You might be a bad GM if...


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I've come to the conclusion that most bad GMs don't know they're bad, in the same way that most bad drivers don't. This is from a PFS perspective mostly, but most items on the list should apply to non-organized play games, possibly with some modifications.

I'll start the list.

You might be a bad GM if...

1) One or two players in your games always seem to have "something come up" so they have to leave early
2) Nobody ever seems to sign up for games with you more than once
3) Having multiple players die per session is normal and expected for you
4) You are always the last one to show up for a session, and that's 10 minutes or more after the scheduled start time
5) You don't think you need to prepare / read the material for the adventure before you run it for the first time
6) You disregard your players when they offer rules corrections ("Uh, actually the CRB p.282 says the Deadly d10 isn't doubled on a crit..." - "Yes it is. I'm the GM, stop arguing")
7) You never notice anyone smiling or laughing during your games


Regarding 5, it really depends on the type of campaign. Sometimes you can get away with not reading ahead.

Liberty's Edge

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I'm not sure this thread can lead anywhere good.

I don't think any of the examples posted thus far are especially problematic (though, as Temperans notes, some are campaign specific), but by the nature of a thread like this, someone is gonna eventually post something deeply offensive to someone else and it will all end in tears.


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mrspaghetti wrote:
3) Having multiple players die per session is normal and expected for you

Ho my... Serious killer GM!!!!


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I'm pretty sure he meant multiple characters, not players.

I hope!


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LBHills wrote:

I'm pretty sure he meant multiple characters, not players.

I hope!

Ho, I thought it was connected to point 1:

"Bob had to leave early because something came up.
- I thought he was going to the toilets...
- Why has he left all his stuff???"


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SuperBidi wrote:
LBHills wrote:

I'm pretty sure he meant multiple characters, not players.

I hope!

Ho, I thought it was connected to point 1:

"Bob had to leave early because something came up.
- I thought he was going to the toilets...
- Why has he left all his stuff???"

Also point 2:

"For some reason all my players stopped coming and I need to find new ones."


Cyouni wrote:
SuperBidi wrote:
LBHills wrote:

I'm pretty sure he meant multiple characters, not players.

I hope!

Ho, I thought it was connected to point 1:

"Bob had to leave early because something came up.
- I thought he was going to the toilets...
- Why has he left all his stuff???"

Also point 2:

"For some reason all my players stopped coming and I need to find new ones."

Yes! They never sign more than once!!!!

Point 6: "Are you sure this is the actual rule for Deadly?"

Point 7: Noone ever smiles or laugh. But god they scream!

Point 4: "Why is everyone so late?
- Nevermind, we'll start without them. Come, we will play in the basement today"

Dark Archive

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#5 x a Million.

The best run scenarios feel like the whole thing goes off super smoothly and with great pacing. There is no single or multiple 30 minute delays while the GM catches up (i.e., drawing maps, reading monster abilities, figuring out scenario mechanics, etc.), the GM has an answer to most questions or can re-direct to keep things moving, and ultimately the session carries its momentum throughout. A combination of just enough prep AND good improv to adjust when PCs do something unscripted/unexpected.

The worst run scenarios have frequent pauses, fights over mechanics/rules, multiple GM ret-cons because they don't actually know how the scenario ends and the story/mechanical continuity gets broken by one of their decisions earlier on in the session. These are more often then not the GMs who didn't even read it once or 'lightly skimmed it' and rely on improving their way through 4-5 hours. Unless your the GM equivalent of a "Who's Line is it Anyways" improv actor with a correct encyclopedic knowledge of bestiary, you shouldn't be relying on just improving through 4+ hours of GMing.

The 'bare-scrape-the-bottom-of-the-barrel-minimum' prep as a GM is to:
1.) Read the whole PFS scenario, module, or AP ONCE.

A good level of prep is:
1.) Read the whole PFS scenario, module, or AP TWICE (once before and once for the section you're going to run the day of or day before so it is fresh in your mind)

2.) Think about the parts of the scenario that will be awkward, less engaging, bog down play/lose momentum,etc. and prep something to make it go faster.

[e.g. 1] example, if there is a race mechanic think of some descriptions of what successful checks do, create an excel table to add up the 6 teams race progress BEFORE the session so you aren't spending 30 mins calculating it at the end and ret-con your PC's team losing (though knowing their position during the race might have made them take different actions).

[e.g. 2] highlight or make a 1 pager of weird in scenario interactions. Like if you did "X" in part A then you get a +2 bonus to do "Y" in part C (these get forgotten so often and they often hurt PC's success and are it can be difficult to find 1 sentence on page 3 when your on page 15 and trying to keep things flowing well).

[e.g. 3] Look up a GM prep thread for the scenario/AP to find out where the mistakes/errors are so you don't run an impossible encounter/puzzle or miscalculate APL, etc.

[e.g. 4] If there are weird scenario unique mini-rules, print out at least 1 copy per 2 PCs so they can share it and reference it. So many 'build a fort' or 'have a legal case' or 'have a chase' or 'public debate' kind of mini-games in these things and having the actual rules printed means they don't have to ask you every time their turn comes around.

3.) Prep the maps. They don't have to be pretty but at least block out the shape ahead of time instead of forcing people to watch you draw for an hour in game. If you like having fog of war, I'd recommend cutting out ~100 Bristol board circles and 'covering up' the completed map and only revealing as they go along (I've re-used these hundreds of times so if you have some scrap opague material it is truly a great way to keep the metagming down). If possible borrow the flip mats or equivalent from others at the table to save on drawing or be flexible enough to re-purpose a similar but different map (i.e., forest map vs. winter forest map can both really be on the same flip map). If drawing a map, put a compass point identifying North on your map and a little box outline for where PCs start as those are the first question everyone asks.

4.) Read the monster statblocks and think about how they would fight. Refresh yourselves on their actual mechanical rules. For example, what are the mounted combat rules, underwater combat rules, grappling rules, or monster grab ability, etc. Read some of the high level spell slots so you know what a caster might cast. I usually prep an excel sheet with the statblock (copy pasted for reference from the scenario), an HP tracker for combat, and a screen image of the rules off AoN that I don't know off by heart, etc. so I can confidently remember what the hell is going on at hour 4 when the boss comes up AND internet suddenly drops and we can't look up rules.

5.) For a home campaign prep one or two combats/plot hooks for the times 'PCs went too fast or didn't go to the main plot line mcguffin area'. Its totally fine to say that you're not prepped if the PCs won't follow any adventure hook, but try to have a few contingencies in your back pocket.

Anything beyond that (e.g., coming up with NPC personalities/accents, reading aloud NPC speeches to figure out pacing, cluing in PCs to secondary success conditions, picking out minis/tokens of the actual monsters, bringing extra dice/pre-gens for new players, prepping/bringing some means of combat tracking, printing out or customizing handouts of rules/NPCs in the scenario, etc.) are all gravy and wonderful to have as well.

Keep in mind GM's are human, don't have infinite time to prep, etc. so there will still be pauses needed or rules checks, etc. But it is EXTREMELY evident to players whether a GM that is merely 'recalculating the impact of a PC decision' vs. the being 'totally and wholly unprepared or making up rules on the spot'. People are dedicating hours of their life to have these shared experiences with you. As a GM, you have the most impact on people's enjoyment at the table and I think it behooves you to do some minimum preparation in recognition of that fact and to respect everyone's time.


Deadmanwalking wrote:

I'm not sure this thread can lead anywhere good.

I don't think any of the examples posted thus far are especially problematic (though, as Temperans notes, some are campaign specific), but by the nature of a thread like this, someone is gonna eventually post something deeply offensive to someone else and it will all end in tears.

Nah, nobody is being called out specifically. If any bad GMs who read this are self-aware enough to recognize themselves then they improve their GMing and everyone wins. If not, they remain clueless and nothing changes. Either way, we have fun making a list.


I'd like to add that, any GM who can tick every item on the list might actually be so epically bad that they qualify as Legendary, which makes them awesome. I would love to make a disposable character and join one of their games.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber
Deadmanwalking wrote:

I'm not sure this thread can lead anywhere good.

I don't think any of the examples posted thus far are especially problematic (though, as Temperans notes, some are campaign specific), but by the nature of a thread like this, someone is gonna eventually post something deeply offensive to someone else and it will all end in tears.

I think mere tears is optimistic. I think it will end in sniping, insults, badwrongfun accusations, and eventually a locked thread.

This is something for your private discord where everyone is friends and, more importantly, has a similar play and gm style. Not for a place like this, where an inexact phrase can be taken wildly out of proportion.

Silver Crusade

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Red Griffyn wrote:


The 'bare-scrape-the-bottom-of-the-barrel-minimum' prep as a GM is to:
1.) Read the whole PFS scenario, module, or AP ONCE.

A good level of prep is:

Gets out popcorn as I get ready to watch this thread turn into a flame war as people violently disagree with how much preparation is required and how important it is.

I'll start with a very mild rebuttal - I think you're expecting too much of a GM.

Grand Lodge

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This thread should be locked. Instead of focusing on the negative, why not focus on what makes a good GM? Do you really think a “bad” GM is gonna read this and have a sudden epiphany? And invariably this is gonna lead to a “You might be a bad player if” thread.


AnimatedPaper wrote:
Deadmanwalking wrote:

I'm not sure this thread can lead anywhere good.

I don't think any of the examples posted thus far are especially problematic (though, as Temperans notes, some are campaign specific), but by the nature of a thread like this, someone is gonna eventually post something deeply offensive to someone else and it will all end in tears.

I think mere tears is optimistic. I think it will end in sniping, insults, badwrongfun accusations, and eventually a locked thread.

This is something for your private discord where everyone is friends and, more importantly, has a similar play and gm style. Not for a place like this, where an inexact phrase can be taken wildly out of proportion.

Don't you think you might be overstating the danger a little bit? We're not exactly juggling chainsaws blindfolded here. We're making a Letterman/Foxworthy list.

Liberty's Edge

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mrspaghetti wrote:
Nah, nobody is being called out specifically. If any bad GMs who read this are self-aware enough to recognize themselves then they improve their GMing and everyone wins. If not, they remain clueless and nothing changes. Either way, we have fun making a list.

This list, like all lists, is subjective. If people keep adding to it, inevitably someone will add something that amounts to a direct call out of a specific other person...or at least something that will feel like one to that person.

That can't end well.

AnimatedPaper wrote:
I think mere tears is optimistic. I think it will end in sniping, insults, badwrongfun accusations, and eventually a locked thread.

'This will end in tears' is an idiomatic phrase that basically means 'this will end badly'. So yeah, I think you're entirely right, but 'end in tears' is shorter to say. :)

mrspaghetti wrote:
Don't you think you might be overstating the danger a little bit? We're not exactly juggling chainsaws blindfolded here. We're making a Letterman/Foxworthy list.

Jeff Foxworthy identifies as a redneck (at least, more or less), and expects many of his fans to do so as well. The humor is exaggerated for effect, but it's also not calling the people who do find themselves mentioned in it anything they find particularly insulting.

Almost nobody thinks of themself as a bad GM, and most take it as an insult when it is suggested they are. That makes a big difference.


TwilightKnight wrote:
This thread should be locked. Instead of focusing on the negative, why not focus on what makes a good GM? Do you really think a “bad” GM is gonna read this and have a sudden epiphany? And invariably this is gonna lead to a “You might be a bad player if” thread.

Ok, I agree that approaching it from the other direction would have been better. I think it will be fine though if people take it as intended and refrain from getting personal. So far so good.

Silver Crusade

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Deadmanwalking wrote:


This list, like all lists, is subjective. If people keep adding to it, inevitably someone will add something that amounts to a direct call out of a specific other person...or at least something that will feel like one to that person.

For the record, that has ALREADY happened :-)

Red Griffyn stated that the absolute bare minimum amount of prep a GM should do is to read the AP before running. I'm currently running two different APs and, in both cases (I'm at book 1 in 1 case and book 4 in the other) I have NOT yet read the entire AP.

So, according to him I am a bad GM.

Amazingly, I don't agree that my not having read the entire AP makes me a bad GM :-).

Note - I have no interest in discussing the merits or lack thereof of reading an entire AP before running book 1. You're almost certainly NOT going to convince me that I should have done so.

Edit: I also don't think recasting this as "What a good GM does" is going to make much difference. My emotional reaction to being told that I'm a bad GM is going to be pretty much the same as my emotional reaction to being told that I'm not a good GM. Better to just lock down this thread completely. Or possibly replace it with a list of some things that may improve your game with a clear acknowledgement that NOBODY does everything on the list and that for EVERYTHING on the list people will disagree and YMMV


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Red Griffyn wrote:

#5 x a Million.

The best run scenarios feel like the whole thing goes off super smoothly and with great pacing. There is no single or multiple 30 minute delays while the GM catches up (i.e., drawing maps, reading monster abilities, figuring out scenario mechanics, etc.), the GM has an answer to most questions or can re-direct to keep things moving, and ultimately the session carries its momentum throughout. A combination of just enough prep AND good improv to adjust when PCs do something unscripted/unexpected.

The worst run scenarios have frequent pauses, fights over mechanics/rules, multiple GM ret-cons because they don't actually know how the scenario ends and the story/mechanical continuity gets broken by one of their decisions earlier on in the session. These are more often then not the GMs who didn't even read it once or 'lightly skimmed it' and rely on improving their way through 4-5 hours. Unless your the GM equivalent of a "Who's Line is it Anyways" improv actor with a correct encyclopedic knowledge of bestiary, you shouldn't be relying on just improving through 4+ hours of GMing.

The 'bare-scrape-the-bottom-of-the-barrel-minimum' prep as a GM is to:
1.) Read the whole PFS scenario, module, or AP ONCE.

A good level of prep is:
1.) Read the whole PFS scenario, module, or AP TWICE (once before and once for the section you're going to run the day of or day before so it is fresh in your mind)

2.) Think about the parts of the scenario that will be awkward, less engaging, bog down play/lose momentum,etc. and prep something to make it go faster.

[e.g. 1] example, if there is a race mechanic think of some descriptions of what successful checks do, create an excel table to add up the 6 teams race progress BEFORE the session so you aren't spending 30 mins calculating it at the end and ret-con your PC's team losing (though knowing their position during the race might have made them take different actions).

[e.g. 2] highlight or make a 1 pager of weird in...

Wayyyyyy to much. Both as a post and the point.

Shadow Lodge

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mrspaghetti wrote:
3) Having multiple players die per session is normal and expected for you

back when I was a teenager, running D&D3e down at the local game store, I was known as the GM who ran the really hard games. I put a lot of effort into my games, all my own homebrew. I constantly had people asking if there was room to join. PCs died left and right, and yet we all had a great time.

These days, looking back, I'd never want to join a game like that. At the time, as kids, it was exactly what we wanted. Teenage me would probably think that my current games are too easy and boring.

Dark Archive

pauljathome wrote:
Red Griffyn wrote:


The 'bare-scrape-the-bottom-of-the-barrel-minimum' prep as a GM is to:
1.) Read the whole PFS scenario, module, or AP ONCE.

A good level of prep is:

Gets out popcorn as I get ready to watch this thread turn into a flame war as people violently disagree with how much preparation is required and how important it is.

I'll start with a very mild rebuttal - I think you're expecting too much of a GM.

I firmly believe you've got to at least read the thing you're running once before you run it. Save a handful of negative experiences due to players fighting with each other or the GM at a table, almost all of my bad play experiences at a table have come from a GM who spent 0 time prepping.

The list of what makes a good level of prep is my personal opinion. There will be GM's who can do more with less some who need to prep more. Essentially you need to hit a good set point of prep time vs. your improv ability to make the thing work. Most people do less than what I listed above and I don't judge them for it. I've definitely had good experiences with various levels of prep. What less prep means at game time is that the GM has less 'tools in the toolbox' to keep the session fun/flowing. Less prep means more handicapping of yourself when the combination of players, PC builds, PC actions, scenario mechanics, real world timelines (especially in conventions), etc. aren't operating under ideal conditions.

[Example 1] If you've got to worry about a weird mini-rule set that 1-2 Players just aren't understanding, then that gives you less bandwidth to address a problem PC at your table who is trying to steal the spotlight and causes those 2 PCs to disengage from the game.

[Example 2] You're prepped to the 'nines' so when two players show up with their mounted combat teamwork build who casts fly on the bottom PC mount you can come up with a fun/fair flying mounted combat rules interpretation after only a 5 minute refresher instead of flat out saying no and killing the rule of cool. You aren't stressed about the boss monsters 5 interacting special abilities and don't need to spend 20 minutes researching it because you did a

Here are two examples that I've personally witnessed. Thankfully, it is often #3, but I've absolutely seen #4::

Example 3: The Well Meaning Convention GM - Best Case No Prep Scenario :

Its day 3 of a PFS convention, a brave GM has volunteered to run 5 slots (this it great!). However, he is running 1 repeat he's done before (slot 1), an evergreen (slot 2), some quests (slot 3), and two new scenarios (slot 4 and 5). By day 3 slot 5 (i.e., morning slot), he's running on fumes. Before the con he had a chance to refresh himself on slots #1, #2, learn #3. On the first night he read #4, but on the second night he's so tired he passes out and now has to run #5 completely prep free in the early morning slot.

He tells players he hasn't had time to prep because he's been running so much, was sick, too tired, etc. and apologies. On a normal night/game he is a great GM and he volunteers a lot. People give him lots of leeway. I pull out 1-2 flip mats listed on the PFS scenario webpage and offer to draw any custom maps if he has a spoiler free (i.e., no traps or enemy location) image. Another player starts sourcing some miniatures from their box of minis or another table in the area. Another helps the two new players sign up at the registry and pick some pre-gens. This gives the GM ~ 30 mins to start reading the scenario and put something together. In the end, the table comes together to make it work, but there are large/long pauses in play, one of the two new players loses interest, the plot doesn't make a whole lot of sense since it was an investigation driven scenario but the GM doesn't know the big reveal until its too late, the table all agreed to skip a middle non-optional encounter because we were running too long and a person has a hard leave time. Overall, the table had some fun, but that fun was "despite playing Pathfinder" and is mostly because everyone at the table is cool/good folk and are more interested in being social. The game isn't memorable and thankfully no PC dies from the mis-run boss who had a typo of a +2 to hit that was corrected on the GM prep forums (mostly because the GM is a nice guy who pulled his punches and doesn't like killing PCs).

Overall this GM shouldn't have run 5 slots. 4 slots was his capacity or if he was running 5 he should have run one of the first 4 twice to mitigate the need to prep so many different scenarios.

Example 4: The non-well meaning Convention GM - Worst Case Scenario

This GM signs up to run 5 slots at a convention. He does this because it gives him a GM boon and 5 was the minimum to get into the convention for free. He runs all five slots with no prep because how hard can it be (plus he says in his head - "i'm really good at improv"). He doesn't draw maps and instead uses theatre of the mind, have any tokens, isn't too sure on how new players sign up or get pregens, etc. He boasts that he hasn't prepped at all as if this will show that he's a great GM. He mireads the intro on a few scenarios and otherwise confuses the hell out of players. Players lose agency because explicitly scripted options aren't permitted because the GM didn't read that they were permitted since he skipped the sidebar on page 5. There are a few verbal rules fights from people who've played the ever green before and say that he's not running it right. Every slot runs long. He kills off a few PCs across the slots because he doesn't understand that one or two boss special abilities required 2-3 actions and incurred MAP after each strike so he gave out 3-5 CR+2 no map attacks which crit down multiple PCs to death. He's even proud of that fact that he kills a few off because 'PC death should always be a real threat'. He gets to a mini-rule social encounter debate and instead of engaging in any role play he just asks for checks and states the results. At the end of the debate he says in fact you couldn't have debated that way in round 2 and ret-cons a failure. Most PCs fail their secondary PFS success condition and lose out on gold/fame, leaving a bad taste in everyone's mouth because it was his lack of understanding that drove it. There was some bad 'spotlighting' behavior or rude things said between frustrated players at the table that the GM fails to address since he's reading the scenario live. Most players thank him for running and say they had fun but make a big mental note not to ever play at that person's table again.


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I feel like as long as a GM is trying to do his best and putting effort forth the onus really falls on the players to make known what they don't like or what they feel would be better for them.

Good GMs will listen and bad ones won't.

Being a GM is a very time consuming task and I spend about 5-8 hours weekly prepping maps and pawns and reading to make sure I am ready to GM.


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The beauty of tabletop RPGs is that you can try and find groups that share the same vision (or at least close enough) of how you "role-play" to make the experience enjoyable for all.

What one will call a "bad gm" and what another will call a "bad player" may end up in groups that play so similarly that they have tons of fun. And what you call "awesome gm" and "amazing player" may be shunned for those same tables for other reasons.

So, the end line is:

a Good GM is one tht fits the table, a bad GM is one that doesn't.

Dark Archive

pauljathome wrote:

For the record, that has ALREADY happened :-)

Red Griffyn stated that the absolute bare minimum amount of prep a GM should do is to read the AP before running. I'm currently running two different APs and, in both cases (I'm at book 1 in 1 case and book 4 in the other) I have NOT yet read the entire AP.

So, according to him I am a bad GM.

Amazingly, I don't agree that my not having read the entire AP makes me a bad GM :-).

Its a generalization to apply across multiple product lengths. Primarily I mean you've read the content of what you expect to run prior to running (whether that is 2 hours, 4 hours, or 8 hours of material for your session). Showing up completely 'cold' with no prep is bad GMing. At that point the way people have fun is because you all enjoy each other's company and is independent of the activity (you could play video games, board games, eat dinner together, watch sports, go camping, etc.). There are a few 5 minute prep. one-shot style,one hour style TTRPG systems/scenarios, but I'd hazard that if you signed up to play an AP, PFS module, PFS scenario, or homebrew campaign, you're looking for a little bit more narrative investment than one of those.

That being said, with APs if you're running it before it is all published you can't read it "ALL" before you've run it because it is published piecemeal. But when you go to run an AP you 'should' read the whole book of the AP if you want to maintain the story/mechanic/NPC continuity. Otherwise you're much more likely to 'kill off that important NPC', miss that clue to 'mcguffin X at the end of the book', or misrepresent the world to the PCs (e.g., the evil henchman came off via multiple sense motive checks as honest because you didn't know he was an evil henchman). At that point you're not 'running' the AP as written and doing more of a homebrew blend (which is perfectly fine if that's the game you want). What it tends to mean is you've taken that front load prep and thrown it on the back end to try and make the story make sense. You haven't really 'prepped' less time.

I will say that there are some APs that are definitely made better by reading them all the way through because you as a GM will know when it is time to reveal secrets or plot points. You can also address the impact of PC choices on the overall plot (if they kill NPC x then y doesn't happen over here in book 2) and that really rewards player agency. I know in a few instances GM's I've played with have read through the entire AP, and found that an NPC you meet in book 1 incidentally is suddenly the supper evil boss of book 4 with no warning and no lead up. In those cases the GM made a narrative change to have him be more of a re-occuring NPC in book 1/2/3 so the 'surprise reveal' made sense and was somewhat foreshadowed.

When you don't read ahead you lose out on the ability to world build and run the risk of needing some contrived improv dues ex machina to save the story.


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shroudb wrote:

So, the end line is:

a Good GM is one tht fits the table, a bad GM is one that doesn't.

This. So very much this.

The only objectively bad GM/player is the one whose enjoyment of the gaming experience is predicated on deliberately spoiling the fun for someone else.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber
Deadmanwalking wrote:


AnimatedPaper wrote:
I think mere tears is optimistic. I think it will end in sniping, insults, badwrongfun accusations, and eventually a locked thread.
'This will end in tears' is an idiomatic phrase that basically means 'this will end badly'. So yeah, I think you're entirely right, but 'end in tears' is shorter to say. :)l

That’s fair, you’re right.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Please stop being so negative. I'm sure this thread was made with good intentions in mind. Don't want it to turn out negatively? Then simply don't post negatively.

In my 25+ years of experience as a GM and roleplayer, I've found that reading a module twice (once all the way through, and the relevant sections again before each game), thinking about how things might play out, and making mental preparations for those possibilities really does go a LONG WAYS towards making things run more smoothly.

Prepping maps in advance and having some idea of the intended encounter design should play out seems pretty straight-forward and obviously beneficial too. As a player, I've always hated losing a half hour of playtime because we had to wait for the GM to draw the map (or worse, make one of the players do it).

I find it incredibly surprising that people think that Red Griffyn's list is too much. Also, he didn't say you're a bad GM if you don't do those things. He said it would be "a good level of prep" which is true.

Seems to me that, that would be the floor of what makes a great GM. Being able to communicate clearly, get along with the players, and keep things running smoothly are all great skills to have that each contribute well to everyone having a fun time too.

Feel free to take my 25+ years of anecdotal evidence from numerous play groups through several game systems with a grain of salt though.


So far I think this is still a productive thread, despite the responses not being quite as tongue-in-cheek as I had expected.

Regarding prep, obviously it varies by adventure/table but the idea is that you should do SOME kind of preparation. GMing is a commitment and I certainly appreciate that (having GMed myself), but it is also a commitment for the players, who often have relatively rare opportunities to block out 5-6 hours of their busy lives for gaming. Everyone's time should be respected, and that means not fumbling through a complex adventure with zero familiarity or preparation beforehand. That is a sure way to ruin a gaming experience for everyone. And in my experience, there is a big and obvious difference between not bothering to prepare vs not being optimally prepared, the latter of which is entirely subjective.

@pauljathome, I hope you don't really believe you got called out by the post you mention. Certainly it is clear to me that "not bothering to prepare" is the low watermark here, and that is not how you described your situation - not by a long shot.


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I habitually over-prepare. Sometimes as a challenge to myself I'll go into a session with no prep, just a folder of action scenes, fights, and mysterious challenges I have prepared for when I need to slot something in. Turns out, as long as I can maintain forward momentum, I'm not terrible at improv.

I tend to slow things down more from "I gotta look at my notes, one sec" than if I just completely invent the next thing from whole cloth.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
mrspaghetti wrote:
Everyone's time should be respected, and that means not fumbling through a complex adventure with zero familiarity or preparation beforehand. That is a sure way to ruin a gaming experience for everyone.

Truth!


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PossibleCabbage wrote:

I habitually over-prepare. Sometimes as a challenge to myself I'll go into a session with no prep, just a folder of action scenes, fights, and mysterious challenges I have prepared for when I need to slot something in. Turns out, as long as I can maintain forward momentum, I'm not terrible at improv.

I tend to slow things down more from "I gotta look at my notes, one sec" than if I just completely invent the next thing from whole cloth.

I would argue that going in with "a folder of action scenes, fights, and mysterious challenges I have prepared" counts as prep.

If there were a corollary list of what might make someone a good GM, the list would probably include:

- You usually feel like you didn't prepare well enough


Some level of preperation is mandatory regardless of your table, but again, i want to say that there's huge variance on that.

I mostly gm homebrews so there's no need for me to "read the plot ahead" but even for simple things like preparring encounters, how far ahead you prepare is contigent on how quickly you expect your players to derail/hunt their own objectives. Some groups will stick to the plot 100% so you can prepare 10 steps ahead, others you know will follow 1 step of the story and then go after their own goals, so you re better off preparing 1 step ahead and 10 steps wide, and etc.

Same thing goes for mapping, as an example, although i would have maps ready for combat, for anything else i like to make my players draw them , especially if they are suppossed to "explore".

Silver Crusade

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Ravingdork wrote:

Feel free to take my 25+ years of anecdotal evidence from numerous play groups through several game systems with a grain of salt though.

25 years? Rookie :-). 40+ here (and I'm sure somebody will beat me)

And yeah, I disagree with at least some of your points.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
pauljathome wrote:
And yeah, I disagree with at least some of your points.

Care to elaborate?


Deadmanwalking wrote:

I'm not sure this thread can lead anywhere good.

I don't think any of the examples posted thus far are especially problematic (though, as Temperans notes, some are campaign specific), but by the nature of a thread like this, someone is gonna eventually post something deeply offensive to someone else and it will all end in tears.

...

...

Yeah, probably.

*closes mouth and walks away cautiously*

Silver Crusade

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Ravingdork wrote:
pauljathome wrote:
And yeah, I disagree with at least some of your points.
Care to elaborate?

Nope :-). I'm trying really, really hard to NOT be the person that lets this descend into a flame fest and going into detail about where I think you're wrong seems to be NOT a good idea.

My opinion is basically that of

shroudb wrote:


So, the end line is: a Good GM is one that fits the table, a bad GM is one that doesn't.

I think ANY list of qualities beyond that has very little use and will only lead to strife.

Liberty's Edge

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I do not think there is such a thing as a universally objectively bad GM. I know what I consider bad GMing. But it is so subjective that things I might truly disagree with might be just fine and fun for another group.

My basis would be do not hurt others aka do not be a jerk, whether GM or player.


SuperBidi wrote:
LBHills wrote:

I'm pretty sure he meant multiple characters, not players.

I hope!

Ho, I thought it was connected to point 1:

And #2!

Silver Crusade

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The Raven Black wrote:
I do not think there is such a thing as a universally objectively bad GM.

I actually think that they do exist (I've run under somebody who I think to be one :-(). But they're SO rare and SO bad that they're very much the exception that proves the rule.

The GM I'm thinking of was on some kind of power trip and actively and maliciously went out of their way to punish characters AND players to show that THEY were in control. Totally ignoring the rules in the process (maliciously changing them during the session).


TwilightKnight wrote:
This thread should be locked. Instead of focusing on the negative, why not focus on what makes a good GM? Do you really think a “bad” GM is gonna read this and have a sudden epiphany? And invariably this is gonna lead to a “You might be a bad player if” thread.

I disagree.

I think that letting people know some of the signs that they might need to improve their craft without anyone else having to tell them that they are doing something wrong can be beneficial. If someone sees this kind of advice as a personal attack then they are going to respond equally poorly to being directly called out. And that is a personality issue that will not be fixable by any GMing advice.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

The only standard by which whether a GM is good or bad can be measured is by whether or not the players are enjoying themselves.

Since that's going to vary so much based on individual preference, I don't think you can really come up with one set of guidelines that really helps.


TwilightKnight wrote:
This thread should be locked. Instead of focusing on the negative, why not focus on what makes a good GM? Do you really think a “bad” GM is gonna read this and have a sudden epiphany? And invariably this is gonna lead to a “You might be a bad player if” thread.

I created it: Becoming a great GM in PF2.


thorin001 wrote:
I think that letting people know some of the signs that they might need to improve their craft without anyone else having to tell them that they are doing something wrong can be beneficial.

You seem to have missed the part where TwilightKnight pointed out the likelihood that a bad GM will not be self-aware enough of their badness as a GM to think of anything they read as being a sign for them, or the things being discussed as a way to "improve"

Mostly, in my experience, people that aren't good at something and aren't already working through the process of getting better - read: bad GMs that haven't already got their list of things to improve their craft with - are also convinced they are already excellent at the thing. And many will grow intensely angry at the mere suggestion that someone else thinks they know a "better" way, and will lash out - I've even seen them try to flip the script and insist that the person saying "it's not good when GMs do [blank]" is that one that would find their gaming experience improved if they changed their opinion and really dove in to doing [blank].


The only prep that you need is having any materials you know are definetly needed for the session.

The party will go to combat in one area? Prep that area as much as needed. No need to worry about other things.

Oh a latter part of the AP mentions something important detail not included before? Well thats a fault of the book not telling me earlier. I can just have the players get/learn it now.

Oh I messed up the number of encounters? Just add more between events.

The bare minimum you need for maps is an outline so the players know where the walls are. If you even use a map as most combats can be handled with theater of mind, just requires the GM to be a lot mpre descriptive.

************************

If we are talking VTT you dont even need to make NPC sheets online. You can literally just use the dice roller and read from the book/physical sheet.

So yeah prep is very varied, depends on the campaign, player needs, and overall just what the plan is.

I personally prepare the map and creatures on the VTT and worry about each map the session before they are used.

Dark Archive

Ravingdork wrote:
I find it incredibly surprising that people think that Red Griffyn's list is too much. Also, he didn't say you're a bad GM if you don't do those things. He said it would be "a good level of prep" which is true.

Thank you.

Honestly, that list of prep items are the things I make sure I do every time. Not only do they increase the quality of my games, it also makes me feel confident that I'll deliver a good experience. My hope is that my players will come back, get more involved, and eventually try their own hand at GMing so the community can grow.

One of the other benefits to prepping well is that you can re-use prep. For example, I've often been able to shave hours of prpe time figuring out spell descriptions/monster ability descriptions because I can quickly pull it from another scenario I prepped months ago. Or more generically, in PFS I used to print off one of those grapple rules flow charts and bring them out whenever a monster grabbed someone or a PC wanted to grapple. I'd then collect them back up and use them for the next 20+ scenarios until eventually a new player actually took one and I had to 'print another'.

Being well prepped also means your friendly neighborhood GMs are also better prepped because GMs can share hand drawn maps, NPC portrait cards, rules printouts, etc (even for APs there are custom maps, roll 20 tokens, etc. online that are freely shared). More than once I've asked to borrow custom maps or whatever from others and its saved me hours of prep thanks to community reciprocity.

Grand Lodge

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My standards for what makes a “good” vs “bad” GM are much higher than the OP, but this is not the place for me to discuss them since it will invariably result in disagreements. Anyone who does not live up to my high expectations would therefore be a “bad” GM and there is a big difference between me being disappointed because a GM didn’t live up to my expectations and me telling them (or others) about it. That’s why I dislike this discussion.

Feedback like this should either be addressed in person, with a specific GM, be focused on their specific areas of improvement, and only if they ask for constructive criticism or we should focus on what we think makes for a good GM and that bullet list. IMO it’s unproductive to focus on what makes a bad GM because we don’t want people to do those things. So why call them out. Rather than say “arriving late to a game makes for a bad GM,” when we can “arriving early to the game makes for a good GM.” It might be a subtle difference, but anyone versed in the social sciences (not that I necessary am) will tell you positive focus is almost always better than negative focus unless you are actively disciplining the target individual. YMMV

Shadow Lodge

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I think some of these expectations are what a fantastic GM would do, but there aren't just fantastic and bad gms, there's a whole range in between. One can be a passably ok gm with plenty of room for improvement, but people wouldn't call you bad.


TwilightKnight wrote:
Rather than say “arriving late to a game makes for a bad GM,” when we can “arriving early to the game makes for a good GM.” It might be a subtle difference, but anyone versed in the social sciences (not that I necessary am) will tell you positive focus is almost always better than negative focus unless you are actively disciplining the target individual. YMMV

If we tiptoe around and refuse even to agree on some basics, I don't think anyone benefits.

For example, I am a little disappointed that there is not universal and unequivocal agreement on point #4. I think someone who fits that description could benefit from seeing that gamers actually value their time. If they recognize themselves, start wondering if everyone thinks they're being a jerk and subsequently change their behaviour, everyone wins.

Arriving on time or early is simply expected, it doesn't make you a good or bad GM in itself. Gross habitual lateness is another story.


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This is exactly what DMW noted. Creating lists and codifying the behavior of people in a roleplaying game is only going to be divisive. Pointing to a list and saying objectively that people are bad is... well, it's bad.

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