Content of the article: "DM Horror Story How my real life CG self stole a game from a DM"
Disclaimer: The names have been changed to protect the innocent and the also the guilty. This post contains dramatization of real life events. Views discretion is…not really advised…no real trigger warning needed like some/a lot/most nightmare DM stories.
Sorry for spelling and grammar. English is my first language.
I got invited by a friend to a 1 shot with option to expand. I joined the DM's discord and everything seemed pretty normal at first. Cool world. Reasonable variant rules. Interesting premise. No real session 0 but online games session 0s seem to just happen in chat leading up to the first session. Cool, I've been wanting to roll a barbarian for a bit. Sort o playtest an idea I had for a Barbarian who wanted to learn to control his rage better and find purpose following is misspent youth.
The DM was a guy my friend had met a year ago at a bar. What he didn't know was that he was one of those power hungry "Check out how cool my mary sue NPCs are " DMs who didn't care about the player's experience. It wasn't entirely obvious from the 1 shot and gave the DM the benefit of the doubt that maybe he was nervous or having an off day. There were some weird and awkward moments where he seemed upset with a choice we made or a way we approach a problem. I recognized it as not being prepared or being overly prepared – both banes of DMs and even worse for DMs who want to railroad you from start to finish.
Again, that 1 shot was fun enough and we all decided after the 1 shot wanted more It was mentioned in out chat that we were having trouble with in the style he was presenting and he seemed like he would be accommodating. Cool. Lets try again. We like the story, we like our character, and the players are all pretty cool. Session 2 was more of the same but worse. A lot of "your character is a wizard, they wouldn't charge into battle
even if it is to save their bestfriend who just got ambushed and your a surprisingly beefy wizard and your background bond and personality traits both make it clear that you would die to protect those they care about" or "you're raging, you wouldn't consider going after the biggest threat, just hitting things even though your background literally states that you want to tackle the biggest challenges, fight the biggest monsters, and prove your worth and literally the biggest threat is the boulder chucking giant among a group of thugs." There were times it was like playing an idle game where he just assumed what we were doing and we rolled the dice to feel like we had some control
As players we agreed to give the game 1 more shot. I was elected to be the one to address the group's issues. I have more D&D sessions under my belt as player and DM and I tend to be pretty good at getting people to open up and get them to see where improvement can be made (at least according to my friend in the group – I got a +1 to ego that night). So I DMed the the DM and told him what was going on. There was a bit of diplomatic resistance on his part but I thought he was listening. I did the compliment sandwich. We love the world and your descriptions. We hate feeling like we don't have the chance to actually play in the world because every time we do something either you get upset that we didn't do something else or you tell us to do something else.. Your avatar looks cool? Seemed to work. He asked me how I would handle thing. I told him that I couldn't say for sure but if he got a little more comfortable with improvising it would be a good start because there were a lot of indication that he was trying to stick to his script rather than adapt with the unknown. I don't what it was about this but something triggered. He said "if you think its that easy why don't you just run the game?" I felt bad. "Hey man, sorry. DIdn't mean it to come off…how ever it did. Its a hard skill for some DMs but experiment with it and you may find it a useful tool." I think it smooths over and he says that he appreciates the feed back and that he just wants to do a good job. Cool. Lets move forward.
Session 3. Or should I say Session 2.5? He is gunning for my character right out the gate. Agency is stripped to barebones minimum. "Oh your character has anger issues
that he is trying to work out and is a lone wolf type but I gave him motivation to be with the party and work together? Make a wisdom saving throw. Failed? You remember that the wizard did something that upset you earlier. You grab your sword and charge." Maybe its a magical effect? Nope – He stated clearly this was not a magical effect out of character. What was the slight? Failed to see a trap? We all failed to see it! Why would I be upset with just him? At this point I see my discord channel is getting some messages. Its the other players. "This is it. I'm done." One says. "What is he doing? Did he just roll an attack for you?" Asks another. "I would say it was fun while it lasted but…." Chimed another.
Oh well, this is as bad of an end to this as any other. Man, I wanted to see what happened with these characters. What about the looming eclipse everyone is talking about? The voice chat is a mix of his narration and other players both in character and out of character trying to figure out what's going on. In a moment of clarity I type in my server's chat. "Wait. Don't leave yet. IF he kicks me or anyone else come over here to my VC." He rolls damage for my second sword attack (by this point he has narrated a turn for everyone that they had no say in). There was a pause and I took it.
DM: What? You can't tell him to make a saving throw.
Me: Sure I can. Its….easy. Darrior. Make a wisdom saving throw. For. Me.
Me: You succeed.
That's when I got kicked form the chat. I went over to my server's VC and waited. Moments later the rest of the party joined me. The next two hours I pulled a game out of the ether, trusted my players to roll dice through whatever means they wanted (didn't have a bot set up), and followed the players on a journey to hunt down an elusive fey creature who had taken control of the Barbarian's mind
We are taking next week off but the group decided to stick together for the foreseeable future. Not sure how I am going to handle it at this point. The characters are made with his setting in mind and I don't want to just steal his ideas and I don't want to make just a knockoff version of his world. I think we should just have a session 0 to reinvent the world a bit within the general themes he had (early Victorian fantasy). Either way, I'm happy I did what I did. Might have been a jerk move by some standards but I think it was a better than everyone walking away disappointed.
TLDR: Railroading DM who didn't know what player agency was after 2.5 sessions had his game highjacked as player begins acting like DM in improvising the rest of the session.
- On why it’s hard playing D&D being a woman
- I royally f*ed up, and don’t know how to fix it
- Just had something uncomfortable happen in my campaign.
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