D&D 5E Restrictive DMs and player enjoyment

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
Rather I mean that players should have the freedom to choose their own paths. They should follow their characters' motivations and it is incumbent on the GM to answer the questions posed in them seeking their own goals.

So, one issue here is that this is lacking context. Another is that it is stated with the focus on the player's freedoms, without acknowledgement that with those freedoms come responsibilities.

Was there a Session Zero in which the basic approach to play was discussed? As character goals changed, did they have a discussion to make sure that the resulting game was still going to be everyone's cup of tea?

The players should have freedom to choose their goals within the bounds of play discussed before play began. They should not automatically have the freedom to explore goals outside those bounds.
 

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CreamCloud0

One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
And for that campaign, there's only 1 way to make the concept work..
i mean, could we let the shark breathe air instead and swap the swim speed for a burrowing speed? (maybe a halved 'swim/burrowing speed' for walkspeed) sandsharks ahoy!
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
So, one issue here is that this is lacking context. Another is that it is stated with the focus on the player's freedoms, without acknowledgement that with those freedoms come responsibilities.

Was there a Session Zero in which the basic approach to play was discussed? As character goals changed, did they have a discussion to make sure that the resulting game was still going to be everyone's cup of tea?
Why would we assume bad faith in any of these hypotheticals? That seems to be a bugbear that haunts many of these sorts of discussions: the assumption going in that someone in the situation is doing something nefarious, trying to get one over on the GM or viking-hat the players. Why can't we take statements at face value rather than attempt to undermine them with paranoia?
The players should have freedom to choose their goals within the bounds of play discussed before play began. They should not automatically have the freedom to explore goals outside those bounds.
Sure.

Maybe it would be easier if we just assumed the question of "we want to take over the thieves guild" came out during session zero, when the GM was thinking to run a megadungeon. Does that make it a more reasonable hypothetical?

We still end up in the same place: the players want a certain kind of game, and the GM has to decide whether they want to run that game or not. As is oft repeated on this site: without both players and a GM, there is no game. The GM is just one person, though, and it is much easier for the players to vote with their feet. Of course, one of them might have to step up and run the game they want -- to which I say "Good! About time!" but that is a different issue.
 


Reynard

Legend
Supporter
Or be super-ripped and 90's bodacious ala Street Sharks?
King Shark GIF by The Suicide Squad
 

Was there a Session Zero in which the basic approach to play was discussed? As character goals changed, did they have a discussion to make sure that the resulting game was still going to be everyone's cup of tea?
So many of these forum discussions are pretty easily resolved by these pretty basic concepts. I hope WotC puts some effort into teaching new DMs stuff like this in the 2024 DMG.

In my current campaign, I'm running a mega dungeon so that was clearly explained during the session zero so the players understood the plan is for them to be running back and forth between the dungeon and nearby town quite a bit. If that didn't sound fun, I could have picked something else to run so it's not like I'm offering my way or the highway as options. In the game world the PCs are free to leave town and head down the road to the next town to pursue other interests there, but the minute they say they're heading down the road I'm going to hit the pause button and ask if something is wrong with the campaign we agreed to play. I make it a point every few sessions to check in and if a player seems disinterested in a session I'll reach out after to ask if something is wrong (which so far 100% of the time it has been because we play Monday night and for some of us that's the busiest workday so they're just tired). I'm completely open to scrapping a campaign and finding something we'd all enjoy.
 



Oofta

Legend
Why would we assume bad faith in any of these hypotheticals? That seems to be a bugbear that haunts many of these sorts of discussions: the assumption going in that someone in the situation is doing something nefarious, trying to get one over on the GM or viking-hat the players. Why can't we take statements at face value rather than attempt to undermine them with paranoia?

Sure.

Maybe it would be easier if we just assumed the question of "we want to take over the thieves guild" came out during session zero, when the GM was thinking to run a megadungeon. Does that make it a more reasonable hypothetical?

We still end up in the same place: the players want a certain kind of game, and the GM has to decide whether they want to run that game or not. As is oft repeated on this site: without both players and a GM, there is no game. The GM is just one person, though, and it is much easier for the players to vote with their feet. Of course, one of them might have to step up and run the game they want -- to which I say "Good! About time!" but that is a different issue.

So the DM says "I know how to do fun dungeon crawls, but taking over a thieves guild is simply something I don't feel up to doing", what do you do? Say that it's thieve's guild or nothing and walk out? Every game I have ever joined the DM has more say in what the campaign will be than the players because the DM has to feel competent running it. That and the fact that the DM puts far, far more work into the game than players also counts for something.
 

I'm of the general opinion that if it's something available in the core rule book (for D&D the PHB) then it should generally be allowed. Of course there may be situations where it doesn't make sense, but in general I'm not looking to play a humans only D&D world.
 

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