Question: What's the Worst RPG Session You Ever Ran?

Posted by on Jan 26, 2010 in Question, RPGs | 13 Comments

I’ve been holding on to this question for a while, but I think it’s a good one:

What is the worst RPG session you ever presided over as GM?

Why? What went wrong? What did you learn? What would you do differently? What would you do again?

13 Comments

  1. Russell Bailey
    January 26, 2010

    I can’t even talk about it. For legal reasons.

    No, really.

    Reply
  2. Charlie X
    January 26, 2010

    When my group annoyed me enough that my solution was drinking myself into a stupor while running the Stargate SG-1 RPG. I let a player kill a civilisation, there was an hours-long argument when two people picked ‘advocate’ as a class, not knowing what it meant and then changing mid-session. I had the hip-flask behind the GM screen and called it a day when I started having issues with words.
    A few weeks later I quit the group, the direction I should have gone in the first place, rather than making an arse of myself.

    Reply
  3. cynicaloptimist
    January 26, 2010

    I can’t really pinpoint the worst session I’ve ever had, but I can say that the quality of any of my gaming sessions is directly correlated to the amount of sleep me and my players have had the night before. The worst sessions are the ones where I’m cranky.

    Reply
  4. Jeff Tidball
    January 27, 2010

    At a convention once, when a GM didn’t show for a session, I volunteered to improvise a game for those who had shown up. I attempted to wing a locked-room murder mystery where one of the players was (unbeknownst to himself, naturally) the killer, and there were, um, no clues. And this a 2nd ed. D&D game with player-created characters, whipped together on the spot.

    But then again, many horrible, horrible ideas seem wise when one is in high school.

    Reply
  5. Christian Lindke
    January 27, 2010

    The worst game I ever ran was for my friend Damon, and another couple of friends, when I was in middle school. It began as a simple foray into the Caves of Chaos, but soon became a dimension wide quest to kill the Gods. The players went from 1st level to ungodly powerful in one 16 hour all nighter (might have been longer or shorter by a couple of hours). They killed Tiamat and all the Devils before making their way to Mt. Olympus.

    Horrible, horrible session. We talked about how bad it was during the week at school. We used it as the standard for what not to do. We did learn a lot about the rules though, as we used as many rules as we could.

    One of my favorite gaming sessions is equally bad when it comes to “narrative” quality. My friend Sean and I made 100 1st level characters and played a DM-less version of Keep on the Borderlands. We began by having our army of 100 attack the Keep and then moved on to the Caves. At 11, we didn’t quite get that the Keep was supposed to be a “shared” base of operations. We thought we had to take it over first. Why else would they give us stats for the people?

    A couple of experiences compete for the worst game session I’ve ever played in, one of which was my first exposure to D&D and role playing.

    Reply
  6. Sam F
    January 28, 2010

    Some of my “worst” gaming sessions have been the most fun. Like the time I invited people to play in a game of Dread with a standard zombies plot. On the invite I SPECIFICALLY said “I want this to be a serious game” and even took some of the players aside to emphasize that.

    Well, when one player’s first words when they showed up were “I’m so drunk” I knew it wasn’t going to be a serious game. We had a LOT of fun, though. And the players helped me come up with a bunch of great ways to call for more pulls from the tower towards the end so that at least a character or two would die.

    In all honesty I think the worst interactions related to RPGs for me have all been interpersonal stuff outside the session. Like the guy who complained and eventually quit our group after his Call of Cthulhu character went irreparably mad after seeing Nyarlathotep.

    Reply
  7. Justin
    January 28, 2010

    Mine was a convention game of Vampire , which meant I had no control over who came to the table (and that’s a horrible way to play Vampire). Different people wanted different things. I had one guy with a trenchcoat and a claymore who wanted to kill albino alligators in the sewer and I had a pair of women who wanted personal horror and tragedy and I had the guy who wanted to lurk in the shadows to be cryptic and watch other people doing things. This was also at the Spiel in Germany, so none of them spoke English as a primary language.

    I don’t even recall how the game culminated, I just know I was basically running three different games, all of which had communication issues, and it couldn’t possibly have been enjoyable for them.

    Reply
  8. Will Hindmarch
    January 28, 2010

    Fun game sessions, even if they’re out of key for the game being played, I wouldn’t count as “worsts.” (In your case, Sam, you turned potential disaster into a good time—that’s a win!) For me, the worst sessions are those in which I was too tired to coordinate the players into a single experience, even a ludicrously gonzo one. The worst sessions, to my mind, are also boring.

    Or maybe I’m wrong.

    For me, maybe it was the Unknown Armies game with the eager anarchists who wanted to firebomb everything.

    For me, maybe it was the overnight session of Changeling: The Dreaming in which one of my players put me in a sleeper hold until I laughed myself into unconsciousness. For real.

    Reply
  9. Ben.
    February 1, 2010

    I didn’t run it, but for me, it had to be a session where the GM had just finished an arc that culminated in the impact of several comet fragments, destroying most of the game world. The scope of the destruction was massive, and it very much affected me to realize that every NPC we’d met over the last three years was gone, that every good deed we’d done was wiped out… What made it the worst session? One of the other players looked over at me and said, “What’s wrong? Who cares? They’re just NPCs…”

    Reply
  10. Bryan
    February 2, 2010

    I once ran a session of Deadlands: Hell on Earth at gaming marathon. The first few hours of it were great as it was the climactic battle with the big villain they had been chasing for a few months. Everybody had such a good time they wanted to keep going. All I can remember is having to institute a rule that if you were asleep, your character was asleep. Drowsiness not nearly as scary as zombies, for the record.

    Reply
  11. Lugh
    February 2, 2010

    Mine was a “teach them a lesson” game. I wanted to demonstrate that even normal animals could be a serious threat to D&D characters. So, a local druid who was insane called Nature’s Army to attack the party.

    It started with a couple trivial attacks. The players were confused, because I was being deliberately mysterious (meaning I was being a dick and not giving them required information). Then, a swarm of bats came in. I tried to “simplify” the combat by having the swarm attack as a single entity. Only, I did the math entirely wrong, and the bats were effectively doing an automatic d6 every round. The swarm killed the paladin, in a thoroughly inglorious death.

    This was also during my “chips fall where they may” period. No take backs, even when stupid stuff happens that is clearly my fault.

    Yeah, that session pretty much killed the entire campaign, despite a few pretty nice recovery sessions. I like to think that I at least learned a few good lessons from it.

    Reply
  12. Halceon
    February 2, 2010

    It has to be my attempt at Dwarf Fortress. The session was fun and prowling through player-built dungeons that actually would work is a great idea. But the sheer amounts of math i was trying to go through was abhorrent.

    I might try another session though, one which wither completely abandons all dice or uses a different system.

    Reply
  13. The Worst Dungeon World Game I Played At Gen Con And How It Was My Fault | gameplaywright
    September 9, 2013

    […] updates on this topic.Powered by WP Greet Box WordPress PluginWe’ve talked here before about the worst game sessions we’ve ever presided over as GM. I don’t think this one was my worst ever but it was certainly my worst in recent memory — […]

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