Author Topic: Bad GM habits  (Read 24150 times)

clockworkjoe

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Bad GM habits
« on: March 17, 2009, 02:26:59 AM »
Saw this thread on ENworld and it got me thinking. Here's the relevant part:

Quote
For the sake of completeness, I'll relate the issue that sparked the discussion. Basically, there was a water tube coming out the side of a mountain that led into a dwarven citadel (I think this is the scales of war path so this could possibly be a spoiler). The citadel was occupied by orcs or something. The tube was originally for getting rid of waste from mining and forging. Every so often they'd open the valves and dump a load.

So anyway, the PC's split the party. One half thinking it'd be a great idea to climb up the tube to get into the citadel, the other half thinking that's just dumb. The half that went up the tube spent quite some time clawing their way to the end of it, only to discover it was locked and there was no way through.

Honestly whether or not the tube had something interesting at the end is not irrelevant to being a good GM or not. Players will sooner or later do something irrelevant. However, I think one distinction from being a GOOD GM and a BAD GM is this:

A good GM would make the water tube side trek either an interesting adventure OR a dead end that takes only a few minutes of play time to run. If the players insisted on beating their heads on the dead end, the GM would wrap it up and quickly and move on to something interesting even if it meant breaking the 4th wall.

A bad GM would make the water tube boring, irrelevant AND take a lot of play time to run. If it takes an hour of PLAY time to find out its a dead end and NOTHING INTERESTING happens, then the GM is fucking terrible.

So, what bad GM habits do you have to share?


Phelanar

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Re: Bad GM habits
« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2009, 04:05:54 AM »
My main bad GM habit is that when players deliberately avoid plot hooks, I fail to improv very well for any real length of time. I also get pretty pissed off when they do that. If I'm the GM, it's my job to keep everybody entertained and put things out there for characters to do. When players go out of their way to avoid them, I have to wonder why they play these games at all. So I tend to get surly and get more and more anvilicious with the plot hooks (and the occasional railroading, should I get ticked off enough) until either the players finally bite or I call off the game. Sometimes I get whining about "well, my character wouldn't want to do that". Sometimes that's a fair complaint, though that's a relatively rare one given the way I operate. Most times it's just people who are more concerned with their own little roleplay world than either 1.) helping other people have fun or 2.) the fact that it ~is~ just a game and not a life-or-death theatre production. I tend to get worked up just thinking about it.

My Star Wars GM has two really bad habits which I've brought up with him on several occasions. First is his tendency to allow NPCs to overshadow the PCs. In the last campaign, Galen Marek (aka, Starkiller from The Force Unleashed) kept showing up to do awesome things while we watched. In our current campaign, he brought back a Jedi of his from a long ago campaign, made him a Master, gave him an uber sparkly super special lightsaber (white blade with a black core, also from Force Unleashed), and he's taken over. What's made this last one so irritating is that the GM has decided to ramp up the difficulty to near-impossible levels because to do otherwise would make things too easy for the NPC Jedi Master. Last session had a monster that was quite impossible for us to beat without the NPCs help (it could kill us in 2 hits and had only the most minute chance of missing) and it left most of us with kind of a bad taste in our mouth. I've told the GM that we're ditching the NPC Jedi Master first opportunity. Out of an airlock, if need be.

This leads directly into the GM's other bad habit, balancing encounters. The GM tends to make encounters too difficult and then has to cheat almost every night to bring it back from the verge of a TPK. The monster that nearly killed us all in the previous session? His claws had a damage code of 4d6+30x2 (minimum damage: 68) and his bite had a damage code of 4d6+30x3 (minimum damage: 102). The toughest PC's hitpoints? 78, ensuring that no PC could ever survive 2 hits and no PC could survive a bite without a miracle. He gets very adversarial when it comes to combat. He also tends to make enemy NPCs who are specifically designed to kill us, which tends to make battles rather frustrating.  I've advised him multiple times to start easier than he thinks need to be for a challenge and then ramp it up a little (with good justification, like the arrival of reinforcements) if it turns out to not be a big challenge. And if he can't justify a ramped up difficulty, sometimes he should just let it go and chalk one up for the PCs. This is Star Wars, after all and there's plenty of times where the heroes just mow through guys with nary a scratch.
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Tadanori Oyama

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Re: Bad GM habits
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2009, 02:11:33 PM »
I tend to under prepare. My improvization is my strongest asset when I'm in the zone. However, out of the zone I can be slow and not give the players the resources they need in order to advance the adventure.

I tend to try and give the players sandbox space without first defining the world they exist in, leading to players being unwilling to make up their own storyhooks or adventures. I have trouble judging my player's perception of the story. They have alternativally complained, sometimes in the very same session, that I am not giving enough direction and that I am railroading them. Originially I didn't know if that's me or the players but when you hear the same thing from different groups, you start to notice the common element.

I believe in a very real possbility of failure, and that failure helps to build story and characters. This often does not sit well with my players. I encourage them to do exciting things not directly covered by the game's rules and this often pays off visually and mechanically for the players. However, when it doesn't they tend to remember and seldom try something similar. Over time this has lead to a narrowed set of "tricks" that my players employ in most situations.

I can become snippy if my players get on my nerves. Many of my regular players are, even after some months with the systems we play in, always asking for explainations of the same rules every week. For example, one player, after nearly every action taken in combat, will ask if she gets an opportunity attack because of it. I never get vindictive but I can become very short with everyone when I am being asked to repeat information I believe is simple enough to understand.

I tend to bend rules as needed. If I need something to work differently in the Astral Sea for my story to work, than it works differently. Some players (one in particular) find this unforgivable.

Some of that probably sounds like I'm complaining about my players, and I am, but I feel that everything here is, at its root, linked to limitations on my ability as a DM. Even if they make it rudely, my players usually have a point when they site something I'd done that annoyed them.

dragonshaos

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Re: Bad GM habits
« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2009, 04:17:25 PM »
I know right off the bat that I usually don't plan ahead.  Because my group and I don't usually even use a system, just make something up and it usually works, we have a lot of weird and crazy sessions.  I tend to make things up as we go which has a 50/50 chance of working, and if it doesn't the players (thank gods) will do something to make it work out and make it fun.  I started doing this just so i could work on my..improvisation.  When i finally get serious with a campaign I think I will be better able to manage the things my players want to do.

Another one of my flaws is that I tend to kill off the players...  I know that's bad but in my mind if they actually thought about how they could beat the monster, they would beat it.  Instead one player, who lets say was a timid journalist, runs forward screaming and tries to stab the monster with a pen.  I'm not saying I have elaborate death plans on how players must kill the enemies, but rather...they just run in and try to stab everything, even allies.  Ive tried to run hack and slashes with them, but THEN they get too tactical and their plans backfire and they die.  Ive tried really hard to make things easier but they seem attracted to dying.

I know i have plenty more flaws, but those I'll have to discover more about as I GM more.

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rayner23

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Re: Bad GM habits
« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2009, 10:46:14 AM »
I tend to reiterate the same descriptions over and over.

Also, I sometimes have a hard time finding the balance between leading players along to the next event and letting them run wild with no purpose.

Then again, this is something all GMs face I think.
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dragonshaos

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Re: Bad GM habits
« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2009, 01:25:49 PM »
I tend to reiterate the same descriptions over and over.

Also, I sometimes have a hard time finding the balance between leading players along to the next event and letting them run wild with no purpose.

Then again, this is something all GMs face I think.


Yeah, I've done that a lot.  Over time Ive gotten better at being more diverse in my descriptions and narrations.  Along with leading players to the next event, I tend to let them run wild doing whatever they want until I know I can create something interesting out of what they do.  In my mind it prepares me, for when I actually get serious, to be able to make things up on the fly when the players do something unexpected.

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vcdaniels

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Re: Bad GM habits
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2009, 07:59:46 AM »
I sometimes reiterate descriptions a bit too much.  And I sometimes get hung up on words - they don't come quick enough.  I've always been better with writing than speaking.  Also, I tend to jump from game to game too much or I never follow through on a game I tell players I plan to run.  It's as though I just become interested in other games or I see something that gives me inspiration to run a different game.  I love horror.  And I tend to interject the theme into many of the games I run.  I even ran a horror-themed Exalted game once.  Most of the players I know don't like horror as much as I do, so it ends up bad sometimes.
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AmishNinja

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Re: Bad GM habits
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2009, 01:13:24 PM »
I even ran a horror-themed Exalted game once.  Most of the players I know don't like horror as much as I do, so it ends up bad sometimes.

What...? How in the world did you pull this off? Exalted is such a high-powered system, I'm wondering how PCs could ever be afraid of anything in the traditional horror sense. All games of that type I've been in have involved playing very mortal characters. Exalted just seems so ill-suited to this - I love horror games and I probably wouldn't have been able to get into it myself.

Maze

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Re: Bad GM habits
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2009, 01:48:27 PM »
I bet I could pull off horror in any pen & paper system. It might not be fun, but I'd manage to freak the fuck out of my players regardless.

I personally don't let my players run wild per say, I run a very controlled game. Not in the sense that I prevent players from doing what they want to do, but I make sure they always have some place to be and something to do with as little down time as possible.

A bad habit I have is to let players do "player-logical" things at time and suffer the consequences, when I really should be telling them beforehand that what they're doing is actually pretty dumb.

An example of that is in a futuristic game, my players were suppose to ambush some imperial ambassadors but ran a bit late on schedule and had to improvise. The players where all in some old military truck from the 1980s trying to catch up with a advanced APC protected with a force field technology that could stand a dozens of missiles. I didn't specify it had a force field as they had no way of knowing that, but force field technology was something that they adapted to portable armors (that they themselves had), you'd think an APC carrying the most important people on the land would have some mean of protection. Anyway, the driver, [sarcasm] being the smartest player I've got [/sarcasm], decided to ram sideways into it full force. The old truck violently bounced back and crashed in the ditch, ejecting the players in the back and seriously maiming the pilot.

I made it look like he was dead, so when after 3-4 rounds of fighting against the guards of the APCs (that had stopped), I told him he woke up with glass shards in his face hearing the sound of battle close-by he did the "player-logical" thing to do : he took some glass and cut his wrists.

Sadly for him, it actually takes a long time before you run out of blood and after more rounds of hearing me say "you lose 1 hp" and skipping to the next player, he decided that he should help his friends. He ripped his shirt, tied each of his wrist, took a big shard, climbed up the side of the truck and jump on a armored guard only to be impaled on his lance. Opportunity attack + low hp = not good. The good thing is that his slender body was heavy enough for the guard to be unable to use his lance and that helped the player fighting him to finish him off.

clockworkjoe

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Re: Bad GM habits
« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2009, 02:36:03 PM »
hahahahaha. That's awesome. I bet the player was pissed though.

Maze

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Re: Bad GM habits
« Reply #10 on: April 10, 2009, 03:04:59 PM »
The thing is: he's always pissed. He's one of those people who gets pissed at very little things. In a game, he does really stupid shit that he knows will get him killed. Later on in the campaign, they were expecting an attack so their army dug trenches and we're preparing the ambush of the century. Once they were prepared, they were all waiting in the trenches for the enemies to come out of their base (don't worry, it made sense at the time). I went : "Okay, 1 day goes by: nothing happens. The second day goes by... still nothing. You lay there waiting. A third day goes by..."
and he goes "Fuck it! If they're not coming to us, I'll go to them. I go to the enemy base"

A lieutenant seeing a soldier leave his post and walking casually toward the enemy goes and sees another player: "What the fuck! What is he doing? Go bring his ass back in the trench. If he's deserting, shoot him. I can't have soldiers starting to get any weird ideas."

The other player went to find him and had to put him down. With a katana.   ;D

The attack did occur, but they didn't expect it coming from an army of lizard-mutants headed by a 300 meters long giant lizard thing.

Tadanori Oyama

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Re: Bad GM habits
« Reply #11 on: April 10, 2009, 03:36:12 PM »
That's amazing.

"Your injured and your friends are in danger. What do you do?"
"I kill myself!"
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codered

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Re: Bad GM habits
« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2009, 06:21:49 PM »
I hate when The GM can't think on his/her feet. I  destroy games because I think out of the box and the GM can counteract what I do at least that what I'm told (I don't think its my fault that the GM sucks and I don't)
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Re: Bad GM habits
« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2009, 10:36:49 PM »
Quote from: codered
because I think out of the box

I KNOW I'm not a very good GM, but if I do ONE THING right, it's this.  I know damn well the players will think of something I didn't, even though I spent two hours working on these encounters. 

So, you want to push that orc over the ledge?  Sure thing, man, go for it, let's see that attack roll.

That five-foot diameter hole in the floor?  You can't see past the first ten feet?  You're just going to jump in?  Knock yourself out.  (Literally, as it turned out in that case.)

You want to use that transmute-water-to-dust power to dry up all the blood in that guy's circulatory system?  Range is touch?  OK, that's pretty slick, make an attack roll to grab him.

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Alchemist

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Re: Bad GM habits
« Reply #14 on: August 10, 2009, 06:09:11 PM »
Well my players clame that i am too un-fair. Mostly because i throw difficult chalanges allong the adventure once i took teier powers away and then i split the party to go against a half dragon humen like thing. 3things didnt go too well.

Also i can,t control the party it self my players are like the players in the gamers 2 pretty much tring to do what they want insted of trying to finnish the story. one time they even left a teacher half-dead because she gave them detetoin then the managed to out run the cops.