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    Default DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    I have been a DM for the last decade or so with very little experience as a player. I have recently tried to branch out and find a less toxic gaming group than can be found amongst my friends, and have joined three different groups, and have noticed the same problem in all three:

    The DM constantly complains that the players don't RP enough, but at the same time constantly either shoots down or punishes them for doing so.

    Now, all three of them do these things to lesser or greater extents, but I am only going to describe the worst offender. Assume the other two are similar in approach.

    First off, he won't let of touch or look at books, dice, pencils, or character sheets when creating out characters. He makes us tell him, using only fluff terms, who and what our characters are and then he makes the character for us. He claims this is to enhance RP.

    Now, this seems fine, but then he goes about either banning or changing details we give him. I am not talking about crazy shenanigans, I mean basic backgrounds and abilities identical to those possessed by sample characters in the core book. He does this with both fluff and crunch, even going so far as to change our backgrounds (and sometimes even character names) if he doesn't like them. Furthermore, when he asks us a question about our background we need to answer it on the spot, if we ask for time to think about it he just chooses for us.

    When the game actually starts we are not allowed to improvise. He plays by pure RAW, and will not let us improvise things that are not in the book. For example stunts and called shots are right out unless we have a specific power. On the other hand he has no problem banning or vetoing rules that come directly from the book. I don't mean just stuff like spells and prestige classes, but also listed combat maneuvers or skill uses, for example in D&D he doesn't allow you to attack with a light weapon in a grapple or use a tower shield to take cover.

    He also punishes you for RPing. If our character backgrounds are used at all it is only for him to find ways to hurt us by destroying our homes or killing off our families. There is the usual railroading and forcing us to meta-game to go along with the plot, but he also goes out of our way to punish us for acting in character. For example, during a recent session I snuck up on an enemy and decided I didn't want to stab him in the back; for I tapped him on the shoulder and waited for him to turn around to attack. The DM rules that I would be out of combat for THREE TURNS because of this (one turn to take my hand off my weapon, one turn to tap him, one turn to put my hand back on my weapon) meaning that the enemy actually got to attack me twice before I got to strike back.

    Now then, he is constantly telling us that we don't RP enough and that he is tired of us being such number crunching munchkins. I can't help but feel that he is his own worst enemy in this regard, as I put every effort into RPing but it is very hard when he will not let create the concept I envision and either forbids or punishes me for trying to think in character.

    As I said, this is the worst of the three, but all three exhibit very similar behaviors to lesser or greater extents. Now, these are not inexperienced DMs, they have been doing it for years and in one case decades.

    /rant over.

    So, TLDR version and the point: Why do DM's constantly want players to RP more and use their imaginations while at the same time refusing to cut them any slack or give up total control to the players even slightly?
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

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    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    Because he's writing a novel with four other people who don't know that.
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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    Because New Mexico is apparently filled entirely with the worst RPG players ever. Seriously, with each thread I have less idea how you manage to keep trying.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cirrylius View Post
    That's how wizards beta test their new animals. If it survives Australia, it's a go. Which in hindsight explains a LOT about Australia.

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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    Quote Originally Posted by Sith_Happens View Post
    Because New Mexico is apparently filled entirely with the worst RPG players ever. Seriously, with each thread I have less idea how you manage to keep trying.
    Actually, one of the groups is in Arizona. Also, the vast majority of horror stories I have are about the group I run which is located in California.

    Still, I don't know how it happens, maybe I am just unlucky or a glass is half empty kind of person, but every time I try and find a new group to fix problems it is worst than the last. Although, so far, we haven't had any actual screaming or property destruction in any of the groups I am talking about, so there is that :)
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    Play a game that is not so broken that the DM constantly has to police his players... or that the DM doesn't realize is so broken he should constantly police his players >:)

    But no, really, it sounds like the DM is doing all this because he is very afraid of players' min/maxing to break his game. Since he does not want to improvise challenges based on the players' abilities, he has instead decided to enforce a lot of draconic rules to keep players from getting powerful abilities to begin with. He would probably not see a reason to have these draconic rules if you were to switch to a game that is not as easily broken by min/maxing.
    It always amazes me how often people on forums would rather accuse you of misreading their posts with malice than re-explain their ideas with clarity.

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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    It sounds like this is mostly an issue of your GM being a massive control freak about the game, and is somewhat passive aggressive. Best solution is probably to just not play with him.

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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    Quote Originally Posted by Roxxy View Post
    It sounds like this is mostly an issue of your GM being a massive control freak about the game, and is somewhat passive aggressive. Best solution is probably to just not play with him.
    Its not just one guy though, all of the DM's I am playing under do this to some extent.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

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    Halfling in the Playground
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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    Quote Originally Posted by Roxxy View Post
    It sounds like this is mostly an issue of your GM being a massive control freak about the game, and is somewhat passive aggressive. Best solution is probably to just not play with him.
    Yeah, that. If the other players are nice, kick the GM out of the game and start a new one!

    Good luck!
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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    If I were to guess, I'd say one or multiple of the following reasons:

    1. Your pool of DMs is full of controlling people for whatever reason.
    2. The process by which you find DMs somehow selects for people who act in such a manner.
    3. You have terrible luck.

    The vast majority of the DMs I've had the pleasure of gaming with have not acted like that. Though my pool of potential DMs might be intrinsically different from yours, since I play primarily online through virtual tabletops.

    And I also specifically avoid anyone with the warning signs of being a controlling DM:
    -Refuses to give adequate campaign info.
    -Has houserules suggesting he/she doesn't trust players. Or refuses to disclose houserules.
    -Uses language suggesting an antagonistic relationship with players.

    Since you can't change your luck, try changing your GM pool or be more proactive in avoiding those types of GMs. You should be just as selective when looking for a GM, as you are when you are GMing and looking for players.

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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post

    First off, he won't let of touch or look at books, dice, pencils, or character sheets when creating out characters. He makes us tell him, using only fluff terms, who and what our characters are and then he makes the character for us. He claims this is to enhance RP.

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    BlackDragon

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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    It doesn't sound like there's much to be done there, short of outright confronting him about it. Which, from what you have described, will probably not end well for you continued invitation to the play group. Though that might be to your benefit.

    Frankly, you're more tolerant than I am. If someone told me I couldn't have a hand in creating my own character, short of giving some vague background details and a concept which may or may not be followed, I would cheerfully walk myself out of that group.

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    Kobold

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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    I wouldn't play with that GM. I might not play with the other two either.

    The GM wants you to play in a particular way. He is choosing to call it "roleplaying." Whether or not it actually is roleplaying is debatable, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he actually wants real roleplay.

    Just because he wants a certain type of gameplay out of you doesn't mean he has the ability or knowledge to facilitate it. I can't really fault him for wanting to encourage roleplaying, but failing in a way that back fires.
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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    Quote Originally Posted by jaydubs View Post
    If I were to guess, I'd say one or multiple of the following reasons:

    1. Your pool of DMs is full of controlling people for whatever reason.
    2. The process by which you find DMs somehow selects for people who act in such a manner.
    3. You have terrible luck.
    This.

    Also a question that will help us get context. Did the other players seem okay with or at least accustomed to the DMs' shenanigans? Did you have the impression that they were okay with what is going on - or rather that they were unwilling subjects to a power trip?

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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    The worst offender of the bunch definitely sounds like the worst 0.o

    You say the other two aren't as bad but similar in their approach, I'm wondering how similar they are to this one guy because sometimes the devil is in the details but either way it doesn't sound like much fun having a DM constantly sulking at you for not playing right.

    Also echoing the above, how exactly do you find groups? Is there a set of criteria you use when sorting through open games that might be shooting you in the foot? I know there are some things I look for in a group (light tone, rp focused etc) that can sometimes backfire on me when no one is taking the game seriously at all or we spend four hours trying to decide how to distract guards sitting in a break room (spoiler: they were already distracted by doughnuts and not a threat).

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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    Quote Originally Posted by tensai_oni View Post
    Also a question that will help us get context. Did the other players seem okay with or at least accustomed to the DMs' shenanigans? Did you have the impression that they were okay with what is going on - or rather that they were unwilling subjects to a power trip?
    This is the direction I was thinking in. Even if the campaign's a dud, you have the opportunity to reach out to other players
    who might have tastes more like yours. If you're lucky several of them feel the same as you and are biting their tongues
    right now.

    It isn't important to stage a mutiny or 'defeat' the current DM in any way; just try to find people with whom you can get
    a better campaign rolling.

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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    Honestly I am not looking for help, I am just providing examples to clarify my points (and blow off a little steam). I will probably end up leaving the group sooner rather than later.

    I am actually more curious at the underlying cause. I can't imagine this is a unique problem, and I am really interested in figuring out why DM's say they want something from players but then punish or disallow them from doing it. Do they just not put 2 and 2 together or is there something deeper that I am not seeing?

    To answer the question about the other players, they seem to be mostly newbies whom he has buffaloed into thinking he is the all knowing god of the game; although I have noticed there is a very high rate of people who stop showing up and are never heard from again. On the few occasions when a more experienced gamer joins us they seem to simply grudgingly accept it to get the game going.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    Well, from the building your player's characters for them I can sort of see a point to it. If you have one player who is much better at optimization then others it makes a certain sense. System mastery is a separate game from the daily playing of D&D, and people can be very good at one and very bad at the other. Punishing people who are bad at system mastery is not a good thing, and it may be the DM has had experience with frustrated new players and oppressive optimizers.

    That is the most charitable explanation I could think of.

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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    A couple stuff I agree with. Called shots really don't have a place in a game that abstracts combat the way D&D does. On the other hand, the badie getting that many extra hits on you for what is more or less a fluff stunt is just plain silly.
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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Honestly I am not looking for help, I am just providing examples to clarify my points (and blow off a little steam). I will probably end up leaving the group sooner rather than later.

    I am actually more curious at the underlying cause. I can't imagine this is a unique problem, and I am really interested in figuring out why DM's say they want something from players but then punish or disallow them from doing it. Do they just not put 2 and 2 together or is there something deeper that I am not seeing?
    Possible, progressively less generous, explanations:

    1. They don't realize the cause and effect. It's actually pretty common for humans not to realize how they are personally contribution to a problem. This is just someone who's used to working a certain way, and never really sat down and thought about it. He is equally as frustrated as you are that he has to go to these extremes.

    2. They have an ideal of how roleplaying should work. And that actually involves almost all RP choices being detrimental to the characters. Players are supposed to suffer negative consequences for RPing and like it. He finds it frustrating they don't, and uses heavy-handed measures in order to preserve his ideal.

    3. The situation is actually how the DM wants it. He gets to both exercise control over the players, and feel like he's doing them a favor since he's just a much better roleplayer than they are. He gets an emotional reward from complaining at, belittling, shooting down ideas, and punishing players. Essentially, this is just a person with deep issues.

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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I am actually more curious at the underlying cause. I can't imagine this is a unique problem, and I am really interested in figuring out why DM's say they want something from players but then punish or disallow them from doing it. Do they just not put 2 and 2 together or is there something deeper that I am not seeing?
    The whole shared vision is hard. Every single person has their own idea of the definition of every single word and what it means in the game. Just think what does ''Low Magic'' mean to you, as it does not mean that to everyone. And this is a big problem for role play. The Dm would need to write a couple novels worth of text to get everyone on the same page. And without all that text, you will always have bumps.

    And on top of the setting stuff, you have the game stuff. Every player has tons of unwritten things they think are rules floating around in their heads. And most DM's have things they do in the game to keep the game flowing and fun for everyone. For example, as DM I avoid having the character's ''get caught''. It just often slows the game down or gets it's stuck on a tangent. A player might think a crazy thing like ''all items listed in the book are sold at the price listed by 100% pure, good, sellers who never cheat or pull any sort of trick''.

    And then you just have the overall everyone is different. Some players think it's good to ''kill anyone that threatens them'' and some DM's think ''A good person must stop and help every little old lady''.

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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I am actually more curious at the underlying cause. I can't imagine this is a unique problem, and I am really interested in figuring out why DM's say they want something from players but then punish or disallow them from doing it. Do they just not put 2 and 2 together or is there something deeper that I am not seeing?
    It has everything to do with the thing "they want from [the] players" in this particular case being "roleplaying." I couldn't tell you why, but someone actually referring to "good roleplaying" with those specific words is a near-guaranteed sign that they wouldn't recognize it if it punched them in the face.

    To answer the question about the other players, they seem to be mostly newbies whom he has buffaloed into thinking he is the all knowing god of the game; although I have noticed there is a very high rate of people who stop showing up and are never heard from again.
    Any chance of tracking them down? To quote from every other "Bad gaming experiences" thread ever, for every "I didn't play another RPG for [X amount of time]" there's probably at least a few "I never played RPGs again," and if you could help buck that trend on even a tiny scale it would be a wonderful thing.
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    NecromancerGuy

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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    What, exactly, happens if you do happen to touch your books, or look at your .pdfs or appropriate websites, while describing the characters you want to play? How about if you've read through them beforehand to get a good idea of the mechanics you're interested in using, and shaping the fluff details toward those mechanics?

    He also punishes you for RPing. If our character backgrounds are used at all it is only for him to find ways to hurt us by destroying our homes or killing off our families. There is the usual railroading and forcing us to meta-game to go along with the plot, but he also goes out of our way to punish us for acting in character.
    I'm paraphrasing because I cannot find the attribution quickly, but there's a saying regarding storytelling that 'the essence of good storytelling is to create compelling characters and make them suffer.' By incorporating elements of your characters' backgrounds, the GM is doing something quite different than what's typically called railroading, because he's actively involving the characters' interests in the plot, and allowing your characters' backgrounds and motivations to shape the story. If doing those things counts as railroading, I'm honestly curious as to what options for an actual ongoing plot wouldn't qualify.
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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Its not just one guy though, all of the DM's I am playing under do this to some extent.
    Disclaimer: haven't read the whole thread.

    What you've described is completely unacceptable. That it is so common in your area is.... abhorrent....

    Remember that no gaming is better than bad gaming.

    Having read several of your previous threads, I'm impressed that you haven't given up on the hobby altogether by now. You have a staggeringly bad pool of gamers to draw from. You have my sympathy.
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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    For a possible explanation of why all three these DMs show the same traits, let me ask you a question?

    Do these three DMs know one another? Have they played together before? Perhaps the one who has been DMing for decades taught the other two everything they know about how to DM?

    And if you are looking for roleplaying groups, do people you play with refer to people they have played with? Perhaps you are moving in the "wrong circles" of roleplaying, where you only meet players who only know disfunctional roleplaying groups, and who therefore only refer you to more disfunctional roleplaying groups.

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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    Quote Originally Posted by Amphetryon View Post
    I'm paraphrasing because I cannot find the attribution quickly, but there's a saying regarding storytelling that 'the essence of good storytelling is to create compelling characters and make them suffer.' By incorporating elements of your characters' backgrounds, the GM is doing something quite different than what's typically called railroading, because he's actively involving the characters' interests in the plot, and allowing your characters' backgrounds and motivations to shape the story. If doing those things counts as railroading, I'm honestly curious as to what options for an actual ongoing plot wouldn't qualify.
    "And then YOUR VILLAGE IS BURNED TO THE GROUND BWAHAHAHAHA" is not exactly 'incorporating' someone's backstory. 'Expending' it might be more appropriate.
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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    Wow.

    What I'm seeing here is a feedback loop. He wanted more Roleplay so he took away your mechanics. So you cling to the basics of what you're allowed to do, and that just makes him buckle down more because he sees you not Roleplaying and is trying to squeeze it out of you.

    Unless you can get into a neutral discussion about the value of not doin all those silly things, I don't see how that can work. The make characters for you thing is cool, I've done that to great effect, but basically removing you from the game for most of the game (he does literally everything) is stupid.

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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    Quote Originally Posted by Amphetryon View Post
    I'm paraphrasing because I cannot find the attribution quickly, but there's a saying regarding storytelling that 'the essence of good storytelling is to create compelling characters and make them suffer.' By incorporating elements of your characters' backgrounds, the GM is doing something quite different than what's typically called railroading, because he's actively involving the characters' interests in the plot, and allowing your characters' backgrounds and motivations to shape the story. If doing those things counts as railroading, I'm honestly curious as to what options for an actual ongoing plot wouldn't qualify.
    Well... whichever twit did say that is so far off base he scored a touchback... and it's not even relevant to RPGs.

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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    Quote Originally Posted by Sith_Happens View Post
    Because New Mexico is apparently filled entirely with the worst RPG players ever. Seriously, with each thread I have less idea how you manage to keep trying.
    Legit.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Actually, one of the groups is in Arizona. Also, the vast majority of horror stories I have are about the group I run which is located in California.

    Still, I don't know how it happens, maybe I am just unlucky or a glass is half empty kind of person, but every time I try and find a new group to fix problems it is worst than the last. Although, so far, we haven't had any actual screaming or property destruction in any of the groups I am talking about, so there is that :)
    Wait. How do you game in California? Electronically or physically? Because if physically you could probably hook up with folks through the Playground.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vitruviansquid View Post
    But no, really, it sounds like the DM is doing all this because he is very afraid of players' min/maxing to break his game. Since he does not want to improvise challenges based on the players' abilities, he has instead decided to enforce a lot of draconic rules to keep players from getting powerful abilities to begin with. He would probably not see a reason to have these draconic rules if you were to switch to a game that is not as easily broken by min/maxing.
    If the DM's game is so easily broken by min/maxing to the degree of "I want to use a specific feat", he's burnt out. Someone else should step up and run a game with a different set of benchmarks.

    Quote Originally Posted by mephnick View Post
    Oh? Why so? It's honestly not that bad except the forcing it every time. It's great for new players so they make characters instead of 'elf ranger' or Something, and it's also good for when an experienced player can't think of a darn thing to play. Just run them through a freeform thingy and take notes on what choices they make, build a quick skeleton from that and give it to them.

    Quote Originally Posted by JFahy View Post
    This is the direction I was thinking in. Even if the campaign's a dud, you have the opportunity to reach out to other players
    who might have tastes more like yours. If you're lucky several of them feel the same as you and are biting their tongues
    right now.

    It isn't important to stage a mutiny or 'defeat' the current DM in any way; just try to find people with whom you can get
    a better campaign rolling.
    Yes. 100%.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Honestly I am not looking for help, I am just providing examples to clarify my points (and blow off a little steam). I will probably end up leaving the group sooner rather than later.

    I am actually more curious at the underlying cause. I can't imagine this is a unique problem, and I am really interested in figuring out why DM's say they want something from players but then punish or disallow them from doing it. Do they just not put 2 and 2 together or is there something deeper that I am not seeing?
    I honestly think it has something to do with your selection processes.

    To answer the question about the oher players, they seem to be mostly newbies whom he has buffaloed into thinking he is the all knowing god of the game; although I have noticed there is a very high rate of people who stop showing up and are never heard from again. On the few occasions when a more experienced gamer joins us they seem to simply grudgingly accept it to get the game going.
    Dude! Exchange contact info with the promising people who never come back! Give them all a call and say "hey, I was the other non-idiot at the table that one time. I want to play a game with non-idiots. You and a few others who were smart enough tow all away, y'all wanna get together see if we can hash out a game?" And see what happens.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ravens_cry View Post
    A couple stuff I agree with. Called shots really don't have a place in a game that abstracts combat the way D&D does. On the other hand, the badie getting that many extra hits on you for what is more or less a fluff stunt is just plain silly.
    I didn't think it was just D&D. Very system neutral language.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sartharina View Post
    Well... whichever twit did say that is so far off base he scored a touchback... and it's not even relevant to RPGs.
    Not really. Stories relate to RPGs, and that is a fundamental thing to storytelling. It's just not constant or so unsubtle.

    Needless penalties are stupid though, aye.

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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    Quote Originally Posted by SiuiS View Post
    Oh? Why so? It's honestly not that bad except the forcing it every time. It's great for new players so they make characters instead of 'elf ranger' or Something, and it's also good for when an experienced player can't think of a darn thing to play. Just run them through a freeform thingy and take notes on what choices they make, build a quick skeleton from that and give it to them
    If I was at a new table and that idea was enforced by the DM, I would automatically assume he/she was a control freak.

    Not to say if someone I play with a lot proposed the idea I wouldn't consider it. I actually do the exact same thing when players ask to take the leadership feat.

    It's the kind of thing that's not inherently a terrible idea, but it would send up a major red flag about the DM if it was his go-to method. I also think going through character creation is an important part of teaching new players the game. This way seems like the DM is hiding the system from players so he can control them better.

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    Sartharina's Avatar

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    Default Re: DM's who want you to Roleplay but can only say "No."

    Eh... there are some systems that are so abusable and broken that its' better to hide the mechanics from the players, and just have them focus on what they want their character (As an imaginary person, not spreadsheet of stats) is doing in the world (as actions in a virtual world, not as interactions with a mechanical engine).

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