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If You See These GMs, Run - The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal
January 4th, 2004
08:18 pm


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If You See These GMs, Run

From various threads on my last big post:

  • If a GM spends more than three minutes acting out a conversation between two Important NPCs, run. Those aren't the NPCs; they're the PCs, and you're going to spend the entire adventure playing second fiddle to someone. (Good GMs make you the center of attention.)
  • If a GM refuses to allow any out-of-game talk and treats comments between players as if they had been said in the game, run. This idiot is into games of control, and he's going to make your life miserable because This Is His Game.
  • If a GM offers a single plot thread and refuses to let you do anything else until you take the bait, run. You're going to be railroaded into a plot that you will have no control over, and your actions will be meaningless.
  • If a GM refuses to let you do something very cool and imaginative that you came up with and doesn't give you a reason beyond, "Things just aren't done that way," run and run fast. Good GMs will explain why your mega-cool solution isn't workable (and that explanation may be, "It involves things your character doesn't know about"), and will work with you to try to find some way to get your mega-cool solution to work. Bad GMs will just sit there and be disgruntled, because in their mind there's one way to do it, and you'd better find that way.

(My favorite example of this? Shadowrun game, the players are paid one million nuyen to break into the local mob boss's office and steal a rare flower. The players, not wanting to make big enemies in this town, call up the mob boss and offer him a million nuyen for the flower. The DM, perplexed beyond words, declines because the boss really likes the flower. A lot. Apparently a million nuyen worth.)

  • If a GM ignores your cries that you're doing something, to the point where you have to mention that you want to do X four or five times before it seeps in, run. Good GMs listen to what you want to do, and let you do all of it, even if they may occasionally put you on hold while he roleplays the results of other players' actions ; bad GMs ignore people and only allow you to do half of what you've asked for, making it like playing over a very staticky line.
  • If a GM spends time with you creating a character and it turns out that your PC has no skills that are useful in the game (or who has drawbacks that will prevent him from being useful), run. I've spent more times trying to be useful in loser campaigns where I could have been useful with just a few tweaks.

(My favorite: In a future-age space game, I decided to play a wartime freelance journalist who made his living piloting mechs in his spare time, freedom-fighting on the side of whatever faction he agreed with. I got into the game, and it turns out that nobody would listen to me at all because I had no military rank, so I piloted no mechs and in fact did nothing for the next three sessions aside from take pictures. Why didn't the GM say, "Hey, without a rank, you're useless"?)

  • If a GM creates an adventure that does not take your character's limits into consideration (you need magic weapons to hit the ghost, you need to be 15th level and you're 7th), run. He doesn't give a shit about you, so why should you give a shit about him?
  • If a GM allows players to spend more than fifteen minutes making plans for some trivial thing like how to pack a thousand gold pieces into a sack or what area the players will go to next, run. Good GMs step in when players are perplexed and guide them to the proper solution; bad GMs just let the players blather on and on and on. There is a time to shut up and let players really think things out, but quite frequently a good GM needs to step in and say, "Okay, there's only so many ways to get to Davenport; let's pick one and move on to the interesting bits, shall we?"
  • If a GM forces rape on a player or keeps putting a certain player in sexy situation until he can find a way to fuck them, stab him in the head until he fucking dies.

...any other warning signs?

Current Mood: irateirate

(70 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

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[User Picture]
Date:January 4th, 2004 05:31 pm (UTC)
AFter reading this, I am starting to think the big warning sign is IF ANYONE ASKS YOU TO PLAY A GAME.

But then I have no one to play with, no one to teach me. *sniff*
[User Picture]
Date:January 5th, 2004 01:30 am (UTC)
Try pbem.com if you're willing to try it online. Hell, I'm running a game that way, and I'm pleased to say it's going fairly well.
[User Picture]
Date:January 4th, 2004 05:38 pm (UTC)
I once had a GM yell at me for out of game knowledge. Mind you, she was the one with the knowledge. *She* knew that the monster only had 2 hp left. My ranger did not, and chose to heal someone for an action. I got yelled at for not attacking.
[User Picture]
Date:January 4th, 2004 06:22 pm (UTC)
If a GM consistently asks you pointed questions (like "do you look for traps?" "are you searching for secret doors?" or "do you look at the back of the manticore's head?") instead of offering more subtle hints or letting you live and learn, run.

As I grow older, I begin to see that a good GM is much like a good boss, or to make another analogy, a good director. He offers guidance instead of micromanagement, motivation instead of line-readings.

Anyone who puts his ego or petty insecurities ahead of the success of the campaign as a whole should be avoided at all costs. (A "successful campaign" in my book is not necessarily the attainment of the party's goal, merely a damned fine game-- the game's the thing, right?)

Wishing I knew all this when I actually played regularly ;)

Considering picking up the makings for AD&D or some other D20 game, to inflict on my almost wicked stepson :)
[User Picture]
Date:January 4th, 2004 07:49 pm (UTC)
Absolutely, on what makes a good campaign. Some of the best sessions I've ever run as a DM are the ones where the players got distracted from the plot, and touched almost none of the stuff I'd spent hours preparing, but instead got involved in some character-related stuff. Not a die was rolled, but two hours of intensely enjoyable roleplaying ensued with almost no input required from me except to run one character's semi-sentient NPC pet parrot.

The thing was, the players were having tremendous fun, and for that matter, so was I. More than driving them through my Plot, I see that as the point of the game.

Which reminds me of another one: If the GM is out to 'get' the players, including the apparent intent of trying to kill the PCs unless the players are damn good at survival, run. A good GM won't set up encounters designed to kill you; PCs should only die if they do something actively stupid in a dangerous situation.

And if the GM allows rules-lawyering with game mechanics, like the tale of the high-level fighter who escaped a combat by jumping off a five-mile-high cliff, taking the requisite 10d6 damage, brushing himself off and walking away, run, because it's stupid.

(If I were running it, that would go either: "... Okay. You fall five miles, hit the ground, and splash. You're dead, and a moron." or "Okay. You fall five miles, hit the ground, take 10d6 damage... Obviously you have an amazingly resilient body. You bounce. You're falling again, okay, another 10d6 damage... wow, you bounce again? You're still bouncing pretty high, so 10d6 more damage..." until death, because that counts as doing something stupid in a dangerous situation.)
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Expand
[User Picture]
Date:January 4th, 2004 06:36 pm (UTC)
The rape thing is a pretty good sign that you should stand up at that moment, pick up your things, and walk out, possbily emptying a handgun into said fantasy-rapist on the way out the door.

I was totally appalled by the fact that came up at all in replies, let alone multiple times.


I have a general rule for both players and DMs:

If you wouldn't hang out with this person to do things besides roleplaying, don't play with them.
[User Picture]
Date:January 7th, 2004 06:55 am (UTC)
Another excellent rule. But sometimes you want the methadone.
[User Picture]
Date:January 4th, 2004 06:56 pm (UTC)
I was actually playing in a game where the DM decided all our player characters were going to be female and we had 45K of gold to start out with. Bewildered, we accepted, and bought ourselves belts of masculinity (turning us back into males) and the like.

The game started, and the first NPC was, of course, a woman with skanky clothes and a big bosom. The DM was obviously wanting to coax us into sex or rape or something, so what did I do?

I drew my sword, and stabbed her in the back. No reason.

The game went on, and while it was the most short-lived and non-serious game ever played, it was also the funniest. It was an IRC game, I still have the log somewhere.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:January 7th, 2004 06:56 am (UTC)
I have a GM who's like that. I don't play with him any more. He's a good guy, but I'm tired of coming up with characters (and I never play the same PC twice), only to have three sessions and then watch them get thrown away.
[User Picture]
Date:January 4th, 2004 07:06 pm (UTC)

One exception...

I GM B-Movie, which is an almost-unheard of game that came out of beta just this last year and appears to be published online exclusively by Guildhall Press. I GM it once, maybe twice a year - at the New Years' Eve gaming party a friend of mine runs, and on special occasions - exclusively one-shots because I haven't the energy for a longer campaign than that.
The rules specifically state that the players represent the subconscious of the character, and that if you say something mean about an NPC, your character was thinking it and should be appropriately penalized. The EM (Evil Mastermind, their take on GM) is encouraged to be arbitrary and generally overtly wicked.
Within the framework of this particular game, it's hilarity in motion.
Anywhere else, I agree with you 100%.

[User Picture]
Date:January 4th, 2004 07:29 pm (UTC)

Re: One exception...

Shared expectations, in gaming as in so many other things, are so important.

There's this grin I get on my face when I'm GMing that my players all know and recognize, and they always say, "Uh oh, we're about to get screwed." But they also know that they're going to have fun with whatever terrible thing I'm about to do to them, so they generally grin right back.

Though I will say that them walking through the one-way dimensional portal without hesitation or planning after I left all sorts of hints that it was ONE WAY just warmed my sadistic little GM's heart. And then made me have to figure out how to moderate my sadism, because I'd never figured they'll actually hand that one to me...
[User Picture]
Date:January 4th, 2004 07:37 pm (UTC)
One that immediately comes to mind, that possibly relates to your 'Single plot line' paradigm, is where your character investigates/examines something (it could be an object, an NPC, anything) and is told by the GM that they find nothing out of the ordinary. Later it turns out that there was something very out of the ordinary that your character easily had the skills/knowledge to spot and it seriously screws the players.

For example, last year I was involved with a game on LJ where part of the RP took place in IRC. We were in a club and there was a band in stage. My character (a fairly high level magic user) and another character (a similarly high level magic user and also trained vampire hunter) decided to checkout the band because we were suspicous of them. We were told by the GM that their was nothing out of the ordinary about them, just a typical punk/metal band. Later it transpired that the whole band were low to moderate level vampires, easily identifible by either of our characters even if we hadn't investigagted them we should have known by simply being in the same room as them from basic magical awareness!

Another one is where the GMs SO is a player. That's not always a problem but it's something you need to be aware of and keep an eye out for problems. Some GMs will treate their SO's character the same as other characters, others will play favourites and give their SO's charcater breaks they won't allow to other characters or will structure the game to make their SO's character a Mary Sue.

[User Picture]
Date:January 4th, 2004 07:43 pm (UTC)
Hey! I'm an SO, and I regularly get the crap beaten out of my character! If anything, I get scolded for not being as attentive to the rules of the game as I should be (i.e., "you should know this by now!").

No real point, just random indignation from the WeaselWife [g].
[User Picture]
Date:January 4th, 2004 07:42 pm (UTC)
If a GM allows more than three minutes of debate over a given rule, run from horrible rules-lawyersness. (One minute if no-one is actually willing to check the book.) The GM should make a call, and the players should abide by it.

Exception: If the GM is making arbitrary calls to railroad the players (e.g. "The second-level cleric knows a spell that he can cast that gives him immunity to Psionics." True story... Shadowrun, I believe, but I wasn't in that one.), run.

Exception 2: Discussion over rules is permitted when it's a new system that you don't all know well. (Like the first campaign in a new system, or just in a new edition of a known system.)

I didn't play in it, but in our club there was one campaign which became legendary because we could overhear thirty-minute debates over precise interpretations of D&D (natch) rules, with reference to just about every sourcebook in existence. To me, that's gamer hell.
[User Picture]
Date:January 7th, 2004 06:58 am (UTC)
Me too. I'd much rather have ten minutes of debate (just so everyone gets heard) and then settle up with, "Look, this is gonna take awhile. We'll just run it this way today, and I'll do research before next week to see what actually happens."

Fudging is a vital skill. And when I'm playing a new campaign, the rules change drastically from week to week as we all read the book and realize that whoops, we misread that and forgot that.
[User Picture]
Date:January 4th, 2004 08:30 pm (UTC)
If a GM forces rape on a player or keeps putting a certain player in sexy situation until he can find a way to fuck them, stab him in the head until he fucking dies.

It would take quite a lot to make me just walk out on a GM mid-game, but this would be enough. I'm SO glad I've never run into this.

(Of course, part of why I've never run into this may be that I'm very clear with GMs I haven't played with before that I will walk out on rape or torture scenes, and I will not roleplay sex with any PC or NPC, end of story.)
[User Picture]
Date:January 7th, 2004 06:59 am (UTC)
Well, will you have sex with a PC or NPC?

I find the need for romance is strong in my characters, and I've had a fair amount of sex in my campaigns. It just happens off-screen, as in it's assumed that you're boinking and that's that.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:January 7th, 2004 07:00 am (UTC)
Same here. I find that I cannot play the same character (or even character type) twice; as a writer, I want someone unique. I hate it when I spend half a day finding a new hook to play with, and then having that tossed a week later.

I no longer GM with someone who emailed me to say, "Well, your PC doesn't fit. Roll up a new one."

Homey don't do that.
[User Picture]
Date:January 5th, 2004 01:28 am (UTC)
If a GM forces rape on a player or keeps putting a certain player in sexy situation until he can find a way to fuck them, stab him in the head until he fucking dies.

One of the DMs I mentioned actually took over control of my character and had him rape his beloved, then backtracked and said it might have been a dream sequence, and I should just trust him.

[User Picture]
Date:January 5th, 2004 03:29 am (UTC)
ANY GM who should have the words "deus ex machina" tattooed on hisforehead. Argh. I know that ties into your single plotline comment, but I began to get very sick of the gods.
[User Picture]
Date:January 5th, 2004 03:56 am (UTC)
Heh. It's amazing how many of those things I've put up with, solely because the game was so inane and stupid that it wound up being funny. A few of my mates and I have plans to create a webcomic about our misadventures under a certain DM.

A few more reasons to run:

1) If a GM constantly forgets simple details about situations/conflicts/encounters, run. Examples include forgetting the equipment a group of enemies have, thus denying the party of several powerful items (an epic wizard's spellbook, for example), forgetting a combat takes place in an antimagic field and thus keeping many, many magical effects in place where they shouldn't be working, giving an NPC several bonus feats they don't actually have... the list goes on.

2) If a GM has no internal consistency in his campaign, RUN. Examples include a campaign in which elves had suffered a Holocaust-like event, and yet every second NPC we ran into was an elf, despite them being SO rare that to see one in a lifetime was a memorable event... the population of town guards exceeding the actual population of a metropolis by approximately 400%, a god questioning why a temple hasn't been built for them about two hours after they first made the demand for it to be built...

3) If a DM gives excruciatingly massive XP rewards for things like searching for traps, reading documents, or (my personal favourite) making wild guesses about the possible motives of any particular NPC... run. Examples include a party member getting 2000xp in a 3.5 D&D game for deciphering an encrypted letter... by rolling for it with his Decipher Script skill. That's like, 1/5th of a level right there. It'd almost be humourous if it wasn't so inane.

4) If a DM changes the abilities of his NPCs on the spot due to new occurrances, RUN. We ran into an NPC cleric who had the right spell for every occasion until we realized that the DM was entering spells into his daily list on the fly, as he said he'd have to change his spell-list after we'd just pointed out to him that one of the spells he was about to cast would have been useless...

5) If a DM doesn't know or understand the rules of a game, run. Period.
[User Picture]
Date:January 7th, 2004 07:02 am (UTC)
Regarding Rule #4:

If a DM doesn't allow you to fuck with his campaign at all or admit when he's beaten, run. The changing NPCs are just a facet of it, but a good GM looks at it and goes, "Okay, I didn't think of that - and neither would the NPC."

As someone who had his 34th-level psion/cleric punked in a single round by a bunch of 16th-level players, trust me on this.
[User Picture]
Date:January 5th, 2004 05:56 am (UTC)
If the GM breaks fundamental laws of physics simply to save his prized NPC - RUN.

I put my gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. He's dead. If you didn't want him dead you should have had him run away earlier.

I know I mentioned it on the other post too but it POd me THAT much.

(this can be related to that falling damage thing. Lets not forget that Players are often as bad as or worse than GMs.)

[User Picture]
Date:January 5th, 2004 07:57 am (UTC)
Hey, I've broken fundamental laws of physics in one of my games.

But it was a Discworld game, where the laws are more like guidelines, anyway.

This one isn't necessarily about bad GMing OR bad playing, but it's something that came up in one of my campaigns:

If you're a huge fan of a system like White Wolf (or D&D) with an encyclopaedic knowledge of it, and the GM explains at the beginning of the campaign that the rules you'll be using are modified/outright homebrew incorporating elements of other systems, run. The two of you will find joy separately, but not together.

I had one player who was really into White Wolf, and joined my Vampire campaign. However, my Vampire campaign was using rules heavily modified to allow for mortal PCs, and for the plot I'd designed to be both fair to the players and workable for the GM.

This player was a metagamer, too.

In the first session, his character, an ex-Army Special Ops gun enthusiast, had to go down into a sewer to investigate something. At this point, the characters were utterly unaware of the existence of vampires.

Player heard a splashing noise further down the sewer tunnel.

Player assumed it was a Nosferatu, screamed like a little bitch and bolted out of the sewers.

Other PCs: "Dude, it was a rat. Get over it."

It became a running joke that the metagaming PC had an intense phobia of rats, as the other players simply roleplayed natural response to his behaviour. He left the campaign not long after (not because of arguments about the rat jokes, just the realisation that the campaign wasn't right for him).

Campaign turned out awesomely, with the rest of the group. So awesomely that the players' characters have lived on - one went on to incorporate characters from the game into a different (D20 Modern) one he runs, another made his character in the Heroes campaign we play the son of his character from my Vampire game.
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