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I was wondering if anyone could give me some advice or anything on a GM situation.

My current GM is running a campaign and it is very video game/anime like. It started out super fun and the deeper we get the less fun I have. The reason is, it feels like GM is telling us a story but we cannot interact or change anything during his, "cut scenes". No matter what any player does he just says, "No it didn't work," or, "Yeah you do that. See if you roll a 20." We also can't damage any boss he has until we reach the point in the story that he has planned, so our interactions we have with villains don't matter.

I feel like he is making us sit there and listen to an anime he has come up with in his head. Since the players can't change or react to the key situations. I find my self sitting there thinking, why would I react, it doesn't matter.

It's not just me either. Another player feels the same way. I am going to talk to my other fellow players soon about it and see how they feel.

Side note: the GM as a person is very defensive and I am afraid to confront him about it because I know he will throw a fit. We have also caught him straight lying about abilities and stats on his own PC in other campaigns, and he doesn't take to kindly when you call him out.

He is new to GMing. This is only the second game I have played with him as a GM. The first one had one session the he just never wrote more for.

Is there anything I can do to maybe get him to more lenient with his story? I really enjoy the story for the most part and if he would just let our characters do things and give us a chance at stopping his villians or letting us change the story based on our actions, everything would be cool.

Update: Thanks for the answers everyone. I have made it clear to my group what kind of game I am looking for. They feel the same but don't want this one to change because they enjoy the story. Which I understand. Also there are 5 PC and the GM.

However, this past session has discouraged me even more. He started lying about DC for enemy spells only for certain PC. I was one of them, my friends DC to dodge fireball was 18, then about three turns later I get hit with fireball but my DC is 25. He didn't do anything to cause this to change, I was making notes so I could keep track of enemy spells.

Then a different PC, who is our only range, rolled a natural 20 stealth check, then rolled again and got a natural 20 attack roll. The GM just paused and said reroll it and that it didn't count. I called him out and he said that he just rolled a 20 and that it didn't make sense to happen again. He very poorly defended his reasoning.

Also if you move any little bit, enemies take an attack of opportunity against you. That's fine, but the enemy can surround you and offer no attacks of opportunity. When I asked about it he said something like they ran out from you out of reach. Again fine, but when I tried to do that he said there wasn't room.

He also makes up a bunch of abilities to give to his villains that are not in the game. Like one of the villians didn't have AC you have to roll higher than them and he added 15 to his roll. That same enemy could also teleport to you when you moved and unload all 7 of his unarmed strikes on you. It's getting ridiculous. Making up some stuff is fine but when you arent even getting stuff from the book anymore and just giving them whatever, it makes me uncomfortable. There are rules to guide you for a reason.

Maybe I am being a baby about it but I'm just straight not having fun anymore. What is the best way to politely excuse yourself from a campaign?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "Another player" - only one? How many players are in your group? By the way, I seriously sympathize. Sometimes I have to railroad my players for some time, but at least I'm doing my best to make them feel I didn't. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Dec 5 '17 at 13:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ No matter what any player does he just says, "No it didn't work" - could you provide a specific example? \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Dec 5 '17 at 14:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does the DM have a lot of experience being a player? Perhaps you can try to get him to compare how he runs games to how games have been run when he's been a player, and think about how he would feel if he were a player in game run like he runs them. \$\endgroup\$ – Acccumulation Dec 5 '17 at 19:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ As a DM, I've also had to railroad my players for a time before, but it's never for long and if a player adamantly wants to affect something during that time I let it happen and just adapt. Of course, we don't have the DM's side of this here, so my best advice I can give you as a player is that you have a choice. 1) Takl to him about it and be ready for fall out (like, you may have to leave the group) or 2) Deal with it and get through the campaign. Regarding choice one, consider this: If you're not having fun, is it a huge deal if you leave that group and look for another? Hope that helps. \$\endgroup\$ – Jon Sansoucie Dec 8 '17 at 15:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ A PC got caught by a magic user and got chained up with magic chains. No matter what the PC suggested to get free, no it didn't work. Even dispelling the magic. \$\endgroup\$ – Nagromxela Xela Dec 11 '17 at 13:56
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Talk to him, preferably as a group

This is really the only solution besides "Bail on the game." They key here is to be respectful, polite, and try to handle this like friends.

"Confront" is not the approach you are looking for here. "Discuss" would be better. You want to approach this from the standpoint of mutual improvement of the game, not of "You are a bad DM and you should feel bad." The goal is to find out why this is happening, and see if you, the rest of the players, and the DM can all work together to make something you all enjoy. That is, after all, the goal of tabletop RPGs

You want to approach this in the context of "Hey, as we've been playing, it doesn't feel like my character really has the freedom to interact with the world and the story the way I'd like to. Is there anything I can do to help?" (Use your own wording, of course). You also don't want to ask for some massive change all at once; especially if your DM is new. Small changes, incremental improvements...that's what you want to shoot for

What you are experiencing is commonly known in the tabletop community as Railroading. (The DM has put you on the tracks, and you can only go where the tracks lead). There are several possible root causes of this.

DM may not be good at Improvising

DMing is hard. Don't let anyone tell you that it isn't. The goal is to build a world full of interesting characters, make them all react appropriately to the characters, allowing your players freedom to interact with your world however they wish...and still weave an interesting, coherent plot for them to enjoy. And many times, you have to make all of this happen on the spot--pure improvisation (otherwise, you have to call a break to consult your notes and figure out how to deal with whatever the characters just did).

It's like directing a movie where nobody gave the main characters the script.

Railroading makes life a lot easier on a DM. You have built your plot, and any deviation from it is swiftly nudged back onto the rails. This lets the DM build out their plot and plans like a screenplay or novel.

This is very common in newer DMs, because they get excited and plan out their story, and then don't know how to react when someone does something they didn't expect. So they shove you back into their plot and carry on, or prevent you from jumping the rails in the first place.

This is an acceptable problem for a DM to have, because they can improve. If this is the case, then you need to talk to your DM about how you would like a little more character agency. Make sure you don't have your characters jump too far off the rails (cooperate with your DM, so you aren't making him miserable). This is a growth opportunity for your DM, and it might be uncomfortable for him. If he agrees to try to loosen the rails a bit, be patient with him...he's learning to improvise better, and may need some time to think.

In the specific case of 'boss fights' you were talking about....keeping bosses alive is a real challenge for DMs sometimes. It sucks when your Big Bad Evil Guy goes down to a flurry of lucky crits...and a DM who isn't good at improvising is going to have a hard time restructuring their plot--or slapping together a way for their villain to survive/escape without just blatantly lying about what happened.

DM has a very different playstyle than you.

Some people like cinematic, arcadey tabletop games. You play through them like they are a video game, and enjoy the cool cinematics that your DM describes and plays out for you. Your DM may be one of these people and simply not have thought of the fact that you all may not agree on style.

This is an easy discussion to have, because his tastes will quickly become apparent, and you can ask for tweaks and changes to make it a bit less arcadey.

The Same Page Tool can be useful in this case, to figure out what everyone likes

DM has the wrong focus

This is going to sound a little harsh, because I can't figure out a better way to phrase it...

Another cause of railroading is that the DM may have it in their head that they are telling their story, and you players are just along for the ride. Instead, the focus of tabletop RPGs should be the DM and players working together to create the story.

A very common symptom of this can be if the DM has NPCs who are hogging the spotlight. You end up feeling like you aren't the main characters in the story...because the NPCs are the entire focus of the story.

Sometimes this happens with new DMs who, again...just don't have the experience to know better. They don't know how to tell a story where they can't control the main characters. This is another one that can be solved with a similar discussion to the possibility above.

On the other hand, sometimes you do get DMs who are not interested in making the story be about your characters. This is, thankfully, fairly rare...but it does exist. This is one of the 'bad kinds' of DM, and many are intractable. In this case...you really don't have a lot of options. It doesn't sound like this is your DM--but it is a possibility.

DM may not know any different

If your DM is new to tabletop games and DMing, his experience with gameplay storylines may be drawn from video games. That structure of 'cinematic followed by action' and 'invincible boss until boss fight' could just be the gameplay structure he's used to. The idea of how much agency players have in tabletop games takes some adjustment for people new to the format.

Wrap-up

This is the most common causes, in my experience, of railroading DMs. Hopefully it can help you in your discussions with him. Just remember...talk about it like friends. You're trying to have a good game together, so try to solve your problems as a group. If he is a novice DM, your goal is to work together to help him improve--thus improving the game for all of you.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your answer! They have been helpful so far. I plan to talk with the other PCs when I get the chance. The only thing I worry about is how the GM will react. I have known him for a while and I'm just afraid if we try to ask for any little change that he will get upset and just abandon the story. \$\endgroup\$ – Nagromxela Xela Dec 4 '17 at 20:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NagromxelaXela It's unfortunately a possibility... but at some point, not playing (and freeing up the time for a different campaign) is worth the risk. Make sure, as guildsbounty said, to open with 'we would like to have a discussion with you'. Try to have the tone of 'this isnt a witch hunt' without actually saying so out loud. Toward the end of your grievances, bring up how much you enjoyed the story coming into this, and/or some things that you like that they do. People tend to remember the most recent thing the most keenly, and see the middle of the convo through that lens. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Dec 4 '17 at 21:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, make sure all the players with concerns are on the same page before starting the conversation, that none of them are going to just start complaining at the GM. Everyone involved should be there to construct something better. Also, if anyone doesn't participate, don't reference them. "Toby said... but didn't want to be here" is neither constructive nor a good direction for the conversation. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Dec 4 '17 at 21:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso Toward the end of your grievances, bring up how much you enjoyed the story coming into this, and/or some things that you like that they do. Yes! This is probably the most important point since the OP is so concerned about his reaction. \$\endgroup\$ – Phlucious Dec 5 '17 at 18:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Great answer! One piece of advice I've seen, which has apparently worked well for others, is have the discussions away from the table. Get coffee, or beer, or whatever, but set up an environment which is more distant. \$\endgroup\$ – fectin Dec 6 '17 at 0:41
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Remember that different people enjoy different styles

What you are describing is called "railroading". Essentially, the GM provides most or even all of the story outside of combat and then lets the players handle tactical combat. Railroading is looked down upon by some groups, and personally I hate strict railroading. As commenters have mentioned, it is often a trait of new GM's

With that said, it is exactly what some groups want. Some groups prefer to focus on the dungeon exploration and combat. Outside of those activities, they want the GM to narrate just enough plot so they know why they are exploring the dungeon/fighting this particular group and then to get to that exploration and fighting quickly.

The point I am getting at, is you should realize this may be what the GM and even the rest of the group wants and you should keep that in mind when you discuss this with them. It might be (though probably not, see below) that the best answer is for you to find a different RPG group that more aligns with your style.

Talk to the Group

Your question made it obvious you expected talking to the GM and/or group to be the answer, but of course how you go about it matters a lot.

I suggest talking to the group, rather than the GM. If you talk to the GM, it could easily sound like you are confronting him. What you actually want is a discussion with the whole group about the game style.

I would suggest starting it with something like "I really enjoy the game, especially thing GM is doing well, but do you think we could have more X in it? I really like that part." From your question, thing GM is doing well is probably planned combats and X is probably along the line of "character development" and/or "character involvement in the plot".

You probably specifically want more character agency, though if he is a new GM he may not be familiar with the implications of that phrase.

While having the conversation, remember that railroading is a continuum, not an either or. It sounds like he wants, or is most comfortable with, a game strictly on rails. Some (though in my experience few) groups want exactly though. Some groups want a true sandbox game with complete character agency and no pre-planned plot. What most (at least in my experience) groups want is something in between, though different groups will fall in different places on the continuum.

It sounds like you definitely want something closer to a sandbox game, but if your GM is using strict railroading now he will almost certainly resist a true sandbox. Asking him to move a little way over on the continuum to give you more character involvement in the plot and a little more agency is probably an easier sell, especially if the other players join in saying they want something similar.

Again though, you want to avoid making this feel like a confrontation or intervention, and instead make it a discussion about what everyone wants where you ask (at least initially) for relatively modest additions of more of what you want. Most GM's fundamentally want their players to have fun and will be amenable to small changes to accommodate player desires. Radical changes will be harder for the GM, especially if he is inexperienced.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your answer! I will definitely talk amongst the other PC and see how everyone feels and if everyone wants change. \$\endgroup\$ – Nagromxela Xela Dec 4 '17 at 19:20
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A common reason for GMs railroading their players too much is that they are too well prepared. They put a lot of work into planning the campaign in great detail and now feel that it was all for nothing if the players find some clever way to subvert their plan. They will also fear that any on the spot improvisation will never reach the quality of their pre-planned content, so in order for the player to get the best possible experience, they need to force the player-characters along their planned path.

Improvisation might be the most fun part of roleplaying, but it can also be really scary for a novice GM to go off the book.

A good practice to train a GM to become more comfortable with improvisation is to ask them to run a completely improvised one-shot sandbox adventure. No planning, no preparation, just "You are a bunch of adventurers who meet in a tavern. What do you do?" and go with the flow. No expectation of complex plots or creative worldbuilding, just an environment which responds dynamically to whatever the PCs come up with. You might want to suggest running such a session to them.

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Don't do what I did.

I played in a similar game. The DM was a good friend. The other players didn't care that we were on the railroad, so "we want something different" wasn't available to me. I tried to explain my concerns to the DM, but I wasn't good enough at explaining it, and he wasn't good enough at understanding, and it just didn't sink in. I was younger and less experienced at games and conflict resolution, so I didn't handle it the way I would now.

Having realized that combat was the only way I could have an affect on the game, I went all in on that. When the villain started monologging, I'd attack full force, trying to kill him before he could get through the speech. If there was a bad guy we were supposed to be scared of, I'd attack anyway; this forced the DM to deus ex machina some way to keep me from being killed.

The next campaign, I made it clear that I was interested in a game where

  1. there'd be real risk to my character
  2. I could have an impact on what happened in the plot (and the world).

My immature shenanigans in the previous campaign didn't accomplish anything in the short run, but it did lay a foundation for him to understand what hadn't been working.

I hope that both you and your GM are more mature and eloquent than we were then.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi Michael, and welcome to RPG Stack Exchange. Check out our tour to see how we work here. Is there something you suggest someone should do? We're looking for concrete answers that guide someone on specific corrective action they can take, so "don't do this" may be relevant but doesn't quite get there. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 5 '17 at 23:43
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A slightly different approach to what others said (good advice all around). If the GM is highly defensive, instead offer to run a "short one" where you actually let the players affect the cut-scenes and change the plot. Offer him a break so he can play for a night or two... Most GMs will jump at the opportunity!

By presenting a different style of play, you may show that GM how you like to play, and perhaps understand better where he comes from. He may even love it so much that he will take some cues from you. Yes. Imitating someone is a great way to improving your skills.

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First, realize that you and your group are growing a new GM. You say that he has run a one-shot (was supposed to be more), and that this is really his first campaign. This is a part of the issue. He's inexperienced. He's overthought his scenarios. You're definitely on the railroad.

The others have given good advice in that quiet constructive discussion is needed here. They've covered that in detail. I would do one other thing. When he's going through some of his flavor, go "Cool! Let's go check that out!" or start a barroom brawl (just within the PCs if the GM won't allow his NPCs to join in), or do other things to take him outside of his script and comfort area, though stay within your alignment, if that matters in your system. This part is something done little by little, as you chip away at the protective wall he's built himself in his insecurity. Don't do this in a mean way, but in a fun way where he sees that the party is having fun. Seriously, this is something that may take months or years to get him to totally relax, but the combination of discussion and occasional gentle subversion will make him a much better GM in the long run. It looks like he's got the story-telling part down well, so it's learning to Master the game that he's got to learn.

I've been playing for a few decades at this point, and have seen this combination work to improve GMs many times.

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The other answers are great. The biggest take away though is to be diplomatic. a lot of the advice that they gave is really derived from common conflict resolution strategies. Such as praise X and ask for Y. Try to compromise. Here's another one - don't say "You" as in "Your game sucks." Try to use "We" which one - is inclusive and immediately takes the edge off the criticism and two - it limits the sort of terminology you can use, like you wouldn't say "Our game sucks." Anyway this is some stuff that you will benefit from in practicing in the low stakes realm of TTRPGs, because its a skill that will serve you well in life. Sadly, many people lack these sort of skills.

Now, in case your DM is jerk and is one of those people who lacks conflict resolution skills - you have two options:

Or you can laugh at the absurdity of it - and find joy in satire; refer to this: http://shawntionary.com/chainmailbikini/?p=15

OR Break the tracks! Like Old Man Henderson. AMAZING story! https://1d4chan.org/wiki/Old_Man_Henderson

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    \$\begingroup\$ Warning, the shawntionary link seems to have agressive add popups. I'd disable it as link for now... \$\endgroup\$ – WakiNadiVellir Dec 5 '17 at 6:53

protected by Oblivious Sage Dec 5 '17 at 23:58

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