Recently a GM gave me the role playing kiss of death in a game in which I was a player. It was a science fiction one shot. The society of the game world was dystopian, and the player characters were trying to overthrow the oppressive government. My character was a techie and when we came across a door locked by a computer system I said that my character would attempt to circumvent the security system using one of his skills. That is when the GM uttered these six words that you must never utter yourself:
“Your character would not do that.”
The GM then went on to explain how my character would know of other ways to access the room that would be less risky. That my character recognized the security system as being out of his league. That my character would find it impossible to accomplish the task at his skill level.
I do not care how you justify it. If you as a GM say these words to one of your players you should not be a GM.
For one, all of those reasons given could have been discovered through role playing, and in this particular game system with skill checks. Second, by not allowing my character to make an attempt the GM not only took away my chance to succeed but also to fail. With RPGs a failure can be even more fun than a success if handled well.
Yet the ultimate sin here is that a GM never has the right to tell a player what his or her PC does in the game. No GM can deny a player’s choice to attempt an action or to say something of the player’s choosing. It just removes all reason for the player to have even shown up for the game. Never do this to a player.
It does not matter if you are right. It does not matter if the player is being a jerk on purpose. It does not matter if the consequences of the player’s action results in the death of the entire party. The character is a player character, and that means that you as the GM have no say in the matter.
Afterwards I tried to explain this to the GM. He was not interested. He defended his decision and that was that. The result? I will not play in one of his games again. Will this change his GMing style? I do not know, but I would rather play with a GM who understands the difference between a PC and an NPC. Perhaps others playing in his games will do the same for similar reasons.
For once I do not believe that there is much to discuss here, but as always feel free to leave your comments and share your own experiences with the rest of us. And remember that the GM is a player too. Have fun with it!