While it’s true that almost anyone can run a game, it’s also true there are some staggeringly bad GMs out there. In my experience, most terrible GMs have five main characteristics in common.
I recently blogged about the characteristics of great GMs and great players. It would be very easy to simply reverse the characteristics of great GMs and list the opposite of those characteristics here. However, there are five even more heinous characteristics a GM can have that transcend such a list:
- Abusing the Position of GM: A GM holds a sacred position of trust at the gaming table. He is an impartial participant whose job it is to provide challenging fun. When a GM goes bad and abuses this sacred trust, campaigns implode impressively. Trust me, I know. I’ve been on the receiving end of a GM forgetting this vital point. A GM proving his dominance over the party by providing ever tougher encounters is abusing his position. A GM who obsesses about trivial details is abusing his trust. Does it really matter the rope is not listed as knotted on a PCs’ sheet?
- Refusal to Take Responsibility: No TPKs or other disasters are the fault of a bad GM. If only the party had used a specific set of tactics or listened to the GM’s unsubtle advice everything would be well. Of course, some disasters are just the result of spectacularly bad luck. Others are more contrived. A GM should remember he is responsible for everything in a module. If he leaves a specific monster in a module he knows the PCs have no way of killing, and engineers the fight so the PCs have no warning and little or no chance to retreat, it is his fault – not the designer’s.
- Complaining About A Lack of Resources: A GM who complains about a lack of resources is a pain in the arse. When he walks in late and loudly announces he’s had no time to prep for the session, for example, the players’ expectations crash and burn. Of course, everyone is busy and sometimes life gets in the way of the game. When it happens more often than not, though, and a GM complains about it that’s a pretty big sign you’ve got a bad GM on your hands. GMs can also complain about a lack of respect, appreciation for their hard work, that they have to pay for all the miniatures, maps and so on.
- I Win: Some GMs want to win the game. That’s beyond ludicrous when you consider it for a moment. Any GM can win any game, by simply making it colossally unfair. A GM who goes out of his way to prove his dominance over the players by repeatedly crushing the party will shortly find a distinct lack of players at his table. GMs with this characteristic often tell long and convoluted stories that feature gruesome PC deaths and the GM’s own tactical genius.
- Staggeringly Misplaced Self-Confidence: Some GMs believe they are an awesome GM and that they can learn nothing from others. This is so staggeringly misguided in most cases as to be funny…unless you have to endure one of their games. Truly great GMs are always looking to improve their skills. Bad GMs aren’t.
Help Fellow GMs!
In my opinion, these are the five most heinous characteristics of bad GMs. Do you agree? If you’ve seen other spectacularly bad GMs, what made them so bad? Let us know in the comments below and help us all dodge such bad GMing behaviour!
44 thoughts on “GM Advice: 5 Characteristics of Terrible GMs”
I had a GM once who told me exactly two pieces of information about his campaign world: “based on Norse myth”, and “gnomes are usually slaves to elves”. He told the other players it was a crapsack world, and what was going on, and the full extent of it; I, who joined a week later, never knew. So my bubbly gnome sorceress was going around being her bright, cheery, optimistic self, and always hoping that things would get better around the next corner. I found out from another player that the GM didn’t think my character fit the campaign world, and that was why he was so annoyed with the character. Not once did he sit me down, out of game, and explain that my character didn’t fit his grimdark world.
We were punished for silly things. When our fighter found a thundering returning dwarven warhammer (so, essentially Mjolnir), and gave it an onomatopeic name due to his dumped INT, the GM had it taken from him, simply because magical weapons deserved to be treated with more respect.
When the GM took a two-week break to write more material, I tried to introduce the group to Umlaut for a laugh. The GM watched for five minutes before breaking it all down into math and finding “the way to win”, and looked at me like I had two heads when I pointed out that that’s all well and good, but “Murderhole”, my technical death metal band, would not play ballads. “But don’t you want to win?” “Yes, but I’m playing a death metal band. Even if it’s the win button, they don’t play ballads.” “Huh. I guess you don’t want to win, then.”
I quit the group after he introduced us to Mistborn, had the only female PC punished by means of “chained to a wall and raped for the rest of your days”, and somehow didn’t pick up on the fact that the only woman at the table seemed a liiiiiiiiiiiittle bit uncomfortable. “Well, that’s just part of the setting.” Funny, I thought I was playing Mistborn, not F.A.T.A.L.
(One more thing – the druid’s animal companion died because the player forgot to specify that it was following him. Because a snake would willingly sit on the deck of a burning, sinking ship and drown while its master was in a boat twenty feet away.)
Wow. That campaign sounds like no fun at all. You are most definitely better off out of it.
I disagree with point 2. I GM free verse style. Meaning that players can go, do, whatever they please, but there choices still have consequences. They totally decide there directions. If the hear tales that a dragon lives in x mountain and they choose to investigate, and die, that is not my fualt. I never run modules. It’s all free choice. I just let then know what they see, hear, what people say. But it doesn’t stop stupidity.
Yeah, but sandboxing is different from the point. I’ve TPK’d parties because they didn’t listen to the ten NPCs who told them, unsolicited, that the Big Baddie ™ would crush them.
On the other hand, I had a DM create every Big Baddie ™ specifically designed to kill three of us out of the party. Just come up and squash us dead. Every encounter. Every fight was the same. In the first round, the three of us would take out have the baddies, they would TPK everyone but us (anywhere from 3 – 8 other people). The second round would see the three of us mop up the rest of the bad guys. Then we would level, and the DM would ultra-level the next bad guy to counteract us, then we’d be right back where we started. Talk about sucking the fun out of everything.
Unfairness or picking on particular player(s) are probably the most annoying, but extreme railroading is another one that gets on my nerves. I’d rather try and fail spectacularly than be told “no, you can’t”. I also once played in a GURPS game where the GM delivered all of the descriptions, dialogue etc in a dull monotone and named all the NPCs Dave, Bob and Steve. It wasn’t great.
#6 Don’t break my toys:
GMs are human. They grow attached to NPCs and parts of their game world. Not a few GMs have saved a particular NPC from likely death because they need them.
Problems arise when, in a DM’s mind, characters are defined as unbeatable, regardless of the game circumstance or rules. NPCs should neither solve the problem(s) for the players or be so immortal that the NPCs can’t be budged from their position in the game world. To be a player world, its best that everything might change given plausible circumstances.
While I agree with the fifth point, I am concerned about potential players throwing the baby out with the bath water. In my experience as a convention DM, self-confidence or the appearance of having self-confidence, is a sign of a good DM. When you DM in public with people you have just met, you need to gain the trust of the players quickly. Showing confidence is needed and while it may a bad GM may hide behind it, a good DM uses it as a gateway to a great game.
When it comes to confidence, don’t judge a book by the cover.
There’s confidence and there’s arseholeness, though… and the two can in many cases not be distinguished from one another untill the game has already begun.
Also… sometimes, you design an encounter which you think will be a cakewalk, but results in a TPK. Or the other way around, you design an encouter which you mean for the PCs to turn around and run, but instead is a walk in the park.
My point is, even the best GameMaster makes mistakes… under- or over estimating the party… or the party’s tactics… it’s not neccessarily a “bad” GM that makes a TPK every other gamesession, though it’s not neccessarily a “good” GM that allows the party go away from every fight with barely a bruise and a scratch, either.
Good GM’s, IMHO, allow the players to do whacky stuff… at one time, one of my plyaers, playing a Thief, wanted to Turn Undead, the Cleric was unconscious and couldn’t do it… I assigned him a WIS check at 1/4 Wis (and he had a Wisdom of 12 or so) and he actually made the roll…. So I decided that his god had taken pity on him, and granted the request to Turn Undead. Afterwards, the Thief dualclassed into Cleric of the same Diety (God of Thieves).
Did I do the “right” thing there? I don’t know… I don’t really care…. All I know is that my players talked about it for months afterwards, which made me think that I “won” the game because I gave them a very memorable moment.
Good? Bad? I’m the one who made the ruling. It was awesome to see the players faces and excitement, that’s for sure.
Damn, after a quick Google seach, I wanna play Umlaut now.
I kinda wish we could get all of these idiot GMs into a room together and have them play in each others games. I wonder how long it would take for them to be at each other’s throats.
In my 30 plus years in the Dm position has taught me many things. Not least of which was an understanding of “group dynamic balance”. This probably the most important skill that separates bad dis and good ones. The ability to tell a story and set a stage that adventure can organically evolve, that is interesting, engaging and challenging to all players and their characters. As dm we are often required to entertain mixed levels of imagination, game/rule knowledge and outgoingness. So an agility to balance all these various dynamics of the group is essential. The fact I always played a character, as well as the duties of Dm, made all of the above more nuanced and difficult to ad lib my sessions from the top of my head with little more than an idea for the night. That all said, it was 30 plus years of D&D and being Dm that prepared me the most for my career as a college professor of ancient history! Loving my life is all I do, everyday I utilize the same skills lecturing to my students that I spend 30 years perfecting while eating pizza, drinking mountain dew and rolling dice until the sun came up again.
DM’s who play a powerful NPC in the group, The NPC has better gear, is more powerful and basically makes the PC’s his cohorts.
I so did this when I was younger.
I’ll have to confess that so did I, but then I’ll have to admit to many bad practices when I was younger (teens). I was certainly guilty of railroading my characters, without any real reason other that that was the direction I wanted them to go. I played favourites. I wanted to win! And I never, ever, prepped more than a single stat block.
I’m very glad I got past that while I was still very young, and I can now safely say that, apart from occasionally admitting that I didn’t have time due to RL complications, I don’t suffer from any of these now. In particular, as I think I’ve said before – I ‘win’ every time a player tells me they enjoyed one of my sessions.
“I ‘win’ every time a player tells me they enjoyed one of my sessions.” Possibly the wisest words ever uttered about GMing.
Im a GM who likes to add my own personal character to the campaign, I treat my character as any other PC and never use meta knowledge (Unless the group is truly struggling).
What irritates me is when a GM adds in their own character and then spend the rest of the campaign stroking their own ego and doing everything in their power to make their own character look “badass.”
Sometimes you need a cheater character to improve the story, and a GM will typically have better or more in depth characters who enriches the campaign, but this is no excuse to make the story about them. 80% of the story should be focused on the players and fleshing out their characters. If you cannot manage even that then dont add in your own character just to stroke your ego. Wanna play? Let someone else Gm then.
I did the same thing, I found setting up the character was more to help the players. I did make sure I had stats for this PC and they had as much risk of dying as the players. Heck this character had to walk away a few times because of the other pcs action.
These are cool, but in my time there’s been a lot of things that I look for in my DM/GM before I decide whether I permanently join or not.
Things that make me leery are:
1) House rules that make me completely question a GM’s sanity. I have house rules for my game, but sometimes these just get too excessive. Especially when they make no sense to even exist in the first place. If you have more house rules than the book has actual rules, I’m not touching it.
2) Evil cackling and giggling whenever they know full well that they’re about to kill a character off in a battle that none of us had a chance of winning. TPKs happen. There’s no way around that. But if you’re going to be a dickish overlord playing the “I Win” button, at least have the decency to not lord it over us and cackle like Batman’s Joker at our expense.
3) Obvious favoritism towards a particular player. This is usually their significant other, or their best friend they’ve known forever, while the rest of us are destroyed regularly, or kept out of the loop for information. “Military” campaigns are especially bad for this (where their best friends are captain and lieutenant, but you’re just a grunt who’s not allowed to do anything unless your commanding officer says so). Hate these with a passion.
4) Not being allowed to build your own characters. At all. Only the GM gets to roll your stats, pick your race, class, background history, etc. Because only he knows what’ll fit in his campaign and you can’t. I know that conventions have pregen one-shots, however, this rule doesn’t apply to them. That’s a very special occasion.
5) This is more for D&D 3.5 but “Core Only”. Why? Is it because they don’t have access to it or haven’t read it. No. It’s because EVERYTHING else is broken and therefore not allowed. Bull. That’s a stupid rule. Complete Warrior wasn’t broken. You can’t tell me that Samurai class was better than the fighter, or “broken” compared to CoDzilla.
6) Ask you to write a significantly sized background of your character, and then get mad that the background is longer than a single paragraph. Then, out of spite, they do everything to ruin your background in-game, and then take everything from you. In my case, the DM killed off the family, stole his gold, and then had his girlfriend drafted into the war. All because his background was two pages long. How dare I write his story for him.
Another thing that’s made me cautious is I’ve come to ask the group how many characters they’ve gone through before I joined. If the number is 2+ each, and they still haven’t made it to session 10 yet, that’s a valid concern.
Sadly, due to living in a small town, there’s never a shortage of bad GMs. And depending on who you talk to, I’m considered one now too. I’m too boring a GM to run a game properly.
I was thinking that one thing that i try really hard to do in my games was to take a ‘fellow storyteller’ role in the game. What I mean is that i take the players before a game and say something along the lines of “I want us all to have fun telling this story together, so I am willing to listen and work with each of you to make our group experience the best that it can be. All I ask is that we be gentle with each other and always willing to talk over problems.”
I think that opening a dialogue like this helps set up a healthy relationship. IMHO, Gms who don’t keep communication with their players open are doomed to fail eventually.
In college we had a GM who had the worst habit for character favoritism! The two girls in the game? They got everything they wanted; he used the game to worm his way into relationships with them. One player, he decided he despised for purely arbitrary reasons and made it his stated mission to kill the character in game as often as possible. It was so bad that monsters actively being attacked by other party members would ignore their attackers and focus on the one PC the GM decided he hated.
This same GM had his players playing so often that some of them were failing their classes, because they were more concerned with letting the party down than with not doing their readings or having time to do their assignments. Luckily, this group was part of a larger gaming society on campus, so we intervened and put a strict limitation on how often they could play together. Grades quickly improved.
There was also the incident of the dragon! GM asked a friend to build him “the biggest, meanest s.o.b.” of a dragon imaginable, because one out the monsters manual just wasn’t tough enough! He was given said dragon to use, and a TPK ensued. When one of the girls cried (literally), the GM informed the party that the gods simply would not stand for such an end to their heroic quest and they were awarded a victory “because reasons.” Only one player was pleased with this turn of events, and the group dissolved after that.
I hate it when GMs go after someone or when they ignore them. While a GM can tweak the occasional dice roll or situation for the group, doing it for a single player really is against the grain.
I’m sorry you had such a crap play experience!
Might I make a suggestion: I’ve read so much about how GMs fail because they don’t put in the work or they don’t have the right skills, or attitude, and so on – i.e. they fail to deliver a game which is enyoyable to the players – that I worry it’s putting off people from ever giving GMing a go. In my group of 7, 3 of us GM, 1 sits on the fence and 3 would never dream of it. The reason the last three wouldn’t do it isn’t because “it’s not for them”, rather it’s because it seems like an awful lot of work, responsibility and general ball-ache for no extra enjoyment. I would love to read a blog post by you putting the case the other way, especially as you are someone who loves GMing. Something like “why GMing is the most fun there is”. I have to admit that despite the fact that I’ve also been GMing for decades, I could do with a little bit of encouragement myself.
That’s a great idea for an article. I’d put it in the queue as it sounds like a fun thing to write. Thanks for the suggestion.
TPKs were a part of old school gaming as the game was set up deadly. It was just played that way and it was fun to die but really fun if you outsmarted the impossible situations and rule system. Now with more modern games like Pathfinder a TPK is just harder to make happen. There is very little Save or Die poisons or situations. I like that aspect but at the same time it is less risk in playing and the tension that made it fun is somewhat gone. AT the same time great stories can be built by characters who take risk and live.
I disagree slightly with the idea that all TPKs are the result of being a bad GM. Sometimes you just don’t expect the actions of players that lead to a TPK. I remember one adventure where the players discovered a number of different colored alchemical powders and liquids. They discovered the mixing various colored powders and liquids caused various effects such as creating gold, healing all injuries, etc. They also discovered that if you mixed the same color liquid and powder it caused a small explosion that caused 1d2 damage to the person mixing them. Finally the players decided that they wanted to see how big of an explosion they could make by mixing everything together in one big cauldron. Despite doing everything I could to dissuade them from this course of action, including having them Make Wisdom stat checks to realize this was a bad idea, they chose to do it. Finally I had no choice but to narrate the effect, roll the damage dice , 2d20, and let the chips fall where they may.
I would never suggest that all TPKs are the GM’s fault! If you took that from the article, I apologise. As an example from my own campaign, the party were in a dungeon and look into a chamber with ledges all around the walls and tunnels leading away from them. It was clearly a trap. They said, “this looks like a trap.” Then they charged. Shortly thereafter, we were rolling lots of 4d6s.
Sometimes, the players do the TPK to themselves and there is nothing a GM can do to stop it!
I had a GM once who had a few bad habits.
1) He never finished a storyline. He went through rapid fire bursts of inspiration, and would switch from story to story to story. We never finished any campaigns. We never finished anything. Despite playing 1-3 times a week depending on schedules.
2) All of these stories, regardless of system, characters, setting, anything, always had Norse mythology as an overarching theme/influence. And there was a 75% chance of the campaign leading at some point to Yggdrasil. One of my characters once picked the lock on Odin’s office desk. It got stale fast. “You turn the corner and see–” “Let me guess, a giant tree?”
3) The girlfriend always got preferential treatment and good loot. And when she rolled badly her first recourse was always to put the moves on the GM. Because it worked.
4) Before and after the aforementioned girlfriend, I was the only female player, and usually the only female character. When I made my characters, regardless of what I made I always had to dump tons of specializations and points and whatever into any acrobatics and athletics skills I could, because without fail, every campaign, there was a scene where my character specifically would wake up naked, bound, and without any equipment. So I had to make characters that could Houdini their way out of any bondage bare naked. Again, it got stale fast.
I can think of two more items.
1: “Stop having fun while I’m trying to run my game!”
Side chatter happens. You’re engaging in a social activity with people who are (hopefully) all friends, and some of the group might not have gotten to talk to each other all week until this point. Everyone enjoying themselves is far more important than your perfect adventure proceeding according to clockwork. Give them a few minutes, then politely steer things back. (“Politely” is an important word there. I’ve seen GMs who think the proper reaction is to throw a fit. Yes, you win, but you leave everyone wondering if that’s how you handle every problem in your life.)
2. Your game IS NOT more important than the people in it!
A scenario for you*: One of your players is having a medical procedure the next morning. He only brought one or two painkillers to the game, and after several hours, has informed everyone that they’re wearing off and he’d like to go home before they wear off completely. This is a BAD TIME for you to decide to have a combat! There’s no such thing as a “short combat” and everyone knows it! If that orc ambush you have planned is so vital, let it wait til the beginning of next session. At best, you look like an insensitive asshole as your player is moaning and wincing their way through the battle, and at worst, you’ve just let them know how insignificant they are to you. If you getting your way is so much more important to you than the people you’re gaming with, then let everyone stay home next week and you and your adventure can just sit there and win.
*=Yes, this is based on a true story.
(*10th Doctor voice*) I am sorry. I am so sorry.
(*10th Doctor voice*) I am sorry. I am so sorry. I AM from the era where gaming is something that girls laugh at you for doing, and it took me a while to rethink that mindset, however, I’d hope I’ve never given anyone with a genuine interest in the hobby the kind of treatment you received.
#2. That doesn’t sound like a particularly great play experience. Real life is always more important. We are having a slight break from our campaign at the moment because one of my players has a significant personal issue to resolve. We all felt we should wait for him to return before pushing on. It just seemed the decent thing to do.
I hope that I don’t ever convey any of these to my players. My own GMing style is about 75% improvisation, but I know that’s not for everyone. The best advise I can give other GMs is this: Watch MacGyver. All of it. The whole series is on Netflix now. For me, the show serves to remind me that no matter how clever and brilliant and foolproof I think my plot is, the players are GOING to pull something out of their asses to foil it. And there’s no shame in that. It’s pretty much their job, and they might come up with a better solution than you did.
Example: My first game of the Doctor Who RPG involved defeating the Mandragora Helix in the year 1986. It was housed in the mainframe of and had taken over the software company where the 80s hacker PC works. MY solution for the problem was for him to create a back door and call in his BBS hacker allies to hack the mainframe and dissipate the Helix’s energy by downloading it onto a million floppy discs all over the world. Instead, one of the players remembered that the Voyager Space Probe at that time was just approaching Neptune, so jury-rigged the mainframe with Time Lord technology to transmit the Helix onto the space probe, sending it back to it’s home galaxy the long, slow way around. Great idea, except I know some GMS who would never allow it to happen because it doesn’t fit in with their perfect vision.
Having a story that you want to tell is a good thing, however, if the story is so important that the players can’t be allowed to interfere with it, just give them a copy of your novel instead.
Ouch. I think I’m a pretty good GM, but I’ve been guilty of number three. Never at cons (where I’m always super-prepared), but in home games I definitely have complained about the kids stealing away my time and not being prepared and so on. Luckily, one of the players did say that never say it aloud. Thanks for pointing it out, as well!
I’ve got two boys (8 and 10) so I know how it goes with preparation time. Have you read this article: http://www.creightonbroadhurst.com/gm-advice-three-tier-design-for-the-busy-gm/ I think you’ll find it handy.
the misplaced self confidence is easily the worst to me. i see rookie GMs taking on scenarios and game designs which i doubt i could handle (and i’ve got a fair amount of experience). and then they wonder why they fail? they get frustrated and sulk and eventually try again (hopefully) and they try something just as complicated as before! start with the basics guys! once you’ve mastered them; then try something more complex.
“Abusing the Position of GM: A GM who obsesses about trivial details is abusing his trust. Does it really matter the rope is not listed as knotted on a PCs’ sheet?”
I speak as an experienced DM (GM), and I fully believe that obsessing about trivial details is important.
A player should know their character through and through. They should know everything about it, just as if they were the character, and it was them personally going through the dungeon. It’s the same idea as if you were going camping. You would know what equipment you had packed in your backpack.
While some might think this as obsessive, or over trivializing, this has actually turned my players in the some of the best players out there.
And, it has led to some of the best moments in the game.
For example; One thing I always make sure to check on their character sheets is if they took the time to buy paper and pens/ink. Why? Because if they’re going into a maze/dungeon, mapping is going to be important.
So this one time, they were entering another dungeon, which in actuality was a true maze, and someone came up with the great idea to have them give all their paper and pens to the “map drawer.”
They all did.
Little did they know that there were individual points in the maze that teleported them to different spots. And once activated, it would not activate again.
They ended up all getting split up; and ofcourse, the only one who could keep track of their where-about’s was the person with the paper and ink.
Why? Because as they moved (if they didn’t have paper and pen), I would erase the section they’d just passed.
Naturally some got frustrated (a little) when they’d come across the same section, but the story of that maze and all that they went through lives on to this day as one of the best dungeons in their experience.
I have other examples, but the point is; the player should know that character better than anyone. Teaching them to focus on the details is important.
But this is just the way I DM, and how I teach my players to look at the game.
I have been accused of being a bad GM. I have taken out encounters because I thought they were two easy. My real problem is after every session I run I ask two questions 1) Did you have fun? 2) did I do a good job? I do that because I want two hear from players what areas I need to improve upon. No one says any thing at all. Then I experienced the back stabbing from my group that I was not good this and that the group I created collapsed. How do I avoid this in the future.
That sucks, Robert. I think I have a solution for you! It’s been my experience that people generally hate confrontation and that they find it hard to give negative feedback. I think that’s just human nature. Thus, when you are not there they sound off about all the things they didn’t like.
Have you considered using Survey Monkey – which his free – to gather anonymous comments about your game? If you create several questions such as:
1. Rate your enjoyment of the session.
2. Rate the adventure
you make it quick, easy and painless for them to leave feedback. I use Survey Monkey for Raging Swan Press – and this blog – and if you craft the questions right you can get some great feedback.
I think I’ll write an article on this in the future. Thanks for the question!
also try and alternate GMing with other players in your group. Chat about how the adventure went and how they liked it and disliked it. We had each player write up a low level dungeon then run it, we all had lowbie characters we were not really invested in so it didnt matter if they died etc but it showed everyone at the table what it was like to run a game and how each person participates in thier own way.
when I first started to be a DM, I believe I really didn’t do any of these, except for maybe the first one….I think these characteristics are mainly DM’s that are inexperienced and the like…I have had a few players do a few of these characteristics and one complained that there was to much magic and another one said I didn’t know nothing about combat..while I do have a ‘script’ I mainly let the players go where they want to go, I always ask them, ‘ok now what’ I never TELL them what is happening…concerning #4 I believe that is because the person being the DM used to be a PC and died a lot and now that he/she is a DM will not lose any characters…I’ve run into a few of those…I believe that #5 is the lynchpin though, if you don’t acknowledge this one the other four will always follow you…and like they say…imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
i have done a few of them in my time. I have also added my own characters as NPCs in campaigns and made out that they had to save the day all the time. Glad i learned from that.
Learning from mistakes and watching the players during the game are the best things a GM can do. Never become personally involved and never, ever let your other half play. Ever…. 😛
I’ve got a personal rule I usually go by. Never put something on the table ( or infront of the players, sans table) that you’re not willing to lose. Got a spiffy magical artifact a bad guy is using? Keep in mind that the players are going to try and get it. Great NPC with critical dialouge? Nope players killed him cause they thought he was a threat. Things will go sideways quick if you build things to go on a rail. Players are an unpredictable lot. And as such, I usually don’t leave critical moments to chance. Players killed that one NPC? Thankfully one of their cohorts noticed a diary to fill them in. Will they get all the details? No, but enough to keep moving along. So be prepared to lose something on the table, but not in the way you expected.
I have been in a HEX game, the current chronicle running since 2012 with no experience not style points rewarded since, despite the PCs having logged 200 plus hours of gametime. Yes, I know that is not good. The GM is otherwise a nice guy. He does not keep game notes, and I do, so when our opponents grow from 24 to 48 because he can’t recall from last week, I can call him on it, and I have to rules lawyer very basic things in the game. I mean basic combat stats. He has the books. So do I, mine are falling apart from overuse. We are no closer to finishing this adventure than when we began it. I even sacrificed a PC back in 2017 to try to end it. We don’t want to lose him as a friend but game night is dreaded. Any suggestions ?