Okay all, I have had some things happen in the last three weeks that have put me into “I am a terrible GM” territory (at least from my perspective). I am going through a medical nightmare and it has taken its toll on me. With that being said, I have had to cancel twice in the last three weeks. Both times were done at the 11th hour, and I felt really bad about it. It made me think, what kind of things can you do to be a “bad GM/DM” on accident? Here are five things that are common and you shouldn’t feel terrible about, but you will:
1. Canceling games without advance notice: This is a common issue, especially when something suddenly happens. This can be a sickness, family emergency or even just an event that you had forgotten about. The way to combat this is to try to give as close to 24 hours notice as you can. You really shouldn’t feel bad about this because sometimes it just happens. Your players often times understand, even if you feel like they don’t/won’t.
2. Not doing enough prep: This is another common issue that I have. I have walked into a four hour session and accidentally only prepped only three hours. The way I combat this is to just ensure that I always have a backup plan for the night. If they do things too fast, always have an extra encounter or three to throw at the group. If all else fails, add monsters to a combat encounter and watch it take an extra ten minutes or so.
3. Being a rules-lawyer: Okay, raise a hand if you have ever done this from behind the screen? I know it is our job to be a master of the rules, but sometimes a player may not know them as well as you. A good fix is to just table-rule the issue and then go through the RAW with the player afterwards. It saves time at the table and keeps everyone from getting mad at one another.
4. Fudging dice: You, as the GM/DM, want to not kill your PCs (or maybe you are being vindictive) so you fudge the dice. While it seems like a cool idea, it is actually counter-intuitive to game play. The best fix for this is ensure that the players understand that the dice do what the dice do. If they don’t like that, or can’t accept a crappy roll, then maybe your game isn’t for them.
5. Getting complacent in storytelling: I have found myself in this one a few times. You have a great story put together and then mid-game you just kind of stop caring. You may have other things on your mind or a call comes through and you have to take it. Whatever the reason it sucks the fun out of the game. My fix is if I ever find myself in this situation, I tend to take 5-10 minutes and recollect my thoughts. It also gives your players a few minutes to plan out their next actions.
What kind of stuff have you done that you feel is a bad policy for GM/DM? Tell me your stories or tell me why I am wrong…whatever you want to do! Just don’t be a dick!