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Ok, I need the community's opinion on this.

My GM is being . . . not great . . . at his job.

I love this group, we have done almost 700 hours together on Roll20, but the current GM is causing me some headaches.

Allow me to summarize: We are playing Carrion Crown. He is railroading us to just go non-stop. We get penalized for every rest we take, causing us to have problems in the long run. He is telling us the total EXP that we gain, but doesn't divide it by how many characters were in the session. Sometimes we have to divide it by 5, 4, or 6 depending on how it worked out. The problem there is that not all characters know what they are at, or what the individual maximum is. He has now personally targeted my character 3 times by being thrown off a bridge. Pushed once, and then just thrown out onto the bridge to be pushed off twice more (once due to the -4 acrobatics that I had expected to fall and once by a wind elemental. That wind elemental was also way overpowered for our party, who had burned all of our spells to get out of a combat earlier.

Now that you have a very basic understanding of the situation, how to I approach this? I still want to play with these guys, even though the GM is being a jerk, the players are really great.

How do I approach the GM and tell him that we need to have some downtime and chances to rest without being punished? I mean, it is nice to stick to a book, yet from a Role Playing stand point it seems that the characters would get exhausted and drained to the point where they would just surrender if we are forced to go forward at such a fast pace that we can't stop.

Summary: I feel like in the last session I was targeted for death, even though the GM claims that isn't the case. He doesn't let the party have any downtime without some kind of punishment, and he isn't allowing us to catch up to the expected EXP marker for our adventure. How do I approach him and say, "you suck at being a GM" without saying those exact words?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't understand the XP problem: you are upset that you have to do the math, or are there limits on how much XP one is allowed to earn during a session in Carrion Crown? Have you discussed this with all of the other players already? All of them. That detail matters in how people answer this question. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 24 '18 at 23:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've done that chapter of the adventure path. I hated it. Though for different reasons. From the sounds of it you should be past the time constraint section and are in the Oh gods why is this even here section. \$\endgroup\$ – jneko Mar 26 '18 at 19:27
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First of all, I would like to say this: you cannot call a GM a bad GM. This is like calling a player who makes mistakes in game stupid. The only result will be antagonizing the GM which will make the game experience worse overall regardless of how you choose to do it. What you can do is to point at the things you see as flaws and ask the GM to fix them.

I have several suggestions that you can use but regardless of which one you choose you should talk to your fellow players and see if they see those things as flaws as well. Some of your players might be enjoying near death experiences and non stop adventuring. For starters I know I do.

  1. List all of your problems along with examples and send it to your GM. Do not try to sugar coat things as that will either make you sound like the guy who is just trying to call them terrible under nice words or it will cause them to shrug off your complaints thinking they are not a big deal.
  2. Consider running a game for your GM. A lot of GM'sI met became GM's because nobody would run the game they like for them so your GM may simply not be aware of a player's perspective. Upon being a player they might notice the problems they didn't beforehand.
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It sounds like your issue is a difference in expectations.

You may need to have a second session zero. By the sound of your summary, it appears that this is a rather new GM to the game you are playing. Because of this, the expectations may be different from your previous GM(s).

So organize a new session zero. Sit down, discuss what the party wants to do as an adventure and what the GM has planned. Discuss the points you've highlighted here.

Railroading: This is a tough one because as a GM there are times you have to railroad, and times you can allow absolute freedom. If he's too heavy handed at railroading, illustrate how he's not giving you any freedoms.

Penalization on rests: Bring up that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. If the characters are constantly harassed or penalized for taking a break, then they'll eventually just stop trying. Does he want an adventure or a group of fed up characters heading home and giving up?

Experience: So? Tally it up. The problem, as you already identified, is that all the characters don't know what they're at. Tracking their own character is the players job, not the GM's. Players who forget their EXP level because they're too lazy to record it get set to the lowest EXP at the table in my games. As for the individual maximum, you can ask him to write that down at the beginning of the session so everybody is made aware.

Targetted for death: Any time you get targetted in the game by consecutive attacks it feels like being targetted for death. Unless the GM is actively ignoring your teammates and using casters, rogues, ranged and melee on you to excise you from the group, he's not targetting you specifically. I know it can feel that way, but it just happens.

Overpowered enemies: This is my personal pet peeve of GM's. These have to be used appropriately in order to be effective and compelling, and not feel like they're just railroading the party. In my last campaign, overpowered enemies were literally everywhere (and I do mean everywhere), and my confrontation with the GM ended up tanking the game entirely. It's a better choice to use many easy to handle enemies in large numbers because you can withdraw part of the force if necessary, or add more as a second wave to produce more challenge if the group is wiping the floor with them.

Having an overpowered Wind Elemental attack you and force you to burn spells to slow it, get away, or otherwise evade it is perfectly reasonable. I've used level 16 Dragons on level 3 adventurers in a chase scene through a mountain lair in order to get them to do exactly that. It's terrifying and harrowing for the players, where a single missed step equals death. Do you feel afraid when that happens? If so, the GM is doing a good job conveying the emotion you should be feeling in that scenario.

At the end of the day, you need to have a sit down with your GM and the group, and lay out what the group expectations are and what the GM's are. Be frank, be open, be direct. If you don't like something, say it. If the GM has a reason for it, they can choose to be all "mysterious" about it, but they'll find out very quickly that players who are voicing complaints will not put up with a campaign they are not enjoying for very long.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You may want to add that Adventure Paths are inherently railroad-y to your section about Railroading. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Mar 26 '18 at 1:36
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From what you describe, I think I might really enjoy playing with your GM. This style of play- having to make your resources stretch between encounters, always feeling hounded and haggard, having every possible weakness exploited, and going up against seemingly insurmountable odds- is right up my alley. Play like this is often characterized as combat as war, and plenty of people want more of it in their campaigns.

I say this not to tell you that you are objectively wrong and you DM is objectively right, but rather to suggest that your issue is a mismatch of preference rather than a "Bad GM".

Try to think about it from this perspective before you take any action. Can you understand why your GM might want to run a campaign this way? Can you understand why other players might enjoy it? Do any of the other players in your group seem to like it? You may find that just considering this style of play as legitimate and enjoyable helps you to enjoy it more!

Or, you might not- it's perfectly fine to prefer a different type of campaign. In this case, being able to appreciate the GM's perspective will most likely help you to approach them. Rather than telling them that they are a bad GM, tell them that you have some personal preferences that might be different from theirs. Lay out some specific things- you feel like your character doesn't get to shine if their spell slots are always exhausted, you feel like getting knocked off a bridge made the combat less fun. Acknowledge that they are trying to run a challenging, high-stakes campaign, but request that they make a few small changes to improve your enjoyment. Be prepared to compromise.

Finally, be prepared for the possibility that they want to keep running the campaign the way they've been running it. In this case, you may want to take a break from until it's someone else's turn to run the game. Not every game is well matched for every individual, and there's nothing wrong with that!

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