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Have a balance between Rules and Role-play

Content of the article: "Have a balance between Rules and Role-play"

This is more of a question to other DM’s and Players. Which do you prioritize more, rules or role play? Do you prefer to have a good mixture of both? Finally, what are your thoughts on “the DM is ALWAYS right?”

For context, I myself am a more rules-based DM. By this, I do not mean that if there is something creative or fun my players want to do, I shoot it down because of rule discrepancies. It means that mechanically speaking, I like to follow 5e rules as best I can to ensure little issues are created between my players and I. I do love a good mixture of both but I usually go to rules for clarification on somethings. For some DM’s however, they prioritize telling a more amazing story than adhere to a serious game of D&D. They focus more on descriptions and telling this cool badass story that leaves the players in awe.

I once had a DM who aimed towards role-play more than rules. This honestly would not have been an issue for me if the DM in question knew the rules to begin with. Here are somethings that happened to me like 7 years ago involving one DM, that I HATED:

—Scene 1 Oneshot, we start in a tavern and my character is an ex pirate bard/fighter who is a brewmaster

Me: I want to try and sell the bartender of this tavern some barrels of my home-brewed mead.

DM: Roll performance

Me: Performance? Not persuasion?

DM: Performance. Or I guess deception could work.

Me (who is extremely bad in those areas rolls low)

DM: Your mead is bad and he spits it out.

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—Scene 2 My party of 5 and I are currently running out of town after killing a guy at a party not very quietly. We now are trying to get away from the guards and the guard captain.

Me (barbarian): My turn happens; rage, swing weapon, the works

DM: the guard captain takes a reaction to trip you (no save or anything, I just trip and am now captured)

Next player (rogue): hides for full turn and rolls INSANELY high for stealth

DM: The guard captain finds and binds you

Next player (druid): about 3 rounds ago turned into a butterfly to flee and continues to flee

DM: the guard captain shoots you down and captures you. NOW its the guard captains turn. Guard captain proceeds to capture everyone. No saves rolled, no grapple checks, no perception to see where people are, no attempts to break out, nothing. We just are captured and thrown in prison (for plot purposes).

—Scene 3 before the session even starts

DM: hey everyone, i dont know how to properly calculate armor class so any improvements to weapons and armor just bump up your AC by 1 and your to hit/damage modifier up by 1.

Me (a level 5 barbarian): I have an AC of 24. I dont even have to rage. (Which i effectively stopped doing and it worked).

—Scene 4 fighting 2 wizards, potential bbeg

DM: you take necrotic damage, you lose that amount of your hit point maximum until a long rest. You take cold damage, your movement is slowed by 10ft for 1d4 amount of rounds. You take fire damage, damage over time. Lightning damage, stunned. Force damage, you are pushed 10ft a direction. So on and so forth for every damage type.

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~my party of 5 plus myself almost got swept by 2 wizards because of the stacking status effects; which I might add were never a thing in our campaign before this particular fight~

I genuinely could go on but I wont for my sake and yours. Me and the DM in question are still really good friends but I wont be participating in any sessions with them any time soon. I did bring these complaints to them at the time and the answers I was met with were “I dont care about specific rules, i just want to get my story across,” and the most annoying exploitative response of them all, “I am DM, what I say goes.” Again, I personally do not care if your only goal as a DM is to get your story across but I feel there needs to be a good medium; a healthy middle ground. This is why I personally cling to written rules more tight, but I am a great storyteller too.

I personally hate the, “DM is always right,” mentality. Granted I do use it when DM’ing my friends but I do not make it my default answer when criticized by my players and I do not use it as an excuse for a bad call. If a mistake is made and a player calls me out on it, I will change it. If I feel that I did not make a mistake then I try and use source material to support my stance or my point of view of the situation. If all else fails, then I double down with, “I am the DM.” Some DM’s exploit this mentality and make for really aggravating people.

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What do you prioritize more; rules, role-play, or a healthy mixture? Whats your stance on “the dm is the law?” I would love to hear your answers and why.

Source: reddit.com

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