38
\$\begingroup\$

I've been in a campaign for the past 4 months with a very controlling DM and a player who has been dubbed their favorite.

The DM in question is very flexible with anything in their game... as long as it benefits their favorite. Since I don't want to use their real name, I'll call her Hannah.

We are currently level 6 in D&D 5e and Hannah has obtained a sword with 4d6+2d4 damage with every strike, while the second most damaging weapon goes to my player with a total of 2d6 damage. Every game session they add more damage dice onto their sword.

The DM has backed this up and is the one who caused their weapon to grow more powerful for no reason other than they said so. This makes fights less enjoyable because Hannah kills every opponent in 2 strikes and leaves the rest of the players annoyed and bummed out.

Hannah also has a way to silence players that she doesn't approve of. Her character has a bunch of tranquilizer darts and, when it hits another player's character, will silence a player for 15 minutes of talking in real-time. She does this sporadically and refuses to let plans be anything but ones she 100% approves of. Quite a lot of these ideas nearly caused multiple TPKs which has made everyone but her go through 2 other characters in the campaign.

The rest of the party has been trying to plan to kill Hannah's character and I'm pretty sure that it's going to make the situation worse if it happens. Hannah really does love her character and I don't want to get rid of her, I just want to fix the situation so there's no more favoritism.


I realized that leaving things out about the dynamic of the rest of the party puts Hannah in a light that makes her seem like she's being mean for the sake of annoying the rest of the party but that's not really true.

The logic behind the Tranquilizer darts is that she got normal darts at the beginning of the game and later filled them with Sleeping Draught. She's a Lawful Good and likes to talk things out while the rest of the party is a bunch of murder hobos. This clash of alignments makes Hannah's voice not heard as much since her morals don't commonly align with the rest of the party. If a player has an idea that she 100% is fully against, she tranqs them. the most recent silencing was when the rest of the party was planning to seduce and then kill the King's Lord of Finances in order to get money and learn the Kingdom's secrets. The Character of the player is then unconscious and unable to do anything and the DM won't let the player have a say in planning for 15 min. Her views make our ideas clash and if she removes the person who's making the most outrageous idea, the playing field is more even for her.

She isn't tranqing every player left and right. She mostly feels left out because her ideas are usually vetoed. And in the end, we usually incorporate some of her plans into the overall goal. (We didn't kill the Lord of Finances, we locked him in his own dungeon and interrogated him instead.)

She is a friend of the DM whilst the rest of the party are acquaintances, this closer connection makes the DM sympathize with her more. Most of the party is female, including myself and the DM. If an argument springs up about how Hannah is ruining the party it's going to turn into a yelling match extremely fast. I really hate conflict so I've been trying my best to avoid arguments as much as possible. I hope that this helps with your advice on how to stop this from happening.


How do I tell the DM and Hannah that the favoritism and refusal for other players' ideas is making the campaign close to unbearable? And how can we fix the favoritism issue so everyone is treated fairly and equally?

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've tried editing the title to match the full description of the situation. Please make sure it reflects your intent. Also, Don't signal your edits in text. You can simply edit your answer to read as if it were always the best version of itself; anyone interested in older versions can view the revision history. That said, given how dramatically your edit reframes the issue, you may want to clarify which issue you want to address in this question to avoid making it too broad and unclear. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 11 at 22:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Also, a reminder to other commenters: Don't answer in comments. Comments are for suggesting improvements to the question or asking clarifying questions, not for answers or general commentary. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 11 at 22:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ To be clear: are you afraid yelling matches will occur, or have they already occurred? \$\endgroup\$ – SQB Jan 14 at 10:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SQB im afraid that yelling matches will occur. There has only been the occasional argument so far and I don't want it to escalate any further than that. \$\endgroup\$ – britbrodcast Jan 14 at 14:54
62
\$\begingroup\$

This problem must be solved out-of-game

The DM showing favouritism towards a specific player and the expense of everyone else's fun is not a problem with the narrative, it's a problem with the social contract. I would recommend not plotting to kill her character as this would likely just provoke massive social fallout. Instead, there are a few things I'd suggest:

Talk to the DM/group about the current problems

Since this problem is of the DM's doing (or at the very least, was allowed by the DM), the DM is the only one who can fix it. I'd recommend telling the DM what you've told us, but try not to do so in an accusational tone. Focus on how your fun is being impacted by feeling like a spare wheel in the party, rather than blaming the DM for showing favouritism (even though that's actually what's happening), since confronting the DM with that detail will definitively just result in the DM getting defensive, then all communication breaks down.

Better still if you can discuss this with the party beforehand (minus Hannah at this stage; this is just to get a feel for how the other non-favourite players feel) to see how many of them will back you up, even discussing this with the DM as a group (including Hannah this time, since she might not be aware of how badly her actions are affecting everyone else), but again, with the focus being that you guys don't feel like you're having fun, not to accuse the DM of favouritism (nor to accuse Hannah of misusing the power she's been given, since this will again result in defensiveness).

A group conversation with Hannah about previous problems

With the additional context you've given, this puts a very different spin on things. The overpowered sword is still a problem, and the silent darts are still the worst way to have gone about solving the original problem, but I don't it's too late for the original problem to be solved the way it should have been. With an out-of-character conversation.

Essentially, this is what's called session 0, and although it is typically had before the first session to make sure everyone agrees with the kind of game everyone wants to play, it can be held at any point during the campaign (and more than one, if needed) to help address any issues that are coming up that are impacting the fun of one or more of the players.

I would suggest having a conversation with the group about how Hannah's darts are a serious detriment towards the group's fun, but since you already have the awareness of why they became the "solution" to the previous problem, I would also then explain that you understand that the original problem was a real problem. Then, the original problem should be explored. This involves understanding her point of view whilst also trying to find a way forward that her voice can be heard without (literally) silencing everyone else, such that everyone has an equal say in what happens.

In fact, alignment clashes can be played for some good in-character drama that the players can all enjoy (even if the characters aren't). This, again, needs to be discussed beforehand so that everyone is one the same page, since that only works in certain games where the overall tone supports such character drama. But ultimately, the end goal of such a conversation is that all of your feel heard, that you're all having fun, and that the current "solutions" are replaced with a real way forward, as a group.

However, if it turns out that Hannah's character is a bad fit for the current party, and there will always be a clash that can't really be reconciled with the current characters, another solution might be for her to park her character, make a new one who can be a goofball with the rest of the party, then for the next game, everyone can agree (in a session 0) to play a more serious game where she can play her original character again, but everyone else can play a character who won't clash (these new characters don't have to just be echoes of her character, but characters that at least would fit the tone of the overall game, even if they're Chaotic Neutral again). This, of course, requires the other players to be up for that other style of game (or at least enough players as to make a group), since no-one should be forced to play a game they aren't interested in.

Consider leaving the group... or forming a new one

"No D&D is better than bad D&D", as they say here, so if the situation doesn't improve (or if you've had enough already), and you cannot see any way at this point for the situation to be repaired, it might be worth leaving this group and finding a new one (although judging by your edit, it doesn't look like it's reached this point yet, but it is still an option).

If the rest of the group (minus the DM and Hannah) aren't enjoying this game, and the DM and/or Hannah don't seem to improve after trying the above, then it might be best to consider all leaving this game and starting a new game without them. If you don't want to burn bridges, it might be the case that you form a new game including them, but with someone else as the DM, someone else who presumably does not want to repeat the current DM's mistakes (i.e. won't show favouritism).

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ The OP, DM, and Hannah are all peers playing a game together. In game the DM has "power", but out of game they are all equals. Excluding Hannah will leave them feeling as if they have been treated like a child, and I would say their feelings would be justified as you are attempting to "go over their head" in a perceived hierarchy. \$\endgroup\$ – gszavae Jan 9 at 8:45
  • 9
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for no D&D is better than bad D&D. This group is doomed, the DM shows favoritism and "Hannah" clearly won't take kindly to her toy being taken away if she's the type to abuse DM favoritism to get "you can't talk for 15 minutes" darts. Run away, don't walk, this is a social timebomb. \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Jan 9 at 8:50
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ We really need a canonical answer for "this is a social problem, not a game problem", to save people from having to write up the almighty flowchart over and over. \$\endgroup\$ – anaximander Jan 10 at 10:40
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ OP should also consider that if they value their friendship with Hannah and the DM, this situation is untenable. Neither the DM nor Hannah seem to be mature or socially aware enough that they're actively spoiling everyone else's fun. Believing this sort of behaviour can change is wishful thinking, especially as there's two of them, likely egging each other on. OP should simply leave the group, find another, and hope DM and Hannah figure out on their own that they've been spoiling the fun. This way they can all stay friends and maybe in a few years OP can give them another chance for D&D. \$\endgroup\$ – detuur Jan 10 at 12:30
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 I think the biggest problem here is that Hannah is playing a moral character while everyone else is not.They are not on the same page. It should have been discussed in Session 0 (or 1) to ensure these types of conflicts are okay at the table, and if they are, what type of resolutions are appropriate. The SamePageTool can help with this. [I'm not trying to answer in the comments with this, just add to the discussion and link to the Same Page Tool, which I have found very useful. \$\endgroup\$ – John Grabanski Jan 14 at 20:30
91
\$\begingroup\$

I would honestly just leave

What you're describing sounds like not just favoritism but bullying. The GM has granted Hannah the power to literally tell you to shut up for fifteen minutes --- that's a blatant abuse of their position. Being a GM is about running the game in an enjoyable manner to those present (including themselves), not about being a power-tripping God-Emperor who can just order people in the room around willy-nilly (or allow others to) based on what they narrate as happening in a fictional universe.

Especially if you are friends with them otherwise, do your best to present your exit based on facts, not interpretations. Accusing them of malicious conduct or levying criticism against their playstyle starts arguments and fights. Plainly stating that you do not want to play in a game where players silence each other, where people regularly try to kill each others' characters, where one player gets to call every plan, and where the GM feeds vast power differences between characters leaves no room for debate. There is simply no way for them to dispute that the game is not the kind of game you want to play --- they are entitled to run their game in that manner if they like but not entitled to your participation.

There is a good possibility that there is no real malice involved, and that Hannah and the GM have just learned a social routine where they mistakenly believe that the vast power differences and silencing other people, etc, are some kind of "running gags" that everyone enjoys. I would only consider staying if there was an honest apology and attempt to fix these problems.

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
  • 29
    \$\begingroup\$ +1. This group is doomed, the DM shows favoritism and "Hannah" clearly won't take kindly to her toy being taken away if she's the type to abuse DM favoritism to get "you can't talk for 15 minutes" darts. Run away, don't walk, this is a social timebomb \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Jan 9 at 8:51
  • 20
    \$\begingroup\$ No D&D is better than bad D&D \$\endgroup\$ – lucasvw Jan 9 at 12:24
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ Oh interesting. I think I've only ever seen it the way I said \$\endgroup\$ – lucasvw Jan 9 at 13:40
  • 15
    \$\begingroup\$ @lucasvw Yeah, the first time I heard it it was "RPGs are like pizza --- even when it's bad it's pretty good", which was probably uttered by someone who had never had bad RPGs or bad pizza :) \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Jan 9 at 13:45
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ While I sympathize with this approach, and the analysis of the situation is right, the decent thing to do is always to try to talk to people before you just walk out. \$\endgroup\$ – DJClayworth Jan 9 at 21:58
20
\$\begingroup\$

Edit: In light of the info added to the Q, there may be hope for the group yet. Other answers cover that angle enough so I won't edit the answer below.


I don't think this is the answer you want to hear, but in my opinion there is no way to fix this.

Those darts are such a bad, horrifying idea, that it shows the DM is simply out of their league trying to be a DM. And that sword is frankly no better. If DM allows this, they are probably doing it intentionally to troll and bully you together with Hannah, maybe to see how far you can be dragged along. Alternatively they are simply clueless, and from your description I would estimate clueless beyond fixing by discussion. They may become a good DM with more experience, but it won't happen fast.

I would just simply leave, and not play with this DM again.

I have been in a bit of similar situation. Very remotely similar, this DM of mine was actually mostly very good, there just were some similar issues which still soured the experience for me. It was quite hard for me to leave (it basically took TPK and end of the campaign, very convenient moment to drop out). But in afterthought, leaving was excellent decision. I am now in a few groups which are more to my liking, and I think the group I left is also better off with one less frustrated player.

So leaving can be hard. I would bluntly state that "Hey guys, I find the sword and the darts of Hannah not fun, and don't want to play that kind of a game any more. What shall we do, so that I can continue playing?" Then see what happens. The DM and Hannah most likely won't be very willing to fix things, so then you simply don't go to the game any more. Then you find or start a new group, possibly with some members of your current group. Move on. The faster the better, that will ease the pain of losing your current PC and forfeiting the campaign.

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ "Those darts are such a bad, horrifying idea, that it shows the DM is simply out of their league trying to be a DM." Maybe a bit harsh without knowing further background, but I basically agree that allowing them at all is such an obviously horrible idea that it makes you wonder how this game could even get this far. \$\endgroup\$ – Mars Plastic Jan 9 at 14:37
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ @MarsPlastic Yeah, we don't know the full story, but we still need to answer the situation described in the question. Allowing a player to have such control over another player (that's how it is written in the Q at least) in DD5... If the question text is truthful, I stand by my harsh statement. \$\endgroup\$ – WakiNadiVellir Jan 9 at 14:54
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I have absolutely no problem with that. ;-) Despite calling the quote a bit harsh, the main point of my comment was to support your general disapprobation of providing these darts for such a purpose at all. \$\endgroup\$ – Mars Plastic Jan 9 at 15:09
12
\$\begingroup\$

Talk to them

I know you probably know you need to talk to Hannah and the DM. Everyone knows it is the right thing to do. Confrontation is hard, but it is the only way that will resolve this kind of problem.

Remind them that you are all there to have fun playing a game together. Don't try to place blame, just state what you don't like and why. Be honest, be clear about what the problem is, and what kind of solution will work for you. Talk with everyone present.

When the whole group is gathered up, tell them "I enjoy playing games with all of you, but I am not having fun with this game any more because I feel that Hannah's sword is overpowered, and the ability to silence people in real life is demeaning. This has left me bummed out and annoyed, and we seriously considered executing Hannah's character but we know they like their character a lot, so I want to talk it out instead."

Leaving is a last resort

I do not recommend leaving without talking to them first. At some point you enjoyed this game and clearly you still want to keep playing. Discussion helps people understand each other better, most of the time if you are clear and firm about your expectations people are willing to meet them and as a result your game and friendships will improve.

If you absolutely can't work something out, then consider leaving.

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 11 at 22:47
3
\$\begingroup\$

character has [the power to] silence a player for 15 minutes of talking in real-time.

That role-play is very broken. It is unfortunate that the concept of silencing a character would silence the player - the player is not the character.

My point is:
How do I tell the DM and Hannah that ... and how to fix the favoritism issue so everyone is treated fairly and equally.

You can't.
In addition to favoritism, there is the bigger issue of confusion between the players and their characters.
For lack of a better term those are "reality issues".
To be clear... I don't mean that they don't have a clue about reality, I just mean that they are doing role-play so wrong that they've probably never seen role-play done correctly.

This isn't something you can fix.
Find a new group.

To be clear I do recommend that you leave without talking to them first.
Don't address the flaw, because they won't see it - just part amicably.
Especially if you know them socially.

When people keep leaving that group, eventually the DM ask a few of them why.
At that point he will be ready to hear what you'd love to tell him today.
Unless they ask you, don't tell them. Just be nice so you're available to play with them in the future once they've figured out how to do role-play right.

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ If I had ever been silenced as a player, I would just stand up and leave immediately. And I would not say a single word while doing so. \$\endgroup\$ – Stig Hemmer Jan 10 at 8:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @StigHemmer has a very good point. I agree that you should pack your stuff on the first occurrence, but be polite if you are asked why you're doing so. Remember that the gaming community is small, and you may run into one of them again. Plus if these players learn better, they may be worth playing with in the future - everyone learns things if they they're open to it. (and remember that the context of both comments is about the player being silenced) \$\endgroup\$ – J. Chris Compton Jan 10 at 15:27
3
\$\begingroup\$

Regarding the DM's motives (just or unjust). Maybe DM expects to be but wasn't consulted that it was an evil campaign. Possibly some plot is wasted if the party simply wants to kill guards and rob people. To each their own and sounds like you were doing interesting evil stuff. If the difference in alignment is not enjoyed, it matters who caused this. Maybe the DM is getting revenge for this or trying to level the play field for the lone LG character (and going too far).

Example, I played a pathfinder game where I asked other players that i knew were playing if we could do a good campaign. (I may've said non-evil.) They said yeah so I picked paladin with maxed out diplomacy. I really liked him. Another player joined as evil and turns out everyone wanted evil, but didn't all write it on their sheet. (I wish I knew since we had an evil campaign in same group and it was epic.) Using diplomacy I took too much play time talking to NPCs, and it's avoidable. DM appreciated I was advancing the plot and exploring the world; taking the hooks. The quests turned out fun for everyone. DM was annoyed that other players were not playing alignment and didn't care about the larger world. I roleplayed my character well and so did they, they gave me a proper slaying. I accepted it but could've had more fun.

Reading your story I'm confused by the lack of... Proper Slaying!

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 11 at 22:44
2
\$\begingroup\$

It seems like three conversations should take place.

A Conversation Between the Group and the DM (Minus Hannah)

This conversation should be a reflection on the items that have been dropped, found, or added to the game and the fairness of them. It's possible that in the case of the sword, the DM made a mistake when creating the item or implementing it if the campaign told him to put it in. The darts may have been intended to be used in specific scenarios (Like a player who is chatty outside of the game to the point it majorly disrupts the flow of the game) and the DM simply forgot to tell Hannah and doesn't know how to confront her about it himself.

A Conversation Between the Group and Hannah (Minus the DM)

This conversation should be to try and convince Hannah that they don't need silence players in the meta to be heard. It's possible that they're fearful that if they don't have the amount of control they currently have, their character will die. Clarifying that as a group, you won't just idly watch her character die, and assuring her that her opinions about group plans will be heard may help convince her that she doesn't need that much control.

Both these conversations will ensure that your group can have an honest discussion with both Hannah and the DM in an environment that doesn't make them feel like they have to jump to eachother's defense.

A Conversation With the Entire Group

With the previous two conversations leading into the group conversation, everyone should be much closer to being on the same page. It may be much easier for the DM to admit that they messed up the sword's stats (Or where it was supposed to appear) if they've already been able to admit as much in the previous conversation. It may also be easier for Hannah to accept that they may lose stats on the sword, or be severely limited on the use of the silencing dart if they know that they're already backed by the entire group. The goal here is to help balance the game in a way that everyone can leave the table happy.

As a Last Resort

You will need to be prepared for the possibility that there will be a break in your group and hurt feelings. If either Hannah or the DM refuses to work with the group to balance the game, additional possibilities should be explored. Leaving the group by yourself, or breaking the game off as a group seem like the recommended options.

Another option, and I realize this would need to be handled very carefully, is to play around Hannah. If you get silenced by Hannah's dart, scribble notes out. If her sword is wrecking the combat system, or she's taking an authoritative role, take it as a role play opportunity. Deviate from her plans in the heat of the moment. Just be mindful that you aren't using this to shut her out, but to show her that your group is capable of acting as a group without her micromanaging every detail to make sure everything works out the way she has in mind.

Safe travels, friend! I hope you resolve this situation in a way that leaves everyone happy.

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ I disagree with exculding Hannah from discussion. The OP, DM, and Hannah are all peers playing a game together. In game the DM has "power", but out of game they are all equals. Excluding Hannah will leave them feeling as if they have been treated like a child, and I would say their feelings would be justified as you are attempting to "go over their head" in a perceived hierarchy. \$\endgroup\$ – gszavae Jan 10 at 3:32
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn In my recommendation, I recommend 3 conversations, 1 of which involves Hannah (And is for her benefit), and 1 of which involves the entire group. I recommend a conversation with each offending party individually in order to allow them both the opportunity to explain themselves without feeling they have to speak in defense of other (Because that other person is there). It makes sure everyone is aware of the issue as well. \$\endgroup\$ – Jack III Jan 10 at 15:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. These seem like good suggestions; have you tried them yourself, or seen them tried? How has it gone? Have they solved a similar problem in those games? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 11 at 22:47
1
\$\begingroup\$

As others here commented you could try to solve this meta-game: point it out on the spot. However, I have two suggestions to solve in-game:

  1. Exchange the characters:

    Sometimes, it is possible to exchange the players on each character. I mean, rotate the characters in the same group, showing that it's a bit overpowered.

  2. Rotate the strategies on the adventure:

    On this adventure, the group used Hanna's idea. So it's possible to create a way to use another person's idea on the next adventure. You can coach the DM to use innovative ways to improve the role-playing and the narrative.

The main argument to tackle this creates not just a disappointing game, but a poor narrative that can undertake the game.

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. Have you tried your recommendations, or seen them tried? How has it gone? Have they solved a similar problem in those games? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 11 at 22:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.