# How to approach a stifling DM

I have a bit of a problem with a restrictive DM. In the next paragraph I will rant a bit (understatement) so if you want just skip it.

This person is shutting down all my attempts at min-maxing (slightly understandable), actually punishing me for beginning with a min-maxed character that they approved already (not allowing saving throws), making me take damage for out-of-character jokes (counting them as thoughts), warping my spells so they damage me (I cast the unearthed arcana spell puppet, which allows for complete control on myself, and he made me swerve off and hit the rafters, knocking me unconscious for the rest of the fight, thereby having an excuse not to award xp to my character, targeting enemies onto me, etc). Worse, they attack other characters too, not allowing the trickery domain cleric to choose an alignment other than lawful good, while they blatantly allow our party's chaotic evil rogue to do anything they want.

I don't think this is very fair. How should I approach him? Should I just quit? There aren't any other games going on I can join (high school student, no games shop in town bar an EB). Should I just organise a revolt? I have been talking about running a Shadowrun game myself for a while. Should I start that up, resulting in the game to be abandoned? Should I just talk it out with him?

• RE: "…no games shop in town bar an EB." Pardon my ignorance, but what does this mean? (Your profile doesn't indicate your location, so I don't know if this is a US regionalism, non-US slang, or another Internet phrase I don't know. Frex, my internal lexicon turn the initialism EB into energy blast as per the Champions role-playing game, but I'm pretty confident your EB doesn't mean that. :-)) – Hey I Can Chan Nov 27 '17 at 17:44
• @HeyICanChan wikipedia.org/wiki/EB_Games – DaaaahWhoosh Nov 27 '17 at 17:49
• @DaaaahWhoosh I was unaware of the continued existence of Electronics Boutique. Thank you. (I'm still gonna let the asker confirm, though.) – Hey I Can Chan Nov 27 '17 at 18:02
• Have you told your GM this is a problem for you? If so, how did they react? If not why not? – Barker Nov 27 '17 at 18:37
• Sorry, I live in Australia, and this is referring to a games shop chain named EB Games. Though if anyone is willing, I would most definitely fund an Electronics Botique on Kickstarter or an equivalent website. – Elesh Norn Dec 1 '17 at 11:32

Do not talk to the other players first. If you start going behind your GM's back, it can look like you are trying to rally everyone against them, even if you aren't. I would recommend talking with the GM privately, or if you really feel like you need the input of the other players, bring it up at the start of the session.

When you bring it up, talk about it in a way that is open to the possibility that your GM has a good reason for what they are doing. Questions generally work better for this than statements. For example, rather than saying "I think it is unfair that my character takes damage for OOC jokes" ask "What is the goal you are trying to achieve by having my character take damage for OOC jokes?" You may be surprised by the results. For example, it may turn out that they or some of the players are offended by the jokes and the GM was trying to fix an OOC problem with an IC solution. Even if that isn't the case, understanding their perspective can help find a solution that works.

Once you know why your GM is doing what they are doing, the two of you can work on a solution. If people don't like your jokes, you can agree to stop and the GM can stop punishing your character. If the GM feels you are hogging the spotlight from the other players because your character is too powerful, maybe you can agree to step back and let the rogue pick the locks or you can summon things that set them up for sneak attacks.

Keep in mind, your GM probably has a reason for what they are doing that seems fair to them. It is unlikely they are just doing what they are doing because they are a jerk who hates you. If after the conversation the two of you can't come to an understanding, then it may be time to leave and start another group. Make sure you really gave your GM a fair shake though or else you will likely have a similar problem where ever you go next. If you do end up leaving, be cordial. If you end up starting your own game, it wouldn't hurt to invite them if you think you get along with them as a person.

• I think your first point is pretty crucial for every answer. I'm leaning the opposite way, but I wanted to point out how much it matters to some folks whether or not you talk to them first. – Premier Bromanov Nov 29 '17 at 17:40
• This is slightly irrelevant, but I can say that my OOC joke was me thinking out loud about putting down a coffin I was moving into a graveyard as a favour to the local priest. I was then zapped for 3 radiant damage (my HP max at the time was 9) by an 'insulted deity'. – Elesh Norn Dec 1 '17 at 11:35
• @EleshNorn I wasn't meaning to imply that you were making people uncomfortable, just that you GM may have been (perhaps in appropriately) trying to handle a situation you had some responsibility in creating. It could be inappropriate jokes, or people were getting distracted and not paying attention to the game, etc. It could also be they were following this advice on OOC vs IC play. The important thing is to figure out why so you can come to an understanding. – Barker Dec 1 '17 at 17:34
• Thanks. Also I meant that my comment was slightly irrelevant, not yours. – Elesh Norn Dec 1 '17 at 22:13

You should talk to the other players. Not to try and persuade them of anything, just ask them whether they would rather play in a Shadowrun campaign with you as GM than in this one. If they say yes (or if they think it possible to play in both, or if somebody else proposes a third alternative that you like), then you can all move on. Make sure you invite the old GM to play in your campaign, to underline that it is not the person but the GMing you object to. There will undoubtedly be hurt feelings anyway, but it is important to learn that using a FRP (fantasy role-playing) campaign to exercise power over your friends has negative consequences; better to learn this in school rather than later.

If they would rather continue with the old campaign, then you need to decide whether bad FRP is better than no FRP. I would suggest you miss a week anyway (scheduling conflict) to help you decide; you could use the time either to investigate play-by-electronic mail games (PBEM) or to polish your Shadowrun campaign, just in case. If you decide to carry on, don't keep suggesting Shadowrun; it will be seen as trying to sabotage the present campaign. But if somebody asks if your campaign is still an alternative...

It's difficult to know whether it is worth asking the GM to make changes. In a normal situation, a GM will be trying to ensure everybody has fun and will be happy to tone down aspects that are working against that. But a new GM (for this purpose, everybody in high school is new) may have his own agenda. You don't mention whether there was any discussion before you started; if it was clear, at least in the GMs own mind, that this was going to be a railroad sort of game, you will probably hear "It's my way or the highway" which, though true, doesn't improve either side's feelings.

First, talk to the other players. You want to bring up your concerns and see if they actually see the behavior too or if you're somehow exaggerating (happens to the best of us). Do they care that these restrictions apply to you? Do they like the fact that crazy things happen to your character? Do the same things happen to them? It's important to ask because you need to make sure that you aren't the only person that has a problem with this. A DM's responsibility includes running the game that the party wants to play. If this is the game everyone wants, then you might be out of luck. Secondary to this, you have concrete evidence if your DM is argumentative when you talk to them, saying that "so and so likes it" when you know that he/she doesn't (or does). Get your facts straight, because you could be wrong! Caveat: It can be seen as ganging up on or conspiring against a DM when you talk to the players first. It can be a lot easier to talk to a DM alone, but that doesn't mean you can't talk to the players first and do a little recon. You needn't bring up that you talked the players first right away, it's good practice to bring up your concerns first if you decide to talk to the DM at all, and then transition into the party's concerns if he/she asks.

If you've established that the party does not enjoy the type of game the DM is running, then you should talk to them about that. First, talk alone. If that doesn't work, bring the party. Just bring up your concerns that the game seems unfair to your character and tell him/her what type of game you'd prefer. Offer solutions. Most importantly, listen to your DM's concerns and reasons. Surely they enjoy this type of DMing, and you are kinda looking to stop that. They're a player too, and you need to recognize that they're here to have fun too. Find out why they punish you for talking out of game. Find out why they have restrictions on your class. Find out why the spell worked a way you didn't intend it to. Then you work out a better way to move forward, even if it means that nothing changes but your attitudes towards one another (for the better). Adjusting expectations can solve issues without changing anything else.

If you happen to be the only one that has a problem with this, then I would point you back to the previous statement "Adjusting expectations can solve issues without changing anything else". It really does. If you can expect this type of game, it makes it easier for you to accept it and play for fun. When your expectations aren't met, then you have issue. This is just being human. If you feel like you can't adjust your expectations, or don't want to, then maybe you should leave. Just tell your DM and party that you aren't having fun with the current campaign and would rather do something else with your time. Now, as far as starting a new campaign, it's important that you try not to compete with their game. That creates more friction and can damage relationships. Once again, talk to your players, see if they're interested, see if there's a time outside of the previous campaign that works, and move from there.

## Talk to everyone at once

A few conflicting answers here suggesting talking to one party in preference of the other, but I say: Talk to everyone at once

Get your expectations straight in your head, then have the talk; either before or after a session (I prefer before so the talk is fresh in people's heads during the session).

The key is knowing what you want (Ideal choice), what you will settle for (Compromise) and what you are prepared to do if nothing changes (Walk away / suck it up).

## Don't be confrontational.

Start by saying you are not having as much fun as you first thought, say what you enjoy and what you don't and see what people say.

Sometimes people will change, sometimes you have to adjust, and sometimes people are just not compatible.

In this case your GM sounds like someone I wouldn't want to play with, and I would expect others in the group to feel similar to you.

But

Let him try and change (Or refuse) before you bring up Shadowrun; leave that for a few sessions time if things have not improved.

I agree very much with SeriousBri's answer.

I do however have something else to say. Given that I have only your account of the situation, something you always have to consider, it sounds like your DM is being a bully, getting carried away with a power trip, playing favourites and generally getting off on getting away with acting like a horrible person in this context, and that you and at least one of your fellow players are the subject of his attention.

The best way to manage bullies (if you are not a parent, teacher or employer etc. where you have a different responsibility) is to let them know how you feel (and I do mean feel - not always an easy thing to express) about how they are behaving. Then, if they don't listen and change their behaviour to take account of how you feel, you take their power over you away, don't let them have it in the first place. Good friends don't knowingly bully each other.

In this case his power over you is the game being played and your PC's life within his game world. His gaining power over you in this way is doing neither him nor you any favours at all in terms of life lessons learnt, nor fun to be had.

Also it's not your job to "fix" him, nor OK to act the same way in retaliation (many bullies are being bullied elsewhere and their power trip over you is a way of managing how they feel), but you also do not need to suffer it as it is not an excuse, just a reason. You may want to help him, out of friendship, but you might want to think about whether his being your DM is the right context to do it.

Bottom line is you can run your own game, learning from his mistakes, and only let him play if he behaves himself. Learn from your own too by reflecting on what worked and what didn't.

And run your game anyway, it is a lot of fun being a DM, trying to make it fun for everyone and gives you a lot of perspective. Being a DM should never be done for the power trip, though being totally honest, I for one do get a kick out being the "ruler" of my worlds. I just don't do it to gain any kind of power over my friends.

Good luck.

• Very good comment on bullying, that is what I was thinking when I read the OP. +1 – SeriousBri Nov 29 '17 at 14:44