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I play a half-orc barbarian, while everyone else in our group is dwarven or elven. So in a town heavily-populated by dwarves, my character received a fair share of abuse, which is to be expected.

However, when we got to the point where a dwarf was giving us a quest, and I suspected he was up to something, the DM's reaction to my questioning him was to have him punch me in the face, automatically with no rolls.

The quest itself involved me being relegated strictly to the meat shield role, being made fun of by my group and otherwise ignored. When we completed it, I attempted to intimidate the quest-giver, and this time one of my own allies asked the DM for, and received, a magic frying pan that could automatically stop me from doing anything whatsoever, no rolls.

Is this really a fair way to treat a player? And if this is how I am being treated and I am threatened with being kicked out of the game if I do not just accept it, is it worth playing?

ADD-ON: Thank you all for your responses. I've talked it over with the players and the GM and they agreed that allowing for players and NPCs to do this to another player isn't good, and that if a player is to hit my character then I can react according to what the action is. Originally it was made to stop players (all players) from killing or harming important people but it had been defaulted to using on me because I'm the only one who is not an elf or a dwarf? Also their use of it has been changed along the way from using to stop the killing of an important person to just stopping me from doing almost anything that I find appropriate for a reaction of being hit by a random NPC.

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All I read is "Is it okay for friends to use a game as an excuse to be bad friends?". –  kba Jul 4 '13 at 10:44
    
In this situation, the best response is to tell the ref "You're a jerk, and my feet work." Life's too short to waste your time in a terrible game. –  Brian Nov 5 at 7:59

5 Answers 5

up vote 70 down vote accepted

I certainly wouldn’t stand for it.

Being the odd-man-out in that kind of situation should be an opportunity for interesting roleplay and add characterization to your character, your allies, and the NPCs, based on how they handle it. But it sounds like you were completely side-lined the entire time and prevented from doing that roleplay.

If you aren’t going to be allowed to roleplay, why are you in a roleplaying game?

But mostly it sounds likely that you and the rest of your group are not on the same page with respect to what the game is about. This is a problem of “social contract” – what you expect from the game is not the same as what they expect and vice versa. This is a common sort of problem in roleplaying games (and really, in just about any cooperative human activity), so you can find a lot of useful questions and answers on this site about it. For my part, I recommend checking out “Is there a limit to Rule 0?” for a lot of good thoughts on a similar subject. The Same Page Tool might also be a very useful thing for your group to do.

Also, for reference, the automatic-hit of the slap, the automatic stopping of the “magic frying pan,” and so on are changes to the rules, which is why I reference Rule 0. There are no functions allowing those things to happen in the rules. For the slap, you were arguably flat-footed but he’d still need to roll attack against your AC (though, to be fair, flat-footed touch AC is probably just 10). For the “frying pan,” no such item exists because it’s hideously overpowered and takes all chance out of the action, and it would be at that point that I would have stopped the game and said that this needs to stop or I’m going to find a better way to spend my free time.

Because really, I don’t care what page they’re on: they’re being incredibly disrespectful. As @Vethor says in the comments, abuse in the guise of fun is still abuse. This isn’t clever, this isn’t wacky hijinks, honestly it looks like nothing more than some really pathetic bullying. I know nothing about these people except by this story, but this story indicates that these people are really not anyone I’d want anything to do with. More than likely, they don’t realize it, more than likely, they don’t really mean it “that way” – but as social human beings, they have a responsibility to be aware of how their actions affect others. They don’t appear to have reached that level of maturity yet.

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Abuse in the guise of fun is still abuse. –  Vethor Jul 3 '13 at 13:48
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Agreed, though it might be good to emphasize earlier on that this is inappropriate behavior because it's inappropriate in any situation, not just because it's not how RPGs should be played. –  BESW Jul 3 '13 at 14:34
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Exactly: "If you aren’t going to be allowed to roleplay, why are you in a roleplaying game?" –  Erik Schmidt Jul 3 '13 at 16:16

Role-Playing those kinds of situations can be fun, but only if you go into the game knowing that that's going to be the situation. And sure, it can be the norm for the world that racism is real (let's be honest, in most D&D games it's totes legit to kill any and all kobolds automatically.) however for a PC race, they really should have warned you before hand, especially if that is the only real departure from standard D&D.

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"but only if you go into the game knowing that that's going to be the situation" ... and if you're okay with that being the situation, I suggest! –  doppelgreener Jul 5 '13 at 5:18

The other answers thus far have suggested that this is "abusive" behavior by your GM and that you should abandon your friends (assuming they are your friends). I just wanted to provide a different point of view.

I've played in many games, and often these kinds of things (automatic hits, magic items with irresistible powers) are the sign of an extremely inexperienced GM, not someone trying to be abusive. We here have no idea what your relationship with the people in your group is like, and so we cannot reasonably draw conclusions about what their behavior toward you indicates socially. Some of my best friends have done things like this to me in games -- but that's only because they are genuinely terrible GMs, not because they intend any sort of bullying or abuse. It's possible that your GM thinks what he's doing is good roleplay; he's simply roleplaying the racism between Dwarves and Half-Orcs.

With that said, I'd like to offer an answer which tries not to assume anything about your social situation with your group.

Is this really a fair way to treat a player?

No, it is not. Both of the situations you describe are irresistible effects on your character which you have no way of avoiding (even in theory). While it's possible in practice for this to happen -- for example, if a 17th level Wizard casts a Dominate spell on you which has a Will save that is literally impossible for your 4th level character to overcome -- it still takes place within the ruleset with a theoretical chance to resist it, and is in that sense fair.

What you describe is a symptom of a common mindset of new, inexperienced, or bad GMs: "I'm the GM, so I get to have my way no matter what." For more on this, there is excellent reading in @KRyan's answer's link to the "Rule 0" question. However, in short, this is ridiculous behavior which most veteran gamers would never stand for.

And if this is how I am being treated and I am threatened with being kicked out of the game if I do not just accept it, is it worth playing?

It sounds like you have already voiced your concerns to your group, and they have threatened you with something along the lines of "shut up, or get out". That means that your expectations of the game differ from theirs. It's possible that you simply didn't voice your concerns in an appropriate way (I wasn't present; I don't know if you whined, cursed at them, or genuinely presented a reasonable argument). However, assuming you did and this was their reaction, then it's likely best for you to take your leave of the game.

Any tabletop roleplaying game is about the entire group at the table having fun together. If they are having fun with the game, then good for them! More power to them; whatever makes them happy. But if you're not having fun, there's no point in continuing. You can hang out with these people at other times, if they're your friends. Or, if you play the game because you want to hang out with them, then you need to decide whether putting up with a horrible game is worth it to you to stick with it. That's something only you can decide.

Finally, I would also try discussing it solely with the GM, outside of the earshot of everyone else. Some GMs feel as though they need to "save face" in front of the group in order to they maintain their authority, and thus automatically shoot down any questioning of their calls at the table. While this is also a sign of an inexperienced GM, it's possible that if you present him with your concerns in private and say you'd like him to actually use the ruleset you're playing under that you can come to some sort of resolution. You never know -- he may even admit he was wrong and apologize to you.

Bottom line: don't just walk out on people without giving them a shot at making it better. It sounds like you want to be in the game, in spite of the last session being ridiculously bad, so give your GM and friends a chance! If they're any good (as players and as friends), they'll want you to be happy as well. But if it doesn't work out, don't be afraid to say so and walk away without looking back.

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+1 this. Clearly this gaming group is not at the "let's define a social contract and define the limits of Rule 0" level, they are at the Looney Tunes level. Suggest you try to get you/your GM to start more where some of the "how to play an RPG" questions on this site start - watch some Actual Play videos, etc. –  mxyzplk Jul 3 '13 at 15:05
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@mxyzplk "Looney Tunes level" defines exactly what I was trying to say. I wish I'd come up with that. Haha –  asteri Jul 3 '13 at 15:11
    
@mxyzplk I agree, but I think it's worth pointing out that the Looney Tunes generally treat each other terribly and it's probably not unreasonable to point out to his group that it is no way to treat other people. –  KRyan Jul 3 '13 at 15:47
    
@KRyan yeah, but from reading about their group I'm not sure that "a magic device stopping them from killing each other and/or important NPCs" may not be merited on some level. –  mxyzplk Jul 3 '13 at 21:40

There are a few issues here:

Rule 0 and its possible abuse

The getting hit without rolls is pure and unadulterated malarkey. Granted, I can see an argument for the NPC hitting you during a surprise round. Assuming you are a martial class with d10 or d12 for hit dice and you are over level 2 a punch does not really do much damage. It is also a scene full of narrative potential where you could explore the ramifications of dwarf/orc racism and it would be a very interesting game if played right. Rule-0 over-use/abuse will only generate hurt feelings.

PvP that is not explicitly endorsed

The other player hit your character. That is something either in the social contract or it isn't. If they want PvP to be a very present thing and you don't, just let them know that you would prefer to find a group that does not endorse PvP.

"And if this is how I am being treated and I am threatened with being kicked out of the game if I do not just accept it, is it worth playing?

If I understand this correctly, you brought up a concern and were told "love us or leave us". My answer would be to walk away. They have made it clear that they do not want to accommodate any of your concerns. This is not what friends do, and gaming with people you are not friendly with is not fun (in my opinion).

Magic frying pan

I'm assuming this magic frying pan was magical in the magic weapon sense (+1 to hit and damage). To make a magic weapon, you start with a masterwork weapon and then enchant it. Last I checked, frying pans come in cast iron and there is no masterwork pan. I think the DM owes you an explanation on this issue... but you are unlikely to get one. As for the no actions problem, I can see an argument if you got some sort of saving throw or are paralyzed/held for n rounds. However, to be held and unable to act is to my mind petty.

Stranger in a Strange Land

You are playing an orc in a dwarven village. If you do not know this, one of the core tropes in fantasy is that dwarves and elves pretty much despise orcs (and partial orcs to varying degrees). Generally the "abuse" should be limited to something like putdowns, sneers, or store owners overcharging the orc for everything and refusing to buy any of the orc's gear.

In fairness, were I the DM in this game, the magic frying pan would not be used at all, the NPC would likely not punched your character (but if sufficiently motivated would have done so in a surprise round for nominal damage). You would also have been given a roll to see/hear the other PC picking up a weapon (mundane frying pan or otherwise) and given you the chance to act. Most importantly, I would have told you that in this game Dwarves really hate orcs (and references the lingering emotional baggage of the Jim Crow South as an example). Further, I would have given you the chance to think about it for a day or two and say "nah... I'll play a [non-Orc race] instead".

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Regarding the magic frying pan, it really doesn't matter if it is enchanted as a weapon or not. It stops his character from acting, which is not a power which exists in the game. It may as well be a magic pebble, or a ring, or simply the ability to snap. –  Bobson Jul 3 '13 at 17:06
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Agreed mostly, but very much disagree on the frying pan. GMs don't have to use player item-crafting rules to make magic items. (That said, that is a stupid and awful magic item to introduce into any game.) –  SevenSidedDie Jul 3 '13 at 18:04
    
@Bobson, with all the other issues I wanted to comment on, it appears I missed the "frozen PC" power. I'll edit that in. –  Pulsehead Jul 3 '13 at 18:22
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I think the "well, if it's magic, that means +1, and there aren't any +1 frying pans" is a bit weak. It's not really the point! It's magic because it stops people dead in their tracks and that's terrible, and it's a terrible thing used in a way that's very unfun for the player which makes it double terrible. Fair point with everything else though. –  doppelgreener Jul 5 '13 at 5:21
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@JonathanHobbs, I think you missed the beginning of the Magic Frying Pan section. I started it off with, "I'm assuming..." Granted there is an old saying about when you assume, but I also very clearly labeled my assumption as such. –  Pulsehead Jul 5 '13 at 14:35

Hell no! What you describe is bullying or harassment and you should not stand for it.

I would first talk to the GM about it. But approach it like a grown up in a calm manner. If the GM does nothing or mocks you, you should just leave and find better friends. You could escalate this to parents/club president/whoever is in charge of your social group if such thing exists. If the GM is receptive, then work with them to solve the situation with the other players. It is possible that they think they are laughing with you (not at you) and do not realise what douchbags they are being.

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This, so much this. I took a diplomatic approach in my answer, but on rereading the question this is more accurate I think. Their behavior really is pathetic and despicable. –  KRyan Jul 3 '13 at 13:56
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@KRyan: I actually like your answer. It has a more benefit of the doubt vibe than mine. I am taking this at the extreme of bullying/abuse/harassment which might be true, a inaccurate reading of the question or might be that it is unconscious. I hope that once it is pointed out, the other players would recoil at the stupidity of what they have done. After an apologies and cake, the game can continue to be fun for everyone. –  Sardathrion Jul 3 '13 at 13:59

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