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I'm a first time player so maybe I'm not getting it but I originally had fun with D&D. However, the DM began having a habit of making side quests go off the rails and then us not being able to finish the side quest multiple sessions later.

At first it was fun and cool but over time it has just become way too burdensome and overall as characters we really haven't spent much time in terms of levelling (we started out as preteens 11 or 12 and now are only early teenagers 13/14) and there is supposed to be a time skip and entire tournament to get to.

The problem has come to a climax where a new player was introduced to the game and to give him a taste of D&D to see if he likes it or not. We were going to do a side quest that was pitched as "C rank", nothing too crazy but some investment would be done.

But when the main part was essentially done the DM kidnapped one of our NPC team members and that entire process hasn't even finished 3 sessions later (the sessions last 8+ hrs) in which I had already begun voicing frustrations to the DM about side missions going on and on. After the DM once again ended it I voiced that I will just leave the game or the style of side quest needs to change.

While I understand that he's put time into making the side quests they just really aren't fun anymore, especially with us being forced to do them and no real end for them outside of our characters dying or the DM deciding when they end.

I'm not having any fun anymore and I'm nor sure how to move on, because there's things I do want to do moving forward, but not at the cost of slugging through derailed side quest after derailed side quest. Maybe I'm doing something wrong and just need a new look on things.

Am I being too difficult? As a new D&D player, are my expectations too selfish or lofty?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you talked to the other players about how they feel the campaign is going? \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Dec 21, 2022 at 8:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AnnaAG They talk about D&D, and none of the editions of D&D has you start adventuring 11 years old. I think that part is talking about their actual, real world age -- i.e. they have been roughly playing two years, starting when the youngest were eleven, now 13. But it is not entirely clear from the question, I agree. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 21, 2022 at 9:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ What makes something a "side quest" in your campaign? How does this manifest, how do your characters know? \$\endgroup\$
    – nvoigt
    Dec 21, 2022 at 10:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you (and the majority of the rest of the group) don't want to do "side quests", why are you doing them? There must surely be some point in the "narrative" where the group decides "this is what we're going to do next" - so decide that the next thing you do is "main quest" related and not another "side quest". Unless of course you're being railroaded ... which is different problem. \$\endgroup\$
    – brhans
    Dec 21, 2022 at 18:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener I'm mostly asking for clarification on why the situation is as it is, and wondering why the players apparently don't seem to have the expected agency over their characters. \$\endgroup\$
    – brhans
    Dec 21, 2022 at 18:45

4 Answers 4

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This seems like a case of misaligned ideas and expectations

One of the most common pieces of advice is the concept of a Session Zero. In brief, the playing group sitting down together and talking through what expectations they all have and what ideas they want to try out.

It seems to me you have expectations that are misaligned with the ideas your DM is running with, a lack of a common vision that is typically associated with the lack of a Session Zero.

Your DM probably isn't doing anything strange

This is very much a matter of taste - sidequests are appreciated by some groups, and "finishing" side quests expeditiously is never a guarantee. It depends on the group, the DM, the setting and the campaign.

While the rules for levelling and encounters are quite clear, the DM can always dam the proverbial river of XP. Not every game needs progress as fast as a level every session or two, which is what seems to be most common.

From level 5, D&D characters are basically superhuman (if they weren't before), which necessarily shifts the scale and scope of the campaign. I have played more than one game where this progress has been considerably lengthened, to keep themes from the first couple of sessions relevant for longer.

When you mention "C rank" quests and teen character, I get clear manga/anime vibes. Within manga and anime, it is quite common for supposed sidequests to run for very long times, without the characters aging noticeably.

The specific system doesn't matter much, here; you are not playing a video game, but working collaboratively on a story. Devoting more than one "chapter" to something not apparently connected to the "main quest" is nothing strange, especially if the main storyteller (DM) has ideas to tie it into the main quest later on.

However, if an early time skip was promised

There is a disease among game masters, one I am definitely afflicted by, of getting enthusiastic about things actually happening in the game and leaving the overall plan by the wayside.

"I was only planning on doing this for half a session, but the players are interacting with the environment and NPCs so well, this is working wonderfully, let's keep this going for a while."

- me, many times

"Oooh, they made that assumption! Hmm, that's actually a good idea, could I fit that into the metaplot? Let's see...yes, yes I could. Let's run with that. I'll have to expand this arc a bit, but it's for the best."

- me, many times

Let us charitably call this "tunnel vision", getting too invested in details until the whole picture gets lost.

What's important to remember at these times is that roleplaying is a collaborative endeavor. The DM is the head arbiter and in control of everything except for the player characters, but he is human, and it is human to err.

Since you are collaborators, sometimes it becomes your responsibility to make your DM take a step back and consider the whole picture again.

Don't be confrontational

Now, it's important to remember that running a game is a creative endeavour. Why the Session Zero is so important is to make sure that all creative visions are aligned, and you aren't working at cross-purposes. This also implies that, as far as roleplaying goes, your DM is an artist and needs to be treated a bit gently.

Don't tell him he's wrong, because he isn't, and don't say there's anything directly wrong, but try to talk to him about how you would prefer more focus on the main quest.

Don't stage an intervention where you all gang up on him, instead try to treat him like a cat - don't approach too forcefully, employ a little reverse psychology, don't pet against the direction of his fur/vision, and try to offer a treat or two.

You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar

- someone vastly more succinct than me

(Group dynamics are Hard, and psychology isn't much easier)

It's possible this particular group, DM or campaign are a bad fit

Different groups have different "styles". I've been playing with my primary group since the 80s, and the experience for a new player to join would be quite different than one without the shared bad habits of that group.

Different game masters have different "styles". I've played campaigns where I've swapped the role of game master with another player, each of us getting the chance to play and game master, and the storylines we've run have had our respective fingerprints all over them.

Different campaigns have different "styles". The same group and DM can, and usually do if they play together long enough, "switch it up". Change things to make the experience feel fresh again. This doesn't always make sense or feel fresh to a newcomer. Some campaigns are very different than others, even among printed material.

Have fun

The most important part about roleplaying games is that they are, after all, games - you are supposed to be having fun. If you aren't having fun, something is wrong, and needs to be addressed. The worst thing you could have done, as far as I am concerned, is to quit the campaign and quit roleplaying, leaving the hobby with the idea that it's not for you firmly in your head.

Thank you for not giving up. As a first time player, coming here to ask this question is, in my opinion, going above and beyond. And, perhaps, a sign that the initial experience was good enough that you want to experience more.

There are other groups. If this group and DM aren't playing the game in a way you find fun and rewarding, and they don't want to adapt, check if there are other groups around. Try to play with more than one group, it will give you a better perspective of the challenges and possibilities of different styles of play.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Picking up the players ideas and working them into the plot is a great way to evolve the story! Just need to keep the bigger plan in mind. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 21, 2022 at 11:38
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Talk with your DM

The primary job a DM has while running a game is making sure everyone around the table has fun. It does include themselves but to the same extent it includes every player. Especially if as you say, the other players are feeling frustrated about the same game elements as you do, it's something the DM needs to know about.

You say you have "begun to voice your frustrations", I don't know how exactly you did it, but there are certain things you can do to increase the likelihood of your DM being receptive. Approach it at a time when you are both calm and not busy (i.e. NOT in the middle of a session just after the DM has done something that annoyed you again) and present it as a problem for the both of you to solve, don't vent, accuse them or make ultimatums and threaten to leave the game. Ultimately you are not having fun with the game and this is the problem that you and your DM need to solve. Be open to some compromise and a solution other than "those side quests need to go", perhaps the DM can make them less frequent or tie them to the main plot in some way for example, or agree to give out XP (or some other rewards) for them so that you don't feel like they're pointless.

Alternatively, if the entire/majority of the group feels the same way, you can approach the DM together about this issue, this might make them take it more seriously as they realise it's not just one player that's dissatisfied but it can also make people feel like they're being ganged up on and that immediately puts them on the defensive so if you do it this way you will have to be extra careful about making this a cooperative discussion about a shared problem that you all have.

There's a good chance your DM will be receptive and willing to modify the game, DMs want their players to enjoy their game after all but if they are not and refuse to change anything then you have to decide if this game is worth staying in as it is or not. If I was in your place I would leave, you have stated that you do not enjoy the game anymore and no D&D is better than bad D&D. If the other players are also willing to leave over this, you could possibly start another game with one of you DMing or look for another DM/table.

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The DM's expectations and the players' expectations might be different

TTRPGs are unique in the way that each person has their own take on them, depending on their experience and culture. The most common example is the balance between the RP aspect and the game aspect of them, but even that is only one fraction of what makes up a TTRPG in someone's mind.

With that in mind, it makes sense that not everyone will expect the same kind of things out of a given game. That's why there are tools out there like the Same Page Tool, or methods like the Session 0, which attempt to bring together those expectations and make sure everyone gets the fun they're looking for out of a game.

Here, it seems to me that the DM and the players have different expectations from the game. The DM might be running the game in a way they're used to and enjoy, while the players are looking for something different.

The best thing to do is to take the time to understand what's the source of the frustrations. Maybe the players are looking for a more action-packed, combat-filled experience? Or maybe they are looking for a more open-world kind of game, where they aren't guided from one quest to another. It's up to your group as a whole to discuss that, and then decide what you want to do with everyone's expectations.

Maybe there's a way the DM can change how the game plays out so that everyone can have a good time. Maybe those expectations are too far apart, and it'd be better to change the group altogether (as often said before, no DnD is better than bad DnD). But that's only something you can figure out by having a chat with your DM and your group.

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Whether you leave or not depends primarily on whether you are having fun and whether there is something else of value for you in attending.

Whether you should leave or not is impossible to answer. It depends entirely on internal, subjective factors that are knowable in detail only by you. With that said, there are a couple of questions you can ask yourself to help decide.

The first and biggest one is: Are you having fun? In general, bad roleplaying is worse than no roleplaying. If you are not having fun, you should seriously consider leaving.

You already said in your question itself that you are not having fun. So, that strongly suggests that you are right to think about leaving. But remember that the question can be a little more nuanced than that.

Obviously, you are not having exactly the kind of fun you had hoped and expected. But things are rarely perfect. Even if its not exactly what you want, you may find that there are still parts of it that you enjoy that are worth trudging through parts of it that you don't enjoy. Even the most enjoyable activities often have some parts you just have to get through. Disneyland is filled with lines for instance.

And even if you are not having the kind of fun you want now, is it likely that is something that will be fixed with a little time? (This of course is discussed more below).

The second big question: Is there something other than fun the makes it worth staying?

The answer to this is usually no. In general, people come to RPGs for fun. As discussed above, it doesn't have to be fun all the time. Every hobby has tedious parts. Also there are different kinds of fun. But for most people under most circumstances, if an RPG isn't fun, then its not worth spending time on.

But occasionally, for some people, there just might be other factors involved. Are you playing mostly to support or spend time with a close friend or significant other? In that case, it might be worth being there for them and supporting them. I do not like dog shows. I have been to a lot of dog shows because my wife is a handler. Perhaps playing an RPG is like that for you.

Or perhaps everyone in the RPG is your friend and this may be the main way you see your friend group. You might also be worried about being left out of other things if you aren't at the RPG get togethers. (This needn't be deliberate. If your friends normally plan their next outing at the end of the last outing and most but not all of them are RPGs, you may just not find out about some of the planned events if you start missing all of the RPG ones). If this is the case, you need to weigh the value of the social situation against your time even if you aren't having fun in a traditional sense during the games.

For most people, most of the time, no roleplaying is better than bad roleplaying so you should leave if it is not fun. But there are rare exceptions.

Consider, politely, talking to the entire group about aligning expectations.

It does sound like you and your GM are not on the same page. Presumably most of the other players are fine with the style, but perhaps they are also not on the same page as the GM but have been staying silent for various reasons.

Either way, consider trying to talk to the entire group about your concerns and how you would like things to change.

If you want this to be productive, I recommend being not just non-confrontational, but open to other viewpoints yourself. Based on your description, there is nothing your GM is doing that is actually wrong, just not to your taste. And I would probably phrase it that way, if not even more positively. Consider starting when there is time to talk as a group by saying something like "You are doing a great job as the GM and I appreciate the work you have put in. But there are a few things you have been doing that are not to my taste."

Try to get everyone on the same page about the things that are bothering you and how you think they could be improved. In particular, you may want to very politely talk about the pacing.

Consider volunteering to be the GM for a while

I don't know whether you have spent significant time as a GM or not. while tables vary, at most tables the GM puts in a lot more work than the players. Every hobby has some tedium involved, but in RPGS in most groups the GM is taking on much more of that tedium than the average player.

It could be that part of the problem is a mild case of GM-burnout. Offering to take over for a while could cure it.

Or you may find that you are the type of person that actually prefers being the GM. Or perhaps spending a little more time as the GM will change your perspective. You may appreciate your current GM a little more or you may be better positioned to give your current GM truly constructive and useful feedback after taking over that position for a while.

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