[RPG] How to get the DM to stop sending giants to kill us


We just started a group. The DM pitched the campaign as easier than his last campaign.

We were in a forest, and he sent eight giants at us, at once! We barely made it out alive. He then said there was a village just five minutes from there, so we started travelling up that way. When we reached it, he described it as partly destroyed. While exploring the village, he sends twelve more giants at us!

My team and I have asked him to stop sending so many giants. One of my friends quit playing because of the large number of giants he sent.

We had a party of five player characters, including me, all level 2, except a wizard at level 3. Two of my other friends said he shouldn’t DM anymore. One of my other friends said he could continue to DM but should have another player help guide him, so we let him try one more time, and he sent giants.

Why does he keep doing this, and how do I get him to stop?

Best Answer

How to help your DM help you have fun: Encounter Building

The basic rules offer some tools to help any DM create an encounter that will fit the group who is playing. It starts on page 165 and is freely available here. (The DMG has it also) It is apparent that the DM isn't fitting the encounters to your groups power level; that may be due to

  • Case 1: not understanding the encounter design model for this edition, or

  • Case 2: signalling to your party that being sneaky, or negotiating, is a way to success.

  • Case 3: DM is using the "realistic world" design concept that does not use "level appropriate encounter design" as an assumption.

If it's Case 1:

Step 1. Offer the link to him
Step 2. Ask him to make some encounters (easy, medium, hard, and deadly) that fits your character level (2).
Step 3. Play through them and see how it goes.

The DM is not bound to those numerical levels. They are a best estimate. The actual encounter difficulty varies with group make up, a bit of luck with dice, and tactical competence of the players. But if your DM does use that model to build encounters (they can all be deadly, sure) they at least have a good estimate and can increase, or decrease, the difficulty from that baseline.

As written, even if he's using hill giants, the least powerful giants, that first encounter is well beyond the power level of your 2d level group (4 2ds and a 3d). Using the table on page 165, a deadly encounter for 5 level 2 PCs is 1,200 XP, and a CR 5 Hill Giant (one of them) is 1,800 XP. (Between Deadly and 2x Deadly). Doable but challenging, and possibly some dead PCs. I've seen parties beat 2x deadly with good teamwork, but eight giants is over your party's head.

  • What if they were ogres, and you misunderstood?
    Ogre ~ CR 2, 450 XP, giant type, speak Giantish (Basic Rules, p. 147);
    The table has a multiplier of 2.5 for 8 creatures; eight ogres add up to 450 x 8 x 2.5 = 9,000 (adjusted XP) which is still over your party's head. Three ogres add up to 2,700 Adjusted XP (450 x 3 x 2) which is rated between 3x Deadly and 2x Deadly; dangerous but doable with a little luck and good tactics by the PCs.
  • If the DM is using 'awarded XP' rather than 'adjusted XP' to build encounters then any encounter with multiple enemies will tend to be overpowered. (Thanks to @sharur, who points out that the DM may be trying to throw a "Deadly" fight at the players (which is fair) but is overlooking the difference between the "calculated / adjusted XP" and the "awarded XP". For 8 half ogres, as an example, awarded XP of 1600 (a bit over deadly) is actually 4000 "adjusted" XP for estimating encounter difficulty).

See this Q&A for more details on Adjusted versus Awarded XP.

If it's case 2 (and your DM is not yet revealing the secret)

It is possible that the DM's aim is that the party avoid this encounter with these creatures, and that being faced by overpowered enemies is a signal to your party that confrontation is not how this quest/problem is solved. (I occasionally still do this as a DM). It's a blunt signal, but perhaps your party needs to try to be sneaky and use the Stealth / Hide skills to first scout out the area and avoid the big, bad giants to get to (something).

It is also possible that the DM is signalling that the first move by your party needs to be negotiation with the giants, not combat. Do any of the party members speak Giantish?

As a slight variation on this general theme, this overpowerful enemy situation can be the DM signalling that "going that way is too dangerous for your party now" (thanks, @Graham). That's a form of gating (RL analogy: "you need to be this tall" to go on this roller coaster ride at Six Flags). It's a method that some DMs use. (FWIW: I've seen it in a few CRPGs as well. When I played World of Warcraft, some instances required a minimum level to enter).

We can't know the DM's intention: we aren't your DM. But some DM's do this - place an overpowered enemy in front of the party - as a way to signal that being clever and sneaky, or that using negotiation and parley, will be rewarded and that an attempt to overpower the enemy will fail.

If it's Case 3, you're dealing with Expectations Mismatch

This kind of world is very dangerous, and has a very old school (OSR) and sandbox-type-world feel to it. In this world building theme, PCs can't assume that a given encounter is level appropriate or even survivable. (For example, Bilbo encountered Smaug in The Hobbit, but he had to survive that encounter by means other than rolling initiative and laying into the dragon with a weapon). In this kind of world, PCs have to make choices to engage, or avoid, a given encounter based on 'survival' as a prime motivation. Being willing to withdraw is a key element of this style of D&D. (Played it for years in older editions).

Games like this massively benefit from a Session 0. The playstyle is quite different from the base assumptions in this edition of the PCs having roughly level appropriate encounters as shown in the linked Basic Rules above. If this is the kind of world that you are all playing in, the DM and the group need to discuss that, agree on it, and make sure that you are all on the same page. The basic source of the disagreement and frustration at your table might well be that the DM is playing an open world or sandbox style and you all are expecting something closer to 'level appropriate encounters' as the game's premise. You need to discuss that with your DM.

I'd like to offer a big Thank You to @lfusaso, @OwenReynolds, and @Graham for your comments that prompted this addendum.