Bad GM/DM Practices?


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!


5 thoughts on “Bad GM/DM Practices?

  1. I hate myself most as a GM when I lose energy at the end and can’t bring the story to its best possible conclusion. If I get tired, I lose focus (ADHD spins me into the stratosphere) and I just want to be done. I think the hardest part of GMing is carrying the energy all the way from the start to finish, and when I just want to be done, I know everyone else knows.
    I’ll then hate myself for days after. Fortunately, I know I’m a good GM and eventually I’ll let it go. It’s why I prefer to play first thing in the morning, which rarely happens (really only at cons).

  2. Fudging the dice isn’t all that bad. They are just a tool that serves the overall storytelling of the game. If dice rolls are derailing the story then fudging them is justified.
    Now, fudging the dice to hurt the players is real bad. If they are just waltzing through an adventure you made, that’s on the DM not them. Instead of fudging dice rolls make the adventure better.

  3. While I don’t consider myself to be Arneson or Gygax, I believe that #1 just happens, not really due to inconsideration but it just happens..#2 I believe happens due to inexperience and low imagination….when I first started to DM, I only planned what I thought I would ‘need’ in that particular evening; didn’t really go as planned { sub example that I use to ‘teach’ new DM’s is a hallway with three doors, two are guarded by two chimeras while the third door is not guarded by anything..the example being the two doors are for ‘show’…the DM wants the party to go through the unblocked matter how hard the party tries, there is nothing behind the other two doors}….so what I have since done is plan for everything (within reason of course) along the way tweeking stuff…#3 [ could be considered a PC instead of a DM ]…is usually due to inexperience or low self esteem when it comes to players…have had a few of those, one of them was a total __________ case, he didn’t play very long since he couldn’t get his way all the time..again they will go away or won’t….#4 is a little tricky, I’ve been DM’ing for 30+ yrs now and I STILL fudge the dice, but it really depends on WHERE you as the DM fudge the dice, so it really a matter of interpretation to ‘if’ you should or shouldn’t fudge the dice…#5 is kinda hard, as for my opinion on this one, I kinda blame the PC’s, I find that for the most part, 4Gen D&D players don’t care for storytelling from the DM all they care about is the XP’s and combat…I make up back stories and all kinds of rumors and tidbits for my scenarios, I will admit though there have been a few times where I have had to do a few things on the ‘fly’ but the PC’s would tell me after the session ended, I always ask for comments; it improves my game, and my scenarios, and they never really knew the difference and they thought it was terrific:)….I think maybe you should have included a #6…..MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY DM….getting back to #3…that is the type of DM where he/she wants to play GOD! it’s my story, my world, my everything, you’re just along for the ride….I’ve been lucky to only have ‘run’ into, I think 2 or 3 of those types in the years….I am usually polite but when I get invited back, something comes up… I don’t suffer to be fair though I do offer advice and if the DM takes it I usually after a spell come back but if it’s not taken, well, again I’m polite and say due to other things I can make it….BTW…loved the article…hope I wasn’t to over bearing/powering…good luck with your gaming:)

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