I am DMing a game of dnd 5e or close to it. It's a homebrew campaign. We are mostly new to D&D with the exception of 2 players that play with other groups.

I have 2 players that seem to question everything I do as a DM and make the game hard to DM. One of the things they question is cantrips.

I had one of my players call my ruling stupid and log out. To put it into context I make my players roll to see if they can land the cantrip. 2 of my players have recently questioned why they have to roll at all and why it just doesn't do what they believe it should do. But there is nothing in the rules about rolling and cantrips.

It was a cantrip called "mend" and he was trying to use it to repair his armor which had been broken. I made him roll to see how well he repaired it and he got a 2 so it didn't repair much. He went behind my back and spoke to another player about how it was stupid and "that's not how cantrips work" even though he was able to cast the spell, just not well.

I don't want to just put my foot down and say "I'm the DM, what I say goes" but they won't listen to my reasoning and just keep saying I'm wrong. How do I handle this situation? It's getting to the point where I am considering stopping DMing all together.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are for clarification, not for extended discussion. Please put answers in answers only. I've flagged for moderators to create a new chat room where this back-and-forth discussion can continue. \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeQ
    Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 7:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi Taylor. I see you're a new to the stack, so please be welcome. If you haven't already seen them, we have a tour which will help explain how this site differs from traditional discussions forums, as well as a help center for new users. Also, it's okay if you don't know how to make or get to the chat rooms. I can't speak for him, but I don't think @MikeQ was suggesting you should do it, but calling for the moderators to help us out. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 7:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 12:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Very related question is here. You are not the first to run into this problem. Your problem has the added degree of difficulty of you trying out house rules without first having a minimum level of system mastery \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 1:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Some very good advice on how to DM this edition is here, FWIW \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 13:28

6 Answers 6


Here is what Mending spell does, by magic:

This spell repairs a single break or tear in an object you touch, such as a broken chain link, two halves of a broken key, a torn cloak, or a leaking wineskin. As long as the break or tear is no larger than 1 foot in any dimension, you mend it, leaving no trace of the former damage.

By RAW (Rules as Written), no roll is required. If there are several broken parts, several castings of Mending may be required (taking one minute each), and you can rule that an item is beyond repair ("this is not an armor any more, it is a piece of scrap metal, beyond any repair").

What you did was to add a so-called house rule to your game: Mending cantrip requires a roll. This takes away power of the cantrip, and if player had known this beforehand, they probably would have taken a different cantrip. So I originally would have said you are in the wrong here, as you are altering the rules in a way that hurts the players. However, based on comments, the whole rules situation in your table is somewhat messy, and you may be playing different games, so... nobody is necessarily at fault, instead you have to come to a solution together.

Fixing a case of DM altering the rules willy-nilly

First, say you are sorry for handling this house rule situation poorly. You are a new DM, so you can "promise" similar things will happen again. This is normal.

Then, there are some alternatives on how to proceed:

  1. In future Mending will work as written, no roll required.

  2. You want to keep your house rule about rolling for Mending. Offer the player a chance to switch the cantrip, latest at the start of the next session, so they have time to think what they want to take.

  3. Very not recommended: Put your foot down and tell the players, when you are the DM, it is your rules, which you can change as you wish.

As a final word of advice: as a new DM, try to stick to the RAW. While playing, don't get bogged down with rules, make a quick ruling (neutral or in favor of the players) if you are not sure. But then between games do some research (like ask here), and next time tell how it is (eg. "hey, last time I let you make a called shot for the eyes to blind the target, but I looked it up, and that's not something you can succeed at, so it won't work from now on").

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not sure what you mean by "from 23 to 2 to 12", doesn't sound like D&D armor thing (lowest AC before DEX modifiers is 10, and armors do not add to base AC, they set a new base AC, and 23 AC is extremely high). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 6:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Anyway, this sheds more light in the situation. The player is not upset because of the house rule on Mending. They are upset because their game-breaking magic item got nerfed. This answer might not be relevant to your situation then... You can take it as a general advice, I guess. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 6:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TaylorPaquette: Try not to take things too personally. It seems that, as a novice DM, you have had an unfortunate experience of a player trying to take advantage of your inexperience to be more "uber" than everyone else. Allowing someone to bring in home-brewed armor from another campaign was a mistake and it sounds like you realised this was unbalanced and unfair so introduced more house-rules to nerf it, thus upsetting the player. \$\endgroup\$
    – PJRZ
    Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 10:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think it's important to remember that the DM isn't the only one at fault here. While the DM made a poor ruling, the player also handled the conflict poorly and failed to respect rule zero (the DM is always right, even when they are wrong). As a player, feel free to communicate your objections with a ruling but if you're overruled, you have to accept it and move along. You can then talk with the DM after the game about the issue. But storming off and disrespecting the DM behind their back doesn't help anyone. This is a common "ESH" scenario where everyone made a mistake. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 17:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Trying to fix something unbalanced via in game events is an extremely bad idea. It makes players feel cheated and really is quite transparent. I think it is better to let them know that you made a mistake allowing the item and would like to adjust it rather than ad hoc nerfing in game. That said, I usually find imbalance to only matter much between players, so in game buffs (tailored loot) for other players may be a way to balance things. When the whole party is moderately imba you can just throw stronger stuff at them across the board. Not everyone is a fan of a high powered campaign tho \$\endgroup\$
    – ttbek
    Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 13:07

Maybe you and the rest of the group need to learn the actual rules of the game and make sure you understand those rules before you make potentially drastic changes to them.

Clearly not everyone is having fun with the rules you're making up and based on the comments on this question (that will eventually get deleted) not everyone knows the actual rules of the game to begin with. It's understandable that a couple of players would get upset if things "don't go the way they should".

By actually learning the rules of the game you ensure that everyone is on the same page and knows how things "should" work. From there you discuss the rules and any changes you, or the rest of the group, may wish to make to them.

You repeatedly stated in comments that (paraphrased):

nowhere does it say that a cantrip can hit a target without having to roll to actually aim...

which is an indication that you don't actually understand the rules, which is fine, I'm honestly not trying to make you feel bad but that seems to be a fundamental problem that needs to be solved.

If the players still aren't happy with the rules you're creating then either you, or they can leave.

The whole point of a TTRPG like D&D is to have fun. If you or other players are not having fun then you can respectfully discuss this with your group and simply walk away, find another group, or maybe even try another RPG that everyone might be happier with.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @TaylorPaquette Cantrips which require a roll say so. "Make a spell attack..." or "Target must roll a ... saving throw". \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 6:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TaylorPaquette if it doesn't say that you need to aim the spell, why do you assume it should? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 6:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TaylorPaquette D&D has published rules. If your players expect the published rules, but you play by different rules, then there will be conflict (the bad kind). You and your players must agree to some set of rules, otherwise you will end up playing different games and arguing about it. \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeQ
    Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 6:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm realizing that's the problem. I followed the lead of another player that dmed within our group. He didn't have the actual rules on hand and made a lot of stuff up as he went. To the point that when I tried to introduce actual dnd official rules to the game they said they didn't like them. I'm realizing now this is where to problem originated and i'll need to sit us all down and go over the basics or step away from dming because honestly it was fun at first but now its to the point where I'm ready to jump off a bridge., \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 6:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TaylorPaquette D&D 5e by default does not have "facing rules", so a creature in combat can't have its back towards someone. There are optional rules (in DMG I think) but I've never used them, and as a new DM you probably shouldn't start with them either. Anyway, the only rolls are what the cantrip says (attack roll against AC for some, target making a saving throw for others). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 12:03

I think you have some misconceptions about the rules

Here are some quotes from you in the comment section of your question:

I make them roll to see if they can land a hit or in the case of repairing armor to see how well they can use mend. I don't know the rules and even in the Players Handbook it doesn't specify exactly how cantrips work. I feel that the cantrip is not an 100% going to hit a target or do exactly what the player expects. That you still have to be able to hit the target.

The PHB is actually pretty clear on how spells (including cantrips) work. So much so that you will often find the phrases "There are no hidden rules." and "Spells only do what they say they do." all over this StackExchange.

Some spells do require a roll to see if they hit. Some spells require the target to roll to see if they can save off the effects. And some spells just work.

The Mending cantrip doesn't say anything about rolling for success. If you want to implement that rule, as a DM, that's your prerogative. But just make sure your players know before hand.

This other comment also concerns me;

So I was more making him roll to see how well he repaired his already broken armor that had been torn to shreds. His armor rating was a 23 and it was down to 2.

That seems a little impossible. The the Basic rules on armor class:

Without armor or a shield, your character’s AC equals 10 + his or her Dexterity modifier.

So getting an armor class of 23 isn't impossible with the right armor, shield, magic items etc. But how was the armor "torn to shreds" so that a peasant standing naked in a field would have a better AC? First, there are no rules for armor being torn to shreds. There are monsters and effect that can destroy armor, but just removing the armor would give the character an AC 10 (+/- 5) depending on their Dexterity. How did you arrive at an AC of 2?

I think you are adding rules to the game because you think they should be there.

Which is still completely valid. There are a lot of tweaks I make to the game when I DM. But all the players know about them ahead of time.

I would suggest going back and rereading the rules, especially the ones that you don't understand.

If they still don't make sense, ask the two players in your group that have experience. They should guide you in the right direction. Or check online forums as maybe other people have the same questions you do.

  • \$\begingroup\$ So I went over the PHB and I was wrong I do understand how they work. The problem is "mend" is for repairing chain or torn cloak not armor. And even then his powers were weakened because he is a druid and he murdered a swamp and his armor was above d&ds limit of armor rating because it was from another homebrew campaign. I will have to sit down with my group and go over some ground rules because this is getting out of hand and we'll need to clear things up. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 7:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TaylorPaquette the broken chain or torn cloak are simply examples of items that can be repaired with mend (note the "such as" before the list of items). A single slash in the armour seems like a valid target for the spell. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jave
    Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 8:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ It wasn't just the tear in the armor. It was a few other factors although it seems that we have been playing to some broken and confusing rules \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 8:36

Your simplest solution: stop DMing and play for a while

You have two experienced players, you are new, and there are new players, yet these two experienced players (rather than offering to run a game and introduce some new players to the game) rely on you to be the DM. While that is not necessarily a pernicious situation, it can be and you have run into why it can be hazardous.

Pile on top of that, as other answers have pointed out, your choice to vary from core game rules ran into friction because Home Brew is Hard To Do well. You made a mistake that is easy to make; been there, done that, got the t-shirt. From comments moved to chat:

Well the problem is that its homebrew. I followed the lead of another player who ran a campaign before me. He changed a lot of the rules and when I tried to introduce the actual rules I kept getting "well its homebrew" so I am stuck in an impasse.

If I can post a homebrew here, and have lots of holes pointed out, with my experience as a DM and in this edition, what were the odds that your house rules were going to go off without a hitch? Small.

Your two experienced players aren't being good at mentoring you, a DM who is new to the game. And, they imported an overpowered item into your game ... Red Flag. I've been seeing stuff like this since old school D&D and the standard response was then, and ought to be now: "I don't allow that into my world" - but how could you know that it was "off" since you were new, and a new DM, in the first place? I suspect that at least one of these importers was taking advantage of you.

As to this, the blind leading the blind:

I followed the lead of another player that dmed within our group. He didn't have the actual rules on hand and made a lot of stuff up as he went. To the point that when I tried to introduce actual dnd official rules to the game they said they didn't like them. I'm realizing now this is where to problem originated and i'll need to sit us all down and go over the basics or step away from dming because honestly it was fun at first but now its to the point where I'm ready to jump off a bridge

Your whole group needs a Session 0 to get the Basic Rules out and see how the game works. A Session 0 (the link for how to DM one is here) can be done any time a table needs to reboot and to get on the same page.

He found the armor in another player homebrew campaign and brought it over. It had a higher armor rating than d&d allows I know this.

With friends like that, maybe find new friends? Or, invite them to sit in the DM's seat since they aren't happy with you in it.

How do I do this? ?

  1. Learn by playing.
    Tell the table, old and new players alike, that you want to step down from DM'ing for a while and play. Then ask one of the two experienced ones, with all present, if they'll volunteer to be DM. Yeah, they are kvetching about your DMing - OK, call them on it.

    Your message needs to be, in your own words:
    "Show me how to be a better DM by demonstrating. You DM for a while."

  2. You'll want at least five sessions where one of them is DM. Insist on it.

    Why five? You'll want to see a variety of situations and scenarios and how they get things to flow. You'll also begin to get a better feel for how a character grows, as well as how to try and apply features, skills, spells, etc from the player side. And the costs of choices.

  3. Don't homebrew until your expertise improves
    As with jazz musicians who improvise, the really good ones are already expert at playing the music, and then they depart from the script. Likewise with some of the brilliant guitar players of the rock era. You haven't got that level of expertise yet, so I'd suggest that you rely on "what's on the tin" - just play the game based on what's in the books - until your depth of expertise in this system improves. Stick with what's in the book and only improvise where the book is silent.

Why are you telling me this, Korvin?

Because I was a novice DM once too, a long time ago, and I ran into stuff like this. Also, playing will help you to learn the game better, and as a result you will be a better DM the next time you sit in the DM seat.

Anyway, your question was "How do I handle these players" and my core answer is "play more first to gain more system experience." But that's only part of it.

Based on what you shared in your question, you are already about five steps behind the people you want to "handle." Old advice from my tennis coach: never change a winning game plan, always change a losing game plan. Your current line of approach is the latter.

That's my proposal to you for fixing what I think is your actual problem:
(a) two experienced players aren't treating you right, and,

(b) you are trying to improvise before you have sufficient systems mastery.

Crawl, walk, jog, run, sprint

Good advice in a lot of pursuits, to include being a DM.


Ill add an answer here because i believe the current answers are correct but didn't touch on this point at all

House rules are not a problem at all, and not understanding how rules work also isn't a problem. What is problem is you and your players not being on the same page.

Dnd etiquette (and indeed logic in this case) indicate that alterations on the rules need to be up front. I play like this and if you don't like it leave is not actually a problematic attitude, everyone has the right to play with who they like and how they like, even if they are "wrong" rules wise.

However house rules should be cleared up before the game starts, and after that any alterations need to be discussed with the group and agreed upon. So in your case, since you didn't clear up the rules beforehand and demanded your house rule be followed in the middle of the session you are the one in the wrong here.

What you can do now is either scrap the house rule or do a majority vote on it. If your group agrees to keep it, you should give a chance to the players who picked the relevant ability to change it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ We do ask that answers be fully supported by either rules or subjective experience done or seen. You can read more about our citation expectations here. You're doing a great job in becoming active here, but please review your answers with the guidelines and expectations we review in the Meta linked above. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Mar 26, 2021 at 13:40

Rule #0 of D&D is: What the DM says goes1.

It doesn't matter what the ruling was or what the game is, if you say it as the GM that is how it works. Although the players may have played before I doubt they have played for very long if they are questioning things like that. It is YOUR game, you do have a responsibility to make if fun for the players but you are in charge. If they don't like the way you run your game they can run their own game but delegitimizing you like that is very bad form as a player and if you were more experienced as a DM you may have reconsidered them as a problem player earlier and talked it out without a scene.
Another tip that could help is a Session 0. Before the game sit down with the players and talk about what kind of game they want to play in and you want to run. This is the preferred place to state any house rules/published material/home-brew you will be using.

1 Players Handbook, page 6

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think that’s more commonly known as rule #0 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 16:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ You are forgetting about a far more important unwritten rule of table top RPGs: Make sure everyone at the table is having fun. The GM might be allowed to make arbitrary rulings, but when it makes the game less fun, then "but rule 0 says whatever I say goes" is a bad excuse. A good GM only bends the rules when it results in a more fun game experience for everyone at the table. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 18:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ What the DM says, goes. Depending on what the DM says, it's possible that the players may go, too, at which point are you really a DM any more? \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 21:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is far from being a universal rule. Several popular RPGs even directly contradict it. Many RPGs don't even have a GM! The autocratic philosophy you're recommending here is just one of the philosophies available for approaching some of the games in our hobby. The implementation of it you're recommending here isn't even the most common way I've seen, and it seems fairly tyrannical and unhealthy for this situation. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 21:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ There's only one person who can do no wrong, and last time I checked Jesus doesn't DM. Therefore it is possible for a DM to mess up. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 21:50

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