Here is my instant reply. I'll read the thread and expand if needed:And it has gotten me thinking about what sorts of things a GM might do in a similar fashion to likewise disempower a player or party in such a way that leads to the same kind of dissatisfaction.
My son is an avid computer gamer who also role-plays (where as I am an avid role-player who also plays computer games). He's very into the theory and intent of game design, and spend a good amount of time practicing to explore the boundaries of the box each games puts a player into. We have had discussions of this a lot so many times.
He hates the artificial means of making something harder... cut-scene defeats, spawning nuisance sub enemies, just making a foe immune to hard won skills the game made you develop. Changing the rules, changing the box. Lazy programming for the cheap illusion of difficulty.
If he hadn't already decided EA was not worth his time or hard-earned money, he would have done exactly what you did. When the programmer doesn't respect his audience and pull the rug out like that... it's shoddy work and doesn't deserve his respect or attention or dollars. A few times, he's just quit a game. If he wasn't invested in the story, he'd just stop; not interested enough in the outcome to even bother finishing.
Sidebar 1: He's super into indie games and the ways new devs and smaller teams work, and he's much more lenient with them than with supposed "Triple A" Studios.
Sidebar 2: He loves a good Souls-like, and we've talked a lot about on of his real pet peeves. Invincibility Frames. These are the mechanic that makes you dodge roll work. Certain frames in the animation, you're just immune to the attack. Specific vary, of course. But... bosses that ignore your i-frames, or who have more i-frames than you for the same moves... oh... you will set him off... It's lazy and lame and he hates it.
Now... I relate all of this through my own experience and framework, so we'll start (okay, I'll start) talking about similar issues I've seen (or done; I'm not perfect) in RPGs. And even once or twice in his own role-playing. Recently, he saw one built into a module he was running The boss fight seems too hard... and he realized it was because the encounter programmed in spawns to help the boss. No new tactics. Just... more enemies out of nowhere.
He's especially not fond of D&D's Legendary Actions and Legendary Resistances for the same reason. argue they can have merit if they're not abused, and he argues using them IS abusing them. But that's a deign element for the framework of the game, one that helps offset the built in GMing limitation that the GM is only one brain tracking everything and the players are 3 to 6 brains tracking only their own stuff, so he accepts the GM needs help occasionally. We move on.
But when he (and me, after learning to appreciate his viewpoint) sees a GM relying on these, and on the same (I like your word) disempowering tactics he hates so much in vidya games, he think it's either lazy, or a lack of experience, and he will try to call it out, but politely. He's stopped playing Video games for it. He's stopped playing with certain people in his circle of friends they they GM something.
I am almost exclusively a GM. So naturally, I take these discussions and apply them to my own games and try to evaluate... and I have done it. Most often, I do it in reverse: The safety net. It's just as disempowering when some deus ex machina resolves a situation in spite of poor choices and/or poor rolls as when you kill a situation despite good choices and good rolls. And... hell I caught myself doing it earlier this evening (last night?).
I really need to learn to let the players fail when they do failworthy stuff. Sure sometimes it might make sense. But sometimes, failure might well be an option so I need to take my thumb off the scale.
A couple years ago, I had a player who is a long time friend come to me (after the session!) and say "I get you were trying to up the ante with mounting time pressure, but making me roll with disadvantage just because I failed the first attempt seems overly punitive. And he was right (and got annoyed when I agreed; he was all set to argue. "Well, I can't be mad if you're going to be reasonable!")
Anyway, if there's a point to thins and I'm not just living my name, it's... we all do / have done it. Be patients with the noobs, pay attention to yourself, and learn from it... or don't if everyone is still having fun. I did it earlier and the players liked the interaction it created, so I'll let that one go.
Wow. This got Long. I'll post it and see what needs to be added...