If a player received a specific end reward and doesn't like it, can the new DM change that item's traits (whether or not the item was created differently than in the book)?

We are playing home games, and the group has been changing DMs after each campaign, so it isn't going by strict Adventurers League rules.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is this a homebrew item? Or is this just a more general question about a multi-DM game and whether or not a DM can should overrule previous DM? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 26 at 20:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch There were mixtures of homebrew and DMG items with a twist. But it was more a question on if the new DM should change the previous DM's end rewards given out. \$\endgroup\$ – MysticElaine Aug 26 at 20:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Was this an item used during the campaign or was it given at the end and hasn't been used yet? Can you also describe the item specifically? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 26 at 22:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Discussing it can also result in a mutually satisfactory outcome that may be different than the one the GM had in mind \$\endgroup\$ – ikegami Aug 28 at 0:56

Yes, but...

The short answer is, yes. The DM's power is constrained only by what the players are willing to accept. The DM can, under "Rule 0" change the item as they see fit at any time, with or without a story-based reason.

However, as NautArch mentioned, changing the item can have repercussions. It impacts the continuity of the game. It can also simply feel unfair to the players that have come to expect an item to work in a certain way and may have made character or story altering decisions based on relying on that item. It also seems disrespectful to the last GM who, it sounds like, may now be a player in the same campaign.

I have had games with GMs that rotate and as a general rule for the reasons stated above, we tried to avoid altering something that was already set in the campaign.

With that said, there are times it does need to be done. Even when GM changes are not in play, sometimes an item has unexpected repercussions and it is necessary to alter it to avoid the item causing problems in the game, this is especially true with homebrew items but even published items can cause problems if given too early in a campaign or in the wrong type of campaign.

You haven't provided a lot of background here, but in dealing with this type of situation I would recommend a few things:

  • If the former GM is still available, and especially if still involved in some way, the current GM may be wise to consult with them first. If nothing else, this shows respect to the former GM's decisions before altering them.
  • The matter should be discussed with the players rather than done by fiat. Sometimes, it is necessary to preserve balance, but explaining the reasoning rather than just declaring it done can help everyone accept the situation.
  • If continuity is a concern at that table, it may be worth finding a story based reason the item has changed going forward or perhaps that item is lost but a new item is promptly found to take its place.
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    \$\begingroup\$ We all make mistakes :) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 26 at 23:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ It may also be worth suggesting that the co-DMs establish a method of vetting future magic items/rewards before they are given out, so that the other DMs don't feel like their hard work is being undone/disrespected, and the players don't feel like their shiny new toy is being taken away/changed. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 27 at 5:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast we did that in the old days a lot, since some DM's were Monty Haul or Santa Claus, and others were not. "What's portable, and what isn't" was a very common discussion item. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 27 at 14:20

I wouldn't recommend it without discussion

There was a period of a few years that one of my groups had a rotating DM. During this time, we generally didn't step on the toes of previous DM decisions.

This was for a couple of reasons:

  1. Continuity
  2. That person would DM again and we didn't want to create a series of changes going back and forth.

We didn't hand out any homebrew items, either, so that may have been part of it. But overall, we left decisions and storyline points in place to keep the continuity from one DM to the next and to allow people to reference back to previous portions they had DM'd.

In your case, it's not clear what the item is or how it was changed, but retconning items can be problematic.

There wasn't a case where we needed to do this, but if there was I would have begun it as a communication and discussion around my concerns and made it a table discussion at the minimum between the item owner, the previous DM, and myself.

Retconning without communication can very easily lead to unhappy players, which is the one thing we all try to avoid.

Raising concerns quickly

If another DM is concerned that an item is going to cause a problem, it's best to bring it up immediately once the item is announced. This gives everyone a chance to discuss the concern and alleviate potential problems before the item becomes in-use and the player has acclimated to having it.

But as DM, they can if they want

As stated above, the problem may lead to player dissatisfaction and eventual departure. But ultimately, the DM is the final arbiter - it's up to the players if they're okay with the decisions the DM makes and if they want to continue playing.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Aug 27 at 8:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast Added in a section addressing that, but not in it's entirety. I'm comfortable with my addition, but wasn't with pre-vetting as that 'tips the hat' of upcoming rewards which a DM may not want to (or may not be able to do if they generate random rewards from the DMG tables.) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 27 at 14:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ "they can if they want" -- I mean, as a player, you can write anything on your character sheet as well. "I have 1000 strength". The trick in both cases is getting other people to play with you. \$\endgroup\$ – Yakk Aug 27 at 15:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Yakk Yes, the trick is getting other people on board - but in terms of pure rules, only the DM has authority to make calls (they just have to also live with the fallout from making the call.) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 27 at 15:58

Barring any group/house rule, rule zero always wins (the DM is always right). If the current DM wants an item changed, it's changed.

It's best to talk among the entire group to have an item that won't keep changing as each DM takes over.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you dealt with situation either in a forced changed or forced acceptance? You're not wrong, but you also don't support your answer with anything. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 27 at 14:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, Ive not been in this before. My group has alternating DM's but each with their own story so each game is distinct from the others. \$\endgroup\$ – Fering Aug 27 at 14:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Okay, just noting that even subjective answers need support. It's what separates idea generation from expert answers. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 27 at 14:58

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