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Bad GMing, then and now!

Started by DevP, April 04, 2004, 01:21:58 PM

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Y'know, I'm not even a good GM, really. (And I like the egalitarianizing effect of game design that doesn't require an entirely godlike and excessively preparatory.)

Flashback: High School, Circa 1990s. Morristown, NJ.

I'd just gotten into D&D for the first time. Not just D&D, I'm talking dysfunctional-group, incoherent-agenda (players who talk about wanting Nar, play Sim, and make fun of Gam), the GM who wanted to be the writer, AD&D w/ excessive-splat-implosion, incorrect rule assumptions ("my knife should do more damage on the way out!"), players dating the GM, nothing but excessively annoying bards, players fighting each other and drawing blood, day-long character creation for a 6 hour one-time "campaign opening" D-n-D.

And I hadn't even read Tolkein!

Anyway. Shortly, after playing, I wanted to GM my own game, in my own envisioned setting. So I created the ULTIMATE in incoherence... Riot. Basically, I took every fantasy or sci-fi element I wanted and stapled together (I made RIFTS look coherent, dammit). Haivng just played D&D, I tried to copy it - roll for 3d6 for the same six stats, have classes, etc. I really thought this was naturaly, this was the default way! Of course, then I randomly picked up a copy of BTRC's CORPS. Ah, point-buy. I basically took much of the system, but removed the game-balancing aspects and presented a few pages of cack to my players which they did indeed min-max until all oblivion.

It should have been interesting to hear my conception. I was bragging about the game: "It'll be great, man! It'll have lots of monsters, and if people go off the plot I'll have like a god hover in the air saying GO HERE and stuff. It'll be awesome." Yeah, I intrinsically through railroading was okay. I designed gameplay around single mercenary jobs, modern-day dungeon hacks, meetings in bars, excessively powered sniper rifles (because my friends wanted them), carrying weapons and using them anywhere and on anyone without consequence for PCs, and big explosions.

And so it was, and I think people even had good memories about it.

Flashforward: Summer, Circa 2003. Cambridge, MA.

Basically, I just got back into the hobby, and discovered indie gaming, and I figured (cringe for it) "Hey, Narrativism means letting players make their own stuff up. That sounds great for my game." So my players - good folk, Sim-by-habit and shyness but some Nar-reaching - came to the table for my space-western game, and I basically at everypoint said:

"Okay, you're at Rigel Spaceport. What do you see?" "Just make up the name of the planet!" "You tell ME what planet you guys go to, make up the details from scratch!"

Yeah. So, they were being timid (they didn't want to ruin my plotline (I never did any game prep, dammit!), and were ultimately disappointed at the lack of direction they found in the game), and I was just shafting them with a half-assed not-understanding of some basic stuff. The Forge Made Me a Bad GM! No. But the Forge wasn't a silver bullet for problems either, which is good.

Happy ending: I'm going to be GMing for these nice folks, fixing their criticisms and mind and trying a more coherently focused game.

If you'd like to add bad-GM-stories, please ONLY ADD YOUR OWN! Alternately, draw novel conclusions from my story.

Mike Holmes

We're all bad GM's. Least I know I am.

What I mean is that we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Good design means that the weaknesses don't overtake play and make it suck. So what I see is the effect of better designs here.

What, too serious for the forum?

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