I have been DMing a custom campaign, and the players are starting to complain that I am being to "god like" and throwing "to powerful encounters" at them. The group is level 2's and 3's, and I have refused to (as I see it) scale the world because of what level they are. If they go to a place called "The Dragon's Teeth Mountains" they will encounter dragons. Where I am having problems is they seem to only be interested in attacking anything that moves instead of talking things out or stopping to see if there might be a better way than just "ax to the face."

I want to keep the fact that the majority of my encounters have multiple ways of resolving them, some of them can be violent, but not all of them have to be. The fact that they seem to think that straight forward attacking is the best way to go is going to get them killed. I don't want to direct their playing, or how they think. I don't want to out of game say "hey, why don't you see if the dragon is peaceful?" or "maybe the elf in the middle of the room has something over its head that could fall onto it with a well placed arrow."

I don't mind the mindless slaughter of NPC's, after all the game is meant to help vent and live with every day life. I just don't want them to just attack straight on, some creativity in their efforts would be welcomed. And I have talked to them about it and they simply don't seem to think that the fact that I flat said "The Warlord of the Orcs sits on his thrown, a giant orc stands as guard, a chandelier hung over its head by a badly frayed rope."

How can I get them to start thinking the best plan of attack, even if the best plan of attack is a straight up slash and murder, instead of just charging head first into the room, wands rose?

Note: I am the most experienced player on the table. The next most experience player has only 7 months of D&D under their belt.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Please take a look at this question and its answers, and then edit your question to make it more clear how the answers you're looking for are different from what that one is seeking. (And is there any particular reason you're not considering out-of-character conversations to find common ground in gameplay expectations to be an option? Candid communication between participants is probably the most common and effective method for resolving this kind of thing.) \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Jun 9, 2014 at 21:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Other related questions (read 'em and modify your question to focus on what they don't help you with): How can I make my PCs flee?; How can DMs effectively telegraph specific dangers in D&D? \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Jun 9, 2014 at 21:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ The question doesn't match exactly, but the answers are applicable: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/22140/… \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 9, 2014 at 22:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think you're mixing two different concerns here. As for players metagaming less, this is probably the more on point previous question: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/7500/… \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jun 9, 2014 at 23:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ You should check out the Same Page Tool; it sounds like your players are expecting something different than what you're giving them. \$\endgroup\$
    – durron597
    Commented Jun 11, 2014 at 20:16

4 Answers 4


Younger players frequently tend either toward following the lead of other players at the table, towards combat, or both. If they have all spent less than 7 months playing, then they still have little experience in playing as a whole.

That said, you should always ensure that the players have a fair idea of what to expect from your games if you aren't going to adapt your games to your players. This doesn't apply to storyline, of course, but where the basic mechanics differ from normal play, and what style of game you like to run, should be stated openly. If you prefer outside-the-box solutions to problems, point out that you do. They may take the lead themselves.

Also, and this is important, don't pigeonhole your players either. Don't give them a single solution to a problem that will out and out destroy them without it... If the only way to actually deal with that Orc Warlord is to use the frayed rope to crash the chandelier down on his head, then you are trying to force them to play the way you want, and that cannot be expected to work. They are playing a table-top role-playing game, not a computer based one.

Any time they try to create a valid and creative solution to a problem, reward the player that came up with it. Ensure they know that is why you rewarded them, even if not verbally.

Another idea I tend to use is giving two XP rewards at the end of a session: one for role-playing and one for creativity. The players pick someone for one, and I pick the other. It is never the same person for both rewards, but it encourages them to adopt the character and the role, and that is the first step towards helping to mold young players.

Lastly, let one of them run a game while you play a character in it. Show them, by example, other ways to role-play aside from slashing at things.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ You don't even need someone else to run a game to lead by example (it might even backfire if he runs an exclusively hack&slash game) - you can add an NPC to the group to show different ways of handeling events - or hint at certain options (have him say "maybe that dragon is peacfull?" In-play instead of you needing to say it off-play...) \$\endgroup\$
    – G0BLiN
    Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 14:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ While I agree to a certain degree, and have done so myself in the past, it is complicated to do this and not have the other players begin to think that your NPC is more important than their PC's are when it comes to the type of content he is trying to achieve. You have to allow the NPC to hint at things without divulging anything or doing the legwork most of the time, and it could push younger players away if not carefully implemented. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aviose
    Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 17:23

Talk to them

So, at the risk of being obvious, consider talking to them directly about the type of game you want to play and also ask what type of game they want to play.

You don't have to tell them how you feel they should play, and probably shouldn't. But you absolutely can and should say things like, "I like to present challenges with multiple solutions, and some solutions may not involve combat. Do you guys like that type of game?" Or "I like to have combat scenes that are best won with preparation by finding out the weaknesses of the enemy and getting weapons and spells tailored to that. Do you like that?"

In game signalling

I understand the desire to not scale your world to your players. In some games I have scaled deliberately and in others I haven't, depending on my group and the type of game.

But especially when not scaling, you can signal, sometimes really blatantly (or subtly, depending on your group and how experienced they are). The map might say right on the "Dragon's Teeth Mountains" "There be many red dragons here." But it might also have a major commerce road with a warning of "some goblin attacks" which is quite appropriate for levels 1 and 2.

You can also have people looking to hire the adventurers, that signal really blatantly the level of threat to be faced. You might leave it to the party to know whether they should take the contract to escort some merchants through Orc country or the contract to rid a region of a vampire lord. They get the choice, but they also get clear signalling that one contract can be approached in a level appropriate "stick pointy things in enemy" type of way and the other contract will require a lot of finesse to face the vampire on the most favorable terms possible or should be deferred to later levels.

NPC Hinting

You can also have NPCs give hints. If done appropriately, these would be the types of things the NPC would say naturally.

For instance, the governor may be putting a bounty on a tribe of orcs that has come back to the territory. But he might have know the group of adventurers that drove those orcs off in his younger days. Those adventurers might well be retired, but available for discussion. If your players bother those adventurers might be able to tell them that tribe's normal tactics. If questioned further they might well point out that the tribe was well settled and would only move with good reason. If they investigate and find out about that reason they might be able to get the Orcs to move away without any fighting. If they want to fight they now know more about the tactics to expect.

You could have NPCs mention how they had success by doing things like shooting a chandelier so it falls on a mighty opponent's head, or destroying a support beam to bring down a whole roof. If you aren't careful this could be a bit forced, but you can work it in naturally if you do it right and even if you don't it can help get them started on that sort of thing after which you can phase it out.


This one can definitely be forced but it can also be really helpfully for new players. In the military there is a tradition of doing an "After Action Review". You review what was done to look for things that went really well and things that could have been done better. This is done for both live action and for training events. When it is done for training the trainers and those playing the enemy often participate in the review to help everyone learn to do things better.

If the players are willing, you can apply this to role playing and especially to strategic roleplaying. If you want to maintain "GM secrecy" you can just let the players do it with you staying silent or saying nothing. They will still come up with new ideas and ways to improve for next time. If you are willing to (partially) put that aside you can flat out say at that point "You know, you could have made the chandelier fall on his head. You certainly didn't have to, but the option was there..."

  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you roll your edits into the answer's flow? "We have a great revision history. Signalling edits is for sites that don't have a revision history." \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Jun 9, 2014 at 21:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Thanks, that reads better now. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 9, 2014 at 23:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Talk to them" is vitally important. Be blunt, "I think playing this particular way can be fun, are you up for trying it?" Also important is the follow up: if they genuinely aren't intereste din the style of game you want to offer, your game cannot survive in its current form. You'll need to adjust to what they want or you'll need to resign as GM for this group. Not every set of players and GM is compatible, and that's okay. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 2:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am not sure "GM secrecy" is too important here. Everybody knows that there are Dragons at Dragon Mountain... that is why they gave it that name. Saying that you know that if you go to Dragon Mountain there will be dragons and you will die doesn't seem like OOC knowledge. \$\endgroup\$
    – gmatht
    Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 10:50

There seems to be already a sense of metagaming with a dose of "powergaming". Your players complain about encounters being too hard—then they should run.

You need to have a meeting beforehand and tell them that the path of an adventurer is fraught with peril: most new adventurers die early in their career. If they are that low level, perhaps they should meet with stiff resistance just a little outside of town... maybe the majority of their adventures should be within the confines of town...

Explain to them, even if it is metagaming, that if they continue on a certain path, odds are they will meet a grisly end. Maybe have them make DC 10 WIS checks before they enter somewhere potentially deadly or outside their level. They clearly aren't playing their characters "in-game" so don't stress too much about having a metagame conversation to explain the nature of your world.

If all else fails, have a character meet a particularly grisly end to emphasize your point. I know I wouldn't want to run just a hack and slash campaign as a DM.


This ends up becoming the most common answer I have to a lot of problems: the game you want to play, and the game they want to play, is very different.

So, yes, sit down and talk to them, but understand that if they really don't want to play the kind of game you're running, there's no changing their minds. It's like you can't make anyone like your favorite color - either they like it or they don't.

"So, now we've run a few sessions, and I can see we're coming at this game very differently. I'm running a game where you can choose where you want to go, and how you want to deal with anything you encounter.

The world is it's own place, and the encounters are not going to change to match your party balance! This means if you take time and try to get clues ahead of time, you can avoid things that are too tough, or maybe even with some good preparation take them down and get lots of XP. But ALSO, you can choose to not fight them - negotiation, running away, trickery, these things can be helpful too.

It seems like the kind of games you're used to playing are more like videogames - all the areas are balanced to your level and the only way to deal with things is to fight your way through. That's a different kind of game.

So what what I need to know is if you're interested in the kind of game I'm running or not?"

And if they're not, you can either try to run the kind of game they want, or you can find another group. It's important to realize that this isn't "throwing people away" or "being mean" or anything like that - it's that literally you have different goals, and trying to make mutually incompatible things go together never succeeds - better for them to find someone running what they want, and for you to try to find people who want what you run, so everyone's happy.


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