D&D 5E Restrictive DMs and player enjoyment

I think some degree of limitation is healthy for creativity, for both players and GM. And I think that a GM should be free to create as restrictive a setting as they like, but it is on them to pitch that setting to players and get buy in.
I think the idea that limitations breed creativity is orthogonal to the restrictiveness or not of the DM.

Suppose I, as GM, pitch 5 campaign ideas to my players. One of them is an Undedark campaign with a psionic flavour with heavy limitations: only races available are Underdark races, no prepared spellcasters. (BTW, this really happened).

The players’ creativity can absolutely be stoked by limitations without the DM being restrictive.
 

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TwoSix

"Diegetics", by L. Ron Gygax
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.
If I'm in a position where I think of a cool concept, but I have a sense from experience that the DM won't really be open to it, the DM is probably more restrictive than I like.

I have some DMs that are more restrictive, which is fine, but it definitely isn't my preference.
 

I figure the DM’s do far, far more work, so their wants and desires are indeed worth more. If nobody is willing to do that work, no game for anyone.
From which perspective?

As a player, I will absolutely cut the DM some slack if he makes a bad call, or the adventure seems rushed, or a player action catches him off guard, or a proposed action will take a lot of effort to implement etc.

As a DM, believing that my opinion matters more than the players because I put in more work is a surefire recipe for running roughshod over the players’ actions, desires and decisions.
 

Oofta

Legend
Obviously I'm biased on this, but I'd rather have a cohesive world that the DM is enthusiastic about, that has depth and history. I'm okay with kitchen sink worlds like FR, I play in that setting now. But it's kind of bland to me, in a "When everyone's special no one's special" kind of way. I enjoyed the movie Zootopia. I think having dozens of different species in Star Wars and Star Trek make sense to the setting even if many of the assumptions don't make sense scientifically.

As long as the DM is up front with what their restrictions are I'm okay with it. Maybe that means no evil characters, or only evil characters. If it's the latter then I'll know it just isn't the game for me and that's okay. There's also more nebulous restrictions or directions, like the DM that runs a light hearted campaign isn't going to be a great place for that emo loner who hates the world.

They don't even really have to explain why they have those restrictions because it doesn't really matter, they're the DM. If the DM isn't having fun with their world, if the world doesn't make sense to them then I don't see how they can make it fun or bring it to life for anyone else. If the DM wants to limit sharpshooter with crossbow expertise because one PC tends to outshine the other PCs and it makes combats too difficult to plan, so be it.

If you run complete one-off shorter term campaigns in a world built just for that campaign I can see having more flexibility. If I want to come up with a kitchen sink world that makes sense to me, I'll set up a world that's a mystical crossroads with people popping in from different alternate realms on a regular basis. Until then I'd rather have a world with a limited number of species where there is real cultural background and differences, something that gives the species an identity outside of their appearance.

What it all comes down to for me is that if the DM ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. Trying to please everyone oftentimes leads to pleasing no one, if a DM has restrictions I don't care for then they may not be the DM for me and that's okay.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
"Are my wants and desires worth more than everyone else's at the table?"

Eh. That's a recipe for someone domineering to control the table.

The game is at its best when it is a collaborative effort. That does NOT mean a player's wants are always subsumed as less important than everyone else at the table. That means we have some give and take - sometimes you get what you want, and sometimes you give way so someone else gets what they want.
 

TwoSix

"Diegetics", by L. Ron Gygax
I prefer DMs who have an established premise or idea for the world / setting / locale we are playing in, so that I may create a character that makes sense to be there. One, so that I don't need to make the DM or myself jump through hoops to justify why my character is actually going out on the adventure in front of us... and Two, because having a character that is actually connected in some way to the situation at hand is actually selfishly a benefit-- the DM will assume/decide my character has knowledge and connections just from proximity if nothing else and I'll gain privileges I might not otherwise have if I play some out-there, weirdass PC that is just there for the sake of it.

Playing into the tropes of the campaign will only help in the long run, rather than constantly trying to run counter to it.
Heh. One of my longstanding "rules" for character creation is basically "If the DM presents options for certain homebrew races or classes, take them. It's almost certainly a pet concept the DM likes and will reward you for taking".
 

TwoSix

"Diegetics", by L. Ron Gygax
Maybe I read the OP wrong, but I thought the OP was more about doing some novel reskinning than the DM imposing race/class restrictions.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
I think the idea that limitations breed creativity is orthogonal to the restrictiveness or not of the DM.

Suppose I, as GM, pitch 5 campaign ideas to my players. One of them is an Undedark campaign with a psionic flavour with heavy limitations: only races available are Underdark races, no prepared spellcasters. (BTW, this really happened).

The players’ creativity can absolutely be stoked by limitations without the DM being restrictive.
I don't understand how your post argues with what I said. The GM in your scenario created a restrictive setting and got player buy in. That's what I said.
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
I'm fine with DM restrictions as long as they are clearly communicated up front so I can decide whether or not it's the the game I'd like to play in.

I strongly dislike finding out about restrictions or rules changes AFTER I have already joined a game. This is rare, but has definitely happened in games I've played in.
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
If the party looks at the GM and says they want to take over the thieves guild even though the GM would rather do a long dungeon crawl, the GM has to shift focus. Player agency is paramount IMO.

While I know you mean well, I honestly couldn't disagree more with this as a blanket statement. The GM doesn't always "have to" automatically change the campaign focus to suit the players.

In a situation like you describe, there should be a dialogue about that, out of game, between players and the GM to find a compromise everyone is happy with. Player agency is not always paramount. The GM isn't obliged to run a campaign or style that they don't want to run.
 

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