[RPG] Is a DM allowed to add restrictions mid-campaign? How to deal with that


This afternoon we had our first session of D&D 5e with a group we found on the internet.

After finishing our first encounter, I did the following:

  • Put me next to the Wizard.
  • Cast Guidance on him.
  • Send him to check for traps using Perception (he is proficient).
  • Cast Guidance on him.
  • Send him to check the corpses for items using Investigation (he is also proficient on that).
  • Cast Guidance on him.
  • Send him to check for what is inside the wooden barrels.

But the DM said that Guidance has a cooldown of a minute per cast (which isn't true), and so it will take me at least 3 minutes.

On the corpses, the Wizard found a rusty scimitar. So I cast Guidance on him in order to let him check the price of the item using Investigation.

The value of the item was 0. So, I asked the DM how will I transmute that with Artisan's Blessing (I'm a Forge Cleric) having 0 value and he said I should do an Arcana check. But I said I'm not proficient and I character is not intelligent (INT -2). He answered that I can't if I am not proficient.
After that, I barely convince him to use Religion instead of Arcana since my channeling ability is from my Gods, and I used Guidance to improve the check. The roll was 3 + 1 = 4, and so the item was useless in any sense.

So my question is: Is allowed a GM to make restrictions on the fly?

Guidance has no cooldown time and as far as I know, an item can't have a literally 0 price. I only choose the forge cleric because I thought I would be able to transmute my metallic enemies items into useful ones!

Is there something I can do at respect? I'm not sure how to handle this situation.

Best Answer

The DM can override the written rules at their table.

D&D 5e has a concept of Rule Zero, which basically means that the DM has final say in any ruling. This means they can impose restrictions outside of the written rules.

Maybe your DM is using a variant ruleset, or maybe they are mixing up the game mechanics with previous editions of D&D, or maybe they simply interpret the written rules differently. It may help to ask why they are using different rules. You may also want to point out the following:

  • Guidance has a 1 minute duration, not a 1 minute cooldown. An affected creature can benefit from Guidance once, up to 1 minute after you cast it, although their skill check activity may also take time to perform. See PHB p203:

A spell's duration is the length of time the spell persists.

  • Characters may roll skill checks without having proficiency in those skills. See PHB p174:

Without proficiency in the skill, the individual makes a normal ability check.

Regarding the 0gp item: The rules do not specify some minimum price for items. It is reasonable that a rusty chunk of metal would have no market value.

Of course, just because the DM can change the rules, does not mean they should. And it sounds like your DM's overriding of the rules is causing frustration at the table. And that's bad.

You and your DM need to come to an agreement about the rules.

You have a certain understanding of the rules and gameplay, and your DM has a different understanding. The two of you are trying to play different games. Unless this gap is addressed, the disagreements will continue.

For example, your DM asks for many skill checks, possibly to have more difficult non-combat challenges. But you want to use at-will Guidance to make those checks easier, for free. The DM's motives are clashing with yours, causing an antagonistic DM-versus-player situation. Both the player and DM are frustrated as a result.

To handle this situation, you and your DM need to resolve your disagreements about the rules, and expected difficulty, and figure out what game you want to play. First, ask your DM why they are using different rules outside of the written ones that you know. Second, consider scheduling a session zero for the DM and players communicate their expectations for the game. Agree to a mutual understanding of the rules before continuing the game.