Gotcha GMs

Nebulous

Adventurer
Could you summarize your example for us? After all, we came to EN World to discuss here, not to surf elsewhere
A Dark Sun DM penalized them from the get go for not burying their water skins overnight and all their water dehydrated. Despite the "characters" knowing this is a threat in their world, even if the players didn't.
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
I'll cop to having been a gotcha GM back when I was first running Vampire: The Masquerade. I was exacting in watching for PCs that failed to properly cover their tracks. I like to think that I got better.

The worst gotcha GMing I experienced as a player was during a game of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness. I didn't do well on a check to pilot a helicopter. The GM told me I flipped the thing upside down. A few rounds later, assuming that I had righted the thing, since I hadn't crashed, I decided to fly closer and leap out into the melee that was occurring below. The GM told me that the helicopter was somehow still upside down, and thus that character ended up going through the proverbial blender.
 

Eltab

Explorer
A 'gotcha' GM will find out that somebody wants to play a classic LG Paladin, and immediately devise no-good-action moral dilemmas to force him into breaking his Oath.
 

GreyLord

Adventurer
Not really a gotcha DM, but a jerk move DM.

Many years ago (decades actually)...

We had gone into caves to hunt a pestering goblin tribe down. As a Human I had no infravision. We were playing at work as a group. One weekend between workdays the DM continued play with two others that he knew. They played our characters. They decided to leave to town and leave the rest of the party in the dark without any lights (yeah...really, like my character or others would actually even agree to this).

Then, while in the dark the DM had the goblins attack us. Everyone of the party but those two characters died.

They came back, got all the treasure after wiping out the last few (we took some of the goblins with us) and leveled up.

Ironically, we continued to play with that DM, but looking back at that instance it was sort of gotcha (aha, you are a human who has no lights in the dark) even though I had no say in the situation with my character...AND was a VERY jerk move by the DM (who the heck has someone else play others characters only to leave characters in situations that the players would never approve of and then kills them off??? I'd call that a jerk move by a DM).
 

Fanaelialae

Adventurer
This DM had a penchant for placing characters in demeaning situations.

The characters, after fighting through much of the dungeon, found themselves in front of a 100 foot deep pit. Looking into it, they didn't detect anything out of the ordinary. After some debating as to who should go first my monk decides to run down the wall (because he had that ability).

The DM starts laughing and declares that the monk finds himself waist deep in dungeon denizen poop. I got a bit irritated at this point, since the DM hadn't mentioned anything about the scent of poop, and asked how that could be. The DM declared that the scent of all this offal only rose about halfway up the pit and was undetectable from the top. I said, well in that case as soon as I detect the scent I want to make a U turn and run back to the top (as a high level monk with some movement boosting buffs, I had plenty of movement). We argued about it a bit, and finally the DM offered me a high Dex check to pull off the turn around, and I succeeded. My character successfully avoided running into the shit pit, but even then the DM basically taunted me about it for the rest of the dungeon.

What I really want to know is who in their right mind poops in a 100 foot deep pit!? You're leaning back, doing your business, lose your balance and fall head first into a deep latrine. Game over. World building at its finest. :/

Like I said, not the first time he pulled that kind of crap, just the most recent that I can recall. Sometimes his gotchas would be of the deadlier variety, like the time he put three adjacent 5'x5' pits in a random spot in a 5' wide hallway of the main thoroughfare of an inhabited dungeon. My character climbed out of the pit only to fall into another. And then again! How the heck did anyone come and go from this darn dungeon!? Then again, I suppose I should just be greatful that those pits didn't double as latrines...
 

kenada

Explorer
Do self-gotchas count?

I was running Rise of the Runelords for my group. It was going pretty well, and we were getting to the end of the second module (“The Skinsaw Murders”). That module ends with a fight at the top of an old tower. There’s a trap as well as some monsters on the way to the top. Whatever happened, the ranger was nearly dead after all this. The party gets to the top, and the fight agains the lamia matriarch begins. The ranger charges, she takes her Attack of Opportunity, and the ranger drops after she does barely any damage.

Me: Wait, what? Didn’t you heal up after the last encounter? Do you want to have healed up? (Implying it would be a good idea, and offering the opportunity literally right when the PC had gone down.)
Players: Nope.
Me: Ooookay….

After that, the fight spiraled out of control, ending in a TPK. Because the players didn’t take advantage of an opportunity to heal up retroactively when one of them unexpectedly went down at the start of a fight. 😒
 

Rhianni32

Explorer
I'm really getting tired of seeing all the promotion for that specific website. Several sites keep getting drive by posts with no commentary and discussion.

Case in point. Wtf is a gotcha GM? is it just a jerk or someone trying to hold their players accountable for lack of participation and foresight?

What is the difference between "Well my character would have remembered to buy water before adventuring" vs "Well my character would have remembered to buy extra healing potions before adventuring"
 

Fanaelialae

Adventurer
I'm really getting tired of seeing all the promotion for that specific website. Several sites keep getting drive by posts with no commentary and discussion.

Case in point. Wtf is a gotcha GM? is it just a jerk or someone trying to hold their players accountable for lack of participation and foresight?

What is the difference between "Well my character would have remembered to buy water before adventuring" vs "Well my character would have remembered to buy extra healing potions before adventuring"
I think it's less like those two points and more, "well, my character would have remembered to fill his water skins from the well (for free) in the town before we left on our week long journey, given that he's not a complete ninny". There are plenty of things that can be reasonably assumed.

There are also facts that characters in the world would be blatantly aware of that players may not be. Trying to trip your players up because they didn't memorize your world bible (or read your mind) is gotcha DMing.

Think of how annoying it would be if the players were as pedantic about every little action their character did, as some gotcha GMs are. You wouldn't be able to get any gaming done because it would be an endless stream of "breathing, breathing, breathing, potty break, breathing, breathing, breathing..."
 

gss000

Villager
What is the difference between "Well my character would have remembered to buy water before adventuring" vs "Well my character would have remembered to buy extra healing potions before adventuring"
A big difference because this is D&D/Pathfinder and not Paranoia. I've been playing for decades, and almost all of the time the first only comes up if the players are going into extreme dry climates, while the latter always comes up. I've only known one DM back in the 80s who made his players track food and water. If they did not explicitly say they were eating, they starved. I found in cointless tables that the general consensus, even of it's unspoken, is that you mention buying consumables if they require spending non-insignificant resources (whether time or money), are potentially hard to find, or have dramatic impact on the game. Healing potions almost always fits that bill. Water never does except in extreme pr very special cases.

If it is going to be something you as a GM want to track, great! Just tell the players at the start so everyone is on the same page. Otherwise, you're surprising the players on a typically insignificant minutia and are a gotcha GM, and that's not fun. In my experience, gotcha GMs are just trying to show up the players and not craft something fun for everyone.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Wtf is a gotcha GM? is it just a jerk or someone trying to hold their players accountable for lack of participation and foresight?

What is the difference between "Well my character would have remembered to buy water before adventuring" vs "Well my character would have remembered to buy extra healing potions before adventuring"
An easy way to avoid a "gotcha" and maintain a little bit of realism is to require Intelligence checks for remembering stuff. Easy-to-remember, everyday stuff like packing your lunch or grabbing your keys on the way out the door would be DC 10. Harder stuff, like how much flour you have in the pantry or your grandma's recipe for biscuits, would be DC 12 to DC 15. Super-hard stuff to remember, like the entire periodic table or three pages of complicated formulas from a physics textbook, would be DC 20 or higher.

Maybe the Keen Mind or Observant feat would let you remember some of this stuff automatically, or allow you to use your passive Intelligence, or allow you to make the check with Advantage. Maybe not; some really smart people are famously absent-minded.
 
An easy way to avoid a "gotcha" and maintain a little bit of realism is to require Intelligence checks for remembering stuff. Easy-to-remember, everyday stuff like packing your lunch or grabbing your keys on the way out the door would be DC 10. Harder stuff, like how much flour you have in the pantry or your grandma's recipe for biscuits, would be DC 12 to DC 15. Super-hard stuff to remember, like the entire periodic table or three pages of complicated formulas from a physics textbook, would be DC 20 or higher.

Maybe the Keen Mind or Observant feat would let you remember some of this stuff automatically, or allow you to use your passive Intelligence, or allow you to make the check with Advantage. Maybe not; some really smart people are famously absent-minded.
The problem with the "make a check for it" mentality is that the DM is still completely in control, because they can force failure based on the number of checks.

For example, say the DM makes you roll to "remember your basic supplies" before the adventure starts. Lets further suppose you have a 5% chance of failure. That's reasonable.

Now suppose the DM makes you roll separately to remember your weapon, bed roll, food, and water. At a 5% chance of failure each, you know have a ~19% chance of failure (0.95^4). So, a one in 5 chance that you left something critical behind. That's much less reasonable.

Taking it a step further, say the DM makes you roll to remember equipment every time you pack up camp and move to the next one. So if you travel for a week, there is now a 76% chance that you eventually forget something (0.95^(4*7)). Odds are three members of the four man team will end up screwed by forgetting something important. That's ridiculous.

The thesis here is that if a DM wants you to forget equipment, you're going to forget equipment. Making players roll for it still guarantees that it will eventually happen. The DM can't control exactly when, but he can control how often. It makes it a game of statistical gotcha instead of an in-your-face gotcha, but it's still the same issue.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
For example, say the DM makes you roll to "remember your basic supplies" before the adventure starts. Lets further suppose you have a 5% chance of failure. That's reasonable.
Making matters worse, because the math of any D20 system is fundamentally flawed, an "easy" Intelligence check is probably closer to a 50% chance of failure for most people. The super-genius with Intelligence 20 will still be dead by the end of the week, but the average character would be lucky to survive a day.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
The problem with the "make a check for it" mentality is that the DM is still completely in control, because they can force failure based on the number of checks.

The thesis here is that if a DM wants you to forget equipment, you're going to forget equipment. Making players roll for it still guarantees that it will eventually happen. The DM can't control exactly when, but he can control how often. It makes it a game of statistical gotcha instead of an in-your-face gotcha, but it's still the same issue.
I don't disagree. And if you dig deep enough, the "if the DM wants it to happen it will happen" argument can be applied to just about anything in the game. It's as true as you want it to be.

But that doesn't make it a problem, per se. Lots of gaming groups don't have arguments or hurt feelings about whether or not their character remembers or forgets stuff. If your group does, maybe an Intelligence check will help resolve the matter and keep things moving forward. But if it doesn't, you probably have a deeper issue (Player-DM trust comes to mind.)
 
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CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Making matters worse, because the math of any D20 system is fundamentally flawed, an "easy" Intelligence check is probably closer to a 50% chance of failure for most people. The super-genius with Intelligence 20 will still be dead by the end of the week, but the average character would be lucky to survive a day.
If your near-genius character is dying in a week's time because he keeps forgetting stuff, you probably have bigger issues in the game than his memory. :) Joking aside, it sounds like you would be better served using passive Intelligence (10 + Int mod) to remember mundane things, no roll required. Actively trying to remember something obscure could require an active check.

In any case: if remembering/forgetting stuff isn't a big part of your game, there's no reason to do any of this. But if it's causing arguments or hurt feelings, maybe this will help.
 

Fauchard1520

Explorer
This DM had a penchant for placing characters in demeaning situations.
Weirdly, I think I can understand where this dude is coming from. Not that I endorse this kind of tom foolery, but when you get a clear idea in your head of a "fun moment," you wind up trying to make it happen.

"Sure," you think to yourself. "It's a little railroady, but the payoff is worth it."

Except it's not. :(
 

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