I joined a game with a group of friends and a couple of other people I haven't met, one of which is the current DM. While I like everyone in the game personally, the current DM is extremely strict, a RAW DM.

This isn't my first encounter with a strict DM so I can adjust my play style accordingly. But while this campaign started as a homebrew-campaign, it quickly jumped into modules. Again, not the end of the world, but this is where it really started to get painful for me.

The module we are running is meant for a group of 4-5, 6th or 7th level characters. We're a group of 4, 4th levels. So right off the bat, the module is extremely difficult. Challenge is fine, but when the DM is very much RAW, some of the situations we encounter (traps for example) are pretty much impossible for us to get around without triggering.

We've been playing for 10 sessions, 6 of which have been in this single dungeon. During our last session, about a month ago due to peoples vacations, two of us died including me due to a difficult encounter.

The encounter was a zombie horde. (14 zombies vs 4 of us) I was immediately surrounded and downed. On the next turn, 2 out of the 5 zombies around me began eating me, easily hitting me and giving me 2 death failures each. 3 of them decided to go after another party member just down the hall.

I rolled a new character and we kept going through the dungeon. This session started us off in combat, to which I was able to take one action, and then was immediately KO'd and killed by the use of coup de grace. I sat there for two hours while the combat was resolved, with another player whose character was also killed quickly. At the end of combat, the DM told me to just roll a new character so we can keep playing.

My issue is: I could roll a new character, but given that I'm more interested in the narrative, min/maxing doesn't really interest me as a roleplaying player. But it seems like I have to in order to just live through single combat. I've already mentioned it to the DM but he's of a mind that, since that's the module we're running, we have to just work around it. I'm tempted to leave the party, but I don't want to ruin the fun for the other people in the group.

Specifically, what is the best way to handle a ruthless DM, if you've already tried speaking to them outside of the game, to minimize the impact on the party as a whole?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related : How to handle a 'power-GM'? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 12:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ali, what RPG and edition are you playing? This might help give answerers more context to your issue. Also, what module is your DM running? People familiar with the module might be able to give even more specific advice if that is known. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 13:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ali, please know that our flurry of edits, comments, and requests for info are in good faith and we are only trying to help. We want to help you and your question get the best answer(s) it can! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 13:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @G.Moylan It's all good. I appreciate the help. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ali
    Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 14:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ In what way are you concerned about negatively impacting the group? It seems central to the problem to solve, but it’s not described anywhere. Are you worried about leaving them underpowered? Making them feel abandoned? Or are you worried about hurting the DM and the rest of the group suffering his wrath? I’m can only guess randomly to show you that it’s not obvious without saying it clearly, even if it seems obvious to you. :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 15:42

3 Answers 3


No gaming is better than bad gaming

Clearly you're not having fun. It sounds like you are playing an entirely different game than you want to play, and the way you describe your DM it seems highly unlikely that he's suddenly going to turn around and do the high narrative, low combat type of game that you'd like to play - he seems to enjoy the heavy focus on combat.

The best thing to do in such a situation is to politely tell the rest of the party that the game isn't really working for you, and that you hope they have a lot of fun in the future, but that you're sitting the campaign out.

I've been in a similar situation before where I was trying to focus on serious roleplay, whereas the DM and 2 of the other players were increasingly leaning to silly slapstick nonsense, expecting nothing bad to happen if they started throwing stuff at guards. By the time every NPC in existence was now named "Bob", I had enough and dropped out because I realized it was making me more and more frustrated having to deal with a game I just wasn't enjoying, and it was also starting to ruin the fun for other people who did enjoy their Game of Bobs campaign.

If you don't like the game, drop out sooner rather than later. You're not going to enjoy the game any more over time, and eventually your frustration with the game will start ruining the fun for other players as well.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I regret retracting my vtc vote, the question is still in ill repair. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 14:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu OK, no worries, I'll remove that comment. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 14:35

For starters I'd like to say that roleplaying and having a powerful character (a character that can do well in combat if you prefer) are not incompatible. Depending of the system, even a character that is not completely optimized can work in difficult combat situationa if you focus on its strengths.

But yes, if the game is too much combat-focused and doesn't leave enough room for role-play in your opinion, and if the GM is unwilling to change, it may be that the game isn't for you.

But the problem doesn't seem to be just between you and the GM: from your narration, it seems clear that the other players are dying too, and may not min/max their characters. You should talk with the other players about the situation, to see how they feel about this. Then, as a group, talk with the GM about how the table is feeling. Your group may need another Session 0 since the setup has changed from "homebrewed but normal (in terms of difficulty) campaign" to "hardcore module where you spit blood after every encounter" (it may not be that brutal, but I like this image).

If after this series of discussions nothing changes, then another alternative is to be good enough in role-play to avoid the combat. In the system I play (Pathfinder if this is relevant), you can gain XP by talking your way out of a bad situation. Granted, if you only do dungeon crawling you won't get very far. If the module that your GM chose to run is centered around dungeon crawling, then I give up, and so should you (sometimes it happens).

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    \$\begingroup\$ While true that roleplaying and building a mechanically competent character are not mutually wxclusive, there's some character ideas that just don't work well under the rules. I have the feeling that one should start from the more limiting mechanical build and then choose their roleplay accordingly, which doesn't seem really satisfying for the OP. Anyway, good answer overall. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 17:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel I know, but the OP said that he already has games with great challenge, and that he was ok with it. So to me the question was not about "should I leave the table since it's too difficult" but more about "how to make this work for everyone at the table". So yeah with this solution the OP has to sacrifice some of his roleplay, but it's still better for a narrative point of view than "as this guy die, another guy show up from the toilet of the dungeon and say 'what's up, need a companion ?'", and the OP specifically said that he was more interested in the narrative, so that could work \$\endgroup\$
    – effroyquen
    Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 6:28

As a DM, when someone isn't having fun, I strongly prefer that they say that and leave the game.

When players aren't having fun, this tends to manifest in behaviors that are annoying for the whole table. Maybe they'll be detached and spend time on their phone; maybe they'll distract the group with irrelevant tangents. Most frequently they tend to make up last-minute excuses why they have to miss the game, and then the game runs with fewer players than I wanted.

In my last game, I had a player who obviously wasn't having fun; she spent time on her phone and she offered made-up-sounding excuses for skipping the game. Eventually she actually quit, and I breathed a sigh of relief and replaced her with a different player who showed up reliably and was happy to be there.

You've done your duty by explaining to the DM why you're not having fun. At this point you can leave with a clear conscience.


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