Folk getting very passionate and occasionally argumentative about the hobbies they enjoy pre-dates the existence of social media (as some of the discussions I had at Cons in the 80's taught me)
Ultimately there is no wrong way for someone to have fun but since different styles of RPGing exist just try to be respectful of each other as part of the "gaming social contract".
I suggest being positive about what you like rather than negative about what you don't.
Just two coppers worth from an aged gamer.
My GM "gotcha moments" have tended to be story driven over the years.
I once deposited my players in a "Mirror, Mirror"(Star Trek reference) alternative reality of the campaign world after a magical portal mishap.
They were almost immediately attacked by soldiers wearing insignia's they'd never seen but that looked very similar to ones worn by the troops of their current home city. A masked figure comes to their aid and delivers the classic line "Come with me if you want to live"
They spend two sessions working with him before that mask comes off revealing one of the big bads from their world. A few sessions later they defeated their evil dopplegangers and returned home with the aid of the NPC.
Yup, I've tweaked every default RPG campaign setting/lore from The World of Greyhawk back in 1980 on up.
For the last couple of decades its been more about adapting the lore specific stuff from an RPG my group wants to play into one of my home brew settings or building a fresh world specifically for that new campaign.
Lord Bowser wrote:
competing demands that will require compromises to achieve
Great statement - competing demands are a common problem whenever a group of people gets together to play an RPG.
The time and effort spent on finding good compromises that work for both the GM and the players are what creates the campaigns you'll talk about for years.
Other folks have suggested trying different RPGs, which could help. But ultimately your enjoyment of any game/system will still rely heavily on the shared experience the GM and players create.
Each and every RPG provides a framework to help the GM and players achieve the three points your looking for.
1) Decisions - do you mean story arc related, in combat, interactions with NPCs, building you character etc?
2 & 3) Boundaries and a Robust Fantasy framework - As I said above, while most RPG systems provide players with a default "house setting" that world isn't brought to life by the books. The real meat and bones of any setting comes from the GM and players working together to create a shared experience with the rules there to provide guidance and support.
It really sounds to me like your fledgling RPG group is simple experiencing the learning/growing pains that every GM or player whoever picked up a polyhedral die has felt at some point in their gaming history.
I suggest you folks talk to each other in a safe "no blame assigned" debrief discussion after each session to build on what when right and learn from what went wrong. Trust me, this hobby is worth that effort.
Just two coppers worth from an old gamer.
Just a shout out to the Paizo design team for how much me and my group are enjoying the game
Have been doing this RPG thing for some time (GMed my first session in 79) and have played every edition of D&D/Pathfinder. Despite my grognardian age, I've never been an edition warrior - every iteration of the game I love brought some new ideas that I enjoyed.
That said, D&D 5E didn't hold my interest for long (love what the game has done for the hobby but found it a bit too retro for my own personal preference).
Have learned that I like two styles of RPG - heavily narrative (this is when I bust out Blades in the Dark or Apocalypse World) and rules crunchy but without excessive bloat or "White Tower design" issues. Had been looking for an RPG that would fill that second niche when Pathfinder 2E released.
Is the game perfect? What system is . . .
Just two coppers worth from an old gamer