Limits Enhance Your Campaign World

Worlds are created as much by taking things away as it is by adding things.

There was a recent discussion on Facebook around GMs restricting choices from the players – specifically around races and classes – in their campaigns.

And a few people felt this was alienating and silly, and reeked of a GM power trip.

In my opinion, this view is misguided.

Being creative – designing a world – is in equal parts adding as well as taking away.

Limiting choices (for good reason) is important, as it creates a sense of (good) tension, and the limits imposed forces us to be even more imaginative.

The sculptor takes away a lot before her masterpiece is ready.

But another reason a GM may not want to allow a certain race, class, or rule is he simply doesn’t like it.

Simple personal taste.

This isn’t anything against a player who may love it – it’s just that the GM, who has spent time and effort on developing his campaign, may just not like Tieflings, for example.

As a GM my enjoyment would be greatly lessened if I allowed Dragonborn into my campaign world – I dislike this race with a passion. So I simply don’t allow them. They don’t exist.

Does that impact on players choices? Sure. But not in any significant way.

There are still a myriad of choices a player may take.

Having said this, I try not to be too restrictive unless I have a rather defined idea for a campaign, and these are usually limited to one-offs.

Official Restrictions

And there is a history of limiting choices throughout D&D official history.

The Darksun campaign setting changed so much about the playable races – Elves were completely different, and there were no Gnomes to be seen.


There are deep psychological reasons for players getting upset about limitations – two come to mind:

1. People in general are more adverse to loss than gain, so they feel loss way more than if they gained something. To put this into roleplaying game context, they would feel the loss of a playable race way more than the addition of a new playable race.

2. People always want what they cannot have. So, if you take a race away as a choice, they will want to play it more. This, of course, ends up leading to an emotional response.

I get the feeling those players who do not like the restrictions imposed on them by GMs take it personally, for whatever reason. Thinking their “freedoms” have been trampled on.

This is (to me, at least) an odd way to look at it.

I would look at it as part of the world – by taking something out, the GM has changed the feel of the world. And that change could well be an interesting one.

Creativity Vs. Bad GMing

One last point I want to cover.

Some people have said that GMs limit their options for no other reason than they want a power trip.

This has nothing to do with creating a world and everything to do with being a bad GM.

At the end of the day, if a player doesn’t like the campaign world a GM has created, they can always walk away. No hard feelings.

Over to You

What are your thoughts on this? As a GM have you ever restricted player choices and how was that received?

While You’re Here…

Since 2021 I have been publishing d12 Monthly, a monthly zine, which has a ton of articles for any edition of Dungeons and Dragons.

Printed copies are available in my store. The PDF is available on DriveThruRPG and you can get both, plus support my work, via my Patreon.

I will also be releasing some more products in the near future.

Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter or my contact page any time.

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