dude, it's D&D! There are going to be traps!" He portrays me as a crotchety DM for not going along with his wish that there be no traps in D&D!
In regard to Shield Master. He made up a character with Shield Master feat- and before the character entered play I ruled for the latest (revised) Sage Advice on that feat; but he pouted and wouldn't play that character. Then, as a sop, I wrote up a new ruling which salvaged the original (pre-revision) Sage Advice, but required the Shield Master to actually follow through with their declared attack (no matter what), if they took the bonus Shove before the attack. He didn't like that, and so he wrote his own version.
I even provisionally agreed to the intent of his Shield Master hack, but when I asked for clarification about his wording, it all unraveled. He offered various explanations: "If I fail on the Shove, I suffer Disadvantage to attack that creature for the rest of this turn (but not any other creature), or maybe there'd be four different degrees of success or failure on the Shove." He suggested that we playtest the various proposals. I became frustrated with the lack of firmness and contour. And didn't relish drawing it out even further by a playtest. I said that if we are going to totally homebrew the Shield Master feat, ideally we would first gather all the various online hacks of the feat which others have written, so as to see ways others have done it, as due diligence. But he lightly dismissed this as being uncreative, saying: "We should just trust our own creativity." This happened a couple days ago. We had spent months wrangling over this feat, just because he wouldn't really accept either of the Sage Advice rulings which I adopted.
At the same time as he was proposing these changes in how feats and fighter styles work, he didn't even know the rules well enough to roll ability scores. His character had a wild array of numbers: like several 18s and 17s, and some like 3s or 4s (or something like that). I was like: "What method did you use to roll up your character?" And he was like: "d20s."
At the same time, he was busting my chops for not going along with his proposals to change the RAW . He seems to think that just because he read it online, and he thinks it's a good idea for his character (i.e. makes his character more powerful), then it's ingeniously inspired, and I should adopt it. And that I'm a mephistophelean gear-head for trying to play the RAW.
In hopes of salvaging things, I recently announced that I'm starting a new campaign, where everyone is going to start on a level playing field. Partly because, when we first started playing, he would roll multiple sets of ability scores, and choose the highest. And I have another player whose character has suspiciously high scores (IIRC, the scores are all 14 or higher) So I wanted to head off that temptation. So I was like: if you want bring an old character into this new campaign, I need you to redo their ability scores using the Standard Array or Point Buy. But he was like: "I rolled an 18 for the druid, and I don't want to give it up."
That blew my fuse. I felt I could literally not make any rulings or table parameters without being endlessly challenged and pushed and prodded.
I said: "Well, photocopy the sheet, and keep its stats for use in another campaign."
But I went to bed feeling like I was trapped in a crazed codependent DMs nightmare.
The next morning, I wrote up and sent the Twenty Table Rules. Which was just yesterday.
So you see I'm still in the thick of some tumult - that is why some of the wording is too hard and harsh.
You guys are right that this player-constellation may not be salvageable. These "Twenty Table Rules" are really a last-ditch effort, in hopes that my dynamics with this player would truly and lastingly change.
Lastly, believe it or not, we are best friends. His wife warned me that he has emotional trouble when playing games. That is something to consider.
Well, I've gone and "aired the laundry" in public, and "called out the cavalry" in this thread.
You’re a bit late to the party.Sack this dude from your table. Immediately.
Seriously, why on earth would you spend your free time hanging out with a self entitled, whiny, oversensitive, demanding, cheating, sooky player who cant be assed reading the rules (but clearly spends a lot of time reading up on how to wreck games)?
If someone was like that to me, they would be instantly booted from the group. No ifs buts or maybes. If they were like that to me in ANY context, I would flat out refuse to hang with them under any circumstance.
I have not come to a complete conclusion as to whether it was ideal that you, the OP and my friend, brought this thread to an open community. As to how you portrayed me in those posts, I am sure it has cost me in some fashion by creating a certain picture of me here before I could present myself, but my focus on it is, as I've said before, that I don't need you to be perfect for my sake, so you can judge that for yourself.
In the future, you may want to ask your co-creator before you choose to 'let it all hang out,' but for me, I've no reason at the moment to do more than make the most of it.
I would characterize my feelings about myself and my inner focus is that at the moment my focus is to be a good player. Not a self-appointed co-creator who insists on demanding agency where my way is not in harmony with my friends.
I'm changing the title of this thread: "I need D&D counselling! Help!"
I'm gonna let it all out.
Some more difficult/crazening episodes:
A few days ago when I read off the ENWorlder's advice to my player, he said that I'm a selfish DM because I don't want to make him happy by maximizing his fun. He said when he DMs, he tries to make me happy as a player.
Which sounds nice. But I basically told him:
"Look, the difference is, I am EASY TO PLEASE as a player. You know I don't care how many magic items I get -- I enjoy whatever comes along. You know I don't care if my characters die - I'll happily roll up a new one. It doesn't mean I'm careless or apathetic. I'm just happy for the story. If I roll a sub-par character, you know I try to make the most of it."
"You on the other hand, ARE VERY DIFFICULT TO PLEASE. You push and push to change the RAW to make your characters the most powerful. You gripe about every bit and bobble. You flip out if you make even the slightest tactical mistake, and will not accept the possibilty of any of your characters dying, or suffering any loss whatsoever. You forget whatever agreements you make. You criticize much of what I bring to the table. And you repeatedly challenge and prick at whatever rulings and parameters I try to establish."
That got through to him. He agreed.
(But by our next conversation, he'd reverted to his usual difficult, wrangling self.)
I'm the only player in our group who has lost characters. Three of my characters have died under his DMship. And I didn't sweat it.
But when one of his characters dies, he flips out.
This player used to actually blame me for him not remembering to use his class powers. He would get angry and say: "You should've reminded me to use this power!"
I would have to tell him: "Man, I have a lot going on my side of the table, with fifty monsters and NPCs and entire world to run. Imagine a line running down the middle of the table. You are totally responsible for your side of the table, namely, your PCs. And I am totally responsible for this side of the table, namely the monsters and setting."
My friend may have difficulty with perceiving and honoring boundaries.
I once tried to run a B/X adventure, using B/X Moldvay rules. I was interested in trying that - and had even pre-ordered the B/X-based Old School Essentials boxed set, in anticipation.
But when we played B/X, he would gripe and snipe at me about this and that.
He kept griping that the party's Magic-User only had Read Languages.
He griped about the B/X Combat Sequence, with its Declaration Phase, etc. When I had explicitly said that part of the goal for the evening was to understand and experience how it was done back in those days.
He griped that his Elf set off a trap. And blamed me: "I only rushed in without checking for traps because it took so long for you to guide the newcomers to roll up characters." (Remember, he is sure that there should be no traps in D&D at all.)
The evening was un-enjoyable.
After that, I canceled my OSE order.
Later he asked: "When is your OSE kickstarter arriving?" I was like: "I canceled my order. We hated that game, don't you remember? (Him: "Oh yeah.") "Why would I buy a game that we hated. We could've liked it, but we didn't."
When I say "we", I mean "he." And I hated the experience because it was trampled on.
(Now, I admit that as DM, I was in large part responsible for various snags during the evening (e.g. I got THAC0 backwards), but he sure as heck wasn't very helpful in facilitating a good experience for all.)
BTW, when I next played, with him DMing, I intentionally rolled up a Magic-User whose one spell is Read Languages.
And you know what? My 3-hit-point-MU-with-Read-Languages fought a 70 hp fire elemental hand-to-hand with a dagger, for many rounds (along with the rest of the party), and slew it.
I was like: "That's how you play a MU with only Read Languages."
Another time, I bought the whole Black Hack package (hardcover + player's booklet + GM's screen) and had it shipped from the UK. I was so looking forward to GMing it, with some intention of it becoming my favored ruleset. (I was desparately seeking a way out of the brain-frazzling complexities of 5E, and the argumentative wrangling which came with it.) But when I joyfully pulled out The Black Hack to show-and-tell, he trampled on it. He wouldn't even consider playing, because the artwork was too edgy -- for example, it has a pentacle on the cover. (He went to some art school in Switzerland, and is apparently allergic to anything which isn't ultra-refined, high spiritual art.)
Since then, he shudders and makes a critical comment whenever The Black Hack is even mentioned.
I shelved my aspiration. TBH is gathering dust on my shelf.
Sometimes he can be kind of like the 'church lady' from SNL. I told him that a local player had responded to our D&D promotional poster, and that the enquirer said he was familiar with Savage Worlds and FATE. He shuddered and interrupted: "Oh, those are dark games aren't they?"
I'm like: "FATE is about as non-dark as you can get. It's a totally generic, setting-free, mechanics-light ruleset."
He's like: "Yeah, but the other, it has word 'savage' in it - it must be violent and dark. Surely it's not referring to dinosaurs."
I'm like (in exasperation): "Yes, as a matter of fact, it is referring to dinosaurs. The name is inspired by pulp fiction titles from the 1920s, which featured 'savage' themes, such as Tarzan and lost worlds of dinosaurs. 1920s fiction was not so dark."
He was like: "You're kind of jacked up, aren't you?"
I was like: "Jay-zus, man! I'm just relaying some basic information here, about a player enquiry. Can't we just skip the moral inquisition?"
And here's more of our group history:
At first was just him and I. We learned the basics of 5E together over the course of several months.
I served as DM, and he as player. The emotional difficulties and wrangling I mentioned earlier, built up, and I felt chafed. So I asked him to please try DMing.
Honestly, 90% of the reason I asked him to DM was in hopes that the experience of sitting on the other side of the screen would somehow sand off his constant criticism.
Then a younger friend joined us, which helped the dynamic.
Around that time, I'd gotten burnt out on the complexities and fiddly bits of 5E (which fueled arguments), and so we tried some OSR games: White Box, Heroes & Monsters, and the aforementioned B/X / OSE.
As warm weather came, I decided to switch to a homemade LARP D&D system. And the three of us played outside all last summer. It was fun.
But then as cold weather arrived, we settled back into table play. At first we used the LARP rules while sitting at the table, but 5E creeped back in. Because LARP of course lacked almost any sort of tactical / mechanical aspect.
But we had a huge roster of characters - probably 50 characters between us, built using several different systems, but existing in the same world. I dreaded converting them.
And I dreaded going back to the brain-friction-inducing 5E.
I was also working on my own home-made RPG, and we playested it a couple times, but it wasn't really coming together.
I considered quitting again.
All this, from a year+ of play, had built up over time. The sore spots had not really resolved themselves. My "problem-player" had changed in some ways, but in other ways, kept doing the same difficult things over and over again. I was considering quitting.
But again, a vision arose: of really devoting ourselves to learning how to play straight 5E RAW. So that we'd have a stable ruleset. We'd take one month off from playing. And we'd put up posters to grow our group, and get fresh blood flowing -- a new dynamic. During that month, we'd all buy a copy of the PHB (we played for over a year with only the Starter Set and online rule references). And the two DMs would buy a copy of the DMG. And read it. And we'd refrain from houserules, so that we could more easily plug into the existing player network.
We'd convert all our key characters to 5E. And we'd play 5E RAW for 6 months straight. I would go back to serving as primary DM. I laid out the titles of a bunch of cool 5E adventures I plan to run.
After 6 months, we'd re-assess. At that time, we could adopt house rules, or even switch to a different system. But just give me 6 months of 5E RAW.
Thus I decided to humble myself and go back to 5E. I DON'T EVEN LIKE 5E. But I could get enthusiastic about doing it if we would essentially do RAW, so that I could finally properly learn it, instead of mixing in a bunch of exceptions and house-rules from the start, like we used to do.
My friend agreed to the vision.
We put up posters, and a fourth player joined us.
But as things got rolling, my friend reneged on the agreement. He said: "I agreed to something I didn't understand. I don't want to play RAW." And he went into making the usual requests for rules changes, bennies, etc. like he used to do.
I felt betrayed. And crazed.
In retrospect, it would've been better to sit down together and jointly decide what system we would adopt, if any. BUT I WAS SO THROUGH WITH NEGOTIATING WITH HIM! The thought of negotiation blacked out whatever fire I had left to play.
And I myself could not picture how any other system would really work for us. For two reasons:
1) 13th Age was at the top of the list, but to buy its complete array of sourcebooks (and thus serve as a complete platform for converting our existing world) would cost $200+.
2) Converting our characters to another system (whether it be 13th Age, The Black Hack, OSE, or White Hack) would involve even more home-brewing (in order to model our motley crew of monstrous PC races) -- and I dreaded haggling with him over the creative details that such a home-brewing would entail.
So my vision basically mandated 5E RAW. But that is why.
We took a month off - which was March. We are slated to begin play again in April. But as you see from my recent posts, there are some big wrenches in the works.
In my next post, I'll list positive qualities of this player, so you can see why we're friends.