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[Sorry if this is really long]

I don't usually do this but I'm having a hard time with my current D&D group and I'm not really having fun anymore because of it. I think our DM is having us play a combination of I think 2 modules that take place in Faerun and using AL rules.

We have recently been going on one of the modules but are constantly hitting a wall with almost every single session to the point where we even joke about how rare it is that we succeed at anything. At this point we come out of sessions more times frustrated than satisfied. In our last session we actually decided at the end that we'd give up on this story and go pursue the other module's story.

I'm also having some personal issues with this campaign and I'm not sure if it's just me being difficult or problematic. So far I've played 4 different characters in this campaign because they keep dying or otherwise become unplayable. My first character just died in a TPK which was completely on us. Then my second character (human) permanently aged from being in his 20s to being in his late 80s which kind of messed up that character concept so I retired him. My third character is still alive but I've set them aside (as a backup character) to try playing another character that I really wanted to play but he was arrested (which was also on me) with no way of being bailed out because it's too high of bail plus too long of a sentence (if he isn't sentenced to death).

Because we're all keeping track of XP individually, the other party members are level 7 or 8 and each character I've brought starts at level 1 and all of my characters except for my backup character have not made it past level 3. Since my characters are such low levels in comparison, they can't really contribute that much especially in combats so I usually have them hang back during combats (ranged/spells) until they can get a level or two. I don't really mind bringing in new characters that much since I have a bunch of character ideas I want to play but my last one that got arrested was a rebuild of my very first character so he was a little special to me.

However, recently I've been getting the feeling that there is some mild favoritism going on at the table by DM leniency and I'm just not one of those favorites. I try to be a good player for the DM and a good party member for the rest of the players. I just feel like whenever I try doing something creative that it never turns out well and my character either fails completely or gets mocked by an NPC in social interactions. At this point I'm starting to consider roleplaying more passively and reserved and just not try doing anything crazy.

I've already taken a pretty long break from this campaign because of some of my frustrations with the game. Another player in the group also has been getting pretty frustrated with it but has had his character do fine and he had talked to the DM about his it though not much changed because the DM is pretty confident and set in his DMing. We're all friends IRL and I just don't want to cause any conflict or anything between me and the DM. I don't know if I'm just being problematic or complaining.

When it's good and we're all having fun, it's great, but when it's not it just kind of sucks. I still haven't decide if I'm going to just bring in a new character (my backup isn't that fun) or just leave the group again but permanently. D&D is one of my favorite things to look forward to each week but I'm just not really having fun anymore with this campaign but I still want to play. I'm just not sure whether to suck it up and keep playing and hope that it'll be different with the new module or not.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is the DM absolutely set on having characters level separately? Because DnD has so many rules and features that are combat oriented and level is so relevant to combat ability it is very difficult to engage a lower level player in combat. \$\endgroup\$ – Odo Jun 24 at 20:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ You're running level ~1 characters in level ~8 encounters? How does that even work? \$\endgroup\$ – WakiNadiVellir Jun 24 at 20:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ The DM was pretty firm on the character leveling so combats usually just involve a lot of hiding and shooting from afar \$\endgroup\$ – Anon Jun 24 at 21:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ There is a philosophy that a DM should be a fan of the characters/players in his game which I personally adhere to. This sounds like your DM doesn't think highly of your character, at most as a sidegag. To be taken serious, a character should have somewhat similar capabilities to the other characters, and in addition should get opportunities to shine from the DM. If you want to play an inconsequential piece on the board, at least play hundreds of them in a tabletop wargame, but never in a role-playing game. \$\endgroup\$ – Joseph Doob Jun 25 at 6:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ I didn't read the question in detail, but "Should I" questions are hard for us to answer because they're heavily based on your own feelings and motivations (which we can't fully comprehend and, even if we try, it makes the question much less useful to others). "How can I" is better, e.g. "How can I get them to stop doing X" or "How can I talk to them about X". If it isn't possible to change their behaviour, a reasonable answer to those questions would say as much. That should give you all the information you need to make the decision yourself. \$\endgroup\$ – NotThatGuy Jun 25 at 7:40
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Leave.

Your question basically answers itself. Let's go over the main points:

  • D&D is usually a combat focused game. Because your character is significantly behind in levels, you are unable to fully participate in combat.

  • Outside of combat, or when you try something creative, you are mocked for it.

  • The DM shows favoritism to one or more other players.

  • Another player has expressed similar frustrations with this DM and campaign.

  • The point of D&D is to have fun. But usually you are not having fun in this campaign.

It's very common to be friends with someone, but not enjoy their roleplaying games. The notion that friends must do everything together is a geek social fallacy. Your experience is a clear example of why that notion simply isn't true.

If you want to remain friendly with these people, then you can have a polite conversation with the DM and explain why you are leaving. There are certain aspects to their DM style - whether it's the unfair leveling system, or the unclear storytelling, or the sense that all your actions are punished - that prevent you from enjoying the game. Or, if you think that will cause hurt feelings, you could instead settle for generic reasons like "clashing playstyles and expectations."

No gaming is better than bad gaming. As a player, you are allowed to leave if you're unsatisfied. If you want to get back into D&D, there are plenty of popular online methods of finding a new gaming group. Be sure to ask about playstyles in advance, such as whether they use individualized XP, or adjust levels for new characters, or how much combat vs. non-combat to expect. Maybe you will need to sample a few groups and game systems before finding one that fits.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "If you want to remain friendly with these people, then you can have a polite conversation with the DM and explain why you are leaving." While explaining reasons is a noble thing to do, it can easily backfire. It's an emotional situation, where things sometimes escalate. If things are as they are explained in the Q, I would just go on a break, and never come back. If the DM actively asks for feedback, then explain, but otherwise just let it go. \$\endgroup\$ – WakiNadiVellir Jun 25 at 5:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Agreed. The question says "I'm not really having fun anymore" right in the first sentence; really, it could have stopped there. If you're not enjoying the game, talk to the DM, see if they can fix it, and if they can't or won't, then leave. Same goes for literally any social interaction. \$\endgroup\$ – anaximander Jun 25 at 11:52
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So many little things

AL Rules

First off, you say that the DM is "having us play a combination of I think 2 modules that take place in Faerun and using AL rules."

But, "the other party members are level 7 or 8 and each character I've brought starts at level 1".

Yes, in AL, you always start at level 1 (Tier 1) so that make sense. But you should not even be allowed to run the same module as level 7 and 8 (Tier 2). The exception would be if you're all going through a Seasonal Hard Cover module (Like Curse of Strahd or Waterdeep: Dragon Heist). So most likely the DM is using AL-like rules, but not enforcing what they don't like.

New characters

  1. My first character just died in a TPK which was completely on us.
  2. Then my second character (human) permanently aged from being in his 20s to being in his late 80s which kind of messed up that character concept so I retired him.
  3. My third character is still alive but I've set them aside (as a backup character)
  4. I still haven't decide if I'm going to just bring in a new character (my backup isn't that fun)

"I don't really mind bringing in new characters that much since I have a bunch of character ideas I want to play"

So you don't invest in a "playable" character, just ideas you'd like to try out. Have you discussed this with the DM and the rest of the group? Maybe everyone else wants to see their characters grow and become powerful while you're "trying things out". Might explain why they are willing to play level 7-8 while you're stuck at level 1.

Favoritism

"However, recently I've been getting the feeling that there is some mild favoritism going on at the table by DM leniency and I'm just not one of those favorites."

"I just feel like whenever I try doing something creative that it never turns out well and my character either fails completely or gets mocked by an NPC in social interactions."

Is it favoritism, or is it that you have different goals (see above point)? I ran a group where everyone enjoyed roleplaying, but one character was always "wacky" (as in randomly grappling the paladin while talking to townsfolk or using a cantrip to clean the blood off their armor WHILE IN COMBAT).

Maybe the DM is more giving to the other players as they better mesh with the DM's goals? Is your creativity derailing the campaign?

Walking away

"I've already taken a pretty long break from this campaign because of some of my frustrations with the game."

Honestly, why did you go back?

Final judgement, Leave

There are always more groups to join (especially in this digital age). You might even start your own campaign that focuses on one-shots. Every session is something new. Or find a group that really enjoys Role Play and has more fun working through critical failure than always getting things right.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Good points on trying to see things from not just the players' side. I would even say that things this player is trying might just not 'fit' with the tone or possible solutions this GM is envisioning. F.e. if you look for a specific thief in a megacity by looking for scuff marks on windows, that's just going to be a headscratcher for the GM as to why you think you will be successfull with that. Same with social interactions depending on the NPCs wants, needs or goals. ultimately, the GM and this player aren't a good fit. Done. \$\endgroup\$ – psycoatde Jun 25 at 8:18
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So, the final answer is: you probably (almost certainly) should leave. But there are many major points in your text and I want to talk about each one of them separately, in case you face the same problems in different scenarios or in case other people are facing the same problems, but not all of them together.

You are starting over for each character while the party is 8th level.

That's a no-no. No. Simply no. That is a bad idea for everyone. It's not fun to play with a severely underleveled character, it's very hard to balance encounters against imbalanced parties, anyway, so many problems arise from this alone that anyone facing a similar problem should sit with their DM and tell them that's a bad idea.

There is absolutely no problem with starting your character at a higher level, and no reason not to. If he says it's "AL rules", then certainly the party could pay for resurrection of the other characters. Even if he wanted to play AL, the party could also start over 1st level, level together and when you get to the level the other party is, you go back there.

And even in AL it's very rare that characters from different tiers are in the same campaign.

Being mocked for trying creative stuff.

This one needs more detail because there are two distinct scenarios I have seen this complaint arise.

I have seen players try creative stuff that are... well, dumb. Sure, they are funny or whatever, but they are clearly bad ideas. Other times, they try to do things that is outside the capabilities of their characters (within the rules) and complain that I won't allow them to do that (e.g. trying to dispel a high level mind-control magic by "speaking out" to the person being controlled, as if trying to cast Dispel magic without spending a spell slot).

On the other hand I have seen DMs that will respond negatively to any action that is not what they wanted the players to take, e.g., in a combat scene, a player tries to talk to one of the enemies to convince them the fight is a bad idea and they should unite against a common greater evil, which is utterly ignored by the NPC who proceeds to attack the character. (Note: the argument here made sense: the "greater evil" was going to kill both sides in like, seconds, and there was no reason for the enemy NPCs to keep fighting against the party other than the DM wanted them to be a combat encounter and not allies against the next combat encounter.)

You need to find out what case you are in. If it's the first, make sure you understand the rules well before trying to do awkward stuff that is not provided directly by the rules. If it's the second, talk to your DM and try to understand why the stuff you are trying is not working. If he says "because my NPC is designed like that", your DM is suffering from My Guy Syndrome and you should tell him that. If there's a valid explanation that was properly foreshadowed or introduced and you didn't realize, then that's on you.

Nonetheless, "mocking" you constantly shouldn't be done, no matter if the reason is that the ideas are genuinely bad or outside the rules. Although that's a hard thing for me to say as I am usually a very sarcastic person :( but I try to get better haha

Favoritism

Again, this kinda lacks detail. Sometimes, favoritism is just perceived. Sometimes, the playstyle from that person is more in line with what the DM "wants", but it's not favoritism to the person themselves. Again, I have seen this kind of complaint (note: I do not use "complaint" in the sense of "wah wah crybaby", I hope you do not get this meaning) in two different scenarios.

The first is when one player understands the rules better than the other, so his actions are usually more well-based around what is expected from the rules and more frequently actually work. In the previous example of Dispel Magic, casting dispel magic actually works, while "trying to talk" does not. If one player constantly tries stuff that are well behaved within the rules, while the other tries things that are too far-fetched, I have seen the latter perceive some kind of favoritism, which I don't think is the case.

The second is when the DM indeed has some personal preference towards some player(s). To my fault or not, for example, I am more permissive with new players than with players I know have been playing for longer, because I do not want to make the new players give up on the game too early, although I usually explain that I am allowing that as an exception so they can have some extra fun but I probably won't do again in the future. This is favoritism, and might be intentional (as in my case) or not. Is it fair? Usually not. Is it justified? Maybe. Does it bother you? Talk to your DM about it. Usually when I explain to people that I only allowed that because the player is new, they understand it and don't feel bad about the cases I don't allow them to do weird stuff.

Again, try to find out in which scenario you are in. You can straight-forward ask your DM or you can give solid examples and ask a question here about it, although I would generally recommend asking your DM directly rather than random internet strangers.

You are not having fun

This is the point that makes my answer become just leave. Usually I would tell you to talk to your DM about it, but you said other player has already done so and didn't change anything. Sometimes, that happens, your playstyles don't fit and that's it. Just make sure you are not pointing fingers or blaming anyone (even if you think it is someone's fault) and I doubt any hard feelings will come between the friendship.

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Talk to your DM.

Keep in mind that this is, above all else, a team game. The goal is for everyone to have fun. It's good you recognize that part of the problem is your own fault-- at least two of your character deaths, anyway-- but that isn't the only problem.

Some of it can easily be waved away by the DM. For example, it's unreasonable for each new character to begin at level 1 regardless of Average Party Level (APL)-- when the difference between you and the others is more than one or two levels, you just can't contribute meaningfully to most encounters. (And that's not just a "you" problem-- the rest of the party is now down a teammate, so they're more likely to die themselves!) Ask your DM if you can be put at the minimum XP for your APL, or perhaps one level behind it. Your favorite character who's been imprisoned could meet a mysterious benefactor who pays your bail-- perhaps this turns into a side-quest to discover who did it and why!

Also, talk to the other players.

What seems like mockery to you could seem like light-hearted ribbing to others and to the DM. Ask the others if it seems to them like you aren't being treated fairly. It sounds like you have an ally in the other player who has noticed the cracks in your game-- ask him/her to help you follow through with your ideas at the table. An NPC (a.k.a. your DM) who thinks your idea is dumb might change their mind if someone else jumps on board with it.

The fact that you all are friends outside of this game does add a layer of difficulty-- if you take your dice and go home, you'll lose more than just a gaming group. But everyone should want this game to be fun, and the best way to get everyone on the same page is to communicate.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I am not sure what you are implying by "The fact that you all are friends outside of this game does add a layer of difficulty-- if you take your dice and go home, you'll lose more than just a gaming group. " - it's certainly possible to leave a gaming group with friends and lose only that - the gaming group. I really do hope that their friendship is not as fragile as to break over a game. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 24 at 22:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not saying OP can't leave, but I am saying if OP is going to leave he/she needs to talk with the group about it. If you're playing with strangers at your local gaming store, you can just say "I'm not enjoying this game" and leave the table and no one holds it against you; I've done it before. When the DM is your friend you can really hurt their feelings that way. \$\endgroup\$ – PlutoThePlanet Jun 25 at 13:13
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Talk with your DM.

Really, you are all friends there and supposed to be having fun. There's no point in playing if you're not having fun, and it's ok to leave if the game is not fun for you. You should leave if the game is not fun. But you can try and fix it before going that route, since you clearly want to play.

  1. Don't start as a 1st level character:

So, first thing you should address with your DM: ask him to not start as a level 1 character. If the rest of the party is 7th level, you cannot play with a 1st level character. There is no encounter where you will be able to do anything. You'll be just tagging along with them. In my games, whenever someone starts a new character, I make him the same level as the weakest player. So you could start level 7 as everyone else, or maybe level 6... or even level 8. The point is: if you're level 1 and everyone is level 7, you are not going to have fun. Explain that to your DM. And come with a reason why your character is so strong. Maybe he has done some adventuring of his own.

  1. Favoritism

Ask your DM for feedback. Why don't the NPCs take you seriously? As someone mentioning, is it because your ideas and your attempts are too far fetched? Are you getting any rolls? D&D is a social game. It is so important to have communication in this game. If you feel something is wrong, talk to your DM. And don't attack him, ask. Maybe he will explain he thinks you're doing something wrong. You can then explain to him how you disagree and how you want to play. See if you can work it out.

  1. If talking doesn't work, leave.

As I said before, it's okay to leave. Maybe your DM doesn't want to play in the way you talked to him about. It's completely fine, it's his DMing style. Don't ruin your friendship, but explain that you're not having fun and that it's not personal.

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Should I continue to play with a frustrating DM?

Because we're all keeping track of XP individually, the other party members are level 7 or 8 and each character I've brought starts at level 1 and all of my characters except for my backup character have not made it past level 3.

Nope.

Start your own game or offer to GM for a bit for your current group. As the first rule, everyone is the same level full stop forever.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I downvoted, not because I disagree but because of the answer having no reasoning. It would be more useful to others if you would explain your conclusions. \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Jun 24 at 21:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ As the first rule, everyone is the same level full stop forever Nope. our group has no trouble with a party that has a 2 level spread on most game sessions \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jun 25 at 20:59

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