Save My Game
Irreconcilable Differences
When DMs and Players Butt Heads
By Jason Nelson-Brown

This column provides advice for DMs whose campaigns are in trouble. Do your players constantly bicker or complain about issues both inside and outside of the main campaign action? Do your best ideas fall flat? Have you set up a situation that you now wish you hadn't? Worry no more, because Jason Nelson-Brown has the answers to save your game!

Problem: Irreconcilable Differences

My friends want to be full dragons instead of half-dragons. I stuck to my guns and told them no -- so they went ahead and formed their own group. Was I wrong?

-- Nicolaus, from AskWizards.com

The short answer is no. You weren't wrong. You were right. You evidently did not want to play with players being full dragons (though, somewhat surprisingly, you were fine with them being half-dragons), so you said no. I have said time and again that the DM is one of the players, is part of the gaming group, and that your enjoyment of the game is just as important as anyone else's.

But the longer answer is that, despite being right, you're now without a game, so what was the cost of being right? Being a gamer means you have a relationship with your fellow players. It's not like a quick board game or card game where you can drop in at the table, play for a few minutes, and then skip out. What distinguishes D&D (and RPGs in general) from other kinds of games is the long, drawn-out interaction with other people.

Part of having that shared experience at the table is shared expectations and shared interests. It seems that your preferences and those of your players diverged on the issue of dragons as PCs. Were you wrong to not want dragons as PCs? No. There are lots of game-mechanical reasons why dragons as PCs are hard to manage (although the Council of Wyrms boxed set for 2nd Edition tried to posit a dragon-PC campaign setting), aside from your personal preference that it just didn't feel right. Your players felt differently.

In the end, you all got your way. You didn't have to run a game with dragon PCs -- but it sounds as if now you have no game at all. The players got their way. They got a game with dragon PCs, but at the cost of gaming with you.

The real question is whether you are happy with the result. Each of you was able to vote with your feet, to take your proverbial ball and go home. The trouble with doing that is that it ends the game and prevents you from having fun with your friends.

In the end, conflicting ideas trumped gamer relationships. Each of you decided you would rather be right than be together. Now that you find yourself without your old gaming partners, what do you want to do? If your old group of gamers isn't that important to you, then find a new game. Start a new game as a DM or find an existing one that you can join as a player. Previous columns have dealt with looking for fellow gamers, and you can try some of those tricks to recruit new partners to game with, though this can be easier said than done.

You might also find that you miss the old guys, and that you would rather play in a campaign with them (even with dragon PCs or some other in-game element that you don't like) than have no game at all, or to have to try to find a place with a new gaming group, or to have to game online rather than in person. You may have to compromise your preferences, but you will have your old gaming group back.

You might even find playing a dragon PC as a player is more fun than DMing a campaign full of them. Since I assume this new gaming group has a new DM, the shoe is on the other foot. The new DM might decide, just as you did, that a dragon-PC campaign is too much of a headache and ditch the concept. Heck, even the other players may get bored of the dragon-PC campaign after a few months, once the novelty has worn off.

All this might also be true even if you stick to your guns and don't go find the other group. They may find that they miss you as a DM or just as a friend and decide to ditch the dragon campaign (or go back to half-dragons) and invite you back to run the game.

When it comes to what you want in the game as a DM or as a player, there isn't a right and wrong so much as a decision as to how important your preferences are, how important your relationships with your current gaming partners are, and how well you and the others are able to negotiate a compromise. Sometimes you can, and sometimes you can't. Only you can decide whether a flawed game (in your opinion) is better than no game at all.

Here lies the body of John O'Day
Who died defending his right of way.
The right was clear, his will was strong,
But he's just as dead as if he'd been wrong.

Have a question for the Save My Game column? Head over to the message boards: What's a DM to Do or What's a Player to Do. Be sure to include "Save My Game" as part of your message's title. Or, send us a question directly, to Ask Wizards -- and again, be sure to include "Save My Game" in the subject line.

About the Author

Jason Nelson-Brown lives in Seattle with his wife Kelle, daughters Meshia and Indigo, and son Allen. He just finished his doctorate in education and is an active and committed born-again Christian who began playing D&D in 1981.


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