I think it might be similar to this question but from a player's perspective.

We have a fantastic DM. He does a great job at running through the WotC content. We finished Phandelin and are going through PotA now. The issue is whenever he homebrews an item (which seems to be often), it is OP broken.

Keep in mind that we are all level 5 now, and started at level 1. In the past adventures, our paladin started with a +4 longsword. We tried to explain how powerful/expensive that would be, but it was to no avail. He handed out a ruby that was about 3 feet in diameter at some point. The latest thing was a one-handed, light, versatile non-magical weapon that does 2d6 damage. Not extreme, but similar weapons are 1d6... so it's almost like having a small maul with full damage or an autocritting short sword.

Now, what is the problem? I guess I am worried that these items will eliminate the challenge from the encounters we face. Perhaps we, at level 5, will be able to take down CR 20s and breeze through all the content?

I've attempted to talk to the DM already, making it clear that he does a great job at everything else, but he says things like, "Oh..." or just deny that they are that powerful, and he won't budge. I think he doesn't want to retcon anything.

Is there a point I'm missing? What else can I do?


OP Isn't Always OP

Some DMs don't do balance well, and then you plow through stuff too easily and can't enjoy the game. Others build their players characters up to add more power, but also take that into account in encounters. Matt Mercer, from Critical Role, is one of the later. If you watch the game, you'll see the magic items and such that his players use are crazy powerful, but then he modifies almost every monster to deal more damage and have more life. It isn't uncommon for a player or two to reach 0HP and get knocked out.

When OP is OP

Games are meant to be fun. If the game balance doesn't feel right, like one character is getting all the action, or the monsters are more like wet sheets of paper than threats, then you do have a problem.

DM Gives Items, But Players Don't Have to Use Them

It is the DM's duty to decide what items the party gets. But how the party uses those items is up to the party. So, if the DM doesn't stop trowing in weapons that are game breaking without changes to the encounters, you could always choose to put the OP items in an "emergency kit" that you only touch if things start to seem dangerous enough to the party to warrant them. This would require the players to agree, in character, to this plan -- or it won't work; and you have to have similar ideas about what an emergency is. If the DM takes offense that you're not using them, it might cause another conversation which might show more progress than the last.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Giant fan of Mercer's game. Looking through the WotC content, it looks like these weapons (some magical and other just naturally powerful) are very OP. Do you disagree? In addition, I am pretty sure I wouldn't use these items, but I don't think my fellow party members are like minded. \$\endgroup\$ – Jeff Oct 22 '16 at 16:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ +3 at lvl 1 is OP in comparison to stock WotC material. Unless the monsters are also scaled, or he is building harder encounters. If he is adjusting for the higher damage, you'll likely be fighting stronger monsters earlier or more monsters than the normal encounter. \$\endgroup\$ – J. A. Streich Oct 22 '16 at 20:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ sometimes, the most OP items don't even work for the char that gets them. I once was in a group of 4 magic chars, 2 rogues, 1 social rogue variant and 2 fighter-like chars. I had the social rogue variant, which was pretty much in no case to fight. But, the char got handed the vorpal blade +4 the party looted at level 6, because "then you are never really unarmed and we fear for your health otherwise." - I never used it, but held upon to it till the campaign broke down.. \$\endgroup\$ – Trish Oct 25 '16 at 0:51

There Is No Problem Yet, Don't Make One

  1. It hasn't become a problem yet, as you clearly state, so don't overthink it. Instead of 'telling' the GM what he should be giving you, maybe you should ask him how he sees it playing out? "Hey, are we going to be overpowered for later encounters? We don't want it to be too easy you know!" He'll likely say something along the lines of "heh heh don't worry about that."

  2. Many RPG campaigns in history have been of the "give each PC an artifact" ilk, or each person gets some weird superpower outside the normal bounds of the rules. It doesn't really change challenge level as much as you'd think. Having a three foot ruby is more of a problem than a happy thing in many games. How do you transport it? How do you sell it? A single weapon that does an average of 3.5 points more damage a round - it's nice, but not a problem unless there's 100 of them.

Trust your GM and handle real problems when they really happen, not hypothetical problems you worry about happening. You're doing a disservice to a "fantastic" GM by making yourself unhappy with second-guessing.

In a comment you add that "I know the GM and have for years. We all (the whole group of us) started playing only 2 years ago, and I really don't think I do trust him? I know I'll sound like a rules lawyer (I kinda am) but he doesn't really know the rules of the game at all... I know there is a balance between rules and "I'm in charge, and I make it fun," but I feel like if you decide to get rid of a rule, you should know it first. He doesn't yet."

This confirms my diagnosis. If you've been playing two years and the feared unbalance from him giving out OP items hasn't manifested yet, maybe your GM is right, and your rules lawyerness isn't actually relevant to a fun game? Sounds like the only improvement your GM needs is to read How do you help players not focus on the rules? Your GM has learned more than you, which is that blind rules adherence isn't always the path to a fun game. You think he needs to "learn" that isn't the case, but he's the one running great campaigns. You need to consider that maybe you don't know better than him.


Problems with the Monty Haul campaign

Back when Monty Hall was the host of Let's Make a Deal TV game show, folks used to call what you’re describing a Monty Haul Campaign. (Get it, like “treasure haul”?) Like contestants on the show, characters in the campaign get fabulous treasure just for showing up.

Some DMs try to make their campaigns different by handing out treasure not seen in more typical campaigns. You and your fellow players feel there’s something not right about that. Don’t let anyone tell you that your concerns are not valid.

Breaking the game economy

Scrimping together treasure to afford the next item on the shopping list is part of the game. If the party gets practically limitless cash early on, they can just buy anything that’s available. Buying equipment loses its thrill.

Magic Items and Great Treasure as Railroading

Easy wealth wasn’t a story you or the other players wanted, but the DM pushed it on you. That’s really a kind of railroading.

A central part of the fun of D&D is the shared storytelling. Part of any D&D campaign is character advancement, and treasure accumulation is part of that. “We fought some goblins and became fantastically wealthy,” isn’t much of a character story.

Overly powerful items that just turn up can reduce player agency, down to every die roll in combat. If some overpowered, exotic weapon appears in a treasure horde, then the party is kind of obliged to use it. The players might not feel this weapon is as cool as the DM felt it was.

Consider the typical +1 dagger that a party may find early in the campaign. There’s a discussion of who gets it: it might be the mage (who uses a dagger already), the dual-wielding rogue (who might use it instead of one of his short swords), or the fighter (who will probably be standing in front of whatever monster, when the party discovers it resists normal weapon damage). Any of those choices might be best, depending on the play styles involved. The party won’t be hugely better off one way or the other. That’s how it should be.

A +4 longsword is a different matter. Assuming the DM re-balances encounters to factor in the weapon, the choice for the party may become “use this weapon or die.”

Player Agency

Acquiring powerful items and great treasure should involve choices made by the players. If you never sought to become rich or learn amazing secrets, these things shouldn’t fall into your lap.

A DM can make it possible to find great treasure during any campaign, for instance by slaying a dragon that is ancillary to the main plot. And a fantastic “vorpal gizmo” beyond normally available weapons could require research, a feat, or some other action to utilize it.

Powerful magic items can make character building less relevant. At its worst, the PCs become just the folks that carry around the DM’s awesome magic arsenal. (That’s nice your wizard learned to cast fireball, but she probably should keep using her Staff of Unlimited Meteor Swarm.)

Fixing OP items without retcons

Your DM seems at least a little receptive to balancing the treasure, but reluctant to retcon them out of existence. Here are just a couple examples of how to get out of that bind (bearing in mind you are in the middle of a PoE campaign).

That +4 longsword might belong to a deity or other creature who needs it returned to defend the heavens from some enemy. Or it might need to be plunged into some evil artifact, destroying both items. Overpowered but temporary items can be cool, as PCs struggle with the desire to keep the item.

A vorpal gizmo could turn out to be fragile. The wielder notices a crack that worsens every time (for example) the attack roll is a 1. Then the player has agency to use the item when he or she sees fit.

As for large monetary treasure, that’s easy. The party might be presented with some worthy cause that requires treasure, such as evacuating a population from some sinking island.

Should you just ignore this because the DM is otherwise so good?

The DM is trying to please the players with lots of cool treasure, but the players just think it’s too much. They feel the rewards are unearned so receiving them isn’t rewarding.

If the players do not address this, there will be a lingering dissatisfaction. How will the DM address this malaise? There’s a good chance he’ll try handing out greater treasure. The cycle would then continue until players start to conclude the game is just ridiculous and want to stop.

(That is what happened in the last Monty Haul campaign I was in. It was sad because the guy showed real promise as a new DM, and I’m not sure he ever gave it another try.)


Talk to the DM about what he enjoys

For some people, the point of the game isn't to face challenges, it's to play out a power fantasy. Your DM might think he's facilitating that for you, or he might be enjoying the power fantasy himself by empowering your characters. Big, powerful items are exciting, right? And giving them to players might feel exciting and generous. Maybe he wants to see your characters kick some serious butt with them.

All of that is fine! It's a legitimate way to play a roleplaying game. But, it only works if everyone's on board with it, and it's not exactly what D&D is built for. If you think this might be what your DM's trying to get out of the game, talk to him and the other players about it and make your views clear. Tell him you're more interested in the challenge of trying to become powerful than in the fantasy of already being there, and that from that perspective, freebies aren't actually very fun.

Alternately, if your DM says power fantasy is what he's after, and if you think it might be fun to give that a shot, embrace the power fantasy goal and go ahead and play the game that way yourself.

The important thing is for everyone to agree on what the game is all about. If you don't, then at least someone - and likely everyone - will be frustrated and unhappy in the long run.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a good point, overall. What's fun? -- as seen through the lens of each person at the table. (The original Monty Haul, Jim Ward, has written some comments on this at dragonsfoot.). \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 6 '16 at 15:10

Now, what is the problem?

You don't have one, you have a blessing: a DM who runs a fun game

I guess I am worried that these items will eliminate the challenge from the encounters we face. Perhaps we, at level 5, will be able to take down CR 20s and breeze through all the content?

Bounded accuracy and legendary features will take care of some 5th level characters trying to take on CR 20 encounters. But go ahead and try: beg your DM to set your party up now with defeating an ancient Brass Dragon. See if you can take him (or her).
and I won't forget to put roses on your {PCs'}graves 1

Beyond that, if your next few fights are a breeze, ask the DM to ramp up the difficulty to Deadly for all encounters. (There's guidance for him in the DMG on that). If that's too easy for your party, ask him to ramp it up again.

I've attempted to talk to the DM already, making it clear that he does a great job at everything else, but he says things like, "Oh..." or just deny that they are that powerful, and he won't budge. I think he doesn't want to retcon anything.

He doesn't have to retcon anything. He's the DM. You Are Not. You've given him your input, which is a Very Good Thing(TM), and he has made a decision. Now go and play, and have fun playing. This is a game that we play for fun.

DM's are allowed to have fun too.

DM's invest a precious commodity: time. For each session, the DM's time investment is greater than any of the other folks at the table. That's a non-trivial input to the common pursuit of fun at the table.

If it is fun for him to see you guys have more powerful items, and what you do with them, where is the harm in that? (Granted, +3 is the max usual enchantment for D&D 5e, but it's his world). What you can do is ask for harder and harder challenges. I have yet to meet a DM who does not like ramping up the challenge.

If your DM is otherwise fun, and is a DM who runs a fun game, what you have is not a problem but a blessing. The Angry DM has devoted a web site to DMing. One of the points he raises time and again is how hard it is to find a DM, and how hard it is to find a good DM. (Warning: Angry GM uses a lot of bad language, but his general approach is solid).

Is there a point I'm missing?

Yes. The DM is, by your very own description, running a fun game, or trying to -- if you let him he'll continue to do so. Warning! At some point, your second guessing him may get to be annoying. When that day comes, the table folds, the game dries up. I've seen this happen in the past more than once. I have (in the past) attempted to stop a game from folding by seeing it coming and trying to get between the kvetching players and the DM -- making peace. I am 2/4 in success, but I am also 2/4 in failure. As my last two game groups (both quite good) recently folded due to RL time constraints, I admit to being envious of those who have a good game going. You may not appreciate what you've got until it's gone. (Joni Mitchell lyrics for emphasis, as needed, beginning at time 0:28).

What else can I do?

Stop complaining while you still have a game and a fun DM!

Two choices:

  1. Stop worrying, have fun and play. Make the most of it. Give your feedback, and the listen to the ruling. DM rulings are a thing in 5e.

  2. If you just can't stand it, if these items break the game for you, and if that makes the game not fun for you, then play at another table ... if you can find a good, fun DM who is running a game.

    Good luck with that.

Good DM's are out there, but they are also rare. (See Angry GM's blog for more detail on that).

1 Lyric shamelessly borrowed from the Rolling Stones song Dead Flowers

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the notion that GMs are these tortured genius authority figures who should Not Be Questioned or they will remove themselves from your game and deprive you of their greatness is very unhealthy and will lead not only to sucky play experiences, but sucky social experiences. When I run games, I much prefer it when my friends and I can talk casually about how the game's going, suggest improvements, reflect on what works and what doesn't, and generally treat each other as the friends we are. \$\endgroup\$ – SeaWyrm Nov 4 '16 at 18:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeaWyrm The whole point of my answer, , is the role of the DM in D&D 5e and that "you don't know what you've got till it's gone" is based on real experience. Also, your "must not be questioned" is a willful misreading of my answer; note that I encourage feedback, but the DM makes the ruling. That is how D&D 5e is set up. (If you read the PHB and the DMG). This question is about D&D 5e. Suggest you read my entire answer again, with the above points in mind. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 6 '16 at 15:00
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe I'm being a little unfair. I'm mostly looking at "Your second guessing him may get to be annoying." But I still think that's the wrong perspective - at the game level, the DM may be the boss, but at the social level, you're still friends playing a game together, no matter what system you're using. If you don't like the way your friend is playing the game, you should talk to them (nicely!), and they should listen to you. Even if they're the DM. If they can't handle that and quit the game over it, I question whether they're really all that great of a DM after all. \$\endgroup\$ – SeaWyrm Nov 7 '16 at 18:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeaWyrm I see your point; it's a two way street. Your friend the DM is putting in more time than you are into the campaign, and it can be (as you say, style counts) annoying to have people tell you "you're doing it wrong" when you run a campaign. As you point out, it's usually friends with friends, but each group of friends have differing dynamics. That is why I make that warning: I've seen it become a mess IRL. I can only work with the info given, on DM quality: statement from person asking question is that DM runs a fun game. If that isn't true, the question is a failure. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 7 '16 at 18:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with you there. DMs who threaten to quit over reasonable criticism are toxic, but so are players who insist on backseat-DMing everything. You've gotta be good to one another, no matter what your role in the game is. \$\endgroup\$ – SeaWyrm Nov 7 '16 at 19:03

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