A recent TT forum thread on bad GMing got me to thinking about this one — see if it sounds familiar:

  • Crappy GM: “The ogre misses Arwen again.
  • Player: “Again? It missed the last five times, too.
  • Crappy GM: “Uh…yeah…it missed.

Suuuuure it did.

So what’s at work here — why is this a classic example of crappy GMing?

In a nutshell, it’s bad GMing because it brings out-of-game considerations into the game in a way that negatively impacts the other players. (And it doesn’t matter if it’s the GM’s girlfriend, boyfriend, wife or older brother — the principle is the same.)

There are good ways to involve out-of-game considerations in-game, like not having monstrous spiders in your campaign if one of your players is deathly afraid of spiders. This — favoritism — isn’t one of those. All it does is make the other players resent the favored player, and by extension they’ll resent you as well.

And the thing is, it’s easy to fall into.

Back in high school, my girlfriend at the time had AC 100 on more than one occasion. Partly I felt bad about harming her PC — it was almost an unconscious thing, and I just slipped into that mode. Partly I think I just didn’t want to piss her off (and since she turned out to be batshit insane, that may have been a pretty good instinct).

So it seemed like the right thing to do and the wrong thing to do at the same time, which was weird, and it was a pretty uncomfortable situation overall.

That was 13 years ago, and I’ve matured a lot as a person and as a GM since then, so I don’t think it’d be a problem now — but I’ve never gamed with any of my girlfriends since then, so I suppose I don’t really know for sure.

How about you — have you played with GMs like this, or been one yourself? What do you think causes this behavior? If you’ve done this yourself, what made you do it?