When people look towards playing in a Tabletop Roleplaying campaign, they tend to mostly think about what kind of character they want to make and what the setting of the campaign will be. While these are very important, they may not be the most important thing to consider. Since several of us, myself included, know and are friends with at least one other person that will be involved, so we tend to overlook the GM. Specifically, we do not really spend much time thinking about the GM and how they will run the campaign.
I recently read an article on things GMs need to not do and this got me thinking. How the GM will run the campaign is vastly more important than what you and everyone else are going to play. The GM is the most important person in the campaign and they have absolute control over what does or does not happen. Their style can make or break the campaign regardless of how interesting the story or how awesome your character is.
Back in college when I first started gaming with a now good friend of mine, another of his friends ran our Shadowrun campaign. I thought that they were a pretty good GM and had a lot of fun playing in their campaign. They didn’t pull punches, and some crazy stuff did happen (a fireball being lobbed at a bed with dozens of grenades on it comes to mind…yum, chunky salsa). But nothing felt unfair or geared specifically to kill a player (though the exploding grenades did kill one of us). I did count this GM as one of my friends after this campaign. So, when this friend moved back into town and mentioned that they wanted to run the Pathfinder module Kingmaker, I was fully on board.
I am not sure what happened between the Shadowrun campaign and Kingmaker, but they became the most cruel GM I have ever had. If we didn’t, in their mind, properly plan for a fight, sometimes because we would have needed to metagame the proper knowledge, we would get punished severely: player-killing severely. If we spent a ton of time planning out exactly what we were going to do, making sure we had all the proper provisions necessary, we were punished severely: all rations destroyed severely, and the GM was very strict with regards to rations. It was basically damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Now, Kingmaker is fairly highly regarded as a good Pathfinder module. Under a different GM it might have been. But this GM, with his style, completely ruined any enjoyment any of us had in the campaign. Instead of looking forward to my gaming night, I started dreading it. We all continued coming because we were all friends, but this is a very large red flag that should not be ignored. If you aren’t having fun in a session or campaign due to the GM’s behavior or style, leave. You are under no obligations to continue. We all game because we like it and we get enjoyment out of it. No one is forcing us to play, so we shouldn’t force ourselves.
Have you ever played in a game where the GM’s style completely ruined the experience? How did it end? Did you confront the GM, or did you soldier on? Please leave a comment and/or share on Twitter.