Dungeon Mastering, or DMing, for Dungeons and Dragons can be a scary and enjoyable time. However, not every session of D&D is going to be the fun experience we all expect it to be. With players who create uncomfortable situations or are playing for themselves, DMs have to figure out a way to not only deal with them, but keep the game going.
There are a lot of ways that both DMs and players can bother each other. This list looks at some things that can be a nightmare to DMs as well as some ways DMs can torment the party.
10 Nightmare: Preying On The DM’s Niceness
There is a certain level of respect that needs to come between players and the DM. While this respect does have to be earned, it can also be abused in toxic ways. One toxic trait is using a DM as your own personal plaything, which can happen if left unchecked.
This kind of nightmare can start small, okay moments, such as requesting a different type of check than what was asked, but it can build into something much more over time. Seeing a player trying to take advantage of the DM is a nightmare for everyone involved, not just the DM.
9 Torment: Exhaustion
Often used as a scripted punishment, exhaustion isn’t as used as it should be according to the rules of 5e. There are several situations which give exhaustion, such as combat abilities, creature abilities, and environmental and adventuring hazards.
Since this is a mechanic of the game itself, there is no reason to not implement it as much as inspiration points, which are seen used much more often. Exhaustion makes the player think about their actions, whether in-game or not, so it becomes a useful tool.
8 Nightmare: “It’s What My Character Would Do”
The quote that DMs and many players hate. It’s what my character would do has become a crutch for murder hobos who pillage a town because their alignment is chaotic neutral, even though most of their actions fall heavily on the evil alignment side.
This type of player can be alright to deal with up to a certain point. If a game can’t have a plot thread put in front of a party without the character stabbing it or casting fireball on every building in town, then it just makes for an unfun atmosphere.
7 Torment: Deck Of Many Things
Technically not torment by the hands of the DM, rather potential torment at the hands of fate. The Deck of Many Things is a much-maligned item for its ability to throw an adventure off its track, in both positive and negative ways.
Introducing the Deck of Many Cards Things to a game might seem like a fun or disastrous choice, but it is both simultaneously. With enough negative cards in the deck to throw any murder hobo off their game, it provides ample opportunities for torment, especially with Euryale, Rogue, Skull, or The Void cards.
6 Nightmare: Overly Sexual Players
One of the most common tropes with Dungeons & Dragons is that bards are all extremely sexual. While that isn’t the case for all, there are definitely those players that portray a character directly towards the stereotype.
If the player is exclusively playing so they can bed every person or creature, they come across, it can make a lot of others uncomfortable, including the DM. This is why recently popular RPG consent forms are a great invention for campaigns. It saves everyone from the awkwardness of these moments.
5 Torment: Time Stop
While DMing and playing are supposed to be fun, there can be times of tension and chaos. If the Big Bad Evil Guy, or BBEG, is any type of spellcaster, which they almost always are, then you have access to all sorts of fun ways to torment the players. One of the most enjoyable is the spell Time Stop.
Most Chronomancy spells will give great effects, but Time Stop allows you to set up for a lot of tomfoolery. With a maximum 5 free turns, a BBEG can set up traps around the party, set wards, set up time-released spells and so much more before the players even get a chance to react. It’s like that Quicksilver scene from X-Men: Days of Futures Past, only with a lich instead of a teenage boy.
4 Nightmare: Min-Max Players For Casual Campaigns
It can be said that min-max players absolutely have a place in Dungeons and Dragons, however, every game is not that place. While having all of the power from go can be fun for one person, it affects the party negatively when everyone is playing a casual game and one person is playing competitively.
Min-max players make combat completely unbalanced, and overall make the game less fun, especially if playing with a group of new players. D&D is cooperative and should reflect that in the way it is played. One person taking over combat and every social situation is just unfun and creates issues for the DM.
3 Torment: It Was All A Dream
One of the most annoying plot twists in film and storytelling in general, the idea of an adventure or story having been a dream is incredibly disheartening and one of the evilest things that a DM could do. Depending on where the dream technically started, that means that the XP and social situations could be wiped from existence.
This is not a torment that should be used lightly, nor should it be used without a good story reasoning behind it. There are, however, several creatures that could come in handy for executing this story beat with flair.
2 Nightmare: Rules Lawyering Consistently
A major part of Dungeons and Dragons is the rules that need to be followed. As fans play more and more, some rules may merge, be overtaken by house rules, or thrown out altogether. While that is generally understood, there are emphatic rules lawyers who use the rules only when it benefits them, which creates an uneasy atmosphere for players and the DM.
Rules lawyering is plenty necessary, as sometimes people forget things, however, when it gets to a level when a player is reminding the DM of their special skills every five seconds then remaining silent as they move out of combat without opportunity attacks, it isn’t about the rules. It is about them getting everything and giving nothing.
1 Torment: Character Death Or TPK
Whether they realize it or not, every DM has a card in their back pocket that seemingly acts as a get out of jail free card. This is the total party kill, or tpk. While this happens more often than not in balanced fights on accident, it can also happen as a direct result of choice from the DM.
Death is an important part of D&D, as it cements the lives of characters that are beloved by the players. However, it can be used as a punishment for players who have ignored warnings and requests from the DM. Killing off characters is a last resort choice, but sometimes killing the player’s characters can be cathartic in a twisted way.
Dungeons & Dragons is typically a cooperative affair, but there are many things DMs and players can do to each other to make the game a nightmare.