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A couple of friends and I have been playing dnd 5e together for a couple of years. They both take turns dming and I'm a player in the games of both.

One of the DMs however always ignores me in campaigns while the other players get whole plot arcs and there have been about 3 campaigns where the both of them have left me out fully. I never got talked to by NPCs in any of the campaigns and never got asked what I wanted to do and if I suggested something it just got overruled.

They have agreed to fix this behaviour but the one dm keeps leaving me out and the other player doesn't help that. I don't know what to do as I have brought up how upset this makes me and took breaks from dnd but they won't play dnd when I'm not there so I feel obligated to go to sessions. They have gotten better at including me but sometimes it just feels like it is still the same.

They also sometimes comment on how I play the game and make me feel extremely judged. I am just there to hang out with friends and not be a professional dnd player but any time I do something not perfect they always make an off handed comment about it.

In other social situations they are great fun to be around and include me equally.

What should I do? Should I just stop going to sessions or talk to them again?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the Stack Xandus, take the tour when you have a moment. I’m sorry to hear that things aren’t going well for your game, hopefully we can give you some direction moving forward. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 4, 2022 at 23:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ It sounds like there is only you and 2 other people, which makes me thinik this might be less about group dynamics and more about specific relationships between people? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 5, 2022 at 4:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you ever played with any other groups? If so, how did things go there? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 7, 2022 at 0:01

8 Answers 8

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No Easy Answer

Unfortunately this is a complicated situation with no quick fix solution. It sounds like you have already tried talking to them about it, which is our normal first advice. Your friends have acknowledged the issue but failed to fully address it.

I have a few points to make and only you will be able to judge what is best for you and your friends. Firstly though I want to tell you that your desire to feel included and enjoy playing with your friends is valid and you shouldn't just ignore feeling this way.

Talk to them again

Talking to others about a problem is never easy, but neither is it a one time thing. It is unrealistic to expect behaviour to change after a single conversation. Instead it should be an ongoing discussion, give and ask for feedback after sessions. Keep and open channel of communication so that you all know what is working and what isn't.

One player in my group had an issue with preemptively starting combat that frustrated the rest of the party. We discussed it, at length, for several months before we saw any real meaningful change in his behaviour. What finally worked was giving him encouragement and respect when we recognised he was making an effort. After many sessions of conversation the last few of that group have been some of the best of the entire campaign and largely due to the improvement in his behaviour.

If we hadn't persisted with feedback, communication and encouragement we would never have got to the good place we are in now. If you want to play with these friends and enjoy it, you need to persevere with having the difficult conversations.

Look at your own behaviour

Without being at the table I can't know for sure what the cause of the issues is. However I often find that problems are never entirely one-sided. It is worth taking a look at how you are acting during sessions and ensure you are doing everything you can.

Some things you can consider:

  • Are you being pro-active enough during sessions? Do you actively try to participate or just wait until called on?
  • Are your characters invested in the world/story? Do you create characters with strong backstories and connections to NPCs and story arcs within the campaign?
  • Do you hesitate or slow down gameplay by being unprepared?

Maybe you do some, none or all of these things. Maybe it's something else entirely. But you should have a good look at your own gameplay to ensure that you are contributing your best.

You mention that they sometimes comment on how you play the game and you feel judged by it. It may be they are trying to give you a some constructive feedback but you are viewing in as judgement.

No D&D is better than bad D&D

You are not obligated to spend time doing something you don't enjoy. If you truly feel you can't resolve the issues you are experiencing you should stop playing. You are not responsible for whether or not they choose to play. You are only responsible for your own actions and enjoyment.

Maybe try playing with some other people, maybe see if you can add another player to the group. If the current group dynamic isn't working for everyone, it is time for a change. My group had a issue with the party deferring to one player who was a real life role-model to most of them and the most confident roleplayer. I brought in an experienced player with no connection to that player and the dynamics improved instantly.

Whatever you choose to do, remember that RPGs should be fun. If it's not fun, change it or stop playing.

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    \$\begingroup\$ maybe see if you can add another player to the group I think this is one of the best bits of advice in this answer (even though it may or may not be a solution to this interpersonal dynamics concern) in that it sets up the situation where the DM must pay attention to more than one player. (One DM and Two players is not quite inside the 5e design paradigm). \$\endgroup\$ Jan 5, 2022 at 14:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ "It is unrealistic to expect behaviour to change after a single conversation." I don't agree - I think it is quire realistic and reasonable to expect someone to change behavior after I ask them to. It's unrealistic to expect a perfect response, fixing everything you have a problem with on the first try. But for them to not change at all would be pretty unreasonable. \$\endgroup\$
    – amalloy
    Jan 6, 2022 at 17:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @amalloy For some of us, changing oneself is difficult; even remembering that you're supposed to be changing can be tricky, until it has become a habit. I'm with linksassin on this one. I, at least, would greatly appreciate my friends giving me a few chances and reminders, because I struggle with that kind of thing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Corrodias
    Jan 6, 2022 at 18:12
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Ouch. That is rough, especially when they are considerate and inclusive in other social situations. I hope this works out well for you.

Normally I would try to analyze the situation and determine the root problem(s) but there is not enough information (and it may not be possible to communicate that information in an internet text posting) to make that not be speculative. So I'll move on to techniques that I, or others I have gamed with, have used to solve various engagement issues.

1) Talk It Out

Always the first solution to try, talking to your friends. You've already done this, so good job. But it is important to remember that this step can be repeated, and will probably need to be repeated before the issue is fully resolved.

2) Try a Flag

Inspired by supplemental mechanics, like the X-Card, create a physical object that you can point to, wave around, or hold up prominently during a session when problematic behavior is occurring. Preferably one with a visible written reminder of what it represents clearly on display. I've seen this successfully used for phobias, trauma triggers, and even PC mechanics that happen at the GM discretion (danger sense, favored enemy, etc.).
I generally advise against noise-making "flags", but that may be necessary in some groups.

3) Try Another Group

Join a different gaming group, either as a test or in earnest. This can provide you with new experience and perspective, remind your friends not to take you for granted, and expand your social circles.
It will also give you a second data source. If the new group is also ignoring and sidelining you then it may indicate that you're exhibiting especially passive behavior when playing. Such behaviors are something you can directly change, usually causing others to change how they treat you.

4) Run a Game

You're the only one of the group that does not run games. That may be contributing to the issue - you may be seen as audience rather than actor. Becoming DM, even for a single adventure across a couple of sessions, may be the push needed to change their behavior.
I have a couple of players that I take more seriously since they expressed a desire to DM a campaign. It altered my understanding of their engagement when they said they were having so much fun that they wanted to try running their own stories.

5) Take a Hiatus

Sometimes our friends don't understand how much their behavior hurts us. I've found myself getting frustrated enough that I have walked away from gaming tables. In one case, that table quickly dissolved over the issues that were bothering me; in another, I came back about a year later and things were good.
It does suck, especially if this is your only play group, but it is sometimes necessary to get the others to realize just how much the situation is bothering you.

Regardless of how much (or little) of this advice you use, I do wish you good luck. I hope you and your friends continue to be friends and all have fun gaming together.

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    \$\begingroup\$ About point 2, pulling out a mobile phone is often used as a this kind of flag, even when the flag was not previously agreed upon :-D \$\endgroup\$ Jan 5, 2022 at 10:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @WakiNadiVellir If the communication is not explicitly defined then it is subtext, susceptible to misinterpretation or overlooking. Specific problems are better addressed with explicit solutions than with generic usage of a generic device. \$\endgroup\$
    – ValhallaGH
    Jan 6, 2022 at 17:33
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In addition to all the other answers:

I am just there to hang out with friends and not be a professional dnd player but any time I do something not perfect they always make an off handed comment about it.

This paragraph makes me suspicious of two possibilities:

  • Are you maybe not familiar enough with the DnD 5e rules and trying to do things which are not possible? Maybe you also don’t know about all your character’s abilities. Try to apply your abilities and spells to the situation! Don’t be afraid to improvise within reason. Pay attention to the battlefield, for example if an enemy moves out of your range, remind the DM that you get an opportunity attack. In any case, knowing the DnD rules is always good and can make you a valuable fount of knowledge for the rest of your party and the DM.
  • The second possibility is that you are intentionally making bad decisions because “that’s what my character would do”. Maybe you make your Paladin rush into battle headlong screaming “for Law and Order!” because you think it’s cool (and it sometimes is) but it just puts you into peril and ruins the fun for the rest of the party who’d rather use tactics.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ It might help to put a link into questions/answers about "My Guy" syndrome as it would really fin in with your answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Senmurv
    Jan 7, 2022 at 20:41
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This isn't a DnD problem, this is a social problem.

Being left out of conversations, no-one wanting to go to the places you want to go to, or do the things you want to do, are all social problems that people have. It involves generally reading the room poorly, being socially outmaneuvered by someone who dislikes you, or miscommunication (which can take various forms and is by far the most common reason).

There are only a few DnD-specific things that modify this problem.

  • You are bad at reading dramatic and roleplaying cues. If you are bad at an activity, people will de-emphasize you until you get better at it. If you think you are doing fine at it, then you might never try to improve, and thus get sidelined forever. Solution: read about improv, drama, and roleplaying, practice in a mirror, spend time improving your skills in these fields.

  • Your suggested actions are out of line with the descriptions made by the GM or actions taken by other players. This could be utility based - you want to murder the only ally the PCs have because you suspect them based on nothing, or it could be verisimilitude based - 'let's use the rope bridge to get across the chasm!' except the GM did not describe a rope bridge over the chasm, the rope bridge was 2 sessions ago in a different location. This is a problem usually related to not paying attention and not considering the situation before acting. Solution: pay attention, consider the situation before suggesting a course of action. Do this both with the GM and the other players - if the other players want to play a sherlock holmes mystery and you want to kill people because you haven't listened to them talking about how they want to sherlock for hours and hours, odds are good you are going to get ignored a lot when you suggest killing people.

  • Other people have beliefs about how DnD 'should' work that you don't have. Perhaps they think that only players with characters with high Charisma 'should' talk to npcs, and thus when you try to they ignore it because you're playing the fighter with Cha 10. There are many of these beliefs, and it's hard to list them all. If you identify the belief you can defang it by being more emphatic about actions that are clearly not wildly out there, or you can simply accept that if you want to play with these people you will need to put up with this belief.

  • The last, and most nebulous, is that you or other people view DnD differently than they do other activities. This is almost impossible to define. But interactions that are fine normally may be seen as unfine in the context of DnD, either by others, or by the person experiencing the problem.

Ultimately, while you may want to play dnd with your friends, if they are ignoring you something is going wrong. The best person to figure that out is yourself. You have access to all the clues that other people don't. If you have tried talking to them (and you have) and the situation is not resolved by that, the simple solution of airing the problem has not worked.

Unless you can identify a DnD-specific problem which is impacting your ability to play DnD with your friends, such as one of the ones above, likely your best option is to find a different group. DnD is quite hard, for many people, and relies on personal alchemy and soft skills that people find difficult to describe. It is extremely fun when it goes well, but certain combinations of people, times, places, or ideas may lead to unfun otherwise. Playing with different people than your friends may fix the problem - perhaps it will still persist, which will at least give you a clue that the problem lies with you rather than an external source and may help you figure out what it is and how to deal with it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this answer needlessly assigns responsibility to the asker. Being left out of conversations & having one's suggestions ignored can also be due to the people in question just not caring about you or being inconsiderate of you if you have less 'stature' in a group. And the first two bullets of your list are phrased as though they're definitely happening, when we have no idea if that's the case--I think they'd be better phrased as questions for possible introspection. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tiercelet
    Jan 5, 2022 at 15:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yep, I was about to say what @Tiercelet said in the second half of their comment: Your bulleted list under D&D-specific things states a bunch of things as if they're facts, rather than just listing them as possible contributors to the issue. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jan 6, 2022 at 19:39
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Work With Your DM To Orchestrate A Character Arc Beforehand

As others have said, there is no easy solution here; there may be a lot of factors at play and a lot of inter-group nuance that causes the problems your facing. Let's assume, then, that their actions are unintentional and they simply struggle with trying to effectively include your specific characters in the game.

DnD is a story-telling device at its very heart. It's a collaboration, and right now other players are getting the lions share of the writing in. It may be beneficial, then, to talk with the DM privately to work-shop an event or arc for your character.

Let's say your character is an old mercenary or soldier. You might try asking your DM, "would it be possible to have someone recognize m/c as [insert old nickname here]?" This may be enough to give your DM some ideas of how to spin this off as a plot point - or, if needed, you can continue workshopping this idea with them to flesh it out further. Are they happy to see this character? What happens because of this? Does a secret your character wants to keep hidden get revealed?

By discussing with your DM before the session something you'd like to happen, it gives them the ability to plan out and integrate your character more fully into the campaign. Personally, I love when players come to me with ideas. Planning encounters and arcs with player input causes things to go so much more smoothly. Rather than expecting the DM to come up with something independently, both parties can be prepared for an up-coming interaction and know how it integrates into the campaign.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for encouraging healthy DM-player relationships and being inclusive/collaborative about storylines. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Senmurv
    Jan 7, 2022 at 20:42
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Two things.

  1. Does your character fit the setting? As a DM that is most often the reason a player I have does not get many character-story moments. If you make your character a goofball in a horror campaign or gritty realism setting, or a sea going pirate in a desert campaign I may not be able to tie them into the story. This is often a problem with players who play the silent loner mystery man sort, as a DM I need some backstory to work with and I never feel OK giving player backstory on my own. Even talking may not solve this if I can't think of a way to work your character in to events. That said, it should be something fairly easy to recognize and correct for both parties, a player can rework a character and a DM should be discussing the campaign and helping player fit characters before play even starts.

I know another DM who struggles with this because he does not like to give away the story so keeps very tight lipped about the setting, expecting players to write a lot of backstory, but not every player can do this without some information, so do not feel it is all on you to write backstory, do you have information about the setting to go on.

I also know player who fit well in the campaign and have story moments that they ignore. A pirate character in a pirate campaign knew of a hidden cache of weapons, from their backstory, but never acted on it. I was dangling a hook, I even called attention to two or three times. the last time I was a bit explicit and they said, 'Oh I forgot about that." I had tied the character into the story quite deeply, and I thought they were ignoring it, but they were just missing it. Ask your DM "Is there a something in my backstory you think I am missing?" this can be a big problem in long running campaigns, people forget things.

  1. Have you been explicit about the comments making you feel judged. I know in my groups we often tease each other over strange decisions or bad rolls. We talked about it explicitly in our last session zero because we had new player and wanted to make sure new players were OK with such teasing. We do this now because we once lost a player because they were not OK but they kept silent and they had not said anything until it reached their boiling point. They were not having fun but we never realized until it was too late. Your friends may not realize how upsetting it is for you. What is obvious to you may be too subtle for them. If you do spell it out and they keep going they may not be mature enough for you to enjoy playing with.

The phrase" I'm not having fun, and here is why..." should change behavior on both sides, if it doesn't then you can try again, but if it still doesn't work you may just need to find a different group. As a DM if a player ever told me they were not having fun I would seriously reconsider everything about how I run a game and even play as a player.

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I would try the five whys. It might go something like this, as you pose the 5 Whys to the DM:

  1. Why should I come to D&D if I can't participate and affect the game?
  2. Why do you even want me to come if I'm not participating?
  3. Why do you feel/think/act that way?
  4. etc....

Hopefully this can help you get to the root cause of the problem. Then you can decide if the underlying issue is resolvable.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the Stack, Nick. Take the tour when you have a moment, and explore the help center for more in depth information about the site. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 5, 2022 at 13:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi Nick, do you mean the Five Whys to be an exercise in introspection for the OP or questions that they're asking their friends? both? \$\endgroup\$
    – CabinetCat
    Jan 6, 2022 at 2:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Use the five whys as a way to understand the underlying problem in the interaction. These questions should be posed to the DM. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nick Ellis
    Jan 6, 2022 at 15:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NickEllis I added your 'how I am suggesting to use the 5 Whys to the body of the answer. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 6, 2022 at 17:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ cool thanks @KorvinStarmast \$\endgroup\$
    – Nick Ellis
    Jan 7, 2022 at 16:25
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Dig A Little Deeper

If this problem stems from some sort of fundamental social issue, then there is no D&D specific solution for it. However, since you indicate that outside of the game they're generally decent to be around, I suspect it has to do with the dynamics of how you may be approaching the game. (Again, this is a guess.)

Option One

It's possible they're both terrible DMs and there's nothing you can do about it. Since this is an issue with both of them, however, I doubt this is the case.

Option Two

You need to take the roleplaying a little more seriously. This doesn't mean being buzzkill or not allowing there to be any fun, but full participation—totally committing to the bit—tends to make a big difference. If you don't fully participate, they won't expect you to.

Option Three

Try to think creatively and more collaboratively. D&D at its best is fundamentally improvisational. If you only wait to be called upon, or do not take actions that set up a "yes, and..." opportunity for the DM and the other players, then you become a limiting factor in the game. It becomes more difficult to include players who don't make an effort to set up opportunities for the others at the table. By the same token, the rules exist to tell you what you can do. Don't treat them as a trap, and you may find yourself playing a bit more freely.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you give some concrete examples of live experience as a DM or player for the points? I think it would help. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Senmurv
    Jan 7, 2022 at 20:44

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