I recently started a campaign with some local players, but things are not going well - at least from my perspective.
Some context: We're playing a campaign that is set in a Darksouls-like setting. Very grimdark, fighting against all odds, etc.
They recently entered a cave and lit up some torches. I told them that the torch only illuminates about half a meter in front of the party. The spellcaster of the group tried to use dancing lights, which I described as having the same effect. The group deducted that the darkness must be of magical origin. The spellcaster attempted to identify the spell, but rolled badly. I explained that he could not identify the exact spell used, but that he can deduct the spell seems to be connected to the surroundings.
At this point, the group seemed to be visibly upset with me. The players demanded to know which spell it was, and promptly started to search through the PFSRD database to find something. I attempted to stay in my role as GM and explained that their characters don't know what spell it is and suggested that they can either try and proceed in the darkness, or turn back and try another path.
This put the session to a grinding halt, with them basically accusing me of cheating if I don't tell them what spell it is. Here are some things they claimed:
- "How are we supposed to counter this spell if you don't tell us what it is?"
- "This is bullshit. You can't just make up stuff as you want."
Just the session before, the group reached a large gate, which I did not intend for them to pass yet until they had done something else beforehand.
When they reached it, the situation unfolded as follows:
- Me: "As the party walks down the path, it stands before a large gate, seemingly designed to keep a giant out. How do you proceed?"
- Barbarian: "How does it look like, exactly?"
- Me: "The gate is made from some sort of metal, overgrown with moss. Your character estimates it must be somewhat between 15 and 20 meters tall."
- Rogue: "I want to attempt to pick it open."
- Me: "As you approach the gate with your tools ready, you notice a distinct lack of lock to pick. The gate does not have a keyhole and seems to open through some other mechanism."
- Rogue: "Then I put my tools away and attempt to climb it."
- Me: "Roll a climb check then."
- Rogue rolls a 16.
- Me: "You attempt to climb the door, holding onto bits of moss and whatever sticks out enough to get a grip. A few meters up you slip and fall to the ground. You take one fall damage, but luckily none of your tools break."
- Barbarian: "Let's throw a grappling hook."
- Me: "Roll your dice."
- Barbarian: "I want to take 20. We have enough time, right?"
- Me: "You throw the grappling hook repeatedly at the door, but it never quite seems to reach the top. You came close a few times, but after trying for quite some time, you give up."
At this point, I expected the party to backtrack and try a different path. Instead, they kept hammering at the door (quite literally, too) and then gave up disgruntled. They complained why I would set up a door if they can't open it, and I explained that the very purpose of a door was to not open unless you had the key. They again got mad and demanded an explanation of how they are supposed to know where to go and what to do to open the door.
To me, it seems like the players see this game as a "puzzle" to be solved, rather than a story to experience or a world to explore. Is there a way to save this session? Or should I just call them and apologize that the session I had prepared was not what they expected and write off the time I spent preparing it as a loss?
Edit: Thank you very much for everybody's input. I had a very insightful talk with Mołot regarding possible solutions.
Due to the setting, a TPK would result in players simply "reappearing" in a specific place. Using this fact, I can make the players die should they cross the door, due to their curse.
As for the more general problems, I will call them for a Session Zero, see if we can bring the game in a direction that the players are happy with, without me having to re-write my 49 pages of lore and script.