As we continue to take a look at the different game master styles, this week we are taking a look at the bad GM styles. These are the styles that although we might want to avoid them, can sneak their way into our roleplaying games. So, by becoming aware of these styles, we can begin to understand what may go wrong in our games when they do creep in as well as what changes we may need to make in order to make our RPGs better for everyone – including ourselves as the dungeon masters!
Today we are looking at some of the worst GM styles that are out there, but fear not
because if you are one of these GMs, you can change!
It is important to be aware of these styles as you might find that they tend to creep into
your game, whether you are aware of it or not. So, by being aware of these styles, you could
identify and understand why your game might stop working for you or your players.
Here are the bad GM styles that I have identified:
• The winner
o Plays to beat the PCs
o GM versus players – the PCs always win, why can’t the GM?
o These types of GM are not afraid to use meta-knowledge – allowing NPCs to
compensate for cool PC plans without having any reason for them knowing
about said plans.
o The players become the enemies – their PCs are just a means to hurt the
o We can however draw strength from the winner type of GM – you as the GM
should not be trying to win but your NPCs should be.
o So, if your NPCs are being as devious as they can within their framework,
then you are using the winner GM mentality to the correct effect. NPCs
should always fight to survive and trying to do the best that they can.
• The player
o Plays a character as if they are a PC.
o The GM is ALL the NPCs – there is no need to have a ‘GMPC’.
o The GM wants in – with all their GM knowledge, a GMPC is basically a god PC.
This is very unbalanced unless done as an NPC god amongst PCs.
o NPC stand-ins – to compensate for a missing PC, or for a skill-gap in the PCs
for narrative reasons.
o PCs can become sidekicks – supporting the ‘hero’ GMPC. It should always be
the other way around!
• The Not-a-GM
o Only GMs because no one else will.
o Little prep, little care – they don’t want to GM, so they put little to zero effort
o Limited direction – there is no big plot, there is no reason to invest, and no
one cares. It’s just a laugh.
o PCs are play-things – and have no value other than as foils for the GMs jokes.
o It is good to have fun – taking things too seriously can sometimes be dull.
• The Actor
o Players are a captive audience.
o PCs are a supporting cast, who are there to give the lead actor (GM) cues for
more dialogue and acting.
o On the other hand, something that the actor GM will do very well are their
NPCs. The actor IS the NPC – their NPCS are real, have real goals and will
react in real ways. That is good!
Change is possible. You have to WANT to change and to understand what needs to change.