Content of the article: "Should I have been more flexible? Player gets angry at Decanter of Endless Water"
Varris if you're reading this stop. Also I'm not complaining about you, just getting other peoples advice 🙂
Five months ago one of my players got the Decanter of Endless Water. He's a DM so he's quite familiar with magic items so I told him that I had changed all three of the words and gave him a riddle to help figure them out. He accidentally found one of them by playing around with the decanter but then the story moved on and he didn't use it or try to suss out the other words.
Fast forward to last session and they're on a wooden bridge in the desert stuck between bandits and a bulette that's somewhere in the sands behind them. Player casts fireball in front of him and accidentally sets the bridge on fire too. So he pulls out the decanter and says the word he knows.
It's the middle word, so three gallons of water pour out of it. Three of those big barrels on top of water coolers. But the dude had cast a 3rd level fire spell so while the water damages the fire? It doesn't stop it entirely. The fire momentarily shrinks but then continues to grow. So he tries saying the other words and they don't work. So he and another player rolls insight checks for me to give them hints and the dude spends three turns of combat trying to make the decanter work by using his time to yell words at the decanter. He gives up, throws the decanter off of the bridge and turns to fight the bulette. They barely survive, kill the bulette but the bridge breaks. He got a bit angry. He was poorly rolling (and has been for months), not feeling very well and frustrated that his combat character wasn't engaging in combat. We end the session not long after and talk to make sure he was ok.
I felt bad because I don't want players feeling frustrated at the table. I like to empower players to do crazy things and have fun, not punish them for trying. Equally though the dude has had 5/6 months to figure out the words. At any point he could have spent time during a rest to figure it out y'know? But I'm wondering if I should have made it easier for him.
Like, for example, the strong word was tsunami. We're both in Japan so I thought it'd be a cool little reference to that. The poem was all about sea imagery and symbolism, talking about tides coming and waves crashing and during one of the insight checks I asked him where they imagined when they read the poem. The player said "The beach?" and I said "Yep. The word is something to do with powerful water by the sea." That's just one example but I thought it was a good clue. Not a "OH I GET IT NOW" clue but helping him direct his guesses yeah?
So what should I have done? Was I right to stick to my guns and not let his incorrect guesses pass? Should I have changed the words and rewarded his attempt to figure out the riddle? Or was I right to stick to my guns much to the ire of one of my players? Thank you 🙂
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