I'm a DM. My level 11 player, at the first stepping stone of a Paragon Tier, started to fantasize, moreover, insist on a particular outcome for him for level 21 (Epic Tier). In short: he wants to die somewhere along the way to level 21, then reborn as a Revenant, also, he wants to acquire certain specific legendary items, in addition to strictly playing ("farming") in the nearby Necropolis until he reaches level 21.

The campaign I'm DMing is actually a campaign that we started with DND 3e and played since 2008. We spent hours doing nothing but strictly role-playing without hitting a single dice. The story also emerged to be both complex and exciting.

I'm concerned that my level 11 player developed a "power-leveling-sickness" and is willing to break with the company to get the destiny that he wants to be engineered for himself. Something that I don't want to be a part of as a DM. It is not fun to break the game just to print huge numbers on a character sheet.

I'm in great need of guidance.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you say more about what you find objectionable about this player's plans? Do you not want to have a revenant in your game at all, because you think it would disrupt the plot? Or do you just think he's making character decisions for the wrong reasons? \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan B
    Commented Apr 12, 2021 at 23:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you want us to advise you on the reasonableness of your player's demands, you have to tell us what they actually are, not just sum them up. Quote your player's words directly if you have to. \$\endgroup\$
    – Glazius
    Commented Apr 12, 2021 at 23:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ You've been doing this for the past 13 years, he's now level 11, and he wants to make concrete plans about what happens when he's level 21? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Commented Apr 13, 2021 at 0:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm in great need of guidance - casts guidance you're welcome :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Oddrigue
    Commented Apr 13, 2021 at 9:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ 4e is a superhero rpg. Your player has just changed from Robin into Nightwing, and is excited to be Batman. As @BenBarden said, thats years away, but having an arc planned for a character only aids storytelling, so long as it remains flexible and collaborative. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 13, 2021 at 17:57

4 Answers 4


"That Sounds Interesting-- How Is Your Character Going To Do That?"

Having a player who knows what he wants his characters' story to be is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, at least you know what your player wants, and when you need to throw him a bone over some other disappointment or circumstance, you know what will be effective. On the other hand, especially when taken to excess, it starts to feel like the inverse of the dreaded GMPC, except in this case it's the player taking over a lot of the GM's function to the primary benefit of their own character.

But a basic premise of most RPGs is that characters, and by extension players, get rewarded for efforts and actions, not just for saying "This is how I want my story to go. Certainly 4e and the larger D&D tradition falls in that category.

So: "How are you going to do that?" is a great way to gently nudge your player into telling you what his character is going to do-- immediately, next week, or next year-- instead of just telling you what he wants.

Things You Do vs Things That Happen

There's something else that's at play, here, too, which is the distinction between things that the character does, vs things that just happen to the character along the way. The former is traditionally seen as fair game for the player to try to influence. Even if the goal is as lofty as carving out a kingdom, becoming a lich, or (in your circumstance) acquiring some lost artifact-- even if the goal may take years of back-breaking effort-- there are usually concrete first steps the character can take.

"That Sounds Interesting-- How Is Your Character Going To Do That?" is a good way to focus the player on these. If the player has wildly different ideas from yours, this is a good place to correct him. If he's flailing and expected it to 'just happen' this is a good place to correct that and maybe set him on the first steps.

On the other hand, "Things that just happen," are traditionally the domain of the game master, not the player... with a space of exceptions carved out for things that happened in the past of a new character. "Dying and being reborn as a revenant," at least in 4e, is definitely one of those "things that happen" in a rules-as-written, background-as-given case. It's clearly presented as an option filling the same space as "player race" and is meant to happen outside of play.

Now, that's not to say you can't homebrew a little, at your discretion. But I bring this up because your character might have a lot of these "things that just happen" in his desired character arc. And "That Sounds Interesting-- How Is Your Character Going To Do That?" is also a good way to subtly, non-confrontationally make that distinction.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your comment on "the player taking over a lot of the GM's function to the primary benefit of their own character" perfectly described my concern. I personally think that "How are you going to do that?" is the most useful idea, in this case, because "best to cooperate" may worsen the DM-PC relationship even more. To be fair, I want the best for the players, but a DM usually works days to get a coherent, non-linear story with fractions dynamically reacting to PC behavior - enforcing linearity or a very specific destiny, at best destroys some of that work or renders it useless. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dyin
    Commented Apr 14, 2021 at 18:44

For switching your player's character's race, it's best to cooperate.

At my table, I have a rule: if you're ever unhappy with your character's race or class, I will fix it for you. If you want, you can retire your character and bring in a new character with the same xp and gp. If you'd like to keep the same character but just change their race or class, we can do that instead, and we'll just narrate that your character has always been that race or class.

Here's why I have the rule: it's not fun for a player to get stuck with a choice they didn't want. In the worst case, if a player hates their character, sometimes they'll play suicidally to get their character killed, and then they'll turn to me and say: "now can I bring in a character of the race/class I wanted to be?"

I've had players use this rule, but only rarely, and only when they genuinely had made a bad decision and wanted to change it. Nobody in my games abuses this rule.

In your game, your player is asking to do an in-character transition, which also seems fine. Ask them when they'd like their character to die, and arrange for their character to die in a freak accident and rise as a revenant. If circumstances permit, try to make it an epic death.

(If you think revenants should be banned in your game because they'd mess with the plot and the roleplaying, that's a different problem. It's okay to tell players "sorry, you can't be that race in my game, even if you brought in a new character." But it sounds like that's not the problem you have right now.)

For finding specific magic items, normally you wouldn't cooperate, but in 4e you're expected to.

In most editions of D&D, the expectation is that you find random magic items and either use them or sell them. For whatever reason, in 4e the designers took a different path: you as GM are expected to ask your players what magic items they want, and then give them those magic items as loot.

(I had at least one GM who would hand out "essences", as in "you find an essence that can be formed into a level-five magic item of your choice". That worked well without breaking suspension-of-disbelief as much.)

You've told us that your player wants "legendary" items; I'm not sure what "legendary" means in this context. If "legendary" means they want items of the appropriate level for their character to get, then that's fine; if they want something more than that, all you can do is apologize and point to the rules-for-what-magic-items-you-should-have-at-each-level, and say "use this table to figure out when you can get that item".

  • \$\begingroup\$ Dan B, I wonder how widespread that "essences" dodge is-- I did what sounds like exactly the same thing up to a slight change of terminology in a 4e game I ran. But if the OP and his player are talking about artifacts, I'm not sure how well that would work. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Commented Apr 12, 2021 at 22:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ You provided super useful ideas to me and hopefully to any DM who would encounter a similar problem. This player's emphasis was generally on the "power-leveling"-intentions that he developed, opposed to our (4-player) incrementally developed role-playing focus. You see, we progressed to level 11 in 13 years with super-rich RP and both tactical combat with a very flexible, improvised "let's see what's going to happen"-style. In contrast, now, I see a player who wants to power-level to 21 as quickly as possible. Most probably due to the problems you outlined. Thank you! \$\endgroup\$
    – Dyin
    Commented Apr 14, 2021 at 17:49

Conduct a new session 0

Session 0 is essentially a term for a discussion with the group about the expectations of the group as a whole for the game, how it will run, and what everyone wants out of it.

It sounds like your game has now been running for so long, and even changed systems, that people's expectations may have drifted apart. It may therefore be a good thing to get everyone together again and discuss their expectations and how they want to approach the game.

There is nothing inherently wrong with having an idea of how you want the game to end ahead of time as long as everyone is on board with it and everyone understands that the best laid plans of mice and men do not always work out. My groups sometimes have at least vague ideas of how we want the campaign to conclude, often stated right at character creation. They rarely work out fully as planned, but we have a target.

There is also nothing inherently wrong with a group that levels very fast. I've done that before often with everyone expecting to gain at least one level per session using milestone leveling (I should caveat that I haven't done this with dnd 4e, but I have done it with 2e, 3.5e, and 5e. I don't think the difference with 4e would inherently change it though). In that way we have seen the gamut of the levels 1 - 20 in what would be ridiculously short periods if using standard experience awards with experience mostly from combat. This is definitely not for everyone, but it can work. However, the whole table needs to buy in for it to work.

To be clear, while talking to him 1 - 1 may be a valid approach, that is not what I'm suggesting. I'm suggesting that the group discuss this. If you, as a group, come to a consensus to support this then it has a good chance of working. The other players can lay out their end goal ambitions at the same time and mutually support each other on a meta level to achieve them, or at least create a very interesting story along the way. On the other hand if you, as a group, reject that approach then it becomes easy for him to see that the group rejects it rather than you as the DM trying to make him change his approach on your own.

Obviously, it is clear from your last two sentences that you aren't on board with what he wants. That is fine. But by discussing it as a group either you will change your mind or you will show him that his approach won't work at that table because the group doesn't support it. This of course runs the risk that you might find that you as the DM are the lone holdout, but this isn't likely. Most groups do not go for that, mine is an outlier. The others will probably help show him why it won't work. In the unlikely event that you find yourself the lone outlier, then you as a group can openly and honestly decide how to proceed, which may be following your preferred path or it may be that you get a break from being the DM while someone else tries a different way. But regardless of the final result, it is one that you came to openly and honestly as a group rather than trying to dictate to him how to play on your own.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you hit the bull's eye with how you perceive the problem here. I apologize. I did not detail the problem further, in order to avoid the over-specification of the issue, thus, incentivize more generalized answers. This is very useful, I talked to him 1-1 and he is more into storytelling again in contrast to enforcing power-leveling for a very specific destiny. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dyin
    Commented Apr 14, 2021 at 18:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Dyin This site is definitely tailored for more specific problems and answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason_c_o
    Commented Apr 14, 2021 at 18:27

Turn it into a story.

You seem to be viewing narrative, storytelling, like it's procedural - you develop a story only by talking and organically having it happen. However you can do it the other way, setting a story goal and then defining the path that is taken to these goals. If your player wants the goal of their character dying, rising from the dead as a revenant, and having a cool magic sword, you can treat this as 'evil minmaxing' or you can treat that as 'a narrative outcome'.

You could add some provisos of your own. Revenants narratively rise to avenge wrongs, so you'd need some wrongs to occur - perhaps the character falls in love and decides to settle down, and their family is killed by some enemy they rise to defeat. Or whatever - you can dictate some outcomes too to help the story along. And then the character can be a cool revenant with a magic sword or whatever, but you have laid the narrative groundwork to keep that interesting for the party - there's a story behind the revenancy that makes sense and gives the player's further roleplaying as a scary risen-ghost more weight.

If the player isn't interested in this narrative groundwork and insists that they don't want to take part in any roleplaying, that's a separate problem to 'they want some specific outcomes'. And probably is better answered by a 'my player doesn't want to roleplay' question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I like the 'evil minmaxing' analogy. I felt that my role as a DM immediately narrowed. In my, but let's say my party's experience and liking, D&D is a mixture of a story (from DM), willingness (from the PCs), and luck (from the D20). Having a very specific outcome for a character from level 11 to level 21 is a near-complete disregard of the story and the D20. "Setting a story goal and then defining the path" was super helpful, thanks! I never thought it that way: I can engineer a circumstance in which his goals may happen more easily. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dyin
    Commented Apr 14, 2021 at 18:33

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