15
\$\begingroup\$

I've been playing in this campaign for a while and have been in the spotlight quite a few times, but I feel like the DM is prioritizing 2 PCs over mine.

The group: It fluctuates since this is a high school club anyone can join, but there's always a minimum of 5 people there; me, the 2 "special" pcs, and 2 of my friends. The DM is a teacher. We started a few weeks before winter break, and have tried to stick with a schedule of every other week. It started as a level 3 campaign, so we have had about 6-ish sessions.

For example of my problem: one has an overpowered magic item, and the other was allowed to use a level 5 character from the get go while the rest of the party, me and 3 others, are all at level 3 with no magic items. The DM only narrates one party at a time so whenever the party is split, only 1 group gets the spotlight,and they've split the party several times. The most recent party split is why I've started contemplating leaving the campaign.

The 2 of them discovered a map to a cave with great treasures and decided not to tell the rest of the party. They left us to go do some business with a village while they go and investigate the cave by themselves. Inside this cave they find an Ice Witch along with an Undead Dragon! They manage to survive this assault somehow, and they find riches beyond measure. Knowing them, they're not going to share a single copper piece of their haul.

My part of the party really wants to enjoy this campaign, but now we just want to leave. Should we leave these 2 players? If I sound like I'm being too entitled how do I stop being like that? I'm happy to share more details if you need them.

\$\endgroup\$
23
\$\begingroup\$

It sounds like your DM is playing favorites

As much as I hate to accuse anyone of favoritism, the way you've posed the question makes it sound like your DM is playing favorites in the party. That's never fun for the players stuck on the outside.

I've written about dealing with feeling left out in a party before and I think a lot of the advice I had there applies here as well. For background, I DM for a small group and was unintentionally favoring one player over another. She pointed out the issue and I made a real effort to correct my behavior. The following is extrapolated from what worked for our group.

Talk to your DM about your concerns

The first place to bring this up is going to be with your DM. Have a private, one-on-one meeting outside of your normal gaming time. You want to prevent putting the DM on the spot as that just tends to make people defensive.

Lay out your concerns in a non-accusatory manner. Sure, it's entirely possible that your DM is intentionally favoring these two players, but you want to give them the benefit of the doubt so you don't burn any bridges. It's possible they don't realize, like I didn't, that their actions aren't making the game fun for everyone.

You mentioned in comments that you weren't sure if the DM had ever DM'd before. New DMs can - and will - make a lot of mistakes, and sometimes just pointing out the issue will correct the behavior.

I would particularly bring up the party splitting. Although it's mechanically possible in D&D, it's not great for party dynamics, as you've clearly experienced. In general in my games I try to keep splits geographically small and for limited durations of time. The most I'll allow my party to split is to let them run mundane errands alone (B goes to the armorer to sell armor, C goes to the general store to buy rope, and I narrate in a B - C - B - C pattern) or investigate separate rooms in a house/dungeon alone (B takes the left-hand room, C the right). Any longer and you end up with players sitting around bored while other people have all the fun, which is no good.

If your DM seems receptive to your complaints then you have a good chance of this group working out for you. The next step once they agree that there's a problem is to talk to the rest of the group as a whole and all get on the same page. I'll talk about that later in this answer.

If, however, your DM doesn't see the problem with their session structuring and their own behavior, you might be out of luck, which is where my next point comes in.

Talk to the other party members

It might help to check in and see how everyone else in the party feels. It sounds from your comments like there's a core group of about five of you, including the two favored players.

I would talk to all the players, not with the DM there, and see if they also feel like some players are being favored over others. Similar to talking to your DM, make sure this isn't accusatory. The idea isn't to blame the favored guys, but just to see if everyone feels the same imbalance you do, and most importantly, see if everyone's having fun.

You may want to speak with just the non-favored players as presumably the favored ones are having fun. I would caution against having the talk devolve into DM-bashing, but it might give you a chance to see if they're willing to stand with you about being treated un-equally.

If you're the only one not having fun then you might need to either deal with it (not great) or leave the game (also not great). However, you may find that you're not the only frustrated one.

If multiple people agree with you that's good evidence to bring to your DM. Maybe you need to start a new campaign with everyone on the level, or maybe you even need to find a different DM and those of you who aren't happy can start your own game.

If the group's going to work out

If you've talked to your DM and the other players and everyone agrees there's a problem and wants to fix it, this is a great time to try the same page tool during a Session 0.

Basically, have an interlude session where you can all make sure you're playing the game for the same reasons and establish some boundaries such as Don't Split The Party. You can then start over with a blank slate and hopefully have a much better game.

If the group isn't going to work out

If instead the DM didn't see any issues with the current setup and some of the players were totally happy with the game you have three options.

Option One: Stay

If everyone else is happy with the current setup, you could stay with them.

I would recommend this one the least, to be honest. Unsurprisingly, it's not fun to stay in a group where you aren't having fun. But if you really want to play, can't find or start another group and are willing to put up with the behavior this is technically an option.

Option Two: Leave

If one or two people expressed dissatisfaction but nothing is changing, leave.

There's no sense staying in an activity you aren't enjoying. However, that doesn't mean you have to stop playing! Maybe there's another group you can join with a friend or two, or an Adventurers League you can join.

Option Three: Start your own game

If several people aren't happy with the game, you can always start your own!

If you don't have someone immediately willing to be the DM there are plenty of groups that do rotating DMs so no one person has to be the DM all of the time. Start your own group and play D&D the way you want to play it. You can always schedule it at a different time than the other game so players can be in both if they want to.

In Conclusion

Not every group is going to be a good fit for you as a player. It's okay to leave if you aren't having fun, but I would encourage you to talk to your DM and other players first. It's totally possible that this group is salvageable with a little legwork and patience. Either way, don't get discouraged from playing D&D and other tabletop RPGs!


Additional food for thought

Knowing that your DM is a teacher in your school and still seems to be favoring specific players, I'd like to offer the following personal experience.

When I was somewhere in the 11-12 range I joined an after school board game group at my school that was run/hosted by one of the 6th grade teachers. The participants were mostly a mix of misfits looking for an after school activity to keep them occupied, and then there was "Neal". Neal was a huge troublemaker in class and constantly getting scolded for behavior and academic shortcomings. He was loud, jittery and had trouble keeping his attention and his limbs to himself. He got pulled out of class a lot for academic help and didn't have any friends.

In the game group his behavior wasn't much better; he talked over people and had trouble remembering when it was his turn. The teacher didn't do more than the bare minimum to rein him in; Neal often got first pick of games and I even remember him turning a blind eye to Neal accidentally cheating now and again.

I remember going home to my mom and complaining that Neal was getting unfair treatment. My mom wisely pointed out that Neal was having a hard time socially, and that this game group sounded like somewhere he could have fun and be included in things. She cautioned me that maybe the game group was the only place he could fit in and that I should try to be more welcoming.

Obviously I know nothing about the favored players in your group, but there's a chance this might be a similar situation and the teacher is intentionally favoring those kids to give them a positive social experience. It might be worth thinking about when you broach this topic with your DM and the other players.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ What are your thoughts on speaking privately with the other players that are also left out of the spotlight for additional viewpoints? \$\endgroup\$ – M C Apr 27 '18 at 14:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MC I tend to prefer suggesting the players all talk together since in my experience things otherwise tend to devolve into player-and-dm bashing with little productive conversation. However, you might be right that in this case the left out guys should talk together. I'll add something, thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – Alex Apr 27 '18 at 14:53
7
\$\begingroup\$

This is a pretty unfortunate situation to be in, but you have a couple of choices:

0. Talk to the Favored Players (Depending on Their Personality)

This suggestion is very specific to your group. Generally, you can say "most DMs make mistakes that they're willing to remedy," but when talking to players there is a large amount of fluctuation, so keep that in mind when reading this (you know these guys better than I do). Also, this is not a standalone step. If you want to use this step, do it to figure out which of the following three steps are the best course of action.

Out of game, ask them their motivations for doing what they did. It is entirely possible that they just want the loot for themselves, but it could be that they are really trying to play their character. Perhaps the warlock seeks to learn new magic from the Ice Witch and doesn't want to share this knowledge for some reason. The reason I suggest asking them such things is that sometimes people get so invested in their character and enamored with an idealized version of their character that they make the story center around him. You might be able to talk to them about what they have envisioned for their character and try to find some way to ensure they get the most out of their character without disrupting the party. Like I said though, they might just want to be an OP murder hobo. (If that is the case, I would go with number 3).

In my experiences, having a short game that is tailored to one character can be really fun and funny for all parties. For example, I played one completely home-brewed game where I was a big, friendly, and totally stupid ogre. Most of the game was spent having other players trying to keep me out of trouble. Everyone loved it, but for an extended period, it gets boring quickly, even for the favored players. Take the risk out of D&D and you take out all the fun. Bring this up with the favored characters and see if you can find a way for everyone to have the spotlight shine on them at different points. Nothing is more satisfying that fulfilling your destiny, and then helping your friends fulfill theirs.

If they are totally receptive of this: agree to follow step 2. and explain what you talked about to the DM If they are somewhat receptive: Step 1, or if you really aren't having fun with these guys, Step 3. If they are not receptive: Step 3, they'll just try to workaround any compromise you make

1. Talk to the DM

As I mentioned in my comment, DMs can often show preference for characters, especially if they know one player better than another. If the DM likes the player or the character more than the others, he will often give them plot armor. Its similar to the DM that only wants to tell a story to the players, rather than build a story WITH the players. I myself have been guilty of this at times, but the best thing to do may be to talk to him. Your DM SHOULD be receptive to your concerns and if he isn't, see number 3. In my opinion, this is the best first step to take if you and your players are interested in the campaign.

2. Don't Split up the Party

As a few people have mentioned in the comments, splitting up the party is almost always a bad idea. Either half the party dies or grossly outpaces the others in terms of experience. Splitting up the party can SOMETIMES work if it is an RP-heavy campaign, but if it involves "investigating a cave," that's usually a red flag. In this way, you can address the problem indirectly through democracy. It sounds like you have at least 2 other friends at any given session, so you always have majority. Just flat out tell the other two you don't want to split up the party. It may not fix the current disparity in level and items, but it won't further them, and as you reach higher in level, you'll be close to the same level.

3. Leave the Game

It sounds like there are many more detractors than there are benefits in this game. Giving one PC an overpowered item and flat out letting some characters start above another is a huge red flag. It might be best for you to leave the game and start you own. This is what I did and I have been DMing to this day. Plus, if you do really like the campaign and its a published adventure, you can find it and run it yourself. Your friends who are also frustrated will probably want to leave too. Don't worry about not being good at DMing, your friends will be having more fun playing with you than playing as spectators for those other two. That being said, if you don't have the means to buy the core books (PHB, DMG, MM), this step may be a bit more difficult and you may want to go with one of the other two choices.

Best of luck!

\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Let me double-down on #2. When playing an RPG, there's kind of an unwritten social contract that splitting the party for extended periods is bad. The goal of D&D is for everyone to have a good time together...and ignoring half the players for hours on end because the other half of the players decided to go have a totally unrelated independent adventure is not having fun together. It's fine to split up for individual tasks, or related things. But the unwritten rule generally is that everyone should be having the same adventure. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Apr 27 '18 at 14:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @guildsbounty I completely agree. I have flat out had players ask me out of game if splitting up the party would be a good idea or not (it was a series of social encounters that they were concerned might escalate to something dangerous while split up). I generally only would advise splitting up the party while in a city or other secure location (hopefully no one gets arrested). \$\endgroup\$ – Palywally Apr 27 '18 at 14:45
2
\$\begingroup\$

First, an unharmful reminder:

D&D is not a competition. (unless that's what your party wants it to be)

D&D is not about who has more level, magical items or gold. It's not about who had the last hit on that dragon, who talked to the mayor and who gets more girls in the tavern.

It's about everyone having fun. Sure, some tables have fun by doing exactly that kind of competition, but it's rare and doesn't seem to be the case on your table.

Sadly, it sounds like you are not having fun.

First things first, you guys should have a Session 0.

Among an extensive list of other topics, it covers

  • PC Secrets.
  • Player expectations.
  • Spotlight sharing.

Which are topics that are creating problem for you.

There is nothing implicitly bad/wrong at them having PC secrets or not sharing a single CP of their treasure (which they got by themselves anyway) with you. If there is a problem with that on the table (and it seems there is), it has to be discussed beforehand.

Second, identify what you consider to the problem:

Is the problem that you don't feel like you have a spotlight, or that the other players have too much? There is a huge difference between actually being poor and being jealous of another person riches.

If you feel that your party doesn't have the spotlight, ask your DM for it. However, note that RPGs usually have lots of player agency on it, which leads us to

Be proactive.

It seems by your brief description that your DM playing favorites is not the only reason (emphasized because I do believe it is a reason - a major one, FWIW) they are having more spotlights - they seem (and I might be wrong) to be more proactive. They are running around looking for maps and loots. Do the same. If you go around looking for things and get nothing while they get maps and treasures, then for sure it is DM playing favorites - tell him that this is no-fun for you guys and he might want to change it.

I said this mainly because of this phrase:

They left us to go do some business with a village while they go and investigate the cave by themselves.

It doesn't seem to have any DM's hand here - you passively accepted staying at the village doing (practically) nothing while they were adventuring, which is what adventurers should be doing.

About splitting parties:

There is nothing wrong in splitting parties and, unless the other 2 players agree with that, they shouldn't be restricted from doing it. The problem is one party adventuring while the other is doing nothing. Also, if both parties go adventuring separate ways, it might be better to split the table in two sessions, in a way that players (not characters) don't have to sit there doing nothing.

Anyway, talk to your DM

He might not even notice he is doing something like that and that you are feeling bad. There is a decent chance he will change something if you express your concerns to him. I'll add a personal experience DM'ing that was similar to that.


Personal Background

So, I was playing this homebrew campaign. Every dungeon, I would put my treasures in specific places, and not change them from place. Ever. I thought it was the most fair way to do it.

Turns out my party liked to split to search for things. Turns out one of the players got lucky with where he went too often, while another player never got any thing. The lucky player was also a greedy bastard that wouldn't split the treasure with the party and say he didn't find anything (with his Deception Expertise and 16 starting Charisma, he was successful lying more often than not).

The unlucky player came to me after the ~3rd time he got nothing and ask if it was personal. I showed him my maps, without any scratch or erasing, and explaing to him that he was just unlucky. He accepted the explanation, but it didn't make him any less frustrated.

By the time, I was dumb. I thought being fair was more important than everyone having fun. (Or, more specifically, I thought that they shouldn't be not having fun just because they were unlucky with where he decided to search for treasures.)

Your DM might be doing something similar, without noticing you aren't having fun because of that.

\$\endgroup\$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.