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I've been playing a campaign in which there have been a few instances in battles where I feel like I'm being forced to make some non-optimal moves in battle by the rest of the PC group. For example me being coerced into "tanking" in a narrow hallway, when I would've rather drawn the group of enemies to us, ultimately saving us from a lot of damage.

The thing is, these moves I'm forced into aren't usually "obviously dumb", and would usually require some explaining why I would rather do it in another way (and the reason for my own tactics are based more on my personal experiences playing a lot of TRPG games.)

I usually tend to acquiesce because trying to explain my thoughts feels like it's wasting time, and against several people it already feels discouraging to defend your stance (never mind my tanking usually happens in Wild Shape since I play a druid character, so I can't even speak in-game anyway). We're also talking about tactics for the fight-wholesale, I'm not usually micromanaged on individual actions.

But I would be lying if it didn't frustrate me be made to do less than ideal things, especially since the campaign we're playing is generally seen as difficult.

How to deal with this? Should I just "go with the flow" of the rest of the party even when I don't feel like it's the best choice to speed the game along, or at least try to dig my heels a bit? If talking to the DM is the right choice, what should I say?

Edit

I'm trying to clarify the question based on comments. I saw several good suggestions already, like a post-battle discussion or discussion through RP (maybe even mixing the two), since I feel the biggest problem is how bringing up multiple strategies mid-battle annoys the rest of the players because it stops the battle from progressing. Here's a few more notes:

  • "Force" is too strong a term here, I'm talking more about getting peer-pressured into decisions agreed upon by the rest of the party. My problem is also more of an interpersonal one. Think of comments like "Just go along with it."
  • I have tried to bring up my own points and plans to the rest of the party when such a situation arises, but if a "plan A" is already agreed upon, the other players aren't usually ready to hear a full explanation about a "plan B" because what I assume is frustration in what seems as "waffling/being contrarian". That or there's a problem with the way I'm wording my disagreement.
  • The situation I describe goes something like this: The player group comes up with "plan A", but for a reason X & Y you feel "plan B" would be better. You try to bring up a different solution, but since the other party's already ready to go you're seen as slow on the uptake for disagreeing, without having had the chance to explain "plan B" yet.
  • This question is not particular to this one campaign/class and I used the druid-tank as an example. However, this might have something to do with this particular gaming group.
  • Importantly this is not the norm and most of our battles go along well, and people are allowed to make their own decisions and mistakes. But the situation I'm describing has happened a few times, and I'd like to find a way to deal with just in case so it doesn't become a problem later.
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you explain how you're being forced? There's a difference between "If you don't do this, you can't play with us" and "We'll be doing it like this, so this will be your role" :) \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Oct 18 at 17:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site @user66539. As someone who tend to be in the same kind of situation you appear to be in, I'm curious to see what comes out of it. If you haven't already, feel free to take the Tour and check other ressources we have. \$\endgroup\$ – 3C273 Oct 18 at 18:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @3C273 The GM is running a premade campaign touted as pretty tough. The GM's fair in that sense that they try to make it fair, but if the premade dungeon is set in a way that doesn't allow rest, then no rest it is. \$\endgroup\$ – user66539 Oct 18 at 18:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Please edit any necessary/relevant clarifications into the question itself, as comments can be cleaned up at any time. :) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Oct 19 at 2:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ "The player group comes up with "plan A", but for a reason X & Y you feel "plan B" would be better" -- please explain how it is your party managed to come up with "plan A", without you already having presented "plan B" as part of that discussion. The scenario as presented makes it sound like you were absent during planning, and then later showed up and tried to present an alternative. Did that really happen? If so, then that's your problem. Don't get left out of planning. If it's not what happened, then you already presented "plan B", and the party decided otherwise. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Duniho Oct 19 at 23:22
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It sounds like you have a basically functional game and group with some tweaks that need doing, so no need for anything drastic yet.

I am often the dwarven battle cleric so I get myself into the same kinds of situations a lot. I know this frustration well. And here is the key, so does your high-WIS Druid. They know better in character too.

So here is the idea and it has worked well for me when playing in groups where I am not close friends with the other players: in-character post battle analysis. I emphasize the post battle part. Let combat play out how it will next time but afterwards when you are safe ask you if that could have gone better. Take that time to suggest how a decent plan b might have made things better. Make your case for being more than a wild shaped tank of HP for them to exploit.

Doing this after the battle means that no one is in danger. You aren’t suggesting to someone else that they need to get injured right now because you don’t want to. The stakes are lower and the goals are accomplished so you get to take a “ how to do better” approach and develop those characters some more.

If you want to deal with this out of character again do it after the battle with a “hey guys I’d like to be able to throw more spells in combat for my fun, so I don’t want to be wildshaped all the time.”

Again it sounds like you have a long standing group and game so you have some good will with everyone to work on making this game more fun for you. And maybe it will make it more fun for them as well.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I've thought about bringing it up post-battle, but haven't really found a proper way to start such a conversation yet (our group likes to RP which is usually great but finding a moment to discuss things can be tricky!) Would your answer change with the info that I know the people in the group well? I also tried to avoid speaking about anything character-specific, since I don't mind taking whatever battle role I need to. But it would be great to find a way to explain why it can be a bad idea to send party's main healer/elemental caster to be a sub-par tank when the party's low on HP already. \$\endgroup\$ – user66539 Oct 18 at 19:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. Good first answer! \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Oct 19 at 2:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @user66539 if you know them well there should be even more good will to work with. Actually if they like to RP a lot then this is even better. Maybe pre plan such a conversation starter with one of the other players to help you get over the hump of starting a conversation. \$\endgroup\$ – BSteinhurst Oct 19 at 2:05
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I can't even speak in-game anyway

This seems to rule out even the most basic tactical communications during combat, at least by voice. Given this, an option you can consider is to use other signaling methods, such as gesturing.

Of course, there will be limits to these techniques, even to voice commands but especially for gesturing, if they are made up on the spur of the moment. For gestures, you might need to describe exactly what gesture you're making, and then let your party members interpret that.

Though, your DM might allow you to explain the gesture in some detail, under the theory that in a realistic situation, your party would have used some of your out-of-game downtime to engage in combat training, and during that training you would have established specific signals (including gesturing) that is meaningful and understood during combat.

Which brings me to the second point: over time, your party should learn tactics and be able to better-anticipate how to manage a combat situation.

In real life, any real-time team-oriented situation, and especially those which involve conflict (e.g. actual military combat, organized sports, etc.) has very limited opportunities for communication between members, and between a coach or other leader and the team members. It's crucial in such situations that the team has practiced with each other enough that they have well-understood, well-followed battle plans, such that they can anticipate the actions and needs of their teammates and can carry out an effective strategy with minimal communication.

This requires extensive and time-consuming training prior to the actual activities of the team.

To the extent that your DM is willing to assume that this sort of thing has occurred "offline", and thus allow you to spend a little extra time during actual combat to communicate things which a well-trained team would ordinarily be able to just take for granted, that could help address your problem. It's something to bring up with the DM.

But there is also value in working as a party to develop this sort of team-expertise for real.

First, especially if you are low-level characters at the moment, it may well be just a matter of time. As you gain more and more experience together in combat, you will learn each other's strengths and weaknesses, as well as what works best tactically, and what each team member is likely to do in any given situation. This will naturally lend itself to better tactical choices during combat.

Second though, while it's likely you won't spend a huge amount of time engaging in training exercises (normally a team spends far more team in practice scenarios than actual conflict…often an order of magnitude more time or more), you can still develop some of this sense by performing the same sort of "post-mortem" analysis after combat that would normally take place in a real-world situation. Discuss with your teammates would could have worked better and work to develop ways to ensure that you follow those suggestions in the future (including developing communications strategies).

Note that this might result (for example) in your teammates learning why you would expect to lead a battle back to the rest of the party, or you might even find on further reflection that there are (at least some times) advantages to using a bottleneck such as a hallway to manage the combat (if your opponents lack ranged attacks, for example, sometimes it's much easier to hold them in a doorway or hallway, rather than giving them open space that lets them swarm around you).

And of course, if your group prefers to stay "in character", there's still no reason this sort of activity can't be done in a role-playing way. You can self-impose limits to account for time available, if needed. For example, you've just defeated a group of guards but know that you need to press on, lest you are discovered. There is still probably time for at least a few minutes of chit-chat to discuss a major point of battle or two. And later, when you're relaxing in the tavern, you've got plenty of time to pull out some parchment and sketch out the recent battles and discuss what went well and what might have gone better.

One of the most important things is, of course, for the party to be open to communication. All of the above assumes a team with good rapport and respect between members. In that environment, you shouldn't have to think twice about bringing up discussions meant to improve the team's performance in the future.

If your team does not have that kind of rapport at the moment, it seems you have an entirely different question to deal with first, one that is of more an interpersonal nature than a gameplaying nature. :)

One final thought, almost an aside with respect to the above: even as your team is developing a good working sense of tactics, your characters will be leveling up from time to time, and new character abilities can affect the tactics. So don't forgot to talk to each other about how each character has leveled, and how their choices for that level might affect new ways to carry out your strategies in combat.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I kinda regret putting that comment about Wild Shape in my original question, since this is not a class-specific issue. (I've had similar things happen when playing as a Ranger as well, for example). I just sometimes feel like I'm getting peer pressured to certain strategies even when I feel something else could work better, but trying to explain stuff mid-battle can slow the battles down and frustrate the other players who just want to get on with it. Maybe trying to bring up strategies out of battles is the answer here, though the amount of interest people have on strategy differs a lot. \$\endgroup\$ – user66539 Oct 19 at 1:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, I think that if the DM is doing their job, a party's ability to work out strategies during a battle is going to be limited. Whether you can speak or not (i.e. Wild Shape is related, but the above applies regardless), you have limited opportunity to affect the behavior of anyone except yourself. The time to work these things out is during training and combat post-mortem. Which is what I was trying to emphasize above...I hope that came across clearly enough. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Duniho Oct 19 at 1:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Our DM's pretty lenient about mid-battle conversation, though usually people self-regulate enough to keep it to minimum, esp. in-character talk. But sometimes, like in my example case, our party was momentarily secure and threw a few words about how to proceed, which included throwing my Wild Shaped form out of the cover to tank. I felt that wasn't a great choice (pulling the enemies toward our location would mean free hits and constant cover for all of us), but trying to explain this when the other players wanted things to continue felt useless, and not doing it might ruffle some feathers. \$\endgroup\$ – user66539 Oct 19 at 1:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not really clear on whether you want advice on that specific situation, or more generally. I took your question as the latter and answered that way. As far as the specific situation goes: 1) you have agency...if you don't feel that leaving cover is a good idea, then don't; 2) if you have cover, you probably have more time to discuss...so, avail yourself of that time to explain your alternative plan. "Ruffle feathers" implies an interpersonal challenge, which seems different than "how to manage battle". Maybe I've misconstrued the question. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Duniho Oct 19 at 1:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ In my head I meant the question as a more general, interpersonal one. "My team is usually a good sport regardless of campaign, but not necessarily all that interested in battle tactics, so they tend to roll with plans as they come along. I don't always agree with what they come up with, but going against the grain to suggest something else mid-battle frustrates other players since it slows the game down and I'm seen as a bit obtuse for doing that. What should I do?" <-- Maybe this explains it better? How could I edit the question to help reflect this better? \$\endgroup\$ – user66539 Oct 19 at 8:23
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The question has had a fair amount of significant information added since I wrote this answer, so I'm applying major revisions to make it more topical and useful.

The issue of disagreement over strategies and tactics, and how to advocate for one's own preferred approaches, is a pretty common one that I have experienced as a TTRPG player and observed as a DM. What follows is a list of considerations that I have found to be (or observed to be) effective:

1. State your case during planning, not afterwards

This was identified in a comment as an issue for you:

it's more of a situation of "group discusses "strategy A", you'd think "strategy B" might be better but since the majority's already on the plan A, trying to bring up "B" when people want the battle to continue makes the party frustrated with you for dragging your feet"

The rest of the players have settled on Strategy A, while you prefer Strategy B, but since other players have already chosen A, you feel that it only slows things down to advocate for B.

The natural question to ask is, what were you doing while the rest of the players settled on A? Even if it's a quick process ("let's do A, is everyone onboard?"), that is the appropriate time to discuss other options. Speaking out during the planning stage is being part of a discussion; not doing so cedes the opportunity to discuss, and following up with B seems indecisive at best.

2. Have a reason why your plan is better, and reasons why you don't like the other plan

I have tried to "be the contrarian" the few times this situation has happened, but it's been shot down pretty dismissively "just roll with it, it's not like you're gonna die", and then it turned out to be complete luck I didn't (Turns out those enemies have long-range weapons and I can get critted oops)

In a previous version of this answer, I argued that your party's approach is good enough, even if not optimal (by whatever definition) because you have been winning your combats. That's a pretty powerful counterargument against adopting your preferred strategies-- what is there to be gained from using approach B when approach A has a great track record?

Being contrarian is not, in itself, a goal that is usually worth pursuing. Being a contrarian implies that, regardless of the situation, you just want to reject the most popular opinion of the rest of the group. Your plan being different is not an argument in its favor. Your plan being better is such an argument.

Since your party hasn't been losing, you'll need to highlight what better results your preferred strategies will bring. Are you burning through healing potions more quickly than they can be replaced, trading sloppiness now for mortal peril later? Are your PCs using up spell slots too quickly, repairing damage that might have been avoided? Even if you don't have a better plan, you can and should talk with the other players about outcomes and consequences that you don't like and would prefer to find a way to avoid.

These sorts of considerations at least get everyone on the same page, and you can discuss the risks and benefits in a straightforward manner.

3. If already in combat and trying to change plans, recognize the mechanical limitations combat imposes and display confidence in your tactics

Battles in D&D 5e already are one of the bottlenecks in the game. Depending on your DM, they can take a really long time. The rules of the game also discourage table talk and pauses for reconsidering tactics. Mid-battle is too late to have much discussion about that sort of thing, and if your table enforces communications-per-turn rules it may not be feasible to do even if necessary. The ravening monsters won't sit back for a five minute break while your party confers, or even for the round necessary for each party member to participate in a six second conversation.

Instead of trying to pause combat to have an orderly debate about tactics which you bring to a consensus, it may be better to shout an utterance if possible ("they're swarming through the tunnel, fall back to cover!"), and then do what you feel needs to be done. Your party members will almost certainly respond in ways that account for your new, off-original-plan action. If your plans are so good as to be optimal then they shouldn't cause combat to collapse into a TPK. Either way, you can talk with your party later, when there is time for discussion, about things.

4. Understand what you're optimizing for

But I would be lying if it didn't frustrate me be made to do less than ideal things

As above, it's not clear to me in what ways your party is worse off for using the strategies you describe as sub-optimal. Consequently it's worth talking about what you mean by "optimal". Optimizing for time (in the sense of finishing combat in the fewest possible rounds) might suggest very different strategies than optimizing for damage taken (you want to maximize your conditional AC and full cover options, for example), which in turn may be very different from optimizing for spell slot use (avoiding using non-cantrip spells as much as possible in combat).

There are many situations which will be suboptimal, if solved as an equation on paper, but will not have any practical effect. For example, if a druid is already going to use Wild Shape anyways it may make sense for them to tank damage as well, and so may not fit in well with a damage-minimization approach (as you get the beast form's HP for free, with no benefits for keeping it high).

Additionally, it is relatively rare in my experience for a tactical choice to be strongly dominant over all other choices in all cases. So it's worth being thoughtful about whether or not your preference truly is optimal in a way that you can define and defend, and also whether or not "suboptimal" play is likely to make a material difference in the game. It is uncommon that truly optimal play is necessary to keep from losing the game (whatever that means in a given campaign), and so an argument that a strategy isn't optimal may not have the weight you expect.

5. Double-check that you, the other players, and the DM are on the same page about the challenge of the campaign

the campaign we're playing is generally seen as difficult.

Regardless of the campaign you're playing, your DM may be lenient or punishing. If your DM makes efforts to avoid risk of TPKs, then optimal play might just not be worth pursuing because the level of risk doesn't demand it.

This sort of thing happens all the time. Some tables are very strict about carrying capacities and item weight, and so have a need to optimize for those. Other tables ignore weight and carrying capacity altogether, and at such a table trying to get players to be careful about those elements really would be a waste of time. It's worth asking your DM if the level of optimality you want to bring to the game is needed, or if it fits at all.

6. Trying to have fun at the table is not a waste of time

Finally, a high-level consideration: presumably, you're playing D&D to have fun, and if you're not having fun that is a valid concern to bring to the table. It may not matter if you choose strategy A or strategy B in a given combat, as you'll win either way, but it matters if A is not fun for you while B would be.

The approach you choose, in-character or out-of-character, is less important than pursuing what you actually want. You are clearly willing to make compromises in service of the other players having fun, and it is not unreasonable to expect them to do the same at least some of the time. Even if you have trouble with my other suggestions, or others in other answers to this question, you shouldn't feel guilty about telling the rest of your table when situations erode your fun.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, "force" is a too strong of a term, it's more of "peer pressure." There's been a few answers/commenters already that have expressed that I seem to just passively accept the plans, which is not quite what I meant to convey. I have tried to "be the contrarian" the few times this situation has happened, but it's been shot down pretty dismissively "just roll with it, it's not like you're gonna die", and then it turned out to be complete luck I didn't (Turns out those enemies have long-range weapons and I can get critted oops)... \$\endgroup\$ – user66539 Oct 19 at 17:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this is the best answer yet, as it gets to the crux: there is no "forcing", but the player must pick whether to go with the group's plans or their own ideal plans. If they truly believe theirs is better and the others have overlooked something, then it's not bad roleplay (or group play) to do that. And on the plus side, it will certainly prompt that post-mortem discussion of tactics, and help resolve the underlying communication issue. \$\endgroup\$ – Andrzej Doyle Oct 19 at 17:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ ...I also probably failed to convey that this isn't the norm and I don't have any problem with how the group plays most of the time, even if it's not the most ideal (there are probably several cases where I did something stupid myself.), it's more of a situation of "group discusses "strategy A", you'd think "strategy B" might be better but since the majority's already on the plan A, trying to bring up "B" when people want the battle to continue makes the party frustrated with you for dragging your feet" -kinda thing. \$\endgroup\$ – user66539 Oct 19 at 17:29
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Roleplay your way out of it

You haven't given a lot of information about your character's personality, but being the one that is constantly sent into corridors to have all the enemies attack him is not something everyone just happily agrees to just because they are technically well-suited for it.

Battles are one of the biggest parts of D&D where people tend to ignore roleplay for effectiveness.

You make it sound like simply not listening to the party isn't an option for you. Let me preface this by saying that generally speaking, you probably shouldn't just ignore your party all the time. D&D is a team game and you will have better results if you actually start thinking as a team instead of an individual. Especially in battle.

That being said, you still shouldn't just forget that your character is in fact a character. While video-game logic will mostly guide you through battles, it's not necessarily the right way to go. This is highly group-dependent, but I've had groups where the players would waste rounds doing stuff that were more in character:

  • An easily scared gnome just got hit for a lot of damage? He might spend a round or two behind a corner, trying to gather his courage to join the battle again.
  • Or a dwarf with an anger-management problem just kept hitting the Goblin he had just defeated for a turn, before calming down enough to move on.
  • Or that very same dwarf once spent a round walking up to the group wizard and shouting at him to stop 'barking orders' and do something useful for once.

These are of course not optimal moves, but they are very much in character and can be fun. Which is the point.

In tough battles, there's less room for playing around like that, but that's also in-character, because the tension will help them focus more. Then again, that same tension might make them more anxious and snap more easily.

Now let's get back to your situation. Like I mentioned earlier, I don't know your druids personality, but being set up as the damage-sponge can't feel great. And then while the group is discussing their battle plan, he is being planned as a sponge again even though he has a much better idea (in his mind at least). This is a really frustrating situation because the people planning this are not the ones that will get hit all the time. It's the people that want to stay back where it's safe. And you actually have a better plan, but they can't/won't listen.

Depending on his personality, yes, he might still go with what the group wants and silently start resenting them.

Or he could just try his idea out. What's actually stopping him? Maybe his patience is finally used up and he just snaps. You can even play that out! This should be an interesting moment for the group and maybe make them realize that they need to widen their spectrum of possible strategies (or at least listen to their druid once in a while).

It's also an easy way to later (hopefully after the battle) start a conversation about what the problem was in the first place.

If you simply ignore the group and do your own stuff, that might come across as rude, but if you actually explain your character not listening by roleplaying him... hey, that's a whole different story.

You don't have to be mean about it. You can even apologize later and try to explain to them what you were trying to do (whether you do that as a player or even in-character).

If you need their help for it to work... well... you can either trust in the fact that they will pick up on what you're trying to do (which can easily backfire) or find a way to communicate the basic idea. That doesn't even necessarily mean tell them what the idea is. Instead, you could just describe your actions a bit more. What is your character looking at, how is he behaving, where is he going? All those things can be clues that help your group see what you're planning.

As a final note: If you do end up doing it this way, pick a battle that is still winnable if your strategy completely backfires. Just in case.

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Talk to the other players about it when you're not in game.

It sounds like one of the big issues you're having is that you don't feel like combat is the right time to bring it up with your fellow players, since combat is supposed to be exciting and fast-paced. So I recommend talking to the other players when there's no time pressure, like at the beginning or end of a session.

The goal of D&D is (unless you're a pro) to have fun, and it sounds like you're not having fun. You feel like the other players aren't listening to you and don't value your input. So let them know that you feel this way. Anyone worth playing with will acknowledge you and acknowledge that your opinions have worth, and will be more open to your ideas in the future.

The important thing as always is to treat the other players at the table like adults. Make your concerns heard, but don't point fingers without acknowledging that you understand why they're doing what they're doing, and let them know that you're feeling this way. Assume it's a misunderstanding until proven otherwise.

And if they don't listen to you and tell you to just shut up and do it their way, then well...you've learned something valuable about the other players at your table, and you can make an informed decision about whether you want to keep playing with them.

Regardless, best of luck!

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