Look, I’m a GM and I was guilty of this years ago: being condescending because the players can’t figure out your puzzles or get past your bad guys doesn’t do much for the group. There isn’t a player in the world, not even one desperate for a game and has nowhere else to go, who will sit at a gaming table and be basically laughed at for not figuring out what the GM has put them up against. GMs create the adventure and the dangers but that doesn’t mean that he’s against the players. It doesn’t mean that the players are in the game to beat what he has created, and therefore ‘win’ the game. And what’s worse is a GM that not only ‘wins’ but makes sure that the players know that he’s beaten them.
And it’s not just ‘I beat you with my dungeon!’ GMs, it’s those who use the game to bolster their egos, playing Mary/Gary Sue Gamesmaster Player Characters - the dreaded GMPC - that are the definition of what the GM thinks a perfect player character should be. The GMPC holds their hands, babysits, and is untouchable due to GM fiat. These type of GM-controlled characters are the most annoying, crass and downright unlikeable types of character because they not only make you feel inferior, they’re basically communicating to you how the GM feels about your progress in the game; ie, you’re all rubbish at what you do and they can do it much better.
If you’re a GM and even slightly glancing down this route, I implore you – don’t do it. You will do irreversible damage to the gaming group and lose any trust the players may have had in you. This way of gaming leads to a false sense of achievement for the GM and miserable, downbeat players who will drift away. If you run a fun, fair session, you’ll have more chance of having the players shake your hand and commend you on your game.
I don’t know of any evenings that have ended with, ‘Hey! Your GMPC certainly showed us that we’re idiots! And we all died trying to get through your awesome killer dungeon! See you next week!’
Originally posted March 2012