D&D 5E Restrictive DMs and player enjoyment

Larnievc

Hero
I just “clocked out” and started designing a character. And then started thinking that my idea would not fly at all tables. Some DMs would say “no.”

That would be a drag and made me question: do players prefer a restrictive or permissive DM?

Curious if any players prefer a tight fisted DM vs a more open one.

Feel free to explain your definition of restrictive vs. permissive DM.
When I started as a DM in the mid 80s I used to be really tight. Very strict. Realism was a constant thing for me to wrestle with. Minor details were very important.

Now I try as much as is practical to let the PCs live up to their player's expectations. So I don't sweat the small stuff.
 

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clearstream

(He, Him)
And I bet they'd tell you "We've seen how trying to deal with it non-mechanically works out. Pass."

So there you are.
That makes me wonder. It seems folk are comfortable with game designers being restrictive. (It's kind of the point of a game design - to restrict, and in so doing shape a space for distinct gameplay.) Players typically enjoy their Blades in the Dark being "restricted" to Duskvol. Of course one can create a replacement set of "restrictions" to move the action elsewhere... while still applying the scene framing etc "restrictions" (i.e. rules) of BitD.

Say the designer sits down to GM (there's online evidence of Harper doing exactly that), are they still doing a service for their group by being restrictive in the way they were as a designer? It feels like greater deference is given designers than GMs, but what happens when GMs are doing secondary, or supplementary primary design? And what about mechanical restrictions that as game designer they have designed to bind the GM? Do players want GM to be less restrictive with mechanical restrictions on themselves?

Suppose it is put that games are about restrictions, and that the central question is whether the given restrictions are interesting to play. And, equally, that games are not about imposing restrictions any further than that (i.e. needless to play.) Should GM be restrictive in applying rules that bind GM?
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
I have talked to many players about this. Like, a lot. Pretty much everyone I know that plays D&D.

In my experience, it is split 50/50. The ones that prefer no restrictions seem to follow one or more of these ideas:
  • I want to min/max and create the strongest character I can.
  • I want to play in a very high fantasy world where anything and everything can exist.
  • I like to play in a lot of different settings.
  • I don't care - I am here to be social and play a game.
The ones that prefer tight restrictions seem to follow one or more of these ideas:
  • I want to min/max, but I also want our group to not have vast power differences.
  • I want to play in a more consistent fantasy world.
  • I like to deep dive into settings.
  • I don't care - I am here to be social and play a game.
Please note, I have played in both. I have DM'ed both. I know my preference yet have found both fun.
The first one - minmaxing - doesn't seem listed correctly. But perhaps one needs to differentiate between what might be disparagingly labelled "munchkinning" versus "optimizing". One cannot minmax in a truly wargamery sense without restrictions. One can certainly powergame. Is it right to say that you are thinking of the latter?
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
That makes me wonder. It seems folk are comfortable with game designers being restrictive. (It's kind of the point of a game design - to restrict, and in so doing shape a space for distinct gameplay.) Players typically enjoy their Blades in the Dark being "restricted" to Duskvol. Of course one can create a replacement set of "restrictions" to move the action elsewhere... while still applying the scene framing etc "restrictions" (i.e. rules) of BitD.

Say the designer sits down to GM (there's online evidence of Harper doing exactly that), are they still doing a service for their group by being restrictive in the way they were as a designer? It feels like greater deference is given designers than GMs, but what happens when GMs are doing secondary, or supplementary primary design? And what about mechanical restrictions that as game designer they have designed to bind the GM? Do players want GM to be less restrictive with mechanical restrictions on themselves?

Suppose it is put that games are about restrictions, and that the central question is whether the given restrictions are interesting to play. And, equally, that games are not about imposing restrictions any further than that (i.e. needless to play.) Should GM be restrictive in applying rules that bind GM?

As I suggested, its a question of buy-in in most cases. If you've got a game that's restrictive, the only time people will have a real issue with that is if they don't understand it is going in (ignoring the people I mentioned who think anything short of full, open-world D&D where you can play anyone and do anything is not an RPG). Most of the cases where people get soggy about restrictions up-front on campaigns are when they don't know about them until they're partly or fully committed.

Sometimes people will have issues with it up-front too, but then, sometimes people have issues with choice of game up-front also; that usually has to do with what games are available more than any sort of philosophical example (i.e. where its "play game X/Campaign Y or play nothing").
 

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