Players Don't Like it Rough

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I guess it boils down to my gamers being kinda selfish brats. They just don't like it when the chips are down it seems.

Last session was especially terrible. All that happened was I got them into 1 fight. So, fight begins and they think it's going to be easy. They use 2 encounter powers in the first round of combat. One hits, the other, is Command which the guy tries to use to have a guy throw himself into the swift moving river while he's wearing platemail. He hits, but I rule that this is the same thing as moving a guy off an edge in falling and he gets a saving throw. He succeeds and ends up prone at the edge.

After this, they only use 1 non-at-will power the entire fight despite telling them that most likely this is the last fight of the day (since if they fend off this powerful patrol chasing them, others won't be so wary to try to track down and kill them). So, obviously, the fight takes forever (about 2 gruelling hours to be exact). Despite the fact that this should be an "Easy" encounter according the DMG.

The problem is exacerbated when the dice rolls seem to be going my way (which I had decided to do behind a screen, which I usually don't, but I was sick of them going "Oh he's bloodied after taking 43 damage so he must have 86ish health" or peeking at monster stats and then saying, "Ha, he's only got an 18 Will." or going, "Oh, he rolled an 8, there's no way he can hit." only to have me go, "Sorry, but he can. He's a lurker...") and the players get some bad rolls. They believe that I'm out to get them and they're afraid to waste their powers ("Since I won't roll above a 5 anyway."). They still win, but are forced to retreat as reinforcements arrive. Feeling so bad, they stopped the session and talked about ending the campaign (which probably means we won't play again until I prod them enough times).

How can I ever challenge my players or make a judgement that goes against them when that makes them completely shut down and stop having fun (turning my game into endless drudgery or not challenging them making it a yawn fest anyway)?
-Include more puzzles and/or non-combat things, perhaps. In those situations (normally) there isn't necessarily any reason for the PCs to hurt themselves, die, and so on. In order to progress, they'll need to solve the puzzle, so they'll have to keep themselves in the game, cerebrally.

-Also, if you notice that things just aren't going their way because of die, fudge them. Who cares? Especially if you are rolling them behind the screen.
Trolls in sheep's clothing have no redeeming qualities that are beneficial towards the health of the community. My Artwork/Photography/Literature
How can I ever challenge my players or make a judgement that goes against them when that makes them completely shut down and stop having fun (turning my game into endless drudgery or not challenging them making it a yawn fest anyway)?

How old are you and your players? Are you friends? Were you friends first, or gamers first? How long have you been playing? What level are the PCs?
First:

- The length of the battle is an issue and, while I am well aware of lengthy battles in nearly all PnP RPGs, I do everything in my power to create swift encounters. ((Mind you, I understand that they caused the length of the battle.))

- What were the stated reasons for suggesting the end of the campaign? There may be more reasons than "This encounter was too hard." Find out what your players and looking for and see if you're willing to give them some of that.

- Be honest with yourself. Are you out to get them? They won the battle, but they were forced to retreat. Did they have any sense of accomplishment from the event? Because they won the battle will something not occure now that would have before? Why were they forced to retreat? Did you plan that or was it because the PCs were careless (alerted guards, didn't barricade an entrance, etc.)

-----

After examining your DMing style and trying to be the harshest critic you can be... accept the reality of player characters. By and large, they're spoiled self-centered brats who want the entire game to be little more than a series of endorsements for how cool they are. If you're not willing to pamper your players egos, and that's what they're looking for, then I agree that you will likely need to end your campaign.
Karsus, I suppose I should fudge rolls on occassion. Sometimes I'll reroll something a bad guy does because it's too high or let a player reroll a daily because of its significance in combat, but we always go by the second roll. I did this a few times, but the second result seemed to always be as bad as the first for the players reinforcing the idea that the world was out to get them.

Ok, Tequila. As you may have guessed, we're teens and we were friends first. We've done various campaigns for a couple years now, but none of them last very long because either a DM gets burned out or people get bored or they want to try something new. Etc. I'm trying to see the relevance of these questions, but hopefully it'll help in a follow up.

Medhia_Nox, well, the battle was a group pursuing them (which they decided to attack instead of try to evade) out of a town for killing many of the youth there (who deserved to die, but the town doesn't know that). The group pursuing them were on horses. Reinforcements arrived which caused the players to retreat (since, while they were killing this first patrol, it was tough in their minds and they thought they couldn't handle more).

Because they battered this seasoned patrol, the town will no longer attempt to actively pursue them, but, they may be subject to vigilante justice/bounty hunters in the future. Obviously, they will not be welcomed back. They did get a nice horse out of the endeavor...

This also sets up my next hook where, if they choose to take it, they may have to sneak back into the town.
If you're going to fudge dice, (and I'm by no means opposed to it when it's needed) just fudge them. No need to reroll, just determine what you wanted the roll to be. As the DM, you're telling a story and the players are acting it out. If the dice are killing your story, kill the dice. I have no problem killing characters, but I prefer it to suit the storyline and not simply be the result of a bad night with the dice by a player.
A few more questions:

1) Why were the town youth deserving of death?

2) Why didn't the players warn the authorities instead of just slaughtering teenagers (though I'd understand the impulse ;) ) ?

3) If the fight couldn't be avoided was thier means for the players to use RP to avoid getting on the towns bad side?

4) Did the players attempt to explain thier position?

5) Did you, or would you have, allowed such an attempt to avoid the battle?

----

Players are thick and they usually resort to the stupidest solution because it's the easiest one and they're in the most control due to heavy mechanics. That means they'll usually choose combat.

It's also why those players who do not chose combat every... single... time should be rewarded. My players are amazing, and I'm grateful for them, they chose to at least try to talk most of the time and I've rewarded them heavily for solving problems in more dynamic ways.

----

Was this a beloved town by the players? Was it a "home base" of sorts where many NPCs were known? If so, and you stripped the players of it, then it is likely the true source of thier aggrivation.

Remember, from what you've told us, this has been the loss/reward of the encounter:

Loss - Town (shops, luxury like taverns, etc.)
Loss - NPCs (and with this, PC attatchments, plot hooks, etc.)
Loss - Pride (retreat)

Gain - Horse

And, now you want to make them sneak back in. I don't know if it's possible, but I would try to allow them to vindicate themselves.. and, if you still require the sneaking.. then give them a HUGE reward after they vindicate themselves to the town. I'm not talking magical items (that's the DM version of.. simplest/laziest answer), it can play a part.. but make life easier for the PCs, have this town absolutely love them, cheaping items, etc.

----

Just some insight. *shrugs*
Karsus, I suppose I should fudge rolls on occassion. Sometimes I'll reroll something a bad guy does because it's too high or let a player reroll a daily because of its significance in combat, but we always go by the second roll. I did this a few times, but the second result seemed to always be as bad as the first for the players reinforcing the idea that the world was out to get them.

-I wouldn't let a player reroll a roll unless they have some kind of item, or ability, or whatever else that lets them. When a DM rolling behind the screen fudges a die roll, no one knows except for the DM, so it really isn't a case of "Do over." With PCs rerolling things, it is, and I wouldn't recommend that. When you, rolling behind the screen, don't like the result of something, you don't have to reroll it, and possibly get a result that was worse than the first time. Say you roll 6d6 points worth of damage, and roll 30 points worth of damage. If that's too much, there's no reason to reroll anything- just tell the players 20 points instead.
Trolls in sheep's clothing have no redeeming qualities that are beneficial towards the health of the community. My Artwork/Photography/Literature
Encounters take a lot longer in 4e. I play once a week and, at most, we get through 2 encounters. It's not a bad thing either. If I speed things up to try to squeeze in 3 encounters, I go too fast and begin missing things. Also, everyone seems to get bored on the 3rd encounter of the night.

Some things I do that might help.

- Don't hold back on encounters. You're just taking away the excitement away from your players. Don't be afraid to hurt a character or knock them unconscious.

- Dice rolls can go either way. Let them fall where they may.

- This is just me as a DM, but... I roll my dice out in the open and I announce the bonus to the roll to everyone. No need to be secretive. This shows I'm not fudging dice rolls and gives the players an idea how easy or tough creatures are.

- If the players are guessing HPs because of bloodied, let them. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, that's one of the reasons you tell them a creature's bloodied, so they know they've done more than half damage. If my player's ask, I tell them exactly how much damage a creature has taken so far.

- Peeking behind the DM screen. For me, this is a big no no! None of my players would do this on purpose, but if they did, I would probably freak out.

- Remember, you're not out to get them. You're there to make sure things are fair and somewhat challenging. But most of all, make sure people are having fun.
I guess I should just straight up fudge. That's a good point.

I don't let players re-roll often. Maybe once every 3 sessions because a lot is riding on that roll and it would simply suck for the PCs if it didn't work. So, they get another try.

Medhia_Nox, your questions probe quite far and your assumptions are fair, but are not true for my campaign. They were most likely never going to be accepted by the town, but they didn't have to bring this fight upon themselves. They could've left the town be, but they chose to provoke it and it responded. When that response proved inadequite, the town realized that it wasn't worth their resources and time to track down such a foe and will now leave them be.

So, the real win loss is like this:

Loss - pride.
Loss - area (they could've just mutually ignored each other, now they'll have to go out of their way to avoid this town in the future)
Loss - next mission (should they choose to accept it) tougher

Gain - horse and other equipment from previous battle
Gain - justice upon the wayward depraved teens
Gain - this town has enemies who they have, inadvertantly, gained favor with and will soon meet

Note: If they had attempted to explain their behavior to the patrol and why the teens deserved death, they could've avoided the battle and, possibly, returned them to mostly ignoring each other (if the town would be more wary of them in the future).
How do your players play? Do they actually *get* combat?

There is a huge difference in combat in 4E and combat in multiple other systems. It almost feels like Warmachine or a similar tactical skirmish game: clever planning, teamwork, and good use of abilities are vital. Still, the dice can do bad things.

I think the thing that makes me go "...what?" the most is when you straight up told them to unload... and they refused. Why the heck didn't they listen to you? Do you or one of yoru friends have a habit of tricking each other or being an evil DM?

It also sort of sounds like you rewarded their win with what felt like a loss. They didn't get to kill the patrol and feel all tough and mean and awesome, they ran away scared (even if you told them otherwise) when they should have gotten to stand over the bodies and high five. Try to always make a win feel more like a win.

It really does sound like your players have some issues... maybe you do need to coddle them. If you give them easy encounters, they kick butt and love it then just leave it as such.

One suggestion I was given that was actually VERY good for 'training' players to be better in combat (but you might have to be careful of) is using pudsy enemies with soem tactical capabilities to run circles around the PCs and hum
Ok, Tequila. As you may have guessed, we're teens and we were friends first. We've done various campaigns for a couple years now, but none of them last very long because either a DM gets burned out or people get bored or they want to try something new. Etc. I'm trying to see the relevance of these questions, but hopefully it'll help in a follow up.

Well the teenage years are prone to angst and drama. If that's what's happening, there's not much you can do except wait for your friends to grow up. My best advice is to show up to the game with the assumption that your players will throw a tantrum and you'll have to find something else to do. Hopefully, thinking like this will let you relax a bit when things do go bad.

That said, a couple things that just might help:

1. When combat goes bad for your players and they start p!ssing and moaning, just say "Okay guys, you win. All the monsters die, the villagers praise your heroism." Don't be sarcastic, don't roll your eyes, don't speak like you're talking to [real] babies. Be sincere. Hopefully after you do this a few times, they'll get bored of winning without effort, and start saying "No, no! We're going to beat this goblin fair and square, you sick b@stard of a DM!"

2. Play a different, and meaner game, like Age of Myth on hard difficulty. Hopefully by playing a game that's truly challenging, they'll get better at tactics and at toughing it out, so that when you all come back to D&D they'll be saying "That encounter was only 3 levels above ours? You should have known we'd mow it down.
JRGumby, you seem to be seeing things the same way I do. I couldn't understand why they wouldn't even use their ENCOUNTER powers up. Maybe I do need to do a bit better explaining. Their party composition does leave much to be desired. The rogue is their only melee... Who pretty much only gets combat advantage through certain powers she has. This pretty much leaves them open to failure from the get go. They did respond by finding ways to not take oppurtunity attacks if I surrounded them or getting away effectively (yay teleport). But still.

I once said, "You know, you guys don't have to win every encounter..." And they looked at me incredulous for a moment before someone responded, "But that'd mean we're all dead." Which threw me so far off, I didn't know what to say. I probably should've explained all the ways they could lose without dying, but it just threw me for a loop and I changed the subject.

I know I should've described their kills a lot cooler. That would've helped it feel more like a win, but even I honestly wanted it to be over by that point.

When I try to teach my players by using some tactic against them so they can learn and adapt, they just think I'm out to get them. They especially seem to rebel when I focus fire as if going for the striker or controller means that I hate them in real-life and want them to die.

All the other DM's they've been under have been about tricking and being evil to players. Maybe they've stopped trying to be creative cause it gets them the beatdown stick (also why none of them has tried making a background or pretending to be anything other than themselves with pointy ears). I've tried instilling two things in them. 1, I will rarely tell them no. 2, monsters are not idiots. I've also tried role-playing NPC's in the hopes of getting them to roleplay, but they seem to take it more as a time to pull out the popcorn and give minimalistic responses to keep me going (hey, it's usually funny stuff, so, at least they like it). Even going so far as to tell people to shut up who distract me from role-playing with some irrelevant tangent.

I guess by having the dude's power not work he overreacted (along with everyone else infected by the same thought) that I was suddenly out to get them and that nothing would work. Everything after that (especially my extremely high rolls, I never remember rolling under a 12...) just reinforced this notion and they were afraid to try because the result was predetermined (or so they thought).

As for Tequila, while I don't think I'd say to them that they've mystically won somehow, randomly. I should probably come up with some ways to not make a combat feel so bad. Maybe reminding them of how much damage they've already dealt (to everyone since they rarely focus fire...) or giving their next attack some bonus that strikes fear into the enemy (if they suddenly fling a guy's sword 2 squares to the left and his eyes get wide with fear, maybe they'll feel bolstered since he's now afraid of them) or simply adding a comedic moment by having an enemy fumble will take the "horror" and "slaughter" feeling out of combat and make it more fun and heroic.
go for a complete scenario of no combat, just talking and resolving things with skill challenges.

Seems like they got the mindset that all DMs are killer DMs, so write an adventure where they are not fighting, just crossing streams, racing against time to bring some tome, device, or whatever to a town to save it.

Make it a different way going out and a different way coming back, because the river is flooded, whatever, ice blocks the pass.

They know SORT OF what they will have to face, but not exactly.

And keep up the time pressure so that they are almost running. In the end they can hire horses or something for the race to the finish.

That's how i'd go.

Good luck.
Wow, people who play Magical Teaparty Make-Believe Time bashing people who play Magical Live-Action Make-Believe Time? It's like I'm really on the Internet! - Rustmonster, commenting on RPGers vs. LARPers
If they weren't even using encounter powers then maybe they didn't quite understand the rules. Either that or they're tactical morons.
As for Tequila, while I don't think I'd say to them that they've mystically won somehow, randomly. I should probably come up with some ways to not make a combat feel so bad. Maybe reminding them of how much damage they've already dealt (to everyone since they rarely focus fire...) or giving their next attack some bonus that strikes fear into the enemy (if they suddenly fling a guy's sword 2 squares to the left and his eyes get wide with fear, maybe they'll feel bolstered since he's now afraid of them) or simply adding a comedic moment by having an enemy fumble will take the "horror" and "slaughter" feeling out of combat and make it more fun and heroic.

Describing PC awesomeness was certainly a good suggestion, but I didn't mean that you should make your PCs mystically win. I meant something like "Lady Luck finally turns her favor your way, and your blades and spells tear into the hapless monsters. Within a few more moments, all are either dead or fleeing. Do you clean the blood from your weaons, or go after the survivors?" If they choose the later, describe them taking prisoners and/or annihilating the fleeing monsters.

Anyway, good luck.
A big part of DnD is style. (just skim the threads to see how many problems are because different people play the game differently.)

I just recently quit a game because of a massive difference in style between me and the DM.
I play to feel "heroic" and that means
1) minions are easy and pose no real threat.
2) the Boss is hard, someone may die, but a team wipe is not expected
3) the above will be expected unless we deliberately go after bigger bad guys.
4) once the BBEG is dead we get rewards and parades in our honor (suitable to the bad guy killed [at level one that means perhaps free lodging at that inn in a small village])

The DM like to play "realistic"
1) minions were hard and there was a real chance a character would die
2) bosses were suicidal and had to rely on a deus ex machina to win, team wipes happened from time to time (character deaths were a given)
3) If we looked for an "easier" quest, 1 and 2 would happen anyway. (always because of story of course)
4) once we killed a bbeg we usually had to run because we had created far more enemies then friends in the process and sometimes we would get enough loot to cover our expenses.


I know it sucks when you want to play a certain type of game and they don't. But if you don't run a game where they are having *FUN*. they will quit. simple as that.


In short.. "rough" is fun IF they win at the end. sounds like they didn't feel like they won
Thank you all for your replies.

I get what you mean Tequila. Like, if things are going badly make it look like, "Well, it seemed to be going badly, but the enemies were almost dead anyways." Even if it wasn't.

As for style differences, I doubt they have any idea what they want. That's been my challenge all the times I've DM'd for them (or when anyone has). If I let them win all the time, they get bored (even if the wins are difficult...). If I just make stuff up off the top of my head, they get bored (eventually). If they lose, they instantly revolt. If I make a story, they get bored with it and decide to try to "break" it. If I make a sandbox for them to play in without any expectations for what story may occur then they try running around pilliaging everything that moves and attempting to kill people in the most gruesome and gory manner possible. Sigh, I enjoy DMing, but DMing for these guys makes me feel like a failure, because I can't figure out what they want.

Maybe they just want to be evil and for that to be ok, but, after seeing what they've already unleashed, I'm afraid of what flood gate I'll open into the sick and twisted part of their minds. Still, maybe this is what they want, at least for awhile, and I can be an unwilliing participant until they realize it's not fun when people cry upon seeing you because it reminds them of their daughter you brutally murdered... Sigh.

I'll try to tell them why combat is going badly and attempt to get them to realize all the stuff they have at their disposal for dispatching baddies.
As for style differences, I doubt they have any idea what they want. That's been my challenge all the times I've DM'd for them (or when anyone has). If I let them win all the time, they get bored (even if the wins are difficult...). If I just make stuff up off the top of my head, they get bored (eventually). If they lose, they instantly revolt. If I make a story, they get bored with it and decide to try to "break" it. If I make a sandbox for them to play in without any expectations for what story may occur then they try running around pilliaging everything that moves and attempting to kill people in the most gruesome and gory manner possible. Sigh, I enjoy DMing, but DMing for these guys makes me feel like a failure, because I can't figure out what they want.

It sounds like you have tried just about everything imagineable for them, but have you tried asking them what they want? Also, I would suggest that you try running one-shot adventures with a new set of characters for each adventure. If neither of those approaches work then I suggest that you stop being their DM. Sometimes the best option is to not play D&D, especially if you are not having fun while playing the game. You say that you enjoy DMing but it sounds like you seriously dislike DMing for them.

Given the age of your group maybe you should start picking up other games, and not just roleplaying games. Play a one-shot adventure of D&D and then switch to a different game and then to a different one and a different one etc. It sounds like your players are suffering from short-attention-span, and mixing things up might be an option to try. There are plenty of games out there that can fill in for D&D. My group is particularly fond of the card games Munckin, Bang!, and Apples to Apples, and the board games Ticket to Ride, Axis & Allies, Fortress America, and Risk. For us we play these other games when we do not have enough players to play D&D. For you it could be a way to relieve what appears to be D&D boredom.

But, if you are not enjoying being the DM for your friends then do not DM! The DM has to enjoy the game, too.
Gygaxian is NOT a slur. Those who use it as such should be punched in the face. Repeatedly.
IMX, player discontent often stems from not one particular problem, but from many small ones. Some examples:

* Dice Jesus - Horrible player luck & awesome DM luck can make for long, long night of gaming. This is particularly annoying when PCs are constantly going against higher-level monsters.
* Railroading & Mary Sue - DM has an 'awesome story' that the Players don't care about, Players are struck with a DM goad when they go after something they find interesting that's counter to the story.
* Silver Age Expecations, Iron Age World - The PCs are continually punished for succeeding, or just doing what the Players thought they were 'supposed to do.'
* Not in My Campaign! - The campaign doesn't utilize some aspects of the game that some players want, like minions, skill challenges, or rituals.

The 'Dice Jesus' problem by itself isn't bad and will happen on occasion, but in conjunction with any of the others, it exacerbates the feelings of discontent.

So, uh...carefully watch your players in-game, see what they respond to and what they don't, and try to write your adventures accordingly. I'm also recommend against fudging or just giving the PCs the win via Deus Ex Machina.
4e D&D is not a "Tabletop MMO." It is not Massively Multiplayer, and is usually not played Online. Come up with better descriptions of your complaints, cuz this one means jack ****.
I agree, maybe it's time you try another game Lord Qzip, before you end up hating D&D because of your players' attitudes. If you really love DMing D&D you can always look for another group, online if all else fails. DMs are always in demand.

Or you could try running an explicitly Evil campaign for your players, if that's really what they want. Maybe their blood & guts phase will pass on if they can indulge in gratuitously indiscriminate violence for a while.
The problem is exacerbated when the dice rolls seem to be going my way (which I had decided to do behind a screen, which I usually don't, but I was sick of them going "Oh he's bloodied after taking 43 damage so he must have 86ish health" or peeking at monster stats and then saying, "Ha, he's only got an 18 Will." or going, "Oh, he rolled an 8, there's no way he can hit." only to have me go, "Sorry, but he can. He's a lurker...") and the players get some bad rolls.

These things happen. Luck goes both ways. If your players are worried your cheating against them, your better off rolling in front of them so they know your not.

Karsus, I suppose I should fudge rolls on occassion. Sometimes I'll reroll something a bad guy does because it's too high or let a player reroll a daily because of its significance in combat, but we always go by the second roll. I did this a few times, but the second result seemed to always be as bad as the first for the players reinforcing the idea that the world was out to get them.

That is usually a bad idea. The problem is, your essentially teaching your players to whiny. The more they whine, the more they get to reroll.

As for style differences, I doubt they have any idea what they want. That's been my challenge all the times I've DM'd for them (or when anyone has). If I let them win all the time, they get bored (even if the wins are difficult...). If I just make stuff up off the top of my head, they get bored (eventually). If they lose, they instantly revolt. If I make a story, they get bored with it and decide to try to "break" it. If I make a sandbox for them to play in without any expectations for what story may occur then they try running around pilliaging everything that moves and attempting to kill people in the most gruesome and gory manner possible.

It sounds like they get bored with things quickly. To a certain extend you can compensate for that by setting short term goals. Create adventures that will only take one or two sessions to play and don't worry about long term plot much. But I suspect your players will get bored of anything in short order. The best thing for your group might be to swap between D&D and other things. Run one adventure, then play board games for a couple of weeks and then go back to D&D, then play card games for a while.

Jay
I suppose I enjoy 3 things while I DM: 1 roleplaying - pretty much anytime I'm roleplaying I'm enjoying it, 2 - when my players enjoy something, 3 - those moments where everyone's eyes get a little wide with fear cause they're not sure if they're going to make it out of this one.

That being said, it's hard sometimes not to pound my head against the wall. I guess I'll try to get them to alternate between DnD and video games or something so they don't get as bored. This will, also, give me more time to come up with material that interests them.

So far, the most interesting things to them seemed to have been: a dungeon with no monsters just puzzles which (for the most part) I knew they could figure out but made them feel smart doing so (which took me like 20 hours to set up), saving a prostitute from her profession, when I roleplay drunk, insane, attractive (once I roleplayed a chick so well that, after the game, the guy grabbed my leg and I had to remind him that I was a dude and he was like, "Ah! Crap, that's right..." it was extremely funny), or otherwise interesting people, and arena style combat against each other.

I also got them to be totally silent and intense once when I almost killed all of them (got them all to negative except 1 who finished off the monster with about a dozen hit points, it was extremely close, 1 more round and it would've been a wipe, all without pulling any punches).

I think they thought this campaign would be a cakewalk. A world they could just dance over because they're "monsters." However, so far it's been pretty tough stuff being a monster since most everyone hates you. Even other monsters... Few towns will take you in and those places aren't exactly safe. I think this coupled with the dice being in my favor is what has got them all messed up. So, I'll try to correct that notion in the future and let them kick ass and be evil and all that jazz...

After I give them a stirring speech about how their ENCOUNTER POWERS SHOULD BE USED UP EVERY ENCOUNTER and how rarely should they end their day with a daily power or having not used their daily item usage. Oh, and how the rogue should try to have combat advantage every single turn. Of course, I won't say it that way to them.

JayM, I don't do it based on whininess. I decide before the roll actually occurs if I will allow a reroll on a failure. If they seem genuinely angry or ask for it even subtely by looking at me directly after or being like, "Well that sucks." Then I don't give it to them. It's a random rare honor.
Some thoughts:

On Dice Jesus--Gaming dice are not made to any performance standard. Most of your dice are biased towards certain numbers. If they seem to be having bad luck all the time, it's probably time for them to switch dice sets.

On Cakewalk vs. Challenge--This is a tricky balance to walk. Try throwing in a few more fights that are easy for the PCs. There is the desire to challenge the party, but you might need to reign that in more. Maybe you can figure out how to run a "puzzle" encounter, where there's a trick that will cause the fight to be much easier than anticipated once they figure it out (throwing in creatures unexpectedly vulnerable to certain attacks, for instance).

Get feedback!--It sounds like you have clashing tastes at the gaming table. You need to figure out what it is the players want out of their game. it sounds like you had success with Roleplaying (them turning the pro from her job) and a puzzle dungeon...perhaps they want more of that and less of the battle grind.

When the Cat's a Stray, the Mice will Pray 

On Dice Jesus--Gaming dice are not made to any performance standard. Most of your dice are biased towards certain numbers. If they seem to be having bad luck all the time, it's probably time for them to switch dice sets.

Not totally true. One dice manufacturer does have performance standards, and that is Game Science Dice. Check out this video and this one. Colonel Zocchi is certainly a character, but he is also passionate about his dice, and he takes dice very seriously.
Gygaxian is NOT a slur. Those who use it as such should be punched in the face. Repeatedly.
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