What's the worst thing you've ever done as a GM?

Started by Aelwyn, March 21, 2010, 09:30:06 PM

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True confessions time: what's the worst thing you've ever done as a GM?

I'll start.

I was running a Morrow Project campaign. Characters were paramilitary mercenaries cryogenically frozen and awakened after a nuclear war to rebuild society. I invited my players to come up with six books to store in their lockers that would preserve culture for after the war. One of my players chose the Foxfire series, which describe the culture of southern Appalachia, including descriptions of how to slaughter a hog, make soap, preserve vegetables, and find edible wild plants.

Now, I'm thinking, he's trying to game the system, in choosing books that will be useful for wilderness survival rather than preserving what's best of our culture. So I told him that rats ate the books. No dice roll, just me as GM/God deciding you don't get to do this. I gave you the opportunity; I can take it away.

Here's the thing: The guy was playing a paramilitary heading into what was probably going to be a stone-age culture. It was far MORE in character--and better for society as well--for him to bring the Foxfire books than the complete works of Shakespeare, which is what I wanted him to bring. But I was afraid that he would get too much of an edge by bringing those books. Maybe I was even being a little lazy, in that I didn't want to buy and read the Foxfire series to make sure I knew as much as he did about wilderness survival. And I hate to admit it, but part of me was pissed off because I realized he was smarter than me--that he had made a better choice than the one I assumed he would make.

So Lance, if you're out there somewhere, I'm sorry I made rats eat your Foxfire books.

Callan S.

QuoteNow, I'm thinking, he's trying to game the system,
Not to mention your gaming the system in thinking that way yourself. You can't fight 'gaming the system' without becoming that which your fighting.

The only thing I can think of for myself is where with one group I read about three paragraphs of setting prior to gaming, simply to establish atmosphere (I'd read another group had done it and enjoyed, so I wasn't without precedent), though granted everyone knew the setting. Also in that game after the session the guy who was never afraid to let his opinions be known said I didn't ask him what he wanted to do during the game and he didn't get to do much because of me not asking him.

I'm sure there must be something else I've done as GM that's worse and for some reason I'm not remembering...


my three biggest problems are this:

1. not being prepared with NPC names or initiative cards or other basic things

2. rushing through the end of an adventure and not giving the players much closure

3. not giving enough worldly detail to describe the environment the players are in
Check out my game Age Past, unique rolling system, in Beta now.  Tell me what you think!

Jeff Mechlinski


We're playing Star Wars d6.  I'm the DM.  I'm new to the city, only there for a year.  I'm playing with a group of friends who grew up together and have been playing games for years.  We hang out outside of gaming, going to bars, movies, parties, the typical early-twenties things.  We've played for six or seven months; everyone is into the game - the guy who's not too into gaming who decided to play a bounty hunter (if you've played Star Wars d6, you know what I mean) wrote up a backstory for his character, unprompted, introducing a lost love.

The PCs have been struggling to reclaim a planet taken by the Empire and a rogue Dark Jedi.  Life has been hard, many difficult choices have been made.  They've struggled hard and they've gained the support of the Rebellion.  A fleet is poised to take back their planet.

I decide to blow up the planet in a planned fit of DM fiat, and there was nothing the players could do about it.

We took about two-three months off, playing some other games under other DMs and doing other things.  Once I realized the damage I had wrought and apologized (not easy for a 23 year-old), we got back into it.  It ended well, but it could have been better. 

Lesson learned!
Dave Lucas

Callan S.

Taking it that D6 has some 'golden rule', then 'only the GM remains' as Filip Luszczyk would put it.  The real lesson to learn would be to stop using systems that grant a GM such absolute latitude, rather than socially slapping him over the wrist when he actually has the temerity to use the system as written. Wrong lesson learned, in a pretty objective sense.

Andre Canivet

The worst thing I did I think was many years ago, playing Palladium Fantasy.  I had written an adventure, where the characters had to travel to a roughly Japan-like island in a flying ship to find and recover 7 rune swords (the idea of the 7 swords I got from an episode of the BBC series Robin of Sherwood).  Some of the swords were evil and cursed, while some were good--including a sword created for the Dragonwright religion.  Unfortunately, it was my first experience as a GM, and I wasn't terribly well prepared.  Namely, I hadn't actually figured out where all the swords were supposed to go.  The group was left wondering what to do with them, and ended up dumping a lot of the evil swords in the ocean on their way back from the island.  They took the remaining Dragonwright Sword to the one destination I had actually planned--which was a shrine deep in the Northern Wilderness. 

I'd written a couple of riddles for them to decipher, which were challenging.  But once they figured them out, they got there too quickly for my liking.  So they stopped and looked around in a clearing.  And after several minutes of asking me what was around and looking aimlessly for clues, someone asked me if there was a light to the North (aurora borealis, a clue from one of the riddles), and I said yes.  They were upset that I hadn't told them right away that it was there, and I replied "you didn't ask."

They got funny looks on their faces, and I didn't GM again for a while.  Too bad, too, because thinking about it now, that could have been an entire campaign if I'd done it right.

Andre Canivet

Reality is the original Rorschach.
--The Principia Discordia


I killed the entire party with a dominated Kobold Cleric/Wizard/Necromancer in 3rd edition. The best part was using a spectral hand to grab the Bard's foot through the ground and cast Slay Living. The Ranger managed to kill the Drow that had Dominated the Kobold, but succumbed to poison and a Contingency spelled Fireball afterwards.

Months later, the new characters faced their old characters (raised as undead) and the kobold again.


When I was DMing D&D 3.5, at one point I gave an archery focused ranger 50 arrows of 3rd level Magic Missile, because the party kept on getting nearly killed by things of equal CR. Terrible idea. I had to finagle in some spell casters with shield into the campaign and provide a few enounters with a CR a bit higher than the party. I hate those kind of cheap fixes, but in my defense;I was a new DM.

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

In order to continue, this thread needs to become a discussion and not merely a poetry-slam about what each of us once did.

Aelwyn, please provide a general point or focus, or draw some conclusion to discuss. Otherwise this thread will be closed.

No one else post until then.

Best, Ron

Adam Dray

The worst things I've done as a GM have nothing to do with gaming. Rather, they involve being a stupid twenty-something with alcohol. In one case, I got so drunk that I couldn't GM at all, and I passed out on the couch. In another case, I got drunk, psychoanalyzed my friends at the table, hit one of my brother's friends, and got in a screaming match with my dad. I stopped binge-drinking after that.

On a totally different level than that, though, in the past couple years, I totally railroaded a group through an encounter. It was obvious and awful. I was trying my hand at D&D 4E and I had this encounter planned. I ran a trial of the PCs as a skill challenge, except they won, but I convicted them anyway. When they asked what the hell the point of the skill challenge was, I said that they'd proven that they were innocent, but that the corrupt court had sentenced them anyway. They smelled the railroading and got pissed. The rest of the game was fine, but I vowed not to pull that kind of crap again. It's not like I didn't know better. I just slipped into decades-old habits I didn't realize that I still had.
Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777

Ron Edwards

That's it, guys. The thread's closed. When I write "no more posting" except for a designated person (usually the thread's starting author), that's final.

Adam, it's clear that you did not read the thread but simply responded to the first post. That is the hallmark of a poll thread rather than a discussion topic. Poll threads are much better placed at other websites.

To repeat: no one at all is to post to this thread again.

Best, Ron