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We are a group of five who rotates DMing with each quest. We have one DM who only does what he wants when he's DM, with no regard for other players, other DMs, or the rules, which forces the next DM in the rotation to scramble to salvage what is left from his quest. This one DM's quests consistently leave the PCs a mess in terms of advancement, items, and forced changes. We're trying to figure out what to do about this situation.

That's the short version.

The long version

Ok, so, a little backstory, and sorry for the length of the rant, it's kind of an urgent problem.

Me and 4 of my friends have recently started playing DND 4e, and it's been very fun. Only one of us, let's call him Tom, has actually played before, but it was the 3.5 system, and even though we picked him to be our DM, he was very bad, so we all decided to be DMs, each making a quest of their own, and then we would rotate, and it worked well at first.

Problem is, there's this one guy, let's call him Tim, who, while being a relatively ok DM, and while having a semi-interesting story, also gave horribly OP items (there was one where you take HP off of yourself, and then blast it around in a 5 square, and one that grants you resistance to all damage) and OP monsters (we're lvl2, the monster had 150HP, 1d10+5 dmg, but somehow AC 13? and there were only two of us against it), which are not balanced with anything, not with our level, nor are their stats balanced between themselves.

Tim spends a lot of time playing video games, and believes that DnD is just like one, that you can quickly lvl up just by killing enough goons and using enough coins, and then buying things that are useful. He thinks items are useless if they don't deal 10 dmg, which goes against all rules, and refuses to actually read Adventurer's vault or Mordenkainen’s to see whether there is an item with the same powers. When his quest was finished, he refused to take the items off, and half of them were either "soulbind" or were actually a skill that some ancient order taught us. The problem is obviously that now John and I have to completely re-devise our quests to accommodate his OP solutions.

As for monsters, he of course wants us to fight a god or an epic hero every week, because it is, of course, not fun at all if the monster is normal, even though he knows I almost killed the whole group using just 5 wolves. He then justifies his OP items by saying that it is our reward for killing the OP monster of the week, without realizing that the OP monster itself is the problem! When my friend and I, let's call us Jack and John, told him there are no solo monsters on lvl 2, and that we just jumped a level (in two sessions), and would jump another even if John does absolutely nothing in his campaign, he just told us that then we should lower the xp amount we get from the solos.

He thinks the story isn't interesting if there's no dying, and no gods, and is constantly devising new ways to be "stronger than anyone else". We don't know whether he's to lazy, or just not capable of actually devising a story that makes sense, without resorting to crude methods of raising the tension such as character death, and does not see a problem in that. His newest quest, he hints, will involve traps that might kill us immediately, and while that is totally ok, his quest seems to consist only of said traps and, of course, op monsters. He also always comes up with ways to block our abilities, or take them away because it suits him (for example he makes a monster that is completely magic proof, rendering our wizard useless, or just limiting our choices in a way that's not game-compliant), but of course throws a hissy fit if John or I try to remove an out-of-this-world item.

He even made a God of evil, stronger, of course, than any other God in existence, and then had him like us (?!) and give us gifts, which turned us neutral evil, even though we tried to explain to him that we don't want to be evil, that it doesn't matter that we're neutral, and that there's no way for an item that's not legendary to affect us that way.

Tim also seems to hate the rules (everyone hates the rules, but they're there for a reason), and has started inventing his own. For example he invented a "dodge" system, which no one understands, not even him, and which would only be used by him, and only some times, and sometimes not. His system is so arbitrary that not even he knows what he's doing, and where he has used it and where not, leading to constant arguing.

Tim justifies his new "better" rules by saying he's "bending" them. Well, John and I, being the nerds we are, pulled out our ye old Player's handbook, and DM guide, and read them cover to cover, and nowhere did it state that creating a whole new game constitutes bending. It has come to the point of us allowing him some small changes, so we can limit him on the big ones, but the small changes are somehow more annoying, as is his constant whining about something not being logical or realistic (because we're not playing a game where a character gets run through by a sword, and gets 5HP dmg)

We, of course, tried talking to him, and explaining that he has to think things through, that he can't just undo his mistakes by doing something even more questionable (he now has 2 persons in one body, a dragonborn paladin, and a genasi something, which he is able to change every day or so), and that we are not comfortable playing something so unconnected with DnD. He completely ignored us, or worse, didn't get the point at all, playing stupid, and making us debate him on some small things until we come to the point where we contradict our first intent, because what he has planed is much worse. Tom, also, seems to want to follow in his footsteps.

Our question is this: How do you deal with such a DM, as a player and a fellow DM? Is there a way to keep him down, because if we throw him out, then Tom and Angelo also go with him, and while we will do it, it's kind of our last option. Can you give us some arguments to support our wanting a single DM (to which Tim will most certainly not agree)?

We have googled it using every phrasing we can think of (and John is a literal Google Guru), but most of the solutions given seem to be: "Talk to him, make sure he understands, he will be reasonable". Problem is, he isn't reasonable, and with us being 2:2 (Angelo doesn't count since he doesn't care), it's kind of starting to be more trouble than it's worth.


The dilemma about starting a new game with just one DM is featured on reddit so if you have any arguments supporting just one DM, it would be much obliged!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ If you say you throw him out the other 2 will go with him and you also note that Tom is getting his quests be the same way as Tims. So may it be that only you are uncomfortable and maybe John a bit aswell? \$\endgroup\$ – Zaibis Jun 16 '15 at 6:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Small aside: 150HP with 13 AC isn't "stats (not) balanced between themselves." Some creatures have more fortitude, but aren't agile or well-armored. That's not too "wrong." \$\endgroup\$ – WannabeCoder Jun 16 '15 at 15:21
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Stop Co-GMing.

Clearly, there are at least two (and, it sounds like there may be three) competing ideas for what The Campaign should be. Since you've tried (and failed) to convince Tim that his "tweaks" and loot are making it impossible for you to run your sessions in the same campaign, stop sharing the campaign: his style and yours are simply incompatible (note: neither is necessarily "wrong" or "bad", just "different").

Depending on the desires of the rest of the group, there are two major options:

  1. you can bow out gracefully ("I'm sorry, this isn't for me, but have fun!")
  2. your group can rotate campaign worlds (and, perhaps, systems) instead of just GMs
    • on a regular cycle (weekly/monthly/...)
    • between "chapters"
    • between "campaigns"

I'm in a group that's rotated successfully for years, even with slightly different players (one person worked a rotating shift, so was only available "2 on, 2 off"; that helps); I've also had friends gracefully bow out without causing problems re-joining later when a new game/campaign was starting. I've also had friends who had a long-running "God-mode" campaign interspersed with "Krazy Kobold Adventureses", which acted as a palette cleanser between "chapters" (in that particular case, they were explicitly in the same world, but the Kobolds heard about fantastical things that were happening "way over there" and never directly affected them).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1. I think this is a good solution. I recommend giving advice for what happens if Tim starts backseat-DMing Jack or John's campaign, or if Tim tries to do cross-overs between the universes; I see that as something that might happen if expectations aren't made clear from the start. \$\endgroup\$ – aebabis Jun 15 '15 at 20:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Expectation management is clearly something that'll need to be worked on; a "no cross-over with GM approval" rule is probably a good one to lay down right away, though. \$\endgroup\$ – minnmass Jun 15 '15 at 20:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ The leading line ("Stop Co-GMing") is mismatched with the rest of the answer, as it conjures up the nuclear option: the entire co-GM rotation stops completely. Maybe something like "Stop playing with Tim, or give him his own world" would suit better? \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 15 '15 at 23:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener How about "Stop sharing the campaign setting"? \$\endgroup\$ – aebabis Jun 15 '15 at 23:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ This to me seems the only logical answer without disbanding the group entirely, because no matter how much you explain it to this guy he's not going to want to listen and properly integrate with what the rest of the group is doing. \$\endgroup\$ – thanby Jun 16 '15 at 17:18
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I'd like to second and build on the suggestion in this answer that Tim run something else on his turn to run the game . Specifically, option 2:

your group can rotate campaign worlds (and, perhaps, systems) instead of just GMs

It sounds like Tim doesn't actually want to play D&D. Tim's into something higher-powered, and that's fine (albeit bad for your game).

Consider suggesting alternative systems for Tim to run on the weeks he would normally be DMing. Something like Exalted might fit his playstyle a lot better; it is explicitly an over the top RPG wherein the players are larger than life heroes and gods, fighting other heroes and gods.

Tim sounds like he's lax and lazy with regards to reading the rules, but if it's an entirely separate campaign that is at least not going to impact your D&D number-crunching fun.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I removed the apology and commenting references, and tweaked the first line to make this stand on its own a bit more. Riffing off other answers is fine, so long as you make sure the answer can live on its own if the other answer disappears — but you did that just fine. :) Welcome to RPG.se! Check out the tour and maybe the help center if you haven't already, since they're a good introduction to the site. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 15 '15 at 22:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ I second this; I am currently playing with a group which also plays two looong running campaign that I am not part of in parallel. Each campaign has its own game and DM (and thus style/objectives) and the group rotates between the campaigns. It works really well, and allows each DM to "leave its mark" without muffling others. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. Jun 16 '15 at 15:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ For Tim I'd recommend a system like Mini Six. It is extremely lightweight (about 2-3 pages of core rules, and 37 pages including everything) and flexible. There are rules on how to run over-the-top scenarios and the rules are flexible enough that Tim can change whatever he wants about it, while still being concise enough that the rules still make sense. \$\endgroup\$ – Dakkaron Jun 16 '15 at 15:18
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You don’t play with that DM

This is really the only solution. No one can force anyone to play a game; by definition, a game is supposed to be fun. Players cannot force the DM to run a game they like, the DM cannot force the players to play a game he-or-she likes. If you are DMing or playing a game you don’t like, you are letting someone do something they’re not supposed to be able to do: force you to play it.

You regain your rights by deciding to stop playing.

Note, this can’t be a threat, this isn’t an attempt to extort what you want out of the other person. That’s just doing the same as they are. It has to be a polite, well-mannered, “look, I’m sorry, but I’m just not enjoying this game; I’m going to sit out.” You can join up again, if you want, when someone else is DMing, or when you want to DM.

Once everyone realizes that no one has to DM or play a game that they don’t want to play, you also very quickly realize that if you want to DM or play at all, you have to compromise. Everyone has to be enjoying the game, or no one will be because there will be no game. A large enough group can split; a particularly stubborn and picky member can be left out, but in the end all of the people DMing or playing in any single game have to all be enjoying it.

For the purposes of compromising, you may find the Same Page Tool useful. It is a good way to calibrate group expectations so everyone is, well, on the same page.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ If by "force the DM to run..." you mean "using a gun to make the DM to run...", that's illegal, but possible. If you mean "cajole and bully and guilt-trip the DM to run..." that's also possible. Ditto for forcing players. I don't get why you think no one can force people to do something. This part-time DM is in fact, right now, forcing at least one person, or we wouldn't have this question. \$\endgroup\$ – Adriano Varoli Piazza Jun 16 '15 at 14:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AdrianoVaroliPiazza By “can” I mean “has the right to.” I don’t really think this construction is unusual or confusing. The only reason anyone can (is capable of) doing this is if the others let him (which they might want to do if he’s a nutcase with a gun, but I didn’t get the impression that was the case here – that sort of thing would only happen to That Lanky Bugger). \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 16 '15 at 14:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you suggesting that they stop letting him be DM, or that they stop playing with him altogether? \$\endgroup\$ – DCShannon Jul 9 '15 at 3:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DCShannon Not to play in the games he DMs. You can’t exactly forbid him from DMing, if he wants to go and find someone who will play with him as DM. But you can choose not to play. Whether he’s allowed to play in games others DM is up to them, and a separate question. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 9 '15 at 3:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well obviously you can't stop him from DMing other groups. So, you're saying to stop letting him DM the game that they are playing in, but let him continue to play in that game when they are DMing? I'm just clarifying because your first bold statement sounds like you would kick him out of the group altogether, both as player and as DM, which seems excessive. \$\endgroup\$ – DCShannon Jul 9 '15 at 3:48
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Vote to remove him from his position as DM.

If he's unwilling to read the rules, creates system that are only advantageous to himself, and creates items that only end up causing problems for people who have to DM after him, creating excuses in the long run, your best bet is to vote as a group to remove him from the position of DM for the forseeable future or to politely excuse yourself from the game.

Explain the reasons why you feel a vote is necessary to the four other players in the game in private and initiate the vote when Tim isn't present at the table, hold a discussion to explain why the action you're voting on is a valid point, and cite examples of things that Tim has done to slow the course of the game to a grind or leave others to clean up his mess. When you feel you've covered up the reason why you feel uncomfortable after Tim DM's his game, allow others to rebut your testimony or offer points that may or may not contradict your own.

Issue everyone a small sheet of paper, ask them to write whether or not they're for or against removing Tim from his DM position and allow him to play, but not to host games.

If the votes come up for his removal

If everyone is for removing him from the game as a DM, you can get rid of all of the items he created while he was in control of the game(or turn the game into a quest to destroy the items granted to them by an evil god), remove any evil deity (or turn the deity itself into a quest to purify the PCs from his deific influence), or find some way to spin Tim's "gifts" into something positive and less obtrusive that follows the ruleset of Dungeons and Dragons that you use. Perhaps the items that you found were powered by that deity and when you cleanse yourself of their influence the items lose their power and crumble into dust.

If the votes come up against his removal

Then the final bridge has been crossed, and the wizards destroyed it in their wake. The ballots came up and enough people enjoyed Tim's Dodge system and overpowered items that they're fine with him continuing on as their DM.

The best option here is to follow the golden rule of roleplay, no roleplay is better than bad roleplay. If you're in a game and you aren't enjoying yourself and you're forcing yourself to be at a table with these four other people and making yourself miserable in the process, it's probably best that you politely resign from the game from there on. Just explain your reasoning and why you're leaving and then you can seek out another group that is more fun for you in the long run.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 fore the advice about what to do after coming to a group consensus about Tim's DMing. I'm not sure about taking a vote. \$\endgroup\$ – DCShannon Aug 24 '15 at 4:01
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At the end of the day, D&D only works when the DM and all the players are working together to have fun. Note that this doesn't mean you have to agree on everything, but you need to at least agree on the rules. If you fundamentally can't work together, then the only solution is to stop playing.

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As others have suggested, you and your group should take a serious look at what you want out of a session, and what you and your group think is fun, and ensure that the DM(s) that you play with understand those things.

If that means that you don't play with Tim anymore, or that Tim is "fired" from his role of co-DM, that may be what needs to happen.

However, there may be reasons why you want to help Tim become a better DM, rather than just firing him from that job.

To improve Tim as a DM you need to teach him what you like, and why. And you'll likely need to do so with care, and forethought. After all, if you're keeping him on as a DM, you need to accommodate for his version of fun, just as he needs to accommodate for yours.

Some advice I gave in another question - How to handle a 'power-GM'? - should prove valuable.

By giving him positive feedback when he DMs in a manner consistent with your groups definition of fun, and giving him constructive advice on how to move closer to what you all want when he goes rogue, you will give him the tools to improve, and to DM the kind of game that you want to play.

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It Sounds Like Either Tim is a Munchkin or Tim Wants an Epic Fantasy Game

These require two very different solutions.

Tim the Munchkin

The most recent exotic PC race choice is a red flag for this. Is Tim is using his turn at DMing to put powerful items in the game to use himself? You've got a Munchkin. The only thing I can recommend is to ask him to step down/fire him from him from his role as co-DM.

Tim the Epic Fantasy Enthusiast

If Tim eats up stories about Perseus beheading Medusa and using her severed head to turn his enemies to stone or Prometheus stealing fire from the gods, you've got an Epic Fantasy enthusiast. If feasible, give Tim his own campaign to run in parallel with yours when it's his turn, or ask him to wait until after the current campaign is done, then run a new Epic Fantasy campaign. It sounds like he's dissatisfied with the 4E rule set, so if there's budget for it, he might find a rule set that accommodates this play style better. His idea of what makes for a fun campaign is very different than what you like to run, but it's not necessarily bad, and it sounds like the main conflict is one of power levels making it difficult for you and the other GMs to keep up.

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There's you and your friend, while Tim has Tom and Angelo, if more than half the party is enjoying themselves, then change the ingame world itself, rather than going meta and talking to Tim directly. Throw away artifacts, be the anti hero who disagrees with the gross misuse of power to destroy things rather than help the poor and weak. Your character has to be the change you want to see in the game. That way, you don't have to be overpowered, while the other guys are still happy. Don't stick around combat when he's DM, and claim your right as a player to choose when your character does or doesn't help. If Tom and Angelo don't sympathize with you invoking your rights, then they fail to see the point of a tabletop role playing game, and you aren't really playing a game any more.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ If you refuse to participate in-game, then you're already not playing. This seems kind of passive-aggressive. \$\endgroup\$ – DCShannon Jul 9 '15 at 3:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure what you mean, if you mean the part where you don't stick around in combat, I mean playing the game and roleplaying in a disagreeing situation. It's not wrong to say no to an encounter. \$\endgroup\$ – Teco Aug 23 '15 at 11:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Passive Aggressive behavior: "the indirect expression of hostility, such as through procrastination, stubbornness, sullenness, or deliberate or repeated failure to accomplish requested tasks for which one is (often explicitly) responsible". You have an out-of-game problem, so rather than address it directly, you're suggesting being stubborn and deliberately refusing to do something you've agreed to do: play the game everybody else is playing. \$\endgroup\$ – DCShannon Aug 24 '15 at 3:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ But it is playing the game to not agree with everything, the purpose of the game is to roleplay out of a problem that a player feels he has with his character, not to roll dice and go into combat simply because the DM said there's a battle going on. \$\endgroup\$ – Teco Aug 24 '15 at 5:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't want to get into a philosophical discussion in comments. If you understand the criticism but don't think it's valid, then don't edit the answer. \$\endgroup\$ – DCShannon Aug 24 '15 at 21:21

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