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Old 03-12-2020, 06:27 PM   #1
Join Date: Feb 2020
Default What's the worst DM bad habit you've encountered

For me it was with a friend who just didn't take account of his players when he wrote campaigns. An example would be the first time I played with him, a 3E game. A murder mystery campaign with supernatural elements set in the 1960's, seemed like it could be fun. Psi powers were allowed, but low levels. I designed a character that had Empathy and a few levels of ESP. I ran it past him a few weeks before the game, he approved it. Seemed good.

Thing is during the game despite the fact that all my skill levels were 12-14 only 2 out of 8 of my skill rolls actually succeeded, because it became clear that he hadn't put enough thought into how my characters abilities would give the party an advantage so in order to stop us solving the crime too quickly he just kept on deciding that my powers automatically failed.

It wouldn't have been so bad if he had corrected the problem after the first session but it continued over all three sessions. By the end the other players were calling my character counsellor Troi. Incredibly frustrating experience, I had no chance to play the character I designed and was left in limbo the whole game. None of us could understand how he hadn't accounted for it. I mean really, you never thought that the guy who could see through things would try to look inside the safe no one could open? Or use his psychometry to try and figure out what room in the house the murder took place in? He did something like this every time he GM'd. Baffling.

Anyone got any experiences they want to share?
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Old 03-12-2020, 06:57 PM   #2
Join Date: Feb 2016
Default Re: What's the worst DM bad habit you've encountered

The first D&D campaign I was in, I was playing a level one wizard while my best friend was playing a level one monk. We managed to waltz our way through one of the pre-made TSR dungeons without breaking a sweat, including killing an undead beholder with a bag of marbles, a blanket, a pint of lantern oil, a broken sword, and 50-feet of rope. The other three players were laughing so hard that they could not even roll their dice and, before the end of the night, the DM banished our characters (and us) from his games forever.
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Old 03-12-2020, 07:00 PM   #3
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Default Re: What's the worst DM bad habit you've encountered

"Sid Cromwell" "Before you do...!"

When my friends and I first started playing Gurps, the GM we played with basically played his own campaigns. He had he plan and he had his own characters that would make sure those plans happened. We had barely any influence.

At seemingly crucial moments in a session, we'd get all excited and declare our action. He would often (almost always) say, "Before you do, Sid Cromwell jumps in between you and attacks the bad guy!" He'd then go off for the next 15 minutes rolling dice between his two NPCs while we all fought to stay awake. He acted as if we were supposed to be happy about that and excited about what just happened. We weren't.

It's been an ongoing joke for us nearly 30 years now.

But it's simply that for me, when a GM has their plan in mind and the players really have no influence over the outcome. It completely defeats the purpose of playing these types of games.
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Old 03-12-2020, 07:31 PM   #4
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Saint Paul, MN
Default Re: What's the worst DM bad habit you've encountered

I got to observe an instance of terrible GMing last semester at the penultimate session of my classroom DFRPG activity at school. (Admittedly, these were middle-schoolers who are relatively new to gaming.) The GM had the party fighting a climactic battle against a dragon. They'd been fighting it for the entire session and were having trouble injuring it or hampering it in any way. At one point, one kid had her cat-person swashbuckler do an acrobatic leap onto the dragon's head. The GM called for a roll: critical success. Then she attacked it in the head with her magic sword: another critical success. The GM said that her sword bounced off and then she fell off and fell unconscious.

After the session, I pulled him aside and asked him what was going on. He said that they hadn't figured out the secret way to kill the dragon. I asked what the secret was, and he said, "I haven't made it up yet. I'm saving it for the final game next week!" Sigh.
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Old 03-12-2020, 08:43 PM   #5
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Default Re: What's the worst DM bad habit you've encountered

I've seen some poor GM choices.

-Overkill -- every encounter or threat was way too powerful for the PCs. The GM expected the players to get this and run away all the time. We ended up calling for 'divine assistance' constantly, but he never changed this habit.

-Railroading -- the GM had a story planned and wants no deviation. Often has no clue what might be found outside of the script. Often accompanied by ...

-Narrating -- telling the story instead of role playing it.

-Playing his own game -- Running NPCs as if they are PCs, taking screen time, "solving" problems.

-Favoritism -- not necessarily intentional, but paying lots of attention to only one or a couple of players while not giving a chance for the others to do things.

-Rules Engineer -- using one or more significant personal rule changes that no-one else wants or understands.

-Mean Girl -- engaging in social cutting or heirarchical posturing among the group

-Criticising -- persistently complaining or mocking players for perceived 'dumb' choices.

-Reticence -- giving inadequate descriptions or details to allow the players to understand situations and make the choices their characters would make.
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Old 03-12-2020, 10:15 PM   #6
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Default Re: What's the worst DM bad habit you've encountered

Originally Posted by Dalin View Post
At one point, one kid had her cat-person swashbuckler do an acrobatic leap onto the dragon's head. The GM called for a roll: critical success. Then she attacked it in the head with her magic sword: another critical success. The GM said that her sword bounced off and then she fell off and fell unconscious.
Ack. I get that the GM was unexperienced; so it goes. An experienced GM would kill for a moment like that, ending a slog of a battle on a perfect note of daring + luck that the whole group would be happily recounting for years.

Elsewhere in bad or just inexperienced GMing:

Donny Brook makes a good list (that every GM should look at, as uncomfortable as it may be – "hmm, do I do that too?").

To add some thoughts: On the trivial side of things, there's the GM (*cough* me *cough*) who gets caught unprepared when an NPC needs a name, fumbles, and blurts out something dumb that just leaves everyone laughing.

Then there's the GM who wants to arduously look up everything for the official way to game situations, even in the heat of action. (It's easy to fall afoul of that habit, but I do try to "read the table" and just make things up when breaking out the books would disrupt the moment.)

Then there's the newbie GM who doesn't "play out" encounters mentally in advance, and so sends a number of 1st level D&D PCs into a room stocked with an even greater number of purple worms. The first room of the dungeon, the rest of which went untouched for obvious reasons. (I played one of the ill-fated PCs. Briefly.)

All of these can otherwise be great GMs, who simply lack experience to match up their good intentions. Nothing to do but laugh, learn, and play on.

One kind that actually annoys me, though, is the self-congratulatory "I'm such an evil GM! All the players fear me! Mwahaha!" GM. Not the one who uses deadly adventures to genuinely challenge players' creativity and attentiveness - that can be great. I mean the one who uses TPK encounters and unavoidable traps to gloat over his little moment as Master of the Universe. What's annoying here is not the dead PCs (just take the character sheets over to someone else's game), but the GM's stubborn refusal to realize that "evil" GMing is the most trivially easy thing to do and is boring for everyone else. Which means it misses the entire point of GMing.
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Old 03-12-2020, 10:33 PM   #7
Join Date: Feb 2016
Default Re: What's the worst DM bad habit you've encountered

Yes, one of the key things that I learned quickly as a GM is that players always destroy your story, so you need to be flexible. One of the greatest complements I ever got as a GM is when players went off on a red herring, I winged it for the next five sessions, and the players congratulated me on designing an awesome story when they finished the 'mission', when it was all them. It is a sign of inexperienced GM when they cannot roll with the punches and adapt and a sign of a bad GM when they continue to refuse to roll with the punches and adapt.
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Old 03-12-2020, 10:56 PM   #8
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Location: New Orleans, LA
Default Re: What's the worst DM bad habit you've encountered

A GM that has some kind of "counter" that has to reach a certain number of: rounds of combat, even if the players are winning; players dropping (player's "deaths" in various games where raising a player from the dead is just a resource sink) or difficulties to over come just to get started.

I want to know what the GM expects from the players and I want the GM to be as interested in what the players expect.
Trying to save Gurps by helping people ignore one unnecessarily over complex player ruling at a time.
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Old 03-12-2020, 11:33 PM   #9
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Default Re: What's the worst DM bad habit you've encountered

The worst GM habit for the longest time for me was adding inconvenience to the rules for the sake of inconvenience or 'grittiness' especially without knowing the rules well enough to do so. It's one thing when the GM tells us "Hey, bleeding rules are in effect in this campaign' before we make characters, this was far worse.

But the actual worst is when the DM just doesn't care about the rules and expects us to roleplay out something we can't know and don't even have rules to base actions off of.

A common one I've seen is 'free disads' on PCs the GMs don't like (and worse, the GM doesn't seem to notice it), usually in the form of Unluckiness but Dead Broke and reaction penalties are also up there (all npcs happen to dislike one player, gee I wonder why).
Originally Posted by cosmicfish View Post
While I do not think that GURPS is perfect I do think that it is more balanced than what I am likely to create by GM fiat.
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Old 03-13-2020, 12:26 AM   #10
Prince Charon
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Default Re: What's the worst DM bad habit you've encountered

Changing the rules in the middle of the [CENSORED] game.

Seriously, a friend that I used to game with (haven't seen him in a while) would all to frequently make a rules-change in the middle of a session, sometimes in the middle of combat, and claimed that he couldn't GM without doing that. Not so bad if you don't know the rules very well and are just participating in the collective story and riding along with those that do know the game pretty well, but very frustrating if you know the rules and realize that the change means that your character is now significantly less useful in some important way. It's not malicious, he's not trying to screw over any character or player, he just can't help himself when he gets an idea for a new or modified rule.

A different (very different) GM I gamed with a few times had kind of the opposite problem: Insufficient imagination, a habit of rollplaying and ruleplaying, and a tendency to belittle roleplaying. He once mocked a socially-focused PC by calling him a 'weak character,' and implying that someone who plays characters that aren't combat-focused is deluding themself about being a better rollplayer. It may have been due to being fairly young (in his twenties), but I've played with young roleplayers (I was one for quite some time) and most of them didn't have that problem.
Warning, I have the Distractible and Imaginative quirks in real life.

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