My question revolves around dealing with what I regard as an overly controlling player/DM in D&D 5e.

For privacy purposes, we will call my friend Boris. We play at Boris' house. We play once a week for about 4 hours a session.

For most of us, 4 of the 6 of us, this is our first time playing D&D. Boris and I are among the new players.

We agreed that anyone who wanted to DM would get a chance as we would switch off, Boris creating the universe and running the first storyline in what would be a series of stories in his custom universe. Boris emphasized that he was telling a story and that the narrative of the story was paramount in D&D, that restricting players and saying no to them is ok because it forces them to be more creative. I disagree with him on this and believe that players enjoying themselves is more important.

Before his game he told us he would be railroading us and throughout the game he did but it was his first time DMing so I don't hold it against him. He, however, was very controlling of player choices during the game and told me I couldn't take a specific Oath for my character because it didn't make any narrative sense and actively punished characters for trying to do cool or unorthodox things.

My turn to DM comes around, and I make a few mistakes but I kept trying for two sessions.

The whole time Boris is berating and lecturing me repeatedly between sessions about how the narrative is weak and is full of plot holes, and he gives ways to fix all of them, which I find to be rather insulting. At the same time, his character is extremely energetic and stupid and constantly misunderstands PCs and NPCs because he’s so stupid and naive. One of my players has approached me and said that he felt Boris' character was actively derailing the campaign.

Boris also tried to argue that, because it was his setting, he would have final say in anything in the universe and told the future DMs what they could and couldn't use or do, because he's planning something or it goes against what he wants. I told him that because I'm the DM, I have final say and he can deal with it.

After two sessions, I tell everyone that I'm not having fun and say that whoever is next will do their campaign next time. I knew my campaign wasn't going to be perfect, and I acknowledge that I made mistakes but not the ones that Boris claims I did. Everyone but Boris said they’re having a great time. Boris said he was almost enjoying the game.

My question is how should I deal with Boris, as he is trying to control every aspect of the game and is already acting like he has final say for all of the setup for the next campaign, to the point where it is making it not fun and stifling my own creativity for my character? Should I just leave the group, or confront him, or is he right about D&D?


3 Answers 3


You have a large number of sub-questions here, each of which is probably suitable for its own question, including at least:

  • How to deal with a railroading GM
  • How to deal with a disruptive player
  • How to resolve authority in a shared-world campaign

The first two are common questions, and there are potentially useful answers in these questions about GMs always saying no, restrictive GMs, inappropriately strong criticism, and probably others. The third is less common, but some advice can be found here. (The appropriate tag is 'round-robin-gming')

Ultimately, however, these questions, though separate, are hard to disentangle because they are all manifestations of a larger problem: You and your fellow GM have styles that are directly in opposition to each other, and at least one of you is very aggressive about it.

This does not seem to be a case of hypocrisy-- your fellow GM told you what he was going to do, did it, expected you to do the same, and told you how to do it when you didn't. Whether you did likewise in the same degree is not clear, but you seem to be similarly authentic and genuine in style-- your desired campaign style as a player is what you tried to provide as a GM.

Your options are somewhat limited, here:

  • Talk to you fellow GM and compromise. But this probably does mean a real compromise where you each either give something up, or gain something, or both. In the best circumstance, this might end up with both of you learning something from the other. In the worst, it may be an uneasy detente.

  • Stop playing. Games are supposed to be fun, and the object of any compromise above has to be something that results in more fun for everyone. Sometimes, compromise is impossible. You, however, are the only person who can answer the questions, "Is the status quo less fun than just not playing?" and "Do I think it's feasible to start my own separate group?"


This is a game. If you're not enjoying it, you should be doing anything else instead. Now, if you leave right now maybe the other players - who are having a good time - may not be with you. However, if "Boris" keeps acting the same way when it's their turn as GM, they will probably side with you before it's Boris' turn again and you may have some leverage.

However maybe Boris is not as nitpicky with them as it was with you, and this means that your gameplaying style is very different from his (and other players'). If that's the case, you may have to find a group which suits your style more accordingly.


Others have answered other parts of your question, but haven't answered this part:

Boris also tried to argue that, because it was his setting, he would have final say in anything in the universe and told the future DMs what they could and couldn't use or do because he's planing something or it goes against what he wants. I told him that because I'm the DM, I have final say and he can deal with it.

Well, you're playing in Boris' world, right? It does make sense that Boris has at least some say in what happens in his world, but in the same sense he relinquished most of that say when he agreed to play with you as the GM. If it were me and we continued to play in Boris' world, I'd try to refrain from huge, world-shattering things without talking to Boris, just out of courtesy.

However, you're the GM. If Boris wants to be nitpicky about what happens in his setting, let him. Instead, a portal opens beneath the feet of each protagonist. When they all come to, they're in your world. If you don't want to go to the trouble of creating and populating a setting of your own, it might be geographically similar to Boris' world, possibly a mirror dimension of it. But it isn't Boris' world (unless he begins claiming absolute rulership of the whole D&D Multiverse, which could get... interesting), he doesn't get a say in what goes on in this new land except what his character can directly influence.

A different way of dealing with a controlling player is to hand them the GM-ship. They'll have the extra control they wanted and no-one can contest their say in the world's activity. Sometimes this change is enough for everyone to be happy and have a good time, but sometimes it just changes the problem from "controlling player" to "controlling GM," so YMMV.


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