Friday, December 16, 2011

(12 Days) #3 My Biggest Failure as a GM

This post is by request from Phil @ .

Phil asks, "How about talking about your biggest failure running a game of all time?"

Excellent question, Phil. First off, I have to figure out how to define outright abject failure.

It's not your players refusing to take the bait of an adventure hook, getting sidetracked, or even letting a game/campaign fade away from indifference. Those things happen all the time.

I'm not counting the following things as failures, but I'll bring them up for the discussion.

  • Misinterpreting rules (half-elves backstabbing with polearms in high school, forgetting the casting time of Call Lightning in 2nd Edition, and even misreading rules for Legions of Steel that I demo'ed over and over again). Most times, it did not hinder play, rather it added to the player's enjoyment. We noted the corrections and moved on.

  • Not being able to run an all-evil campaign that I inherited with over-powered munchkin characters is not a failure. We tried to co-exist. Our playing styles conflicted, and we parted ways amicably. There's no "Evil Campaign" merit badge for a GM to earn.

  • Some campaigns just whimper out of existence, no matter how good the game was. My AD&D "Army Reserves Campaign" from the mid-90's slowly disentigrated until it was down to two PCs. Even then, both characters final actions impacted the future campaigns of Georic, and elf characters who played afterwards should laud the actions of Torm and Markoos. It was far, far worse back in the day.

  • It's also not a failure to not get a game running. If that were the case I'd be failure two dozen times over. Lack of enthusiasm, and sometimes real life, was bound to kill Mouse Guard, another Hackmaster campaign, Battlelords of the 23rd Century, or even my homebrew campaigns, City-State of Kathad and "Home." If I get the chance, I'll run them in a heartbeat, it's not as if my notes disappeared from existence.

Regrets don't count as failure in my book, and I've had a few.

Convention Games? The fact that I wasn't charged with the murder of Jim Schwar after years of Bogglecon events means all games were acceptable.

I do regret that I had gone 27 hours without sleep before I ran my friend Droz's Harpers game at Lehicon 5.

I regret not prepping enough for my IOU LARP at the Garden States Game Faire in '96. I had no idea what I was doing, various groups were using different systems to resolve conflict, and we threw Kris Kunkel into the hotel pool and drenched the RPGA tables... in game. FUBAR yes, but not a failure.

I regret that I didn't pursue an advanced degree in GURPS-Fu. GURPS was the 1st backup game behind D&D in high school. We ran numerous genres and I have my Napalm Death campaign in a near and dear part of my heart. My friend Charles was the number cruncher, so his understanding of bonuses and tech levels made some games unbalanced. With my ignorance of more of the metagaming side, a few combats were woefully unbalanced towards the PC side. This lack of GURPS-Fu, combined with years of rust, was the reason I adapted Illuminati University (IOU) to Risus and didn't stick with GURPS. It is easier to play when your in a darkening backyrard during the Day of Sloth and only have four stats to reference.

My biggest fault? (not failure) I can easily be controlled by a dominant player. Charles in high school, Dalcin in the Army Game, Steve from College, and Hoyce in the Hackmaster game, even Chris in the evil game dominated the forfront. This isn't to say that I haven't tried to improve my technique by diverting the attention to other players. Outside of a female thief in Hackmaster, who didn't take any intiative when I handed it to her (she just wanted to get impregnated by the Nubian warrior), I've done well spreading the attention and deflecting the dominating personalities, but an unworthy player/pc could get a half hour or more of time dedicated to them without blinking an eye, if they're just louder than the rest of the group.

But FAILURE? That would be my handling of "THE DEATH OF ECHELLON", but I'll save that tomorrow's post.

In the words of the great philosopher Homer, "D'oh!"


  1. How excellent! I'm liking what you wrote so far as its insightful as to what you deem as 'failure'. I'm also interested in reading the second part of this as well.

    Now its only fair but do you have a request for a blog post for my 12 Days Extravaganza?

  2. For what it's worth, I never tried to dominate the game...I just get excited. :) I've worked to do this less. And, even when I wasn't getting attention I have always enjoyed your games thoroughly!!