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My current DM in their homebrew campaign has centered the campaign almost entirely around the barbarian in the party. The campaign has been going for about 6 months of play roughly once a week (about 6 weeks of in-fiction time at a guess). I joined later than the rest of the group though and I created my character and backstory then with the DM's help.

For clarity, the party's adventures are related to getting the barbarian's "dragon powers" back by proving him worthy of having them. His backstory is pretty much that he was true polymorhped into a human by a powerful wizard to teach him a lesson.

The reason this is annoying (or however you would prefer to interpret it), is that the DM actually specifically requested backstories from everyone but hasn't seemed to actually take any note of any other character's backstory. It seems so far that I could have pretty much written anything I wanted in the backstory and it wouldn't have mattered because they would ignore it anyway. (I did write a backstory that I felt was quite good.)

I'm not sure how to handle this type of "problem" and the fact that another player has felt the same way kind of worries me for where the game will go if this continues.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If answerers wish more context we discussed some details in Role-playing Games Chat starting here. I believe I have summarized and edited the most relevant parts into the question already though. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jul 3 '18 at 14:39
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Talk to your DM

This is really the only viable solution other than leaving the table (which I'll get to next.) I wouldn't 'gang up' on the DM about this, but broach the subject with regard to wanting to better understand how they (the DM) is generating story and how much impact the PCs have on the world and how much impact the world has on the PCs.

Session Zero

I'd definitely suggest you approach the DM and ask for a Session Zero to discuss the expectations from the DM and the players about how the game and story would run. This is a great way to introduce the issue(s) you and the other player are experiencing.

You can set this up with the DM by just stating that you'd like a better understanding of the world and their game and that there are some questions about it. You can also say that given the game has been going on for about 8 months, it's a good time to make sure everyone's expectations are being met. This includes the players expectations of the DM/game and the DM's expectations of the players.

Sample Questions

  • Are our backstories for use in our own personal roleplay or will there be personal character progression alongside the main story?
  • Will our actions affect the greater world?
  • If pursuit of personal stories is part of this, what happens in the greater world around us if we spend time not following the main story?
  • We understand that there is limited time for each character AND the main storyline - Is there a method you have or are trying to do to balance this?

But what if there is no progress?

Then you need to ask whether or not you are still having fun at this table. It is still possible to enjoy the table and the game even without your backstory or character growth. But if that isn't the fun you're having, then your only option may be to walk away - and that's okay! Everyone should be having fun at the table. It may not be the fun you expected, but as long as you're still having fun, then let it continue (You just may need to shift your expectations in order to do so.)

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Step 1: talk to your DM

Ask your DM what you have asked here but a little differently, along with the other player who is concerned, so that the DM knows that this is a concern for you both:

How do our back stories fit into this campaign? We so far have only learned how the barbarian's back story fits into the campaign.

When that question is answered, it will hopefully generate a discussion with the DM about where you are going with the campaign, or aren't.

Optional step two: adapt your backstory to fit the campaign

Depending upon how your conversation with the DM goes in step 1, you may see an opening, or an opportunity, to make an adjustment to your backstory so that it fits the campaign theme better. (I've seen this done before for a variety of reasons). It may not be necessary, but it's a way to get the DM's world and your story to fit better and would be a natural topic of discussion between you and the DM during step 1.

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Before you do anything else seriously consider how discontented you actually are with the game.

I have played many campaigns that were run around one or two party members who were not my character. The campaigns were thoroughly enjoyable despite the fact that I and my characters played a relatively passive role in the story telling of the game and no role at all in stearing the campaign.

I have also seen campaigns self destruct because a player wanted a more active role and didn't know what to do with it when they got it. You need to have a clear idea of what needs to change and by how much.

The first point of contact once you work that out should always be with the GM. Ask them some pointed questions about the role of your character(s) going forward if you are feeling sidelined and not enjoying the game anyway. Then tell them what you feel needs to change about that role if you are going to enjoy playing it.

You have at least two options in terms of gameplay to help shift focus once you know what you want.

  • You can "develop a family emergency": your character would love to help the barbarian resolve his simmering resentment towards his father but their brother's farm is being harassed by creatures unknown and he needs help. Depending on the style of game your GM is running this will take more or less of their input so it may or may not work based on the outcomes of that conversation about character roles in the game.

  • Have your character "dig in their heels": don't go any further with the barbarian until... whatever gets you the more active role you want in the adventure. If you do this you need to be prepared to let the character you're doing it to walk off into the wilds. You can't flinch or backslide or it will never work later.

Some observations/note from personal experience:

Others will probably differ on this but I've never been in a campaign where even one player got to do a deep-dive on their character backstory. Games are usually driven by what is happening more than what has happened in the past. For backstory to come into an active campaign it must be relevant to current events. To avoid a major mismatch I tend to write my character bio after we've had session zero and maybe a week or two at the table so that I mesh with the party and the world story we're pursuing.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I prefer in game solutions as a first option, personally. Immediately, going out of game seems to detract from the experience. Now if the DM ignores your in game "hints" then it would be time to broker better expectations in an out of game manor. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Jul 3 '18 at 15:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth My main GM for years was a bit... I don't know exactly what but he didn't take hints you had to talk to him, usually repeatedly. \$\endgroup\$ – user40081 Jul 3 '18 at 15:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ And that is a possibility, I have had those as well. I just prefer to start in-game. Works sometimes. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Jul 3 '18 at 15:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Looks good to me, I'm glad you had to do so little to it, it was about the last thing I wrote yesterday and I was in need of sleep. \$\endgroup\$ – user40081 Jul 4 '18 at 11:02

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