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As always, answers drawing on experience would be ideal.


In our session last night, our party faced a number of enemies which, to us, seemed impossible to defeat in combat.

The enemies included:

  • A high leveled hag (with spell slots above level 9), who had corrupted and taken over a member of our party (our rogue)
  • A corrupted Eldritch Knight
  • A legendary Kraken
  • A rogue who was corrupted by the Hag, and forced to do her bidding

This battle also occurred underwater, meaning many (though not all) of the relevant underwater combat rules were applied (our DM used some discretion to streamline the encounter, but did impose movement and spellcasting penalties).

What was frustrating was how it seemed impossible for us to defeat these enemies. Without our Rogue, our damage-dealing power was significantly impeded. Further, the Hag was targeting my Barbarian player with Suggestion - a Suggestion which could not be counterspelled using our Wizard's level 9 counterspell.

This meant that within 1 round:

  • Our Rogue and my Barbarian were corrupted and forced to fight the rest of the party.
  • We were all took HUGE amounts of damage (who knew a legendary Kraken could hurt so much?), downing our Bard almost immediately.
  • Our Sorcerer, Wizard, and Druid now had to take on: a Hag, an Eldritch Knight, a Kraken, a level 20 Rogue, and a level 20 Barbarian on their own.
  • Our Wizard, who eventually used dimension door to escape the combat, was inevitably punished by the hag for running by using some DM-concocted curse resulting in a decrease to his INT score.

Now, I do recognize that not all encounters need to be resolved through combat, however in this circumstance it felt like my agency as a player was almost entirely removed, forcing us to fight and then subsequently submit to the hag. There seemed to be NO WAY to win this fight, but worse, it seemed that my character in particular was forced to bargain with the hag in exchange for the lives of the rest of the party (without a roll by the DM she reached out to my character asking what I could provide her in exchange for the lives of my fellow adventurers). While this could feasibly be a plot milestone the DM wanted us to encounter, based on my previous sessions with this DM, I have serious concerns that I have been railroaded by the DM into entering a deal I will surely regret.

How can I deal with this railroading, and more specifically, with a plot device that appears to have been engineered to be a) unavoidable, and b) targeted specifically at my character?

Is this simply a part of the game that I need to deal with? Were there other options available to me that I missed?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 7 '17 at 18:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ How come the counterspell couldnt counter the suggestion? \$\endgroup\$ – Timi Jul 7 '17 at 19:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Timi see the chat \$\endgroup\$ – B. S. Morganstein Jul 7 '17 at 19:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sounds like the GM is using a lot of sneaky house rules here: in 5e D&D there are no spell slots above 9, and whatever that suggestion spell is that's unavoidable sounds really fishy too. Are there even more examples of this GM flaunting the RAW and using a bunch of homebrew rules that apparently the players can't have, but the GM can? \$\endgroup\$ – fiend Jul 7 '17 at 19:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ A large (5 characters) group of level 20 characters, but not enough experience to figure out if they want to fight this battle or not? You don't give the most important piece of information: How was the fight set up? Was it unavoidable? Did you miss clues to go around instead of through it? \$\endgroup\$ – Tom Jul 9 '17 at 8:11
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Let me tell some stories:

1. The negotiations with Hector Valois

In this mission, my PCs were tasked with bringing peace to a group of nations that were beseiged by what I described as a Dragonlord. Hector Valois was sending his minions out on raids, claiming territory and assaulting villages with impunity. Had the PCs fought him on day 1, in his own domain, he would've slaughtered them. Instead, the PCs decided to negotiate a peace summit between the 4 nations and Hector. Along the way, they decided that Hector was both likely to negotiate dominion over the combined territories, but also a tyrant. Determined not allow this outcome, they searched far and wide, finding the oldest Dragon (a Gold) alive to supplant Hector. With this Gold Dragon in tow, picked a fight with Hector within the summit's main event.

The PC's "team" consisted of a few volley-archers off-screen, a CR 16 Gold Dragon, and 3 ECL ~8 PCs (my ruleset is E6+Gestalt in 3.5) against Hector (CR 10+), and 3 young adult dragons (CR 9/11/13 respectively). The PCs were HOPELESSLY outmatched for the fight they took, but then again, that's the fight they CHOSE to take.

They could've lured Hector into an ambush. They could've picked a fight when he didn't have his dragons in support. They could've organized a larger response to him. etc, etc, etc.

2. The unfair trade with the Wizard Dominic

Another group of PCs I was gaming with have an interesting story. One day, a PC was cursed/wounded/whatever, and required a real cleric's aid. The PCs decided that their best course of action was to find a cleric who was wanted on the bounty boards and get that cleric's help. They found and made a deal with this necromancer, and then instead of paying him, attacked him. The necromancer escaped. Later, the PCs manage to hunt him down, but in the process of getting close to him, the Necromancer unleashes a terrible retribution: He sends his minions (Wights) to wipe out their favorite town.

The PCs learning this, then decide to try something clever. They contact Dominic, a wizard of GREAT resources and power, and offer him a deal, they'd surrender to his demands of them, if only he'd save this poor town. Dominic agrees, and the town is largely restored, but price proves to high for our plucky PCs.


Reading your question, its my assessment that you would feel attacked by me if I was your DM. Partially, this is because even in your own retelling, none of the other PCs are objecting to the DM's behavior. Partially its because these actions seem mostly reasonable, except for your value-judgements of them. I believe that the correct course of action for you is to start assuming that your DM is both A) acting in good faith and B) acting with a degree of skill such that you might learn something from him if you ask WHY he's running the game the way he is.

Essentially, my advice to you is simple: Talk to your DM. Make it clear that you are not having fun, but DON'T characterize your lack of fun as his fault. Let your DM discuss the whys with you. And if he gives you actionable feedback, act on it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Jul 7 '17 at 19:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Indeed; I had a similar encounter in which PCs were tracking other humanoids (a total encounter of +1 CR.) When the PCs tracked them as far as a shaky bridge; one PC fell off and while he was struggling to get back on; of course the bad-dudes attacked. The party retreated from certain death (after some bad rolling as well) with their prize being a single captured enemy combatant. This is what makes the game great; because I expected that they'd do just fine in the encounter; and instead the plot changed! \$\endgroup\$ – blurry Aug 24 '18 at 14:16
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We get a lot of questions like this on this site, and the answer is always the same:

(1) Have a polite conversation with the player(s) whose behavior is making you not have fun. Make sure they understand that you're not enjoying what they're doing.

(2) If (1) doesn't work, then you can choose to remain in the game or you can choose to leave. In aggregate, considering all the good and bad experiences, is this game a net positive in your life, or a net negative?

This is all the advice anyone can give you, really.

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Please note that this answer is solely my opinion.

To answer your first concern:

"There seemed to be NO WAY to win this fight".

Unfortunately that is the nature of the beast at times. As you have already stated, the DM may be using this as a plotline device, however without knowning the final conclusion of the battle I could not say. All I have as the conclusion is:

The Hag making you beg for your lives

The DM may be setting you up for a rather interesting escape scenario.

Now let's move onto your second:

"I have serious concerns that I have been railroaded by the DM into entering a deal I will surely regret."

If you are truly concerned that Railroading has/is/will occur then speak to the DM out of game time. The point of D&D is so everyone (that includes the DM) is having fun. It may be that the DM got a little carried away and did not realise he was putting this image across, it may be part of the plotline and maybe they may be railroading you, however without discussing this with them, you will not know.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Worth noting: In previous editions (maybe also dnd5?) 5% or more of your encounters are supposed to be too difficult to win. The fact their own Kraken was killing them seems indicative of a DM hitting the party with a "normally fair" encounter and getting slaughtered due to a lack of defenses in a particular department \$\endgroup\$ – blurry Aug 24 '18 at 14:26
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As a DM, we don't necessarily design every encounter to be a combat. From your explanation of the fight, it seems very much like this was not an encounter you were meant to fight (Why didn't the Wizard just Dimension Door out the entire party?) or even get to.

While this all seems negative, there's a few things that you can do as a Player to avoid these situations.

  1. You Can't Get Loot if You're Dead - If you can see a fight coming, which according to your description you probably should have seen it coming as you approached. Don't take fights in terrain you don't have buffs for, especially knowing that you were underwater and didn't have anything to counteract this. Remember in 5th Edition 8 is the human norm. This means if you're sporting anything 9 or higher in intelligence, its totally within your right to say "yeah, my character recognizes this as a bad situation". Note that a lot of DMs may expect this from Wisdom as a 'common sense' thing.

  2. Approach Direct Combat as a Last Resort - I much prefer when my characters subvert direct combat to get to a goal. Could you sneak around, dodge, hide, use the environment to your advantage? Or, is it best to run? Many DMs will still award combat XP, albeit reduced, for avoiding a bad encounter. There's actually examples of this in Against the Giants and several of the more recent Underdark-themed adventures where the goal is to get the players to run instead of fight.

  3. Remember Surrender is an Option When a Fight Goes Bad - which is what you did here, though you felt the DM made you do it. I disagree; your character could have willingly gone on a party-murdering spree and wiped everyone, and then went out in a blaze of glory. This is a bit more interesting as a DM and a player. The game isn't over if you lose (Especially if you've taken precautions for being dead!) and exciting escapes are some of the best D&D out there.

  4. If All Else Fails, Flip the Table - I don't mean actually flip the table! Rather, come up with something desperate, insane, and go for it. if you're to option 4, you're already dead so why not. You may as well go out doing something cool.

  5. Its just a game - If you're too worked up about this, you may be taking the game too seriously. I've found players don't lose agency until the DM starts saying "No" to everything. If you feel like you're losing agency and haven't heard the DM say 'no', you may be taking the game too far. Suggest the table takes a break, grabs a drink, and comes back after a bit. The other side of this is if you're not having fun right now and you're upset, its within your right as a player to get up, let the DM know you don't wnat to continue right now, and leave even if its just for a little bit.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It might help to dull the aggressive tone on this a bit, at the very least by moving the frame challenge out of the opening sentence. \$\endgroup\$ – godskook Jul 7 '17 at 18:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good call, i'll edit it here in a minute. Having just re-read it, that does come off as hyper-aggro. \$\endgroup\$ – Adam Wells Jul 7 '17 at 20:26
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Between this and your previous description (where the GM and the rest of the party spent an entire session preparing for this encounter) I'm willing to bet you missed some telegraphing that this encounter WOULD be unwinnable. It would explain why your party felt the need to over prepare, why the GM didn't push them to move beyond over preparing, and why the party was massively overmatched.

I think this was one of those:

"I hit the Red Greatwyrm"

"Y-you what? OK. You lose, but I'm nice so I won't TPK you."

situations. His plan for the encounter seems to have been for your team to negotiate, not fight.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is possible, and I'll have to wait until next session in order to know for sure (and see how this all plays out). However do you have any general advice for being railroaded should that be the case? \$\endgroup\$ – B. S. Morganstein Jul 7 '17 at 16:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sure, but it gets a bit general. First of all, recognize that some amount of railroading often improves a game experience. For instance, the GM brought the sailor who knew about this to your attention. That's railroading, but it's not BAD. Having a quest to follow is way more fun than meandering around till you luck on to a plot hook. My advice in this case is to take the setup he gave you (the hag deal) and view it as him giving your character center stage. Your character may not be happy about it, but you can have a lot of fun figuring out how to deliver this win for your team. \$\endgroup\$ – Byrel Mitchell Jul 7 '17 at 16:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Absolutely railroading has a part to play, and I appreciate the advice. I think I'm worried about being the target of the potentially malicious railroading, especially given my previous experiences in the group. But as a commenter on the original question pointed out this would probably best be left to a new question, so stay tuned! \$\endgroup\$ – B. S. Morganstein Jul 7 '17 at 16:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I accidentally submitted that answer before I was finished. It wasn't terribly useful at first. Edited to correct. ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Byrel Mitchell Jul 7 '17 at 16:21
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As this is a "what should I do" question, I am going to draw in some other information about your situation - specifically a number of your other questions. You keep coming here and asking about this one campaign, talking about how it's making you miserable, and asking how to deal. You keep doing this. We tell you to talk it out with people, adjust your attitude, and/or leave. The advice to talk things out with people is not going to change. It's clear at this point that it's not any one fixable thing. Beyond that, then, the question is simple. It's kind of like the Ann Landers question. "Are you better in the game, or out of the game?" If you're better in the game, stay in. If you're better out, clear out. Regardless, this is a place for practical RPG advice and information, not a place to constantly hit up for sympathy and emotional support.

In this particular case? Well, railroading happens. You were railroaded. I'd say, deal with it and move on - unless you can't, in which case you should leave. Providing calm, reasonable, helpful feedback to your DM is optional, and may help him refine his DMing skill in such things in the future.

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I don't know your DM, but from reading through the chat and your question in general, it seems that they have a propensity for changing or adding rules to the world, but not telling you about it.

Personally, I haaattteee this. One of my biggest peeves is key aspects of the world, which should be understood by my character, not being understood by me as a player and the DM using that ignorance against me. It's one thing if I blew a knowledge check and used my fireball on a magmin, it's another when something like the rules for falling damage are changed specifically so my monk can't enjoy his Slow Fall ability.

This isn't to say I've an issue with railroading, I get that sometimes the best storytelling element is, "because magic."

That said, if the DM is telling you now that slots about 9th exist, it's really not unreasonable for a 20th level Wizard to know that. Furthermore, I noted that your story excluded an attempt by the Wizard to attempt a skill check to succeed on this theoretical spell level. Which suggests a DM running high level play without a solid understanding of the rules.

In addition, the chat indicates that the players as a whole left the table overall irritated. While I concur with others' recommendations that combat can't be the only answer, if a campaign has already been more or less established as murder hobo central, it's poor form to change that in the middle of it. It'd be like John McClane electing to stop killing bad guys midway through Die Hard in lieu of running an extended hostage negotiation scene. Like you can do that, but it breaks the flow of things and doesn't necessarily tell a better story.

So let's get the standard recommendation out of the way:

Talk to the DM

...as a group.

Usually the recommendation is to talk to someone privately, however, this situation suggests that no one is happy and it's time far past time to have had the Same Page tool conversation. Don't ambush anyone, let folks know you want this conversation before starting the next session, and figure out what's going on.

The key points of discussion, I think, are:

  1. Ensuring everyone understands the core rules and is following the same ones. If this is not the case, either the DM needs to indicate this and furthermore what in-game methods are appropriate to learn more. It's not necessarily against the rules to have spell slots above 10th because the DM is the final arbiter, but it's against the spirit to simply make that a thing without telling anyone.
  2. Decide what sort of game the group is playing. I've said it before and I'll say it again, there's nothing wrong with running the game as murder hobos. Most people prefer to have a blend, but your group doesn't need to be most people.

Tone matters here. You mentioned that you're the youngest player at this table. Conversations like these are necessary to ensure that one day you're the oldest, or at least still at the table sometime later. If you're really unhappy with what I think is a fun hobby, then you won't be around much longer.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Appreciate the response! Do you have any advice, being that I'll be bringing this up with people much older (probably by 15-20 years) than myself, on how to actually bring it up? I'd rather avoid the condescending "you're too young to understand" scenario \$\endgroup\$ – B. S. Morganstein Jul 7 '17 at 20:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can't speak for all adults, but I don't like getting jerked around or left guessing. Tell me what you want to talk about. In this case, simply let them know that you were dissatisfied with how the last session went and want to talk about it. Cliched crap like, "We need to talk," and then waiting a week for that discussion to happen is very annoying. \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Jul 7 '17 at 21:04

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