94

Avoid the DM vs Player trap It looks like you may have fallen into that trap, based on how you presented the problem. This isn't a matter of a "fair fight" between a monster (or a group of monsters) and a PC. It's about the player making choices that have costs. This player gave up more offensive power to be better at defense. Honor that choice. That ...


84

This is not metagaming The only AC increase that is not immediately visible in this case is from the fighting style, and that is a +1. All others are readily apparent in the game world, unless measures are taken to hide them (eg. disguise self). Heavy armor and shields are quite obvious and even low-intelligence beasts recognize that they have a hard time ...


73

Michael Shea describes a technique that works very well for this in his book Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master (he also occasionally talks about it on his blog). When prepping for your session, take the time to write down ten secrets or clues relevant to the world or the current adventure. These secrets can be critical to the plot, be hints at future plots, ...


66

Deal With This As You Would Any Player Overstep As it happens, I have had players try to insert real-world but inappropriate cultural influences into a setting of mine. In my case it was Japanese influences into a very European-themed fantasy world. But this was not so different from the time someone tried to bring Japanese influences into an actual ...


55

Set a Firm Rule: Disagreements about Rulings are to be handled between Sessions, not during Sessions Generally speaking, a player should not interrupt the DM to quibble about how rules work. What the DM says is final, and if players don't agree with how the DM is handling rules, they should wait until after the session is over to resolve disagreements. So ...


32

The best way I ever dealt with this is by enlisting the player's help. Explain the problem to them and ask them how they (and yourself) could work how to alleviate the perceived problem. Why perceived problem? Do the other players mind? If not, you are trying to solve an imaginary problem. Did you ask them? Is everyone on the same page about the game they ...


23

X Card and other toolkit resources come with rules, whereas when groups which I've played with in the past left things to "plain communication" what happened when game content triggered people was that the conversation at times completely failed to improve safety and at times made the situation worse. Just to cite the rule, according to John Stavropoulos's ...


21

You owe your players 10* treasure parcels a level, but the payment terms are very flexible. After each of the baseline 10 fights to level? Sure. All gathered up in the end boss's treasure room so they can open the door and act like a rich duck? That might leave them a little short on consumables for a bit, but that works too. Some of them pooled together ...


21

Three Options Yes, And... Embracing player ideas can build their enthusiasm, and is there much to complain about if you put Thor or Odin next to the Raven Queen? A Comedy Improv skill that is often talked about in D&D is the princible of "Yes, And..." In Improv it means that if a scene mate walks in and says "Look how nice it is outside in this park." ...


18

In my experience, the X-Card provides more benefit in the explanation than in the use of the card. It is incredibly powerful to start a session with an explicit reminder that everyone at the table is supposed to be sensitive to the needs of everyone else, that everyone is equally valuable and that everyone's individual foibles and lines will be respected. ...


16

Knickknacks and trinkets Knickknacks and trinkets are often overlooked and underused, while giving a cue to your players that: There is no other loot here, or They botched their search. Examples would include: A gold (or other rare metal) piece of a time long forgotten. A handheld watch that would have been worth a small fortune, were it not for its ...


15

Consider what campaign you want to run There is a great video from Matthew Colville which explains this further but as a TL;DR think whether you want your players to follow a specific storyline (Railroad) or you want them to shape the storyline (Sandbox), it could even be both. I would recommend somewhere in the middle, where you either buy a premade ...


15

Communication is key I'm definitely a player (and DM) who likes to try and go by the rules as much as possible. But not only are mistakes sometimes made, sometimes those mistakes aren't mistakes at all. Whatever the reason for the debate, here are the ways I've approached it: As a player, when I think a mechanic was done incorrectly My table generally ...


15

Before I start, a note on perspective: the players don't know that the plot is at standstill and not moving forward; only you, the DM, knows. Give them a chance to advance their characters. Let them play their features and peculiarities, shop around, spend money, carouse, prepare for the next adventure. Do they like games of chance? Dragonchess? Indulge them!...


14

Characters who can do anything can't do everything. No single character can fully replicate the gameplay potential of an entire party. Let's say a player somehow built a character that excels at every possible role, like you said. Even if they can do anything particularly well, they are still constrained by the action economy of the system, and the logic of ...


14

Evaluate the information at hand and discern whether or not you are metagaming. You should make yourself aware that those 19 AC come with a lot of resource investment not only due to the choice of the fighting style that defines the character, but also the choice of character class. During the early encounters, you will often face enemies who will have a ...


13

A GM who I play with has mastered a DETH-nullifying technique, sometimes used against myself even. It's quite a controversial one. Because it requires to do something pretty unpopular. It involves saying the following words to the player: No, you can't do that. Then it goes like this: "Even though you're an expert in the field, your knowledge or ...


12

The PHB supports what you did. Ultimately, the DM's authority extends even to this. Ultimately, the Dungeon Master is the authority on the campaign and its setting, even if the setting is a published world. (PHB, p 6) But it's still best to discuss it with your play group "Because I said so" does not always sit well with a given group of players. ...


11

In all honesty, I don't really have much experience as a GM, but I do have some experience as a writer. The good thing is that the English language is really quite flexible. You can try removing the word from your descriptions A cold breeze that causes a nervous chill. The macabre sight creates an unnerving feel of dread. It is uncomfortably warm at ...


11

I'd mirror a lot of what has already been said on this, but but the main thing you need to do first is find out what your players really think and feel about the bard taking a lead. If they are enjoying the game then I wouldn't focus too much of your time on trying to fix something they don't see as broken. I'd suggest speaking to them all out of the game to ...


10

The DMG has a few suggestions In the DMG, pp. 227-232, there is a section called Other Rewards, listing things like Blessings, Charms, even Epic Boons (although that's level 20+ type stuff). In particular, Blessings (pp. 227-228) or maybe Training (in particular, learning skill proficiencies or feats, p.231, although this one implies that it should take ...


10

Each of the villains has their own flavor, and each suits a different style of play. It's worth reading the Play Style chapter of the DMG (page 34) and considering which suits your group, then reading the chapters relevant to the four villains to see which suits your campaign style best. In loose terms, Jarlaxle is intended as a swashbuckling anti-hero with ...


10

There's a lot to unpack here. I guess I'll go in order. Everyone's game styles are different (in at least some amount). I prefer more of a "Follow the rules as they are written" style. I also know that not everyone feels that way. When I'm a player, I tell the DM that I'm going to point out something in the rules and answer questions. If there's a change ...


10

If it doesn't break the game, let players write their own stories. When you establish a regional setting for your campaign, players have two options for creating their character's origins. First, they can create a character from within the setting, and adhere to the themes, rules, and available lore that you have provided them. This requires that you do ...


8

The problem is not with you. Base on your description he has to understand that The authority of the GM is above the rules He is wielding the written rules against you like it is some higher authority you, as GM, have to answer to. You have to explain to him, in no uncertain terms that that is not the case. The final arbiter at the table is the GM. I do ...


8

There are times to use "you" and times not to. Don't Use "You" To Remove Agency When I run my games, I avoid using "you" especially to avoid imputing feelings to the PCs. "You feel scared by the volcano" angers players and they feel like their agency is being removed. "Lord British isn't scared of a little thing like the landscape!" Don't do that. The ...


8

Plan how monsters will react to this sort of information! A berserk monster might attack whoever's nearest indiscriminately. An animal hunting for food might pick off someone from the edge of the group. Goblins might rush in but avoid whoever looks scariest. Mercenaries, experienced fighters, might have thought-through tactics, e.g. "take out the glass ...


8

There are several related issues swirling around your question. Let me try to disambiguate them and answer them separately: Can I Retcon? Yes. You're the GM. It is fundamentally the job of the GM (in D&D 5e) to decide what the players see, sense, and experience about the game world, and it is fundamentally the job of the GM (in D&D 5e) to decide ...


7

Turn your focus to the environment, rather than "you" This is a combination of things I, myself, have been endeavoring to do both in and out of the GM's chair. Part one: Replace "you" with "one" It took me a while to get over feeling like a pretentious jerk, but I survived. When I want to refer to a general case of what one could be experiencing or doing, ...


7

The old D&D 4th edition Dungeon Master's Guide has good advice on this Although you're playing D&D 5th edition, the earlier D&D 4th edition Dungeon Master's Guide's advice on problem players is still useful and relevant. Particular to your current predicament is the description of how to handle a rules lawyer (p.32): You don't have to be a ...


Only top voted, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible