When a group drives his DM into despair

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Hey guys.

I just came from a DnD 3.5e session which could be considered to be the worst session I've ever had. Basically I want you to give me tips about what I did wrong, or what I could do better to fix this issue with my group.
I'll describe what just happened:

The group consists of:
A dwarven barbarian CG
A human rogue/avenger (basically its like assassin but Good) CG
A half-orc cleric CN
A human ranger CN
A human fighter/monk LG

As you can see, the group is full chaotic guys... I hate chaotic.. (I'm playing Lawful-characters only).

Well, now to the quest itself:
So they found an artifact which is kinda powerful, they neither know it's origin nor its purpose though. So the guy who gives them quests all the time (he is one of the main NPC in my campaign) tells them to go to another city, find a mage there who will help them identify the item. They go there, look for the house of the mage, eventually find it and then knocking on the door. Nobody answers or opens, so they decided to let the barbarian use his freaking battle-ram to break down the door. The LG guys wanted to stop the barbarian, succeeded but in the meanwhile the cleric broke the door into pieces by a natural 20 roll on a strength check. A guard aproaches, but is bluffed and sent away. Instead of searching for the mage, they search for valuable stuff (I gave them a little gold for the convention). Then they eventually find the mage, who was killed the night before by an assassin rather known to the group.
They then picked up the (DEAD) mage and wanted to get him to the guards. Of course the guards the group, who just broke down the door and come out of the house with the dead mage. They wanted to arrest them until they've done further investigations, the group resists though and the assassin of the group paralyzes the guard and the run off. The LG guy stays with the guards though, because he want's to actually help in the investigation.
(Because of the LG's decision, the rest of the group thinks, he is acting against them, mainly because the LG wanted the group to take responsibility for what they've done.)

The group (without the LG) finds out, that the mage had a scholar, who is rather paranoid and doesn't trust anyone. The group is talking him into joining them and hide out in the sewers, because the assassin could return. The scholar wants the group to find the murderer and in return he is willing to help to identify the artifact. He needs the tools from his master though.

The group wants to return to the mage's house, which is obviously investigated by guards, so they built this insane trap (a huge net on the floor. if the guards step on it, the net is pulled into the air, trapping the guards in the net. They wanted to use an anvil as counterweight to the guards.). They then send the ranger to lure the guards to the net. He succeeded, but when the barbarian threw down the anvil to pull up the net, the anvil swang to the side, killing one of the guards trapped in the net. They then became hunted by the citywatch for killing one of them...



Whilst doing this kind of stuff, they didn't show any regret neither ingame nor outgame. I had the feeling like they were just trolling around and stressing the limit of how I and basically my NPC would react. I then told the group, that the trapping and eventually killing a guard in the progress was an evil deed, the player of the assassin then tried to convince me otherwise rather harshly.

For the sake of the length of the post I'm not going to post the rest of the quest, but it mainly continued that way.

Problem is, I feel kinda sorry for the LG guy because he couldnt really do anything but split from the group and help the guards, rather than his "companions" who were just fooling and trolling around.

And I as DM have no joy of hosting a DnDSession where the players think they can do whatever they wish. I didn't want to kill them either though. I even arrested them ingame, but they trolled their way out, because the clerics spells were rather strong. 



I'm not entirely sure if it was my fault that it went that way, but I think the main problem here is, that the players don't image the world they play their characters in like a "real, consistent" world but more like a world that exists to serve they need of attention and obviously hurting or even killing NPCs which is kinda bad for my quests and my campaign, as you can image. 


Thanks for any kind of constructive suggestions!

edit: And yes, I've tried talking to them, but I always get responses like "Well, shouldn't DnD make fun?" - this is exactly what I mean. Of course it should make fun but not in a way, that ruins the game for others. I also replied this, but they don't seem to care. I had this kind of problem before (but it got better) of people just not focusing anymore, and not taking the game or more it's contents serious anymore -.-
I recommend you split. You tried talking it out, which is good, but they seem to be using the game to act out antisocial fantasies, just as the DMG described. If what you say is true and they truly don't care about what you find fun, then there's no further you can go with them.

I had a similar problem and the advice given was that the players didn't really feel invested in the campaign, for whatever reason, and that one should make clear what you expect going forward with the campaign. You can try that, but if they're as trollish as you say, then I doubt it'll help.
Rarely have I seen a player gravitate towards chaotic because of roleplay-related reasons. Trying to reform the eternal prankster into a decent player is way too much work for any DM to handle.
As you can see, the group is full chaotic guys... I hate chaotic.. (I'm playing Lawful-characters only).



The first problem is that you're using alignment. The players of the chaotic characters use it as justification for their actions. The player of the lawful character uses it as justification to express his dissatisfaction with their actions in-game. This isn't fun and it isn't new.

Well, now to the quest itself:
So they found an artifact which is kinda powerful, they neither know it's origin nor its purpose though. So the guy who gives them quests all the time (he is one of the main NPC in my campaign) tells them to go to another city, find a mage there who will help them identify the item. They go there, look for the house of the mage, eventually find it and then knocking on the door. Nobody answers or opens, so they decided to let the barbarian use his freaking battle-ram to break down the door. The LG guys wanted to stop the barbarian, succeeded but in the meanwhile the cleric broke the door into pieces by a natural 20 roll on a strength check. A guard aproaches, but is bluffed and sent away. Instead of searching for the mage, they search for valuable stuff (I gave them a little gold for the convention). Then they eventually find the mage, who was killed the night before by an assassin rather known to the group.



As nothing prior to the point at which they find the dead mage is actually a meaningful choice for the players, you should start the adventure there and not before. Create the scene so that it draws their attention and causes them to take action. The probable assassin has just fled out the back door as the wizard draws what could be his last breath... attend to the wizard and let him go or pursue the assassin and leave the wizard to his fate? The how's and why's and bread crumbs to follow can be dealt with when the action subsides.

They then picked up the (DEAD) mage and wanted to get him to the guards. Of course the guards the group, who just broke down the door and come out of the house with the dead mage. They wanted to arrest them until they've done further investigations, the group resists though and the assassin of the group paralyzes the guard and the run off. The LG guy stays with the guards though, because he want's to actually help in the investigation.

...



I'm sure you could have come up with a more interesting interaction than taking the PCs downtown for questioning. So, instead, they made it more interesting for you. Or at least they thought they did. Your continued escalation with the guards simply made it more interesting to them and so they kept doing what followed. They went where you showed them action. So next time, show them action right at the start. Fill in the blanks on the story after you've gotten their attention.

Whilst doing this kind of stuff, they didn't show any regret neither ingame nor outgame.



Why should they? Did you have a solid Session Zero where you all sat down, discussed the game and everyone's expectations, then came up with ideas everyone was excited about? Because it sounds like you didn't and that's a common mistake. It's important.

And I as DM have no joy of hosting a DnDSession where the players think they can do whatever they wish.



I'm not sure what this means. Choice and creativity are components of the game.

I'm not entirely sure if it was my fault that it went that way, but I think the main problem here is, that the players don't image the world they play their characters in like a "real, consistent" world but more like a world that exists to serve they need of attention and obviously hurting or even killing NPCs which is kinda bad for my quests and my campaign, as you can image.



Again, this is a problem of mismatched expectations that could have been solved with a discussion prior to the first session. It's not too late to have that conversation and start something new. If, during that chat, you find that wanton destruction is what they like, then either figure out a way to give it to them and enjoy yourself in the process, or let someone else DM.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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...As you can see, the group is full chaotic guys... I hate chaotic.. (I'm playing Lawful-characters only)...



...I'm not entirely sure if it was my fault that it went that way, but I think the main problem here is, that the players don't image the world they play their characters in like a "real, consistent" world but more like a world that exists to serve they need of attention and obviously hurting or even killing NPCs which is kinda bad for my quests and my campaign, as you can image...



...I had this kind of problem before (but it got better) of people just not focusing anymore, and not taking the game or more it's contents serious anymore...



The alignment is not the problem.

Sounds like the symptoms here are:

1.  A group of players and DM who are working against each other rather than with each other.  It's usually OK for the characters to work against each other, as long as the people behind the characters are working together.  I think one of the most obvious signs of a group that isn't working together is when anyone says "I can't control what my PC (or NPC) does... it's his alignment that makes him do things that piss you off!"  A special sign of this in this case is your statement, "I hate chaotic", when you've got a group loaded with chaotic characters, in a situation where the game seems to be steered again and again into situations that allow you to implicitly side with the one lawful character against the party, or where the single lawful character is pushed into siding with you.  And, of course, there's the obvious sign of a party that is split physically as well as ideologically.

2.  A general lack of player investment in the game world.  Evidence for this can often be seen in the form of exchanges like, DM: "here's another NPC..."  Party: "We kill him, too...."  Also, "not focusing", "not taking the game or... contents serious anymore", lack of immersion in the game world, consistent action out-of-character ("I don't care if keeping a low profile and getting along well with others makes sense - I'm playing an EVIL character, so I'm going to take candy from a baby even if it means that everyone, including my own party, has to kill me, because my character is EVIL and he can't do anything else!"), and the DM having to constantly explain the cause and effect of his game world to players who don't understand why NPCs are trying to solve out-of-game problems in-game, don't care, or don't agree (DM:  "A Wizard suddenly appears and teleports you to trial for totally ignoring the Quest-Giver's explanation for what you are supposed to do and starting yet another bar fight instead!"  Party:  "That's cool, we're ignoring the judge and jury, and starting a bar fight with the lawyers in court, instead... maybe one of them will get disbarred...."  DM:  "That does it, rocks fall and everyone dies!"  Party:  "Why are you doing this, again?  For that matter, what was the plot again?")



I think that both symptoms are a result of poor communication between the DM and group about what sort of game you will be playing, and some inability of two or more people involved to reach any sort of middle ground as a result.

As Iserith suggested, a "session zero" (where the DM and group agree on the type of game, and work together on the setting and characters before any sort of official role-play begins) is probably one of the best forms of preventative medicine against those symptoms I know of.

And if you choose to be reactive instead of proactive, the longer you wait to deal with these symptoms, the harder it is going to be for you to deal with them effectively.
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
I tend to tend to agree with Yron on this. It sounds like the basis for the problems is fundamental difference between the game you're trying to run and the game the majority of the party are trying to play. You and possibly the lawful character want to run an epic campaign of quests and good triumphing over evil. The rest of the party want to play... well I'm not sure what, possibly some form of D&D based Grand Theft Auto? I think rather than trying to continue shoe-horning the two concepts together and creating a frustrating experience for both sides, instead, put the campaign on hold, sit down and have a talk with the party. Figure out what middle ground you both want to work in and if there isn't one that fits then there really is nothing wrong with going your seperate ways and both sides finding new groups.

D&D is supposed to be fun. If you're leaving the table frustrated and despairing then no D&D really is better than bad D&D. 
Here's some food for thought:
Many of those actions were also evil.
The moment the party does something that is harmful to someone else, they can be doing something evil.  Breaking down a person's door?  That's malicious property damage.  If they try to ransake the place for loot?  That is theft. 
Chaotic doesn't mean ignore the laws.  It means a free spirit.  It does not give players free reign to do whatever they want.  It's rare you find an action that is soley chaotic without being good or evil as well.
If the players want to enact anti-social behavior and you don't want to dm it, don't.  Stop running the game for them and find another group.  There are other players out there.  I had one game where players did that.  They took 3 hours to make level one characters(experienced players), and they minmaxed everything.  I allowed it up to a point and stopped it.  They admitted that they were just doing it to see how far they could push me.  I wasn't going to put up with pricks like that, and I left. 
Thanks for the awesome tips so far. I feared that I'm not completly innocent on this. I already talked to them though, not exactly about what gametype they wish, but what makes them fun in-game. One of the things was realism.

@iserith: You are so right about the fact that I propably could've made the game more interesting in some aspects, problem is that I more and more begin to railroad the group because the actions they undertake. It's like: "I don't want them to meet the NPC yet, all they'd do is propably get into more trouble, so lets send them the otherway...". 

@BOM_Pendragon: Well some may want D&D based GTA in the group, but not all of them. One in particular seems to want to play GTA only, whilst the others tend to play D&D, but sort problems not in a common-sense way, but with different (like breaking a guarded door with a freakin' battle-ram).


I also had this NPCs, which were higherborn, so Kings and stuff. You wouldn't expect what they do though. They just insult everyone in court including the king, etc. etc.

So what you suggest is that I once more ask the players what they'd like to play? Concerning the type of "game", like BOM_Pendragon mentioned, D&D GTA kinda type or more RP D&D ... etc. 

@Mastercliff: I actually did not know that (the chaotic thingy). But that is not going to help me really. Best advice I've got from you guys right now is to just stop quiting DMing for them. :/ 


edit: And another thing that was already mentioned by you guys is, that the expectations themselves are different. I for example enjoy a kind of heroic adventure much more than anyother types. The group I'm hosting doesn't seem to share that opinion. They seem to rather like playing PCs that are just interested in money, and don't care for the consequences of getting it.

edit@Mastercliff: You said that chaotic means free spirit and that chaotic actions probably are going to have good or evil aspects aswell... how so? They only example I could think of is: robbing a store for money is neutral, whilst robbing heal potions from some old guy who uses them as medicine is an evil act.
Steps to Fix Your Game:

1. Immediate Session Zero. Find out exactly what they want to play (define "realism" if that's what they want). Have them work with you on their personal goals as players and as characters. Ask a lot of open-ended questions and write down what they say. If something is not clear, keep asking. Suggest general ideas for adventures and note their response. It's just your idea until they buy-in. Ask them for help in building the world from which their characters hail. Your first adventure post-Session Zero should be a closed location like a dungeon. No cities.

2. Start every game with action. Punch them in the face the second they sit down to play (in-game). Make it awesome, make it compelling, and make it go somewhere from there. A "railroad" is not in and of itself a bad thing in this particular game system. Just make sure that's something they're comfortable with during your chat in Step 1. If they are dead set against "railroading" then start a new thread here on how to run a game without doing that and I can give you a tried-and-true design method that works every time (or PM me).

3. At the end of each game session, ask them what worked for them and what didn't. Then, ask them what they are planning on doing next session so you can prepare for that.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

FREE CONTENT: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs  |  Re-Imagining Phandelver

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There's a bit of a misconception of what alignment should be doing here, autCyrius.

According to your story, the Fighte/Monk, Cleric and Ranger all acting within their alighnment, while the Barbarian and Rogue/Avenger, not so much.

Chaotic good doesn't care much for rules or structure, but they're still GOOD, so I don't know that they'd break down someones door for no reason (unless they heard the mage moaning in pain behind the door?), and they CERTAINLY wouldn't be looting his home.

A great example of a Chaotic Good character is Robin Hood. He stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Stealing is a disregard for the laws of the land, so the chaotic fits. Giving the money to the poor is a good act. If Robin Hood had kept the money, he'd be Chaotic Evil-he's only in it for himself.

Chaotic, Neutral, or Lawful is how you react to rules and structure. Good, Neutral and Evil are how you treat others.

Chaotic Neutral is an alighnment that's basically only good for sociopaths. They don't follow any structure, and they usually just do things on whatever whim they have at the time. Sounds like everyone outside of the Fighter/Monk are more Chaotic Neutral.

Good luck with these players. The barbarian and rogue/avenger are not playing to their alignment. 
There's only one thing that alignment does and does well: Create disagreements about what alignment means.

From a game design perspective, it wrongly presumes a player skill and interest in roleplaying under a constraint with no in-game benefit whatsoever. It's a self-inflicted restriction, or at least it aspires to be (and often fails at that), and in most cases puts the DM in an adversarial position, policing how far over the borders of their alignment the players cross and judging what the in-game consequences will be for their transgressions.

If I told KuzuD that I completely disagree with his interpretation of alignment while he was DMing for me, we'd be at an impasse, wouldn't we? An impasse that only came about because someone somewhere thought it was a grand idea and then someone much later decided they agreed. Potentially a game-destroying impasse. One need only look to these very forums to see the carcasses of games that breathed their last when someone disagreed with the DM as to what Chaotic Neutral meant.

So, do yourself a favor: Stop caring about alignment and don't allow anyone to use it as justification for anything they do. Just pretend it doesn't exist. If it's mentioned as part of a spell effect or the like, pretend they mean "supernatural alignment" which applies only to monsters/villains or substitute some other word in there like "Bad Ideas." Every cleric I ever made in 3.5 had a Protection from Bad Ideas spell. I cast it whenever someone brought up alignment.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

FREE CONTENT: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs  |  Re-Imagining Phandelver

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If I told KuzuD that I completely disagree with his interpretation of alignment while he was DMing for me, we'd be at an impasse, wouldn't we? An impasse that only came about because someone somewhere thought it was a grand idea and then someone much later decided they agreed. Potentially a game-destroying impasse. One need only look to these very forums to see the carcasses of games that breathed their last when someone disagreed with the DM as to what Chaotic Neutral meant.

Maybe, but assuming 3e (in 4e it does not matter at all) it would only matter when you play one of those classes with alignment restrictions and then only when your disagreement switches the character's alignment over to an illegal alignment. Otherwise, who cares whether you call it chaotic neutral and the DM chaotic good? And if you do care, there is a completely seperate issue going on that has nothing to do with alignments and everything with the relationship between DM and player.

Personaly I like alignment debates, although not at the gaming table, but in my experience when an "alignment" debate rises at the gaming table it is not about alignments but about a perceived break of the social contract. I ask my players not to play evil characters (and they know so well before they join), and so when PCs are about to do something I consider evil, I ask them about their PC's alignment. It is not that dictate their character's behavior, I simply remind them of the table rules we agreed upon when we the campaign started. Other than that I might remind them they are not playing their character consistently, but I don't care whether they write down unaligned, good or lawful good on their character sheet.


Thanks for the tips. 

@KuzuD: Then I did right to shift the barbarians and rogues/avengers alignment towards evil, so now they are CN.

@iserith: Of course it might cause disagreements, but in the d20 ruleset they are rather good explained and thus enabling the players (at least the one in my group) to get a basic idea of how the alignment should work (appearently though, the rogue and the barb had a wrong idea).

@Madfox11: I agree. Not considering alignment sounds like a good idea, but you said it yourself "they are not playing their character consistently".
This is the main problem I see here. Alignment should, in my opinion, be a guide on how the character should react in the fantasy world. Otherwise, the PC would act according to the mood of the player. One weekend he is of a good mood, the other he is in a bad mood. The one week he helps some poor people, the other day he kills some innocents. (extremes, of course).
 

But I think I've made up my mind now. I guess I'm not as good as DM according to the crap the group is doing, so I'll be quiting DMing for that group. I'll probably stop playing with them too, since I'm not enjoying playing with them anymore (too bad I introduced one of the molesters) and I fear I would just try to troll as much just to show them, how annoying it is.
Maybe, but assuming 3e (in 4e it does not matter at all) it would only matter when you play one of those classes with alignment restrictions and then only when your disagreement switches the character's alignment over to an illegal alignment. Otherwise, who cares whether you call it chaotic neutral and the DM chaotic good? And if you do care, there is a completely seperate issue going on that has nothing to do with alignments and everything with the relationship between DM and player.



Right, alignment is never an issue until it is. Then it can be a big issue. The player uses it as justification as to why he did something psychotic; the DM uses it as a bludgeon to get them to not do that. It may, in fact, be grounded in a separate issue as you say, but I don't think I'm going out on a limb here by saying alignment is often either a catalyst for a larger argument or a convenient excuse to fight a proxy war between the players and DM over said separate issue that is best not fought.

Personaly I like alignment debates, although not at the gaming table, but in my experience when an "alignment" debate rises at the gaming table it is not about alignments but about a perceived break of the social contract. I ask my players not to play evil characters (and they know so well before they join), and so when PCs are about to do something I consider evil, I ask them about their PC's alignment. It is not that dictate their character's behavior, I simply remind them of the table rules we agreed upon when we the campaign started. Other than that I might remind them they are not playing their character consistently, but I don't care whether they write down unaligned, good or lawful good on their character sheet.



Obviously the best solution is a good Session Zero as you and others have suggested, myself included. Everyone gets on the same page before the game. But that's part of the problem of what happened here and alignment played into that, right on schedule. Alignment debates are too subjective and in my experience usually end in acrimony. It's just one more unresolvable argument to add to the growing pyre of things best left out of the game. Some games do alignment well - like Dungeon World - because they make alignment an issue of doing a specific thing the game considers "Good" or "Evil," based on class, and rewards you when you do it with XP - e.g. an Evil Thief gains XP "when you shift danger or blame onto someone else." It's specific enough to be argument-free, it doesn't suggest anything other than that as a constraint (if you want to call it that) for roleplaying, and is evocative. In D&D, it's a slow motion train wreck - you might be able to avoid it, but sometimes you'll stand on the tracks and tell it that trains wouldn't act that way and let it careen into you.

@iserith: Of course it might cause disagreements, but in the d20 ruleset they are rather good explained and thus enabling the players (at least the one in my group) to get a basic idea of how the alignment should work (appearently though, the rogue and the barb had a wrong idea).



The trick is that it doesn't really matter how well it is explained in the book. People are going to say what it means to them. And then you're going to point to the book to tell them they're wrong. You might actually be correct when you say that. But it doesn't matter - the first shots have been fired. And then the same tired battle fought in many groups over many decades begins anew.

But I think I've made up my mind now. I guess I'm not as good as DM according to the crap the group is doing, so I'll be quiting DMing for that group. I'll probably stop playing with them too, since I'm not enjoying playing with them anymore (too bad I introduced one of the molesters) and I fear I would just try to troll as much just to show them, how annoying it is.



It's never a happy day when you have to decide to walk away. I recently dropped two players from my game, but not for the same reason. It sucks. Best of luck in finding a new group and always take with you the positive aspects of the hard lessons learned while DMing for a troublesome group. Not to be paranoid about the motives of future players, but to know how to avoid the problems before they become problems.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

FREE CONTENT: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs  |  Re-Imagining Phandelver

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

when the barbarian threw down the anvil to pull up the net, the anvil swang to the side, killing one of the guards trapped in the net.

Wait... how did this occur? Did the barbarian do this on purpose, or did you rule that this occurred by accident?

He did throw the anvil down on purpose, but the swinging is defined by the law of physics.
He did throw the anvil down on purpose, but the swinging is defined by the law of physics.



Yes, but it wasn't physics that said "This anvil hits that guard.  And kills him.  Or has a chance to, let's roll dice & find out."

That was YOU the DM who did that.

Afterall, you know what the player intended.  And as a DM you control reality. 
So you could've had the anvil land exactly like it would've in a Scooby-Doo episode.  Or you could've added some tension as you had a swing & a near miss (maybe with some fake dice rolling).
But you didn't.
Probably because you hate the Chaotic alignment & decided to further mess with the players....