GMing Fiascos (Inspired by Sons of Kryos)

edited October 2007 in Story Games
So in the last SoK episode (Congratulations on the 50 btw!!!) Jeff goes into the story of how he killed his wife's beloved vampyre character 20 minutes into a 2 year campaign. The game setup sounded cool with a supernatural vampire hunting swat team and lots of goodness, but the result...ouch. My wife's not a gamer, and now I'm thinking that might not be such a bad thing.

Anyway, the episode made me think of one of my GMing fiascos back when I was playing with my brothers and some friends. They were a bunch of kids from a farming village, one of whom was unbeknownst to them, the descendant of the ancient High King of legend. A Viking attack on their village had swept them into greater happenings as they begin to discover a great evil is working against the land, raising a monster invasion horde. At one point they step into the otherworld and are confronted by the King of Faery, who will bestow "items" upon them that will help them defeat the Dark Lord, but they can take no "gifts" from under the hill. They must win them by a challenge of...wait for it....Chess!!!

In my defense, I was really into chess at the time. OK, that's not a defense. Somehow I had forgotten how long and devastatingly boring a game of chess can be to those who are watching. One of my brother's friends rose to the challenge, we were both very deliberate (read "slow") players and the agony was drawn out as the entire game ground to a halt. Maybe if I had given the King of Faery a two minute chess clock the hell could have been over faster. Once the game began, I knew I had a problem because how do you speed up a chess game? Looking back with hindsight, I could have just pushed pieces out quickly, I mean it wouldn't be me losing it was the King of Faery...but if I had been that wise, I wouldn't have started the game in the first place.

Comments

  • Posted By: noclueSo in the last SoK episode (Congratulations on the 50 btw!!!) Paka goes into the story...
    That was Jeff.

    I have no wife.
  • OK, I got the Judd/Paka thing confused. Fixed in edit
  • James,

    That's a classic story, man. I think it's brilliant that you called Jeff Paka, BTW.

    I have a couple wife gaming fiascoes to share:

    #1: My wife and I gamed together for the first time in college (we were dating at the time) as players in a VtM chronicle. In our first game together, I made a Brujah and she made a young Toreador. The ST informed her that her character was to be presented to the Prince as a full vampire during the first game. But before the meeting, the coterie ended up running around in a graveyard for some reason I cannot recall. When some Sabbat showed up, we hid her PC in a catacomb for her protection. We then proceeded to have a running fight for the next few hours and completely left her behind. So, she sat for the rest of the game, waiting for the PCs she just met to come get her out of a catacomb.

    #2: I haven't killed my wife's character, but I set up a situation where her character's daughter was viciously killed (it wasn't my intent, but I didn't fight it). When the guest player who was playing the villain struck the final blow, I still remember my wife, sitting on one side of the couch, leaning over another player to stare down the guest player who was sitting at the other end of the couch and screaming at him, "YOU BETTER RUN!!!!" There was this pregnant pause as we all sorted out if she meant the player should run or if she was talking to the villain NPC. Luckily, she was talking to the character.
  • Posted By: noclue[snip] They must win them by a challenge of...wait for it....Chess!!! [snip] Somehow I had forgotten how long and devastatingly boring a game of chess can be to those who are watching. [snip snip]
    That reminds me of the sample chess challenge ladder in the Fate 2.0 book. If you beat the other guy by one you knock out a pawn, beat him by three and knock out a knight and so on. (The challenge thus didn't represent every move of the game, it was more of a highlight reel if you will.) You could win in a brilliant stroke by beating the opponent's roll by.. seven or so, I think, or could work up to the win by taking out the other pieces through smaller wins. I think that was the only time I saw a gaming system present chess in an appealing way.
  • edited October 2007
    I recently played In a Wicked Age with my girlfriend. It was her first RPG experience since the weekly Universalis group from years ago.

    My evil witch killed her reborn Buddha-type character. Cut him to pieces with a spell of flying knives.

    So... yeah. I killed my girlfriend's character. But it was awesome. We had a blast.

    I'll post a fiasco next. It involves climbing rolls.
  • edited October 2007
    In my first-ever roleplaying experience as a GM (which, sadly, was my only my second-ever roleplaying session), I was completely convinced that my best friend really wanted to play a certain type of character (a D&D wizard), and the particular "prize" I had prepared for him (each character started at 1st level, but with a special item or ability).

    When he showed up to the game, he said, "Hell no! I want to play a ranger!" I argued with him for an hour and simply didn't let him. It was for his good, really.

    The flipside is that the game turned out well, and we all had fun, including my friend... which is really quite a miracle, in retrospect.
  • Posted By: orklordSo, she sat for the rest of the game, waiting for the PCs she just met to come get her out of a catacomb.
    I'm curious. Did the ST flash back to her and ask "OK, what are you doing? they've been gone for a long time, you're starting to get worried." or was it just assumed that she was staying put until someone came back for her?
    Posted By: Eldirchess challenge ladder in the Fate 2.0 book
    Cool. I'll have to take a look at that for giggles.
    Posted By: Paul T.I argued with him for an hour andsimply didn't let him.
    I like it. Get's rid of all that illusionism bullshit immediately and just gets cuts right to the railroading before play even gets started ;)
  • edited October 2007
    We're playing Talislanta. We are young-ish. I won't say exactly. Old enough to know better, though.

    The PCs are looking for the City of the Four Winds. It flies around somewhere way up in the sky, all cloaked in clouds so you can't see it. Long story short, they find a rope out in the wilderness that snakes away up into the air and supposedly leads to the famed city.

    "We climb it!" they say. Some of you are already cringing. Oh man.

    I flip to the climbing rules in the book. For some reason, god does not instantly strike me dead at this point. The climbing rules say that a successful climbing roll lets you climb 10 feet. If you fail, you're stuck where you are (and have to make other rolls to get going again). If you fumble, you fall.

    The City of the Four Winds is over a mile in the air. Probably should'a been higher, now that I think about it, but sweet fancy moses, a mile was plenty. 10 GODDAMN FEET AT A TIME.

    I really wish I was joking. I wish my players had simply punched me in the mouth and said no. But, no. We actually did it. We spent most of the session all fucking night making climbing rolls.

    Later, when they were fleeing the city with Banes on their heels, the PCs discovered that they could not leave the city while carrying any of the artifacts they had found. They looked at me, with murder in their eyes, and said, "We. Climbed. All. The. Way. Up. Here." The spell suddenly broke, and they made off with the artifacts, yes sir they did.


    (edited to correct my rose-colored memory of how long it actually took)
  • John, ignoring the obvious "Ouch!" and moving on to "528 climb rolls without falling?"
    Posted By: John HarperThe spell suddenly broke, and they made off with the artifacts, yes sir they did.
    They must have had a +2 flanking bonus when intimidating GMs.
  • Posted By: nocluePosted By: orklordSo, she sat for the rest of the game, waiting for the PCs she just met to come get her out of a catacomb.
    I'm curious. Did the ST flash back to her and ask "OK, what are you doing? they've been gone for a long time, you're starting to get worried." or was it just assumed that she was staying put until someone came back for her?

    Nope. Not once. I just kept playing, occassionally looking over at her and looking sad. In retrospect, I should have said... something.
  • John,

    That is epic painful.
  • Nobody fell off the rope?
  • edited October 2007
    Oh, they failed rolls, you betcha. I forget the exact system that we used there, but it must have been invented in the moment. There was all this business about failing and having to stop climbing. Then, you had to roll... Will? to get going again. If you failed that or botched the first one, you could slip and fall. Then you got to roll to catch yourself.

    So, no. Not 528 rolls. It had to be more than that. It took hours. They'd bang out a dozen or so, then fail, then we'd have to stop and figure out the slipping and catching or whatever. Oh! And I just remembered. They started gambling. Like, "Okay, can this roll be 100 feet, but if I fail, I take a -5 to catch myself?" Stuff like that. We wrote our own gorram rope-climbing mini game. A mini-game that you can't really lose, but you sure as hell can prolong.

    Jebus.

    The actual fiasco: I still have all my teeth, and they let me run a game again.
  • You're making me cry.
  • The first game of red box Basic D&D I ran, one player (my brother as it happened) selected Chaotic as his alignment. I'm not sure of the exact wording but the conclusion I drew from the description of Chaotic characters was that they would run away from fights and abandon the rest of the party. And so, in your bog-standard room clearing dungeon crawl, his character ran away, room after room after room.

    Of course, after the amusement of doing this the first time, he wanted to stay and fight but OH NO, in my wisdom I couldn't allow that. You see, I had read the rules and they said he would run away and so I told him that he ran away every single time as he watched the rest of our family hacking away at monsters and generally having fun.

    For some unexplained reason, he quit the game. I my defense, I was only about 10 years old.
  • Mine was not cock-blocking another player when I should have. But I was like in Junior High School so what was I going to say?

    It's from the Dirk Deathstrike thread over here:
    SAW: Name Forgotten (so I'll call him "Aaron", based on the player). TORG.

    I loved reading TORG, was obsessed with it, so at some point I decided to run a session of it with some friends (I think I was 14 or 15?). And Aaron. Aaron was a long time aquaintence, and friend of my best friend. This was one of my first sessions as GM, and I had the adventure all prepared and ready to go, I just needed some friends to come over, make characters and throw down. So IIRC, it was me, Drew, Anne, Kim, Greg and Aaron.

    I carefully explained the world, how it's all these COSMs at war with each other, and they can choose the cosm that they come from. We had a ninja, a werewolf, a secret agent.

    And Aaron decided that he wanted to be a living magical table that could throw exploding silverware.

    ...

    Me, being a novice and confused GM, and wanting deep down not to cock block anybody, came up with this strained explanation about how he came from the magical world of Aysle, how he was transformed by magic into a table, and how some Dwarves of light crafted him some weapons to defend himself with until he could turn back.

    Basically, the adventure went in circles, a lot of confusion, and the game ended that day. Some of it was because I bit off too much. But most of it was because I had to chase Aaron around and keep him from ruining things (for the other players) with his magical damned table and its heat seeking exploding silverware ("I attack the wall." "I attack Kim. No not her character, Kim herself. I throw silverware at the screen, and it passes through into our world, hitting Kim.", etc)
    I also learned that day early on that no game is awesome enough to get a dickshank in a position from mocking the game into enjoying the game. :-)
  • Thanks, Andy. I picked up more terminology there than my first two years on The Forge. 'Dickshank' indeed.
  • Posted By: stevebarkerukso Itoldhim that he ran away every single time as he watched the rest of our family hacking away at monsters and generally having fun.
    That's funny.
    Posted By: Andya living magical table that could throw exploding silverware
    File that one under "Why God invented Dispel Magic 10' Radius"
  • edited October 2007
    Andy, that magical table gets me every time. [sniff] So good.
  • edited October 2007
    Posted By: Andyhe wanted to be a living magical table that could throw exploding silverware.
    I hate it when I get a Magestrike: Ultimus player at as my table at a convention.
  • I think I want to be a living magical table, so I can throw exploding silverware. It sounds fun.

    Obviously, I'd do it in a narrativist way. I'd have deep issues with being a table.

    Graham
  • Here in the UK, there's a group of experienced Cthulhu GMs called the Kult of Keepers. They're great. They're nice guys and I've played a couple of their games, which are really well done.

    Now, at a small convention, I'd decided to run a horror game. After all, I'd never run a horror game, so a small convention was perfect, right? Within five minutes of putting out the sign-up sheet, the entire Kult of Keepers (at least those that were in attendance) had signed up.

    Great.

    The game didn't go well. After half an hour, players were bored, wandering off to get cups of tea and not coming back. After an hour, I shamefacedly admitted I wasn't enjoying the game, either, and should we stop? They said yes, gratefully.

    They were very decent about it and chatted to me afterwards. I took the train home with one of them and he explained what I'd done wrong.

    Graham
  • They were very decent about it and chatted to me afterwards. I took the train home with one of them and he explained what I'd done wrong.
    So, what had you done wrong?
  • Once, at a university gaming club, I played one session with a group, didn't like it, and then hid from them. I didn't explain, I didn't say I was dropping out, I didn't try to fix anything. I just hid, like a craven dog, and didn't go back.

    I was the GM.
  • Oo! And there was another thing I did that my homies still (justly) deride and mock me for. I made a homebrew game about immortal wizards and their politics throughout history, set in the modern day. You got to choose how old your wizard was, and which eras he/she had lived through. If you took an old one, you got a whole lot of skill points, but each batch had to be spent on skills exclusive to that era, representing what you were doing back then. So if you'd been, like, a beekeeper in the middle ages, you had to spend points on medieval beekeeping. And if you'd been...er...a Roman legionnaire, you had to spend all these points on marching and mass-formation combat, and erecting pallisades in an hour. None of which would ever come up in game. And there were quite a lot of eras.

    At least one player took over eight hours to make his character.

    The game ran for about 5 sessions.
  • "Patiently record everything you will never, ever use in play."

    Yeah. I played in those games, too. We didn't have immortals and ancient skills, but we did have the Rigger Black Book.
  • edited October 2007
    I have a friend that would take that Medieval Beekeeping and end up owning the city.
  • Posted By: Chris GardinerOnce, at a university gaming club, I played one session with a group, didn't like it, and thenhidfrom them. I didn't explain, I didn't say I was dropping out, I didn't try to fix anything. I justhid, like a craven dog, and didn't go back.

    I was the GM.
    Heh, I've been tempted to do that more than once. I did do something similar as a player--missed out, without notice, on a session of this long-running campaign with some extremely frustrating issues. A session for a new game had been set up at a conflicting time after some scheduling confusion, and I simply forgot about the time conflict. Or maybe I'd blocked it out of my mind. Afterwards I apologized to the GM and never darkened the doorstep of any of his campaigns ever again. I guess voting with one's feet is a valid way of quitting a game, though it's even better with prior notice. :P
    Posted By: Graham WThey were very decent about it and chatted to me afterwards. I took the train home with one of them and he explained what I'd done wrong.
    I actually thought of something like that--a gamemaster's workshop. The way I saw it, experienced gamemasters often don't get enough play and inexperienced ones are unsure of themselves. An inexperienced GM, then, could run some sessions with experienced gamemasters as players, then get feedback after the fact. There would be a sort of safety net in that it's a learning experience: The GM isn't necessarily expected to do well, nor do the players have to feel reserved about saying what they didn't like since everyone is there with the express understanding that feedback is welcome.

    One GMing fiasco of mine was during my second time gamemastering, back when I was pretty spine-challenged and just didn't know how to speak up. There was this obnoxious player who refused to interact with the other characters, for the (what I now recognize as a ridiculous) reason that "my character is antisocial." The other two players and I couldn't stand the guy but didn't want to confront him.

    The guy kept going off from the party on his own little plotlines--and I, new to this gamemastering business and anxious to please, duly gave him the screentime and drama he wanted. Thankfully not all the screentime, but I really should have ignored him rather than pander to his selfishness.

    These days I would have told him, if he wanted to play an antisocial character we could work out some reason for him to work with the others. If not and he wanted to split from the party anyway, he could sit out and watch the rest of the party. Or better yet, leave. Ah, the benefits of hindsight and growing a spine.
  • This isn't a fiasco so much as my favorite bad session. I was running a game in college, and one session used a module. We were playing in a large student rec room in our dorm complex. Neither the players or I were really into it, so we started getting silly with some of the text descriptions. At various points, I would read a section, and they would chant it in unison, very, very loudly. At one such choral moment, someone walked into the room, froze, and turned tail out the door. "The skeleton is large, but it is not animated," still rings in my ears and warms my heart, over 20 years later.
  • edited October 2007
    Uggh.. I'd forgotten about this.

    I was running Star Frontiers, and created a beautiful female NPC to serve as a love interest for one of my PCs. Then I decided that I really liked her too much to let him have her, and said "Nah. That never happened. She's in love with [my GMPC]." He protested, but I was the GM. Then I had them get married and accompany the PCs on adventures.

    I was probably 8 or 9 at the time, but I'm still ashamed of it.

    The male GMPC had Wolverine-claws made of lasers.
  • Posted By: MarhaultThe male GMPC had Wolverine-claws made of lasers.
    No wonder she loved him.

    Laser claws are the basis of all healthy marriages.
  • ...

    Dude, the rest of this thread is kind funny but that...that's just wrong. I don't know if I can be here anymore.

    Dude.



    ;)
  • I want Wolverine-claws made of lasers.
  • Hey Andrew,

    Get in line. Which by the way, you've clearly hopped.

    Don't make me mundane Wolverine-claw you.

    Cheers,
    Darcy

  • I once let a player convince me that he could use a wish to obtain one of every magic item in the Dungeon Master's Guide except cursed items and artifacts. We then spent the afternoon computing the experience points his character gained.

    I think that character met his doom when he tried to use his shiny new deck of many things.

    We were 12.
  • This wasn't me game mastering, but it was the situation that immediately came to mind.

    I had a group of college friends that lived about 3 hours away and I would travel every couple of weekends to stay overnight and game with them. They were die-hard D&D players, so I usually had one or two characters that would wander in and out of their ongoing campaign. The GMs wife also played in the group, and she tended to bully her husband on in-game events, making him re-roll or re-think parts of the storyline if it went against her character.

    They also played high-level campaigns, and her and another player had a bad habit of settling down and setting their characters up somewhere, like a town or village, and basically ruling instead of adventuring, which would have been fine if the GM weren't hell bent on everyone adventuring.

    During one session the GM had bandits attack his wife's character's ranch, setting buildings on fire and killing all of the female horses so she couldn't breed them. The idea was for us to learn a rival baron had sent the men and for us to go and confront him, leading to the larger adventure.

    The married couple then proceeded to have a drawn out argument over how many horses a group of 8 bandits could kill in X number of turns and could they make the necessary skill rolls to target only the mares.

    Not kidding you.

    To give you an idea of how this ground the session to a complete halt, I had a box of HeroClix with me, which no one there played or had any interest in, and the other players spent the night going through the pieces and asking me what the game stats on the dials meant.

    In the end, the wife declared that she would send her guards with my character to go to the Baron's fort while her character tended to the wounded animals and the mage (another PC) would stay behind to fortify the ranch. So it was basically me and 12 NPCs that actually left for the real adventure. I didn't come back to play for a couple of months.

    ME
  • Posted By: chaldfontI once let a player convince me that he could use a wish to obtain one of every magic item in the Dungeon Master's Guide except cursed items and artifacts. We then spent the afternoon computing the experience points his character gained.

    I think that character met his doom when he tried to use his shiny new deck of many things.

    We were 12.

    Oh yeah. The Deck of Many Things and/or a Wand of Wonder... the sure fire way to TPK any group. And it doesn't even require railroading.

    ~Andrew
  • Eh. My stories are crap compared to the likes of you. The only one I can think of is the time I ran Top Secret for my friends just after watching The Eiger Sanction on TV. I remember very little about The Eiger Sanction now except that the hero's boss suffered some sort of weird disease and could only talk in a whisper. This seemed ultra-cool to me and so I had the agents' boss suffer from a weird disease and speak only in a whisper throughout the entire briefing and in answer to all questions, IC and OOC. Nobody understood a word, of course.

    Nonetheless, they still gamely played along until their James Bond car got blown up by a missile from a helicopter en route to the third encounter of the game.

    They didn't let me run for a while after that.
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