[RPG] How to get a DM to stop targeting you?


My group previously had our latest session over the weekend. It was the first one in this campaign so we changed up the roles a bit. I usually DM and I wanted to be PC for a while so we switched it up. Our new DM has rule games before, but this time it was way out there. It was going pretty good until we left the city. We were less than a days out and we encountered some bandits. (no big deal) We scared one bandit off as we killed his other companion. After we decided not to chase him, I went over to collect my arrows from the body and a Gnoll snuck up behind me and landed a critical which almost killed me. I did not even get a check to see if I heard the Gnoll. After that I was able to get back up. Then it was Gnoll after Gnoll attacking that one spot (not even a half day travel from the largest city in the kingdom) So I suggest we head back to re supply and let the city guard know that a bunch of Gnolls are out there. I then get kicked out of the city for trying to tell them how to run it. No one else in the group gets kicked out but me. Later on in the session, I am basically having to make checks to see if I can even walk down the road, to light fires at camp etc. No of the other group members have to make any ridiculous checks such as these and none of them seem to get criticals landing on them besides me. So after hours of putting up with more checks for this and that we get to the final objective for this mission. There are many goblin tents and one big tent in the middle. I decide to burn an outer tent to draw attention. But when I do the fire gets put out by sleeping goblins, but all the treasure is burnt up inside. This is when I said I had enough and I quit. Of course then the DM gets made at me and calls me out for being a sore loser.

The DM has been a longtime PC in my campaigns and I never leave a wrong uncorrected if I mess up and I admit when sometimes messes up my bad I know that is not right etc. I never try and target one player but the whole entire session I was targeted and that makes for no fun especially when it is the first session in a campaign.

Am i just being the sore loser he claims me to be? Or the DM just being ridiculous? I really wish to keep playing with the group but I do not wish to be the subject of everything. How can I explain to the DM that this makes for no fun without giving in to him? I have no clue what to do or the appropriate way of handling something like this.

Best Answer

Games should be fun. This DM is making it not-fun for you. Quitting was the right thing to do!

As for the "sore loser" comment, either one of two things may be happening:

  1. For whatever reason, they were deliberately tormenting you. Calling you a "sore loser" is an attempt to manipulate you back into their control, so they can keep tormenting you.

  2. They were making it hard on you unconsciously, and you quitting confronted them with the possibility that they were DMing badly. Since we humans, psychologically speaking, tend to conflate being bad at something with being a bad person, and we're indisposed to think badly of ourselves, we tend to try to explain problems by blaming other people first. So instead of admitting to himself that he's DMing badly, he decides that the problem must be with you and that lets him keep feeling like a good DM and a good person.

There is no difference between the first and the second in terms of your enjoyment of the game, so quitting is still the right thing to do regardless of which is the case.

The difference between the two is much more important at the group social level and the friendship level.

Because you don't know whether it was malicious, or whether it was a mistake that he's just having trouble owning, you are better off giving him the benefit of the doubt when you bring this up later. If you assume malicious intent, you'll do damage to your friendship if was an honest mistake; but if you assume good faith, you can't do any damage to your friendship that he hasn't already done himself by acting maliciously.

How you approach him is probably something you know best, since you know him better than we can, but starting by assuming good faith is the most important part. If it was an honest mistake, he's more likely to admit it one-on-one than in front of everyone else. (There is a powerful new-GM urge to appear infallible, which ironically makes the new GM more likely to screw up more and worse because they can't admit when they've made a mistake in order to fix it.)

One suggestion is to talk to him on a non-game day, ideally in person, and explain that you felt singled-out for punishment and you don't enjoy the game like that, so you won't be playing. The goal here isn't to make them admit their mistake, but to draw your own boundary where you don't play in games you don't enjoy and won't agree to anything else. In the meantime, this will also give them a chance to admit their mistake, but that's secondary to enforcing your own good boundaries.

Here's a sample script that might help you:

"I felt singled out during the game. What do you think was going on there?"

Let them talk here. Keep quiet, just listening, and let them say any ridiculous thing they want to say here, until they run out of things to say. They will probably defend, deny, and put the blame on you. Just let them keep talking until they're done. Assuming they don't admit their mistake and don't begin a conversation about how to fix it:

"Okay. Regardless of the reasons, I didn't enjoy playing and I think it's best if I just sit out this campaign."

Let them talk. They probably won't agree, but they don't have to agree with you because you don't need their permission to do something else on game days. Listen quietly until they run out of things to say again.

"I'm sorry you feel that way, but I'm going to do [this other activity you enjoy] on those days, so I won't be playing in this campaign."

(An "activity you enjoy" doesn't have to be big and complicated and obviously exclude playing in their game. It can be something that you could easily do some other time, like "catch up on some reading", "go to the gym more", "nap", "watch movies", or "play videogames". The point is not that this activity prevents you from playing in their game and can't be done elsewhen, the point is that you are the boss of your leisure time and you choose do this other thing instead. You're not saying you "can't" play because of a scheduling conflict [which they may try to fix!], you're saying you "won't" play because you want to do something you enjoy.)

And then end the conversation. Leave, stop answering the next email, close the chat window, whatever firmly disconnects you from them immediately. They probably won't be happy, but you're not responsible for their feelings and with a script like this you haven't said anything that is disrespectful, mean, or otherwise a cause of their unhappiness. Their unhappiness will be entirely because they're not getting what they want / confusing having an unhappy player with being a bad person / otherwise causing their own unhappiness in a way you can't fix for them.

What happens after you walk away is up to them. If they keep pestering you? Just say "Thanks for the invitation! But remember, I'm busy those days." If they change the game day, "Thanks for the invitation! But I'm not available to play in this campaign then either." Always a polite, but firm no, so long as they are insisting that you are the the who needs to do something different.

If they come to you and say they're willing to talk, and do actually admit the possibility that you were honestly not having fun and want to talk about how to fix that, then great! Have that conversation. If it goes south, "Okay, I still think I won't enjoy this game and I should just sit it out," then end the conversation before it becomes an argument. If the conversation goes well though, then I have no advice: hopefully, you won't need any!