GMs: Typical Player/GM Bad Habits



  • WHAT THIS THREAD IS NOT is a specific calling out of people.

    WHAT THIS THREAD IS is a thread designed to discuss bad habits of players and GMs, and to constructively discuss great ways to correct/work with said habits to make GMs better GMs, and players better players.

    WHAT THIS THREAD IS ALSO NOT is a discussion on isms (sexism, racism, gender pronouns). THIS IS ABOUT PLAYSTYLE/GMSTYLE ISSUES, not about social norms and/or differences involving choice of language or beliefs.

    Example, I will start:

    As a GM on TT night, I regularly come across players who do what I like to call "leading the GM". This is when a player will state what they think the GM should do with an NPC prior to a roll or use of a power/spell that doesn't exactly work that way, perhaps even to try to justify that a roll doesn't even need to happen. Example:

    Cop NPC runs into a room where the vigilante PC is in a shootout with an evil NPC:
    "I bet the cop doesn't even know which one of us is the good guy or not."

    While there's nothing inherently wrong with chatter, some players have the bad habit of throwing out their perceived direction of a scene, which usually results in them arguing what an NPC would or wouldn't believe, what they should or should not have to roll, or what the difficulty should be.

    In the above example, the GM may be planning for the the cop to be LIKE A COP and take the "everyone is getting handcuffed" approach. This would be in contradiction to what the player was trying to lead, which can then run into accusations of railroading, etc.

    HOW I ADDRESS THIS: Tell the player that you have in mind the initial response from the officer. Don't tell them what it is. Instead, tell them that if they would like to use a deception/persuasion check, they can explain what they're trying to sell the cop on, and you will set the difficulty based on how radically this would alter the cop's current inclinations.

    I've had great results falling back on to dice systems to determine successes rather than discussing NPC rractions as a matter of creative control. Every player has the same capability of putting points into their character sheet.



  • GM Bad Habit: Throwing a Big Bad in front of low level players expecting them to run away.

    I get that having a teaser of what is to come is sometimes a great thing, but this is so overused(In mushes and TableTop), I've seen and am now a player who will almost never go for it because almost every encounter is a death sentence.

    As a GM, it's taken me years to get my players to trust friendly NPCs, after having one screw the party over back in the day. I've also done a lot of work rehabbing my group with having realistic stats for bad guys instead of 'Scaling for level'.

    Anyways, this came to mind saturday when my TT GM jumped our fresh 3rd level characters with a fucking Aboleth. We tried to run, but cultists teleported in and kept us from getting away and now we have a jellified illusionist in a bucket.


  • Pitcrew

    @SG said in GMs: Typical Player/GM Bad Habits:

    GM Bad Habit: Throwing a Big Bad in front of low level players expecting them to run away.

    I get that having a teaser of what is to come is sometimes a great thing, but this is so overused(In mushes and TableTop), I've seen and am now a player who will almost never go for it because almost every encounter is a death sentence.

    As a GM, it's taken me years to get my players to trust friendly NPCs, after having one screw the party over back in the day. I've also done a lot of work rehabbing my group with having realistic stats for bad guys instead of 'Scaling for level'.

    Anyways, this came to mind saturday when my TT GM jumped our fresh 3rd level characters with a fucking Aboleth. We tried to run, but cultists teleported in and kept us from getting away and now we have a jellified illusionist in a bucket.

    On the other hand: player bad habit: always solving things a single way and/or being unwilling to lose and try another day.

    As a GM, I try to make it very clear when a situation is beyond their skill scope, and will outright state it OOC: 'in this scenario, violence will not work' (for example) mostly because I don't like to waste anyone's time.

    That said.

    Bad GM Habit: Wasting player's time when they know a lengthy and/or convoluted and/or complex action is going to lead nowhere. Especially on MUs, where that can take weeks or months of the player's time and effort. Just tell them.

    "This isn't going to get you anywhere. Feel free to play that it is frustrating not to get anywhere for as long as you want, but also feel free to drop it as soon as you want."

    It's not hard and it fosters a good relationship where players don't feel deceived and storytellers don't get annoyed being asked about some inconsequential shit.

    Better answer is to actually make it consequential (to the main plot or as a side thing) but just by telling them "this isn't gonna get anywhere" you still avoid a lot of the problems.


  • Pitcrew

    When I am the GM, from players:

    Overplanning/Sabotaging Themselves With Reality. I, overwhelmingly, run in a cinematic mode, and probably one of the worst things that players can do in something I run is to overthink it. I cannot count the times I've had a scene come to a painful halt because the PCs, or a small subset of PCs, cannot make themselves take a forward step without trying to obsessively plan out the Best Possible Option. Often by bringing in RL knowledge that isn't really applicable - dude, I don't care that Hacking Doesn't Work Like That if we're playing CoD - you tell me what you want to do, and if I can at all justify it being a networkable thing, I'll probably let you roll for it, and if I don't, I'll tell you exactly why and what your character might need to do to make it work. (I.e. it will be a challenge not a shutdown - 'oh, this is a protected internal network, so you'll have to log in from X specific terminal to get access'.)

    How I address this: Trying to make sure that the consequences of actions that players take, whether they are successes or failures for the PCs, are fun for the players. Which sometimes leads to a PC intimidating the hell out of a group of gang members and short-circuiting what had been PLANNED to be a combat, but which later led to a pretty awesome car scene with other gang members t-boning the PCs' getaway car at speed. I try to be up front about wanting to reward action with fun, and I've tried to embrace 'failing forward' in order to keep things moving so that people don't have to fear that if they miss a single step or fail a single roll, they're going to get the dreaded 'you find nothing and the two hours we've spent on this scene is wasted'.

    When I am the Player, from GMs:

    No-selling character skills and abilities. I don't want or expect a single PC ability to be an instant win button on any scenario, but the times when GMs have shut down or bent over backwards to decide a character's extremely relevant skills/abilities Just Don't Work because they didn't think about them when building the challenge is kinda silly. And makes me grumpy. This definitely ties into the school of thought of "Social skills aren't 'mind control', so you will never persuade an NPC to ever give up anything that they don't want to or to back down when I want a combat or to do anything against their best interests, no matter how the rules for the skills are written or how well you roll," but it's not exclusive to that.

    Just...let PCs be good at their stuff. A single case of 'oh my, the telepath meets someone immune to mind-reading' can be fun, dramatic, and honestly pretty amazing if it's played well. But the fifth time in as many sessions? At that point, it's just frustration and boredom.



  • @Pyrephox said in GMs: Typical Player/GM Bad Habits:

    No-selling character skills and abilities. I don't want or expect a single PC ability to be an instant win button on any scenario, but the times when GMs have shut down or bent over backwards to decide a character's extremely relevant skills/abilities Just Don't Work because they didn't think about them when building the challenge is kinda silly.

    OMG this is so frustrating. My current TT GM does this. Like 5e, rolling above 15 is supposed to be good for many things, but he constantly only gives good info for spots or history checks with 20+. Ugh.



  • @SG Ugh yeah. I've had GMs do that and it drives me crazy. I get that there are some shows/video games that take the dramatic route that the players get beaten down by a formidable foe and have to come back to beat them, but it can be a major drag for the players to go through this.

    How I keep from doing this?

    1. If the players get cocky and try to run in and one-shot the big bad, I will absolutely let the big bad hand their asses to them. (If the players push for the fight)

    2. I will have the BigBad visibly direct the mini-bosses. It could be scrolls/parchment, radio communications, holographic orders, or even being in the distance pointing his/her finger down at the PCs. I let the BigBad be named/visible as the director of the hurdles the PCs have to overcome, which results in the BigBadBossfight actually feeling more like the last 30 minutes of Final Fantasy 7. That Sephiroth fight, right?

    #2 has had good results with my group, and because of #1 they have stopped trying to MurderHobo every evil NPC I put in play.

    Sidenote: This is easier with games that don't publish the "Challenge Level" of monsters/bad guys. D&D-type games are notorious for having an idea which monster manual entries they are/are not stronger than. Some even memorize stats/abilities. This is metagaming. Which I helped nip that bad habit by either not listing the power level of my BigBad or by stating ahead of time that I've made modifications to some Monster Manual Monsters.


  • Pitcrew

    @SG said in GMs: Typical Player/GM Bad Habits:

    @Pyrephox said in GMs: Typical Player/GM Bad Habits:

    No-selling character skills and abilities. I don't want or expect a single PC ability to be an instant win button on any scenario, but the times when GMs have shut down or bent over backwards to decide a character's extremely relevant skills/abilities Just Don't Work because they didn't think about them when building the challenge is kinda silly.

    OMG this is so frustrating. My current TT GM does this. Like 5e, rolling above 15 is supposed to be good for many things, but he constantly only gives good info for spots or history checks with 20+. Ugh.

    This actually reminds me of another, more MU* exclusive, that's sort of a...combined GM/Player bad habit:

    Threat Inflation/Arms Race: The tendency in MU*s, due to the proliferation of XP, for anything less than the 'absolute highest score' in a given skill or ability to be considered inadequate for contributing to anything. From the GM side, this often involves setting TNs/NPC abilities so high to challenge the top tier of PCs that anyone not at that level might as well not be there, and from the player side, this often involves a) racing for The Absolute Top as fast as possible, and b) being OOCly and ICly dismissive of a PC's abilities if they aren't the absolute best possible.



  • @SG said in GMs: Typical Player/GM Bad Habits:

    @Pyrephox said in GMs: Typical Player/GM Bad Habits:

    No-selling character skills and abilities. I don't want or expect a single PC ability to be an instant win button on any scenario, but the times when GMs have shut down or bent over backwards to decide a character's extremely relevant skills/abilities Just Don't Work because they didn't think about them when building the challenge is kinda silly.

    OMG this is so frustrating. My current TT GM does this. Like 5e, rolling above 15 is supposed to be good for many things, but he constantly only gives good info for spots or history checks with 20+. Ugh.

    Unless its the bid war/ability auction during CG for Amber diceless RPG?

    And now we come to strength, the most important stat in the game. If you don't want to be bested by your friends, I mean opponents, clearly you need to a good strength ... Really Joe, you're going to let Bill outbid you, that clearly means if you too met in the forest an he has it out for you, Bill will beat you hands down, that's how important strength is.

    20 minutes later

    And now we come to willpower, clearly the most important stat in the game...


  • Pitcrew

    @Pyrephox said in GMs: Typical Player/GM Bad Habits:

    @SG said in GMs: Typical Player/GM Bad Habits:

    @Pyrephox said in GMs: Typical Player/GM Bad Habits:

    No-selling character skills and abilities. I don't want or expect a single PC ability to be an instant win button on any scenario, but the times when GMs have shut down or bent over backwards to decide a character's extremely relevant skills/abilities Just Don't Work because they didn't think about them when building the challenge is kinda silly.

    OMG this is so frustrating. My current TT GM does this. Like 5e, rolling above 15 is supposed to be good for many things, but he constantly only gives good info for spots or history checks with 20+. Ugh.

    This actually reminds me of another, more MU* exclusive, that's sort of a...combined GM/Player bad habit:

    Threat Inflation/Arms Race: The tendency in MU*s, due to the proliferation of XP, for anything less than the 'absolute highest score' in a given skill or ability to be considered inadequate for contributing to anything. From the GM side, this often involves setting TNs/NPC abilities so high to challenge the top tier of PCs that anyone not at that level might as well not be there, and from the player side, this often involves a) racing for The Absolute Top as fast as possible, and b) being OOCly and ICly dismissive of a PC's abilities if they aren't the absolute best possible.

    At one point I used to fix this in nWoD by aiming a bunch of low level mooks at the people with huge dice pools and keeping the reasonably-skilled antagonists for the more reasonably-skilled PCs.

    It's amazing what you can accomplish with numbers.



  • @Lotherio said in GMs: Typical Player/GM Bad Habits:

    And now we come to willpower, clearly the most important stat in the game...

    I always hated being Gerard for this reason ...



  • I used to have a problem with min-maxing in my games. Not to pundit, but I think that min-maxing isn't in the spirit of RPGs. Even Conan the Barbarian had other skills than being a badass swordsman.

    As a GM I don't look to fuck over my players by specifically designing adventures around their faults. Instead, I just design adventures with a number of different required skills across the board where one skill can't handle everything. You could have a plus 3000 base attack bonus and be skill statted for combat, which will do you well if combat is the viable answer to everything, but when it comes to noticing things or hacking a computer/door, your lack of spread will be your downfall.

    I simply "prepare a spread". This means the combat players will get some combat, but may eventually have to defer to PCs with the other skills. This goes the other way, too. Intelligence/Charisma players can't talk themselves out of everything and may need to call their MurderHobo buddy to bail them out.

    I used to have a big issue with players who simply avoided putting dots into social skills at all under the assumption that they could RP/convince me as a GM that dice weren't necessary. That cleared up really quick when I reinforced that game mechanics would require them to be more than PLAYERS WHO COULD ROLEPLAY but with the sheet of an emotionless AC43 Robocop MurderMachine. Too bad we weren't rolling the PLAYER'S social/int/skill dice, but the CHARACTER'S.



  • One more bad habit.

    I call it the "Google Character Sheet".

    "On this website it says that all you have to do to make C4 is <insert recipe>. So my character is going to make some c4."

    GM: "Okay, roll demolitions. The website gives you a plus one."

    "Do I really even have to roll? He's just following directions."

    GM: "All bomb-making could fail, which requires a roll. Use of a recipe or help can give you plusses."

    Which, IMO, is also how you handle it. As a GM I am often handed some speech by some RL expert on astrophysics, firearms, the military, etc who lobbies for drastically reduced roll difficulties or hand-waving of rolls based on their OOC knowledge (or belief of knowledge) of a certain topic.

    Fix?

    "That's great that you know these things. If you would like your character to know these things, we can discuss what YOUR skill level translates to, and then we can work on your character leveling up to THAT level of skill."

    OOC player Google searches don't excuse dice rolls. Ever. Oh, and also?

    ...it's rude to Google "how to make C4" while connected to the Wi-Fi on someone else's router.



  • @Ghost said in GMs: Typical Player/GM Bad Habits:

    WHAT THIS THREAD IS is a thread designed to discuss bad habits of players and GMs, and to constructively discuss great ways to correct/work with said habits to make GMs better GMs, and players better players.

    Be fucking flexible, people.

    GMs: Let players just play. The rolls are not meant to be an impediment. Bar the ludicrous and make silly methods more difficult; but don't be so narrow-minded as to allow require a singular event or roll determine the success of an evening. Think "open world game."

    Players: Just go with it. Don't quibble about the modifiers. Don't argue about the mechanics. Don't lawyer the words. Just do what the GM asks you to do, unless you can clearly -- CLEARLY -- articulate and point out that something is expressly contrary to the rules. Even then, if the GM believes otherwise? Go with it.

    Everyone: Engage. Put away the other games. Keep focused on your character, if you're a player, or all of the characters, if you're the GM. Take the time. Make it short: a couple of hours at most, and engage.

    That's how you can avoid bad habits.



  • @Ghost said in GMs: Typical Player/GM Bad Habits:

    ...it's rude to Google "how to make C4" while connected to the Wi-Fi on someone else's router.

    tbh I've Googled far worse.

    The plight of being an author.

    Anyway, the GM Bad Habit I wanna throw out there. This one def. comes from TT, but I have seen it in MUs (just less often):

    The GM who thinks they can design monsters, but they don't have anyone vet/test their work.

    It is really super un-fun to go up against some custom Monster-of-the-Week your GM made and is oh-so-proud-of that has every resistance ever, every advantage ever, stats way over anything similar, etc etc etc

    'Oh but I based it on a CR5-'
    Yeah and then you jacked it up to a CR15. While we're all level 6 and you sent four of them after us.

    Similarly to this:
    Your custom creature doesn't get to just break the core system rules. 'Oh well this is a custom monster/NPC/etc so they don't adhere to the rules of initiative/social rolls/whathaveyou.' No, those rules apply to everything. There's some GM handwavium that's allowed, but when it's blatantly obvious you made something just to fuck with a single PC, it's kind of frustrating.

    Put other roadblocks or challenges in the way, but a rule-breaking monster that basically just says 'ha ha nope I keel you' to a PC. That's upsetting to that PC and the party.



  • @Coin said in GMs: Typical Player/GM Bad Habits:

    Bad GM Habit: Wasting player's time when they know a lengthy and/or convoluted and/or complex action is going to lead nowhere. Especially on MUs, where that can take weeks or months of the player's time and effort. Just tell them.

    My rule of thumb as a GM, both in the tabletop campaign I run and even moreso as a GM on MU*s (where actions can take a lot longer than they do at a table with dice), is that the answer should pretty much never be "no". Sometimes if their idea is brilliant but wouldn't work with what I have planned, I change the plans. If the action won't work at all, I strive to always give a "no, but..." with some other avenue to look into, some hint to steer them down a different path.

    Either way, my goal as a GM is that the players should never feel like they're wandering aimlessly in a darkened room, smacking into walls and never finding a door out.

    @Pyrephox said in GMs: Typical Player/GM Bad Habits:

    Trying to make sure that the consequences of actions that players take, whether they are successes or failures for the PCs, are fun for the players. Which sometimes leads to a PC intimidating the hell out of a group of gang members and short-circuiting what had been PLANNED to be a combat, but which later led to a pretty awesome car scene with other gang members t-boning the PCs' getaway car at speed.

    Yes! Another GM rule-of-thumb I use is that the enjoyment of the players matters more than the purity of my narrative. I mean, especially in tabletop games, I have to be ready to adapt at a moment's notice, and if I've invested emotional energy in a storyline going a specific way, I'd potentially feel disappointed/frustrated if the players did something unexpected.

    If they want to sideline into something else—if they come up with some other way to solve the problem that would actually work—I should let that happen if I can.

    @Pyrephox said in GMs: Typical Player/GM Bad Habits:

    No-selling character skills and abilities. I don't want or expect a single PC ability to be an instant win button on any scenario, but the times when GMs have shut down or bent over backwards to decide a character's extremely relevant skills/abilities Just Don't Work because they didn't think about them when building the challenge is kinda silly. And makes me grumpy.

    It's frustrating to set up a complex and challenging situation only to see a player spot an end-run around it which you didn't plan for. This happened to me early on in my current campaign, when I had planned out this elaborate combat scenario where the party was going to have to fight their opponents while in an inn that was actively burning down; I had rules for how the fire would spread, and I figured it would force them into a smaller and smaller active battle area and impose a sense of urgency to the battle.

    And then the druid was like, "Oh, I've got Gust of Wind! If I read this right, I should be able to blow out the fire in a straight line for sixty feet in any direction. Can I use that to carve a path through the flames?"

    Welp.

    But in those situations, you run with it! As with the reply to the last quoted block, it's generally far more fun for players to let a creative application of a player skill or resource succeed than to block it. Even if you're sure that battle would've been spectacular in its original form (which I am), that fun will be tainted if the players go in feeling sullen that they were blocked by GM fiat on utilizing skills and resources.


  • Pitcrew

    @Sparks Yeah. I think "no, but" is a different but related problem. I am okay with being told 'no' if it's to save me time and redirect my actual efforts into something productive. If it's just a straight up dead end, though, it's super frustrating.



  • Fellow GM tips for avoiding railroading:

    1. AVOID having a GM PC in the party. This is bait for making the game/scene/adventure about your "NPC/PC" (air-quotes). The compulsion is hard to resist.

    2. AVOID the "three part" model when designing a game. Don't write a beginning, middle, and (especially not) an end.

    3. ALWAYS conjure up scene ideas with a few ways you predict it might end, but be flexible. They will flesh the rest of the scene out, make it fun, and you get to help them find an ending.

    4. ALWAYS build more "ideas" based on interests the players chat about. OOC chatter will always show you what players like. You may have a few horror fans, a few swashbuckling fans, etc. Let them help you craft SCENE IDEAS (note: Not the story. Again, DO NOT consider the end of the story until you are totally ready to stop GMing it)

    5. ALWAYS remember that you are a GM: a referee, a scene painter, and a voice for NPCs. You are not screenwriter, director, producer, and casting agent who simply tells the characters where to stand and what to do. THE WHOLE GROUP are the writers. Repeat this over and over again and it will make you a better GM. ALWAYS prod your players to be creative. ALWAYS remind them that you are needing their input as much as they need yours.


  • Pitcrew

    @Coin said in GMs: Typical Player/GM Bad Habits:

    @Sparks Yeah. I think "no, but" is a different but related problem. I am okay with being told 'no' if it's to save me time and redirect my actual efforts into something productive. If it's just a straight up dead end, though, it's super frustrating.

    Oh god, there is nothing more frustrating than being told, "Yeah, even though you rolled incredibly well at this investigation/whatever, because you aren't taking the right OOC tack, you don't find anything. Sorry!"

    Except maybe being told that at the end of a four hour scene in which you try every possible method you can think of to progress, only to have the GM eventually say the above.


  • Pitcrew

    @Pyrephox said in GMs: Typical Player/GM Bad Habits:

    @Coin said in GMs: Typical Player/GM Bad Habits:

    @Sparks Yeah. I think "no, but" is a different but related problem. I am okay with being told 'no' if it's to save me time and redirect my actual efforts into something productive. If it's just a straight up dead end, though, it's super frustrating.

    Oh god, there is nothing more frustrating than being told, "Yeah, even though you rolled incredibly well at this investigation/whatever, because you aren't taking the right OOC tack, you don't find anything. Sorry!"

    Except maybe being told that at the end of a four hour scene in which you try every possible method you can think of to progress, only to have the GM eventually say the above.

    Yeah. Just fucking tell me first. Let me roll to find the right avenue of investigation or interaction.



  • @Coin said in GMs: Typical Player/GM Bad Habits:

    Let me roll to find the right avenue of investigation or interaction.

    There has to be a balance though. Everyone realizes that players don't have the same skills as their PCs. But without players making decisions as to the approach, everything boils down to just dice with no actual storytelling.

    I play a lot of Shadowrun, which is often built around heists. Rolls are used to give you tips as to the feasibility of various approaches, but ultimately planning the heist is the whole point of the game. If you just boiled it down to "I roll to figure out what's the best way into this building" and then "I roll to figure out if we succeeded" then it's no fun.

    Combat is often done this way too in most games. The GM doesn't make you roll to figure out what the best attack is. You choose the attack, and the dice tell you whether it worked. I don't see why investigation/bluffing/etc. should work fundamentally differently.


Log in to reply