GM Confessional


If a player wants to try something that's really unlikely to succeed, I sometimes just say "no" when instead I should instead tell them the DC and let them decide for themselves. It's usually when I'm in "the zone" trying to run combat quickly.

Feats can also cause me to feel restricted on my rulings when a player tries something I kind of think they should be able to do, but I know there's a feat for, that they don't have, as I feel like I'm punishing anyone who has that feat or wants to take it, if I let the player do it without the feat.

For example, a wyvern dropped an acrobatic character from the air, and she asked if she could use her acrobatics skill to land more easily. I allowed it, and though she failed the roll, I felt I was GMing "wrong" by allowing it as I know there's a feat for doing that.
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Likewise, when the book says "it does this thing specifically," trying to use an ability to do something it's not supposed to is something I frown upon, unless it's an open-ended system by design. It's one thing to try to use the Vengeance skill in Troika to intimidate someone, and another to try to use the Light spell to blind someone in 5e D&D.

I actively dislike attempts at creative applications of narrowly defined widgets. I don't ban these things, because I don't think it's my place to tell players what they are allowed to play (beyond obvious genre and setting appropriate choices) but it grates on me. So sometimes I say "no" more than I should, especially to the creative power gamer in my regular player pool.

I place a high value on the social contract part of gaming, and will judge people if they do things that are RAW, but feel cheap. I'm generally not an adversarial GM, so don't bring that vibe my way.

Thomas Shey

Yeah, I am going through some GM ADD now with my 5E Iron Gods game. I just don't want to run 5E right now for a while., but I know the players are invested in both the story and their characters.

I've got a bad tendency to end campaigns what can only reasonably be called prematurely because of either boredom or having eroded ability to deal with systemic issues. Neither are virtues. I'm not as bad as some GMs I know, but if I let myself go, I could get as bad.


Loves Your Favorite Game
I'm way too fond of letting conversations go on and on and on in an effort to try to adjudicate the result off the cuff, rather than letting the characters use their social skills and proficiencies once I know the direction in which they are arguing

Haiku Elvis

All raise the inflatable haddocks!
I tend to not let things I prepared die if the PCs go somewhere else. The quantum ogre might still appear in another location or the PCs may need to take the left path at some other point in the campaign. I have even held onto sections or short encounter areas from one campaign to the next to use them.
Repent ye not. For thou hast not sinned!

If the players go left and miss that amazing atmospheric encounter planned in the cult temple, and you create unavoidable obstacles to push them back into it; that's railroading.

If the players go left and miss that amazing atmospheric encounter planned in the cult temple, and you respect their decision but the next time a cult/secret society comes up in the game you drop the whole encounter in barely reskinned; well, that's just maximizing efficiencies in the creative design management space.


For fear of railroading or making the player feel as though they have no choice, I sometimes don't just come out and tell them their actions are going to have severe and permanent consequences. Instead of being direct, I'll present a situation I think should be obvious to the player and let them make their decision. But of course, what's obvious to me might not be obvious to them.

Many years ago, I was running West End Games' Star Wars, and the PCs were making an attmept to get off the planet when several Star Destroyers and Tie-Fighters show up. I described the sheer number of Tie-Fighters in the area, explaining that no matter how many you destroy there's going to be more where those came from, and it was only a matter of time before the minor damage they had suffered became major damage. Most of the players got the hint and suggested to the captain that they find a hiding place to lay low for a while. He chose not to and their ship ended up being blown out of the sky.

Another game, Deadlands (original rules), one PC decided to wander off on his own knowing there were dangerous creatures lurking about. Naturally, he get gets jumped by a Wendigo, and he is literally on his own because all the other PCs are quite far away. In the original Deadlands, you could spend an meta resource called Fate Chips (poker chips) to mitigate some of the wounds your character takes. The player character starts racking up some wounds, and I remind the player that he can spend some of those Fate Chips to mitigate damage. He decides not to, and his character is pretty close to death.

Player #2: Uh, you might want to spend a Fate Chip next time you take damage.
Wendigo Chow: Nah, mgibster isn't going to kill my character during the first adventure.
Me: Staring at Wendigo Chow with hunger in my eyes.
Player #2: You're about to die.
Me: Okay, so the lumbering beast bellows, striking you, doing X damage. Do you want to spent any Fate Chips?
Wendigo Chow: No.
Me: Allright, you go down and as the world goes black you hear the echoing howls of a raging beast grow ever more distant. Let's see what the other players are doing.

Some time later....

Me: You guys got here as quickly as you could after hearing gunfire come from the railroad coal depot, but your friend isn't to be found. You follow his tracks until you reach a grisly scene; the body of your friend lies in the snow, but portions of him are missing, as if he's been chewed on by an awfully large critter.
Wendigo Chow: <obvious hurt> What? I'm dead? Why didn't you just tell me?
Me: I thought it was more dramatic this way.


Writing stuff down is my bane. I've had NPCs flip names more time than I can count because I'm too caught up in the moment to write the name down.

That and being consistant about rules. I've 5+ editions of D&D flopping around my head with no less than 27 other various game systems to boot. Unfortunately, when I decide to try a new application of a rule I've either been pondering, misremembering or like from another system, I tend to fail to notify the players before it's put into action ... often forcing a bit of a rewind due to the unexpected outcome.

Jack Daniel
My sin is repetition. Falling back on the same few unconscious canned phrases to describe something that happens frequently (e.g. a monster attacks a PC with a claw/claw/bite routine, "The beast turns its attention to you and just lays into you with everything it has." — imagine realizing that you've used that same phrasing probably four or five times in every game session). Or thoughtlessly slipping into the same generic Cockney accent for any random NPC — that one is a very difficult habit to break.

I have gamer ADD which means I’m always thinking about the next game rather than the current game.

I start many things and never finish them.

Oof. Yeah, these too. But I suspect that they're conditions rather than sins.


I’m lazy in odd ways. I don’t want to have to prep a hexcrawl, so I am designing a homebrew system to obviate the need to prep a hexcrawl. I can sometimes be too silly, which can come back to bite me when I try to be serious about something. Relatedly, I am bad with NPC names and like goofy ones like Erg Bergle Blerg and Blarpy Darp.


Doors and Corners
I am sentimental. Which means I find it hard to inflict hard consequences on PCs, even when the system calls for them.

I have a VERY hard time killing PCs. Usually, it's the player who goes: "I should be dead." or some such that triggers the PC's death.

I don't care about rules when I'm running the game. I get close most of the time. But I refuse to interrupt the game to look something up. Which might seem like a possible strength, but... Have you ever run untested House Rules? LOL.


Cry havoc! And let slip the pigs of war!
Over many years I have played with pals. 30-almost 40 years. We are lifelong friends from grade school some since college. We take turns DMing campaigns. It’s not formal, we just say hey let’s play, I have a campaign.

My biggest flaw is wanting to master the rules and not wanting to “do it wrong.” At times, this means I look things up or abound things as a result.

In truth, close enough for things rarely encountered is fine.

I also am anal about “earning it” as both a player and DM. So starting at 1st for the 50yh time is not what the whole group prefers…

But I have gotten my kids to play (well 2 of them!) and spreading the game should get me some credit and forgiveness, right?


I have one that came up in my game Saturday night.

We’re playing The 13th Fleet, which is based on the Forged in the Dark system, and is a kind of Star Trek spoof. It’s meant to be a silly and funny game. Each player is a Captain in the 13th Fleet, which is where the empire sends all its problem officers. After a battle with the Coalition of Worlds decimated the rest of the empire’s armada, only the 13th Fleet remains. They must return across hostile space to their homeworld. But they’re also competing to be named Admiral upon their return.

One of my players took an ability for his captain that allows him to share Resources (an in game.. uh, resource) and to clear one Stress whenever he does. Management of Resources is a key part of the game, and they get divvied up by whoever is the current Fleet Commander. The ability essentially allows them to funnel all the Resources through that Captain which he then distributes accordingly and clears stress.

The game has a competitive element to it, as well as cooperative, so this ability seems very prone to teamwork. So I keep finding myself trying to limit it in some way. I don’t even mean to do it, it just happens. It’s not game breaking by any means (and the tone of the game is so over the top silly that it shouldn’t matter even if it was), but there’s something about it that doesn’t seem right to me, and so I’m constantly trying to undermine it, which isn’t fair at all to that player.

It’s just the latest example of an urge I have to put what is essentially a preference of mine ahead of others’. If I decide that something is off in some way… not far enough to actually be damaging to the game’s balance, but just the level of “cheesy” or otherwise flawed… I try to limit its use or utility even if it’s something the player enjoys.

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