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My roommate is currently running a Final Fantasy X campaign, and my fiancée and I are both in it, along with his wife and two other friends. So far, this DM has:

  • Railroaded both my and my fiancée's characters into his plot by burning down my character's house and garden and sticking my fiancée with an annoying NPC that just pesters him into the plot.
  • Shown obvious favoritism to his wife, focusing only on her character's plot and development, not allowing anything truly detrimental happen to her, and only having her attacks actually do any lasting damage.
  • Ignored any and all Stat numbers that we have written. One character with the highest defense was almost knocked unconscious by a single punch.
  • His NPC's tend to take over every situation and get more attention than the player characters. We once listened to a five minute conversation between two NPCS that had no relevance to the plot whatsoever, and whenever one is in the party, they outshine the PCS in every way.

My fiancée, a DM with over six years of experience, has talked to him about what he could improve on as a DM (and he asked for my fiancée's feedback), but he seems to have not listened to it whatsoever.

So my question is: with him being my roommate we want to keep all of this as civil as possible. But with each session of putting up with this bull it is getting harder and harder. How should we handle this situation?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are there any redeeming features to this game, or is it a constant stream of annoyances similar to the ones you list? If the latter, it seems unlikely that it is fixable with a single piece of advice, unless you are simply asking for the best way of exiting the game whilst remaining friends with your room-mate. And, being your room-mate, you know him and his likely reactions to your behaviour better than anyone here. To narrow down the question, can you change it from "How should we handle this situation?" and write the outcome you would like? \$\endgroup\$ – Neil Slater Apr 20 '16 at 19:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ I tried to draw a map of the relationship between all of the people described and discovered that as described, our querent is the roommate of someone who is married, and is engaged to someone else, and is resentful of the spouse being shown an imbalanced amount of GM attention. As a group dynamics question, there appear to be things going on here that have nothing to do with games. Just curious: how old is everyone here? The general red flag is the GM/NPC spotlight hogging. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 20 '16 at 19:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hey all, let's try to make these answer actually good and tuned to this specific situation. See meta.rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/5649/… for more. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Apr 23 '16 at 17:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, it's probably worth taking a look at Good Subjective, Bad Subjective. As this question inherently asks about a situation without rules, answers should be supported by experience and should not just be "here's what I'd do." \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Apr 28 '16 at 1:06

11 Answers 11

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It sounds like you already know the answer to your question. :)

Leave the game. Life's too short.

The only reason you need should be "we're not having fun in this game". If you really don't feel comfortable saying that, I've seen players quit games with excuses like "it's summer and we want to be outside more" or "we have a scheduling conflict".

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    \$\begingroup\$ This. Nothing can fix a bad DM except the DM \$\endgroup\$ – Nemenia Apr 20 '16 at 21:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ The "scheduling conflict" may be a hard sell since the DM is the OP's roommate unless an actual activity can be found, but something not as obvious may work. \$\endgroup\$ – jpmc26 Apr 22 '16 at 2:26
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The DM is running the game like a computer RPG

I don't know what system you're using, but you say your setting is Final Fantasy X. Final Fantasy X is a videogame, and while it's an RPG videogame, it does have many of the elements that come back in your remarks:

  1. Railroading: FFX has a central narrative that the game wants you to follow. There are sidequests, but at once point, they run out and you have to do the main questline. Especially early on, you need to have a Macguffin to start the plot.
  2. Favoritism: FFX does not really involve a party as is traditional in pen & paper RPGs, but instead has a central character who has the majority of the plot development. They do get extra party members, but compared to the protagonist, they're not as important, to put it bluntly.
  3. Gameplay-story segregation: As a videogame, FFX handles story different than gameplay. Characters who are completely broken in the gameplay segments through appropriate min-maxing might be killed trivially in a non-interactive segment (see also: Aerith), or they might have to put in tremendous effort into a trivial action.
  4. empowering NPCs instead of players: Similar to above, sometimes you need an exposition dump. Final Fantasy in particular is notorious for prolonged cutscenes and boss battles that sometimes can last an hour or more.

The elements above are all core parts of Final Fantasy X the computer RPG because of inherent limitations of a finite state system, but actually don't make much sense in a tabletop RPG because you have other limitations. The main difference is that a computer RPG has the main focus of wanting to tell a story, with the main narrative mostly tied down. The main focus of a tabletop RPG is empowering the players and having your own impact on the story, which can go an entirely different way than the GM originally planned.

Solution: either change system, or change GM style

The main issue here is a system incompatibility. Your GM is handling the game in a more story-focused way, and not every system is compatible with that. There are specific systems that are more focused on telling a specific story and less about player empowerment. Alternatively, the GM can just have a FFX setting, but change his DM style to focus more on empowerment of players and less on telling the story he wants to tell. Either way, you have to change one of them. The current situation will likely result in problems with both the game and your friendship.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Good spot that it sounds like it was being run like a computer RPG. \$\endgroup\$ – Len Apr 22 '16 at 13:27
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I've mostly the same recommendation as Dan B's answer; however, here are some ideas that might help you out, perhaps try these first (or consider them). If nothing works, your last option is always just say you want to leave the campaign because of other commitments.

  1. Ask him to be accountable for his characters, story, NPC's, etc. It's up to the DM to create such instances, but I assume he should be making these based on the books. That being said - ask him to start being accountable with it. E.g. if he creates a NPC to help you that is massively stronger then your party, get him to explain why this character is so strong (if it was a commoner, guard, or other he should be referencing the pre-made ones in the Monster Manual).
  2. If it's available - make some character/placement changes. Talk to his wife about her role in the group - ask if she is 'ok' with changing up the dynamics of how the players work. Perhaps ask her to take on a support role for one of your characters instead of a main role.
  3. Another option is to ask him to change his DM style, to see if it works better. Having issues with overpowered NPC's in your party? Ask him to use pre-made ones from the Monster Manual. Not enough RPing for your characters? Inject yourself into the conversations. Does he have a favorite in the party who seems to win at everything? Ask to have "open" rolls for everything.
  4. Finally, if you feel there is still a massive favoritism, poor planning, and other bad practices by the DM, simply tell him that you cannot continue in the campaign. There is a number of good excuses that will not upset him I am sure.
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    \$\begingroup\$ You don't need an excuse. All you have to say is "not having fun. I play RPG's for fun." And it's honest. (otherwise a very good answer). \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 28 '16 at 1:05
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Offer to run something yourself to give the GM a break. Then do all the things he doesn't. Run something open-ended, like a sandbox. Show him player determination, rather than GM determination. Model good GMing.

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Try going off camera. When the DM is focusing on his wife's PC, then just start making up your own story.
One of my favourite campaigns was Vampire which had a player who needed a lot of DM attention for political plots. The two of us not getting the focus as Brujah just went off and did our own thing in character: playing in the arcades; selling cigarettes to kids; providing friendly advice to the local slayer; setting up a blood drug dealing business (okay that might not have ended well).

Also, if the DM doesn't give you enough motivation, then just make up your own. If you've been railroaded into something you have even more of a chance later down the trail to go your own way. If I'd waited for the DM to give me motivation I wouldn't be shareholder in the galaxies newest and most daring import/export specialists.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The import/export specialists are in Star Wars not Vampire, cause that would have been weird. \$\endgroup\$ – Len Jan 25 at 10:52
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I'll play the devil's advocate. Charges are:

  1. "Railroading into plot", by burning house/garden (arson!) and sending a masked ass... pestering, annoyance of an NPC.
  2. Protecting DM's wife.
  3. Making wife's PC a central one (plot and character's development, no disadvantages, her attacks do lasting damage)
  4. Knocking out highest DEF char with a single punch.
  5. Ignoring the stats.
  6. Outshine PC by NPC. In cold blood.
  7. Being a roommate...?

Railroading: quite appropriate if party agreed on "we want to be thrown into plot fast and not bother with team building but we don't have a team concept so do it for us DM".

Protecting significant other and making her central: if she's new to RPG and was hesitant, it might have been her condition for playing. Or him being nice to her. Or both. Or "no sex if I look bad" was used. Motivation here can be key if you wish to change the situation. Or even react appropriately (roommate etc.).

Or perhaps whole campaign was devised with one character at the center. Then said character dying can screw things royally.

Knocking highest DEF char with a single punch: if a seemingly innocent NPC who's actually rather sinister came along, taking on best equipped fighter is a given, serves as a good warning to rest of the team. Yes, it can be done better, but when improvising people don't always go for best. Oh no, they turned left! Quickly!

Ignoring the stats: easy to counter. There's this DM with 6 year's experience, can't he say "I'm sorry, but how did that happen, if my character has a sneak attack?"

Outshine PC by NPC. In cold blood: serious joy-killer. Record all examples and then approach the DM and say: here, here, here and here and here, and also there. In all those situations my PC was completely useless. I get it that she doesn't have but I dislike it. I mean: I want less of those situations and more of those... whom I couldn't record because not a single one happened: when my PC stole the limelight and was awesome because . Something like did with that attack. Or the other thing. Or that yet another thing.

Being a roommate...: sorry, but I'll ask bluntly (I don't know how to do it better). Is there some other tension over unwashed dishes or bad hygiene or WHATEVER between you? You don't need to answer me / us / here. Just answer this yourself, if you want to approach this in civilised manner. If you are repressing yourself over something else AND his DMing, both will come out when you unbottle just one - all it takes is a moment of anger.

And some serious questions:

  • is your wording by chance or are you trying to convey deeper meaning? Is wife, fiancee, roommate relevant here or could it equally well be "DM, player A, player B, DM's girl"? In other words: pairs competing for instance? Again, I don't need to know the answer - you do.

  • Your fiancée was solicited for feedback - ain't this a good sign? When was it? How long ago? Implementing feedback overnight ain't easy, are you guys helping the DM with it?

  • have you talked this over with ANYBODY in the team? Those "two other friends", who are not part of any pairing here, are they with you on this? Or perhaps they said "it's between you guys, we don't have troubles with his DMing"?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do we actually need a devil's advocate? Are you explaining your own position on matters, or are you posing plausible justifications and arguments that you don't necessarily agree with or find reasonable for the sake of argument (which is what playing the devil's advocate tends to mean)? You may want to make it clear which one this is. What's your suggestion for action on actually responding to the situation, which is being requested? Last of all, I request you ask those clarifying questions in comments on the question itself, it's appropriate there. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 21 '16 at 14:17
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Honestly, this is going to be a very controversial subject as everyone will have different opinions and idea on how to handle such a situation. Which is obvious by how many have already given their answers.

But in short this is how I would like to handle the situation. Let him know that you are having some trouble with the way he has been running the game. Let him know it's nothing against him it's just that you aren't having fun because you are being treated like NPC's rather than players. Let him know that you want to play as long as he is willing to do his part to keep you interested. After informing him next time you play let him know if he starts doing it again (Don't call him on it every time, sometimes you'll just need to grit your teeth that way he won't feel attacked.) When he does good and treats you like players at the end of the session let him know that you enjoyed it, and what parts you liked.

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If you're happy to continue playing with this group, then at the end of the next session raise the proposal that you would like to start a new game, and to have a new GM. If there's another time when your group gets to talk (say at the start, or at dinner), then choose that time instead. If you have a plan for a new GM (e.g. who is the GM, what is the game system, what scenario will be used, and what rules apply), flesh that out a bit, and get support from others before the next session. The more gaps you have filled, the easier it will be for your plan to work.

If you are not happy to continue playing with the group, then immediately communicate this to the group that you're not going to continue, stating a specific reason why you made the decision (avoid emotionally based comments), and under what circumstances you would like to continue playing (e.g. with different players). If this is longer than one short paragraph, then cut it down to one paragraph. Don't attend any more sessions. You are voting with your feet. Its not easy to explain reasons for a conflict, as the other parties often don't want to understand. Frame it in terms of a "game preference" rather than a conflict. As long as you remain open to new opportunities, and also, that you communicate as much as you feel comfortable with, then the outcome will be positive. Take a moment to consider the positives of the group, and hang onto those positives as the core for moving forward.

Take decisive action!

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From what I have read, it sounds like this may be the particular style your friend likes to GM. It is possible the GM style he uses is what he is most comfortable with. From a GM perspective it is predictable and easy to manage. He doesn't need to worry about the possibility of an unplanned chance event.

Have you considered offering to GM yourself? It will give you a chance to see how it is like from the other side of the table and maybe even see some of the difficulties your friend is facing? In my experience, GM isn't an easy task, but like anything it gets easier the more often you do it. It is also highly possible your GM would actually like to be a player more than a GM. On the plus side, you might find out you like GMing!

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I once had a Game-Master run a 90 minute conversation between three non-player characters and a player character being run by the GM. The solution was to organize a strike among the other players. If you, your fiancee, and the other two players are all dissatisfied then bring it up as a group and the DM will be forced to reassess his playstyle or to accept that he may no longer have a group.

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Maybe put them in your shoes. Propose alternating weeks between this campaign and one run by your fiancee, and then ask your fiancee to show the same favoritism/railroading with you as the beneficiary and them as the victims, as an object lesson. When they call you on it, point out something similar that they did.

If he thinks that his behavior is normal or is how a DM is "supposed to" act, he might misinterpret any and all feedback as as attempts to browbeat him into "letting you win" unless he sees the other side of it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Alternating games might be a good idea, but I think the rest of the suggestion in this answer is a bit passive/aggressive and could backfire in various ways. I would take the basic idea of alternating games and recommend the fiancee run as good a game as they can instead. As a side issue, there are two other players who don't deserve to be caught up in some kind of bad game one-upmanship. \$\endgroup\$ – Neil Slater Apr 21 '16 at 16:47

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