[RPG] How to run a game when the PCs have different approaches to combat


Following on from the question How can I make sure my players' decisions have consequences?:

I'm frustrated as a DM because I feel like the different players / PCs in my (level 5) group want different things, and perhaps this group is doomed to fail.

The wizard / the wizard's player (sometimes I struggle to tell the difference) is pretty cautious, in the sense that he wants to blast everything with his highest level spells, regardless of opponent strength, and then immediately take a long rest.

The druid's player likes doing things that would be in character even if they aren't completely optimal (not totally stupid though), and she also likes the feeling of danger – she's told me before that she gets a bit bored of encounters that are too easy, and the solutions I can think of to that are either to make sure there are multiple encounters in a day, or to make the individual monsters harder, but then that exacerbates the wizard's desire to take a long rest after every battle.

We also have a monk, whose (brand new to DnD) player has told me that he is frustrated by doing less damage than the other PCs (particularly the wizard) – and I don't think he really understands how much it hurts him to have adventuring days made up of one battle and then a long rest, because the wizard is throwing two fireballs per battle, and the monk isn't getting any short rests to get ki points back, or any battles where he still has resources and the wizard doesn't. (We also have a rogue, but she doesn't get anything special from short or long rests and seems happy to do whatever anyone else wants).

So days with multiple encounters and short rests are preferable to me, the druid, and the monk, and is also the way the game is ''supposed'' to be, if that means anything. One battle then a long rest is preferable to the wizard (for obvious reasons, I guess), and the rogue doesn't mind. I'm frustrated that in a recent session, what was supposed to be multiple encounters with short rests (and cool treasure!) turned into one minor battle and a long rest. Is this a sign that the players are too different for us to happily play together, or just that I'm a bad DM?

How do I run sessions for this group of players when they have such different preferences? Is it possible?

Best Answer

You seem to be running a very sandboxy adventure.

In your other question you've written:

They were here because they were heading for the town beyond, but they had no known time pressure to get there, and they specifically knew that on the way they would pass a dungeon full of monsters that had been terrorising the region.


So I guess the best thing, as several of you have suggested, is that rather than try to force the PCs to do anything, I just focus on what the monsters will be doing - the situation in the region will clearly get worse because they didn't deal with the dungeon yet.

You told your group: "there are some monsters over there" and you expected them to decide to walk over and fight them. Now you're planning the consequences the group will face because they didn't walk over and fight them.

That's a valid approach, but it's very different from the one I use (and that other DMs use). That approach is to give them plot hooks.

  • The villagers from the last town should have explicitly tried to hire the group to go clear out this dungeon.
  • The characters should have heard rumors of valuable treasure hidden in this dungeon.
  • The characters have backstories, yes? Maybe one of the characters has a backstory involving a side villain and the side villain is somehow connected to this dungeon. Maybe there's some other way you can tie the backstory into this.

In my most recent adventure, I took it a step further. Every time the group talked to any NPC, I invented some sort of quest or task that the NPC wanted the group to do. Some of the quests were evil; some were good; some were lucrative. Some were obviously stupid. There were three witches, each of whom wanted the group to kill the other two. It quickly became apparent to the group that they were going to have to decide which quests to follow. But I made very sure that the group did not lack for quests. It worked really well!

A side effect of offering these quests is that you can give them quests with time pressure, which will solve your long-rest problem.