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I found out today that my DM (in a D&D 5e game) made some tweaks to my character's backstory, specifically some of the formative parts of his 'creation'. These changes are on the border of myth and logic, which wouldn't be a problem except that she landed more on the myth side, which placed the soul in a 'death adjacent' position. My character is a twin-souls, a pair of infant twins who were gravely injured and before they died the Traveler intervened and bonded them together into a single being.

To quote my DM:

Yes but I have a system where, as [character] levels up the manifestations of his soul grow more powerful and he gets new abilities.

3rd Level: Beyond the Vale: Your eyes turn milky white and you can see through the eyes of your second soul (Ethereal Vision 10ft) 1/short or long rest.

6th Level: Ghostly Presence: You can activate this ability to make your body turn into that of a ghost (Just Appearance) and if in combat every creature that can see you must make a saving throw equal to 8 + Proficiency Bonus + Charisma Modifier. You should be dead - the Traveller is powerful but not powerful enough to remove all factors of a dead soul; the Raven Queen would never allow it.

The problem is that in my original backstory the character wasn't actually dead. Near death, but not dead. Saved from death by The Traveller. Her changes place this event within the realm of The Raven Queen, and result in the 'death adjacent' problem.

As a result I now have some problems. First, she started by telling me of two custom feats, neither of which make sense mechanically or for the character. Second, with these changes the character's whole narrative raison d'etre doesn't make sense. This is already a crazy character, but with these changes it's just really bad and I can't play that. I predict he'll be unplayable by level 6.

Playing in character is kind of the point for me, and there are some characters that are just too unrealistic, even for D&D. A crazy teenager who enjoys stabbing things, eats lunch in random sewers, and travels just wherever, is plenty crazy enough. I don't need to be adding this whole demi-ethereal, death-adjacent, half-ghost edgelord mess.

I don't know if she's going to add the feat or force me to sub the feat for one that I would have taken. Either way it's adding nonsense to a character. She seems to think this is a really cool thing, so if I let it happen and just ignore it, she's going to be more insulted in the long term. So, I have to nip this in the bud, but as cleanly and nicely as possible.

How do I tell her this without insulting her?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 15 at 21:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ The question you are asking stands without it, but your quote doesn't fully explain Ghostly Presence. It doesn't explain what type of save enemies are making, nor does it explain the consequences of failure. \$\endgroup\$ – Ethan Feb 16 at 0:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ You'd have to ask her, I have no idea. Good news, the answer advice worked and we're hashing out the fix. \$\endgroup\$ – Jon Feb 16 at 3:10
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Tell the DM how you feel using passive tone and I statements.

The goal here is to:

  • Express how you feel about a situation,
  • Suggest ways to help you change the situation so it is more enjoyable to you.
  • Garner assistance from the DM.

Passive tone in combination with I statements will avoid accusing or putting words in the mouth of the other person. Both of those frequently result in a defensive reaction.

I statements

Only make statements about your own observations, actions, and feelings.
Generally in the form of, "When X happned, I felt Y."

Use passive tone avoiding attribution.

When describing the situation that you are not enjoying, avoid assigning blame or attribution. Simply state observations about the things in the situation. For example, "the alterations to the character" instead of "the changes you made".

Express how you feel about the situation

"When the background of the the character was changed to have actually been dead, I felt bewildered initially. After reflecting upon the changes, I realized they did not sit well with me. When I think about the character being in the demense of the Raven Queen, I feel [insert your feeling here]."

Perhaps try "...demense of the Raven Queen, I feel less invested and interested in playing the character."

State an alternative you would like

  • "I would feel more invested in the character if the background were..."
  • "The 6th level feat does not resonate with me. I think I would like it more if the character could channel the voice of their deceased twin's soul instead of changing appearance."

Offer alternatives and ask for assistance

Appealing to a persons' expertise is a reasonable method for getting assistance in changing a situation such that it is palatable to both you and the DM.

"Could we work together to come up with a background that is inspiring, works mechanically, and fits in with the plot designs?"

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Good news.

I composed a concise but kind explanation, rejection, and apology and we're hashing it out. Turns out part of the problem was that she had mixed up parts of another backstory with mine.

We're cutting out the mistakes and patching it up.

Many thanks to everyone who helped me work out the details, and a special thanks to Grosscol for his tips on interpersonal communication.

[Update] It didn't work out. Because apparently she doesn't know how to repair mistakes. Oh well, still a learning experience, and it went better than past attempts to patch up relationships. How am I the only one willing to suffer through stuff like that? I can be a difficult person but I'm not unreasonable. I like a good debate, but people tend to take it the wrong way.

Maybe I should try to get a group of people together myself somehow, not that it worked out last time. That one at least ended in-game though.

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