This DM may just be the next Agatha Christie. Or not.
This game was a game on Roll20 with strangers, so going in I knew that it would be hit or miss. I've played games with strangers that have turned out to be disasters, and I've played games where everyone has become friends and had a great time. Never before have I played a game that was such an absolute disaster, where everything that could have gone wrong went wrong right from the outset.
The setup was some sort of heist one-shot. We'd all been contacted by some mysterious benefactor to meet up at this tavern, and from there we'd be hired to break into some manor in town. We were all asked to come up with thieving characters, or ones that would have interest in making money without asking questions.
I came up with a charlatan bard with disguise self and charm person powers. I specifically state as part of his backstory that he has disguise self, and confirm with the DM that this won't be too overpowered for the infiltration mission he wants us to play. He says it's all fine, as we'll be starting at a high enough level for these to be abilities I have.
Sounds alright so far for a thieves guild quest, right?
Game starts, and everything goes wrong.
I'm playing with NINE strangers. Some of whom don't even get the chance to do their introductions as some players are hogging the spotlight talking over everyone else or going off and brooding in the corner and refusing prompts to interact with the rest of the party.
We're all level one, which is not what was discussed. It results in everyone with a cool backstory now being a loser scrub, and half the abilities we'd okayed in private being wiped off my character sheet. Thanks for lying straight to my face to get me into your game DM.
The DM decides he wants our patron to be some sort of mysterious benefactor, but goes about it all the wrong way. We're told we received unsigned notes to meet someone here, and not to trust anyone else. This ensures we're all just sitting around waiting for the quest giver to show up and avoiding each other's characters.
The tavern is having some sort of "night of games" event everyone MUST participate in. I suppose this was done as some sort of icebreaker to make us form teams and get to know each other, but it's almost immediately ruined by pairing us up with NPCs and making our opponents NPCS. These little dice gambling games go on for over an HOUR in real time and result in most of us getting absolutely hammered drunk from mandatory drinking contests.
We win from the contest some sort of gem with a message written on it in a language only a few party members can read. It's supposed to get us to share the message with those who can read it... except the guy who won the gem is one of the only two people who can read it and he's a massive d-bag. He refuses to share the message with anyone else and repeatedly declares his intent to leave us all here and go after the treasure by himself. He needs to be stopped multiple times out of character from doing this.
The DM is barely paying attention at this point. He doesn't get that the PC with the gem isn't sharing the message because he doesn't understand the message, but because he's a jerk. He sends in a DMPC who also speaks the language into the tavern. She awkwardly tries to start a conversation with the problem PC, is told to piss off, and then just sort of wanders around the inn with no idea what to do. We repeatedly ask this lady in and out of character if she can just give us the mission without this Carmen Sandiego coded message schtick. We find out later from the DM she IS a member of this secret society, but she feigns ignorance of what we're talking about and wanders out the door. He's really committed to this secret agent little orphan Annie coded message BS, never mind everyone hates it and isn't even having fun anymore.
We are now THREE hours in and half the party has left without a word. Eventually the DM and problem player get bored, the former from no one "Getting his brilliant message" and the player from not being allowed to solo the adventure. The message just says "go behind the bar". We go behind the bar and almost get in a fight with the barkeep. After spending another half hour in real time looking for another clue, DM passive-aggressively suggests we go into the alley behind the bar.
There's no one there, and we all stand around for a bit waiting for our contact to show up. Eventually the DM tells us to dig a hole in the ground to find, you guessed it, another sign with a coded message on it! Finally we decipher it and it says to go to the manor.
Keep in mind it's been three and a half real world hours at this point. Including me all but four people have left without a word. We're just starting the mission this one-shot was supposed to be about.
This is a theatre of the mind game, and it's not at all working well with this sort of story."Can we climb the fence?"
"No, it's too high."
"How high is it?"
"Can we dig under the fence or jump onto the building from another rooftop?"
"No. There's guards watching."
"How many guards and where are they?"
"...There's too many guards. They are everywhere at once. It's impossible to sneak up on this mansion without being seen."
Would sure be nice if we weren't all level one, wouldn't it?
"Can we ask the guards to let us in and show him the letter?"
"The guards ask the owner of the mansion who you are and he's never heard of you. You're told to leave, and now the guards are on alert because they know you want to get in. Nice going." Well F you too, GM.
We go to a general store to get some supplies. The DM proudly stated at the start that he likes to have "challenging" NPC interactions. This means that literally everyone we talk to acts like they're two seconds from calling the guards to arrest us, even if we're not doing anything malicious.Like, I go up to the bar and ask the barkeep to pour me an ale. "The barkeep squints at you and asks why someone would want to buy ale in a tavern. That's very suspicious. Roll a persuasion check to convince him you're not up to no good." I... I just wanted a drink, dude, not to kill and rob him. Every time we buy something, we need to make a similar check, even if it's just basic supplies like rope and not something ultra specialized for evil deeds like deadly poison.
Five hours in now without even entering the manor we just said screw it and ended it there, all of us resolving to burn the mansion down if we do meet back up. DM freaks out. Asks why every single time he tries to run this "brilliant adventure" he thought up, everyone ends up burning the manor down. He was going to make this into a whole campaign of adventures for this secret group, and we ruined it for him.
We try telling him that the whole convoluted mess with the coded messages just wasted time, and someone either should have been at the bar to tell us to rob the manor or just start us off already knowing what to do. He ignores us and continues to whine, as if nine strangers on the interwebz got together and launched a campaign to ruin his brilliant idea before it could begin. Train of thought type, unhinged stuff.
I leave. All the next day he sends me unprompted invites back to the group. I block him.
Still not entirely convinced the whole thing wasn't just a fever dream.
This DM may just be the next Agatha Christie. Or not.
GM Railroading is so strong it starts even before the campaign starts
We had a group in which we rotate games and GM role every campaign, so I played other 2 campaigns with this group and they were really good.
This story begins way before the campaign starts. The group is formed by Me, The Hippy (a really nice guy that just avoids all personal conflict), Mr. Precise (a precise and ordered guy, very gentle, avoids fights but not conflict) and the GM.
The GM wants to start a gritty fantasy campaign in the viking era (Journey to Ragnarok module for D&D 5e), really cool so far. He played D&D 3.5 before but never read nor played 5e, still suggested to play it as a GM.
Me and Mr Precise (we know 5e) start pointing out some problems that may occur while using D&D to play the gritty campaign he is describing. We suggest he read the manual and rule out some spells or abilities that may automatically solve the problems he wants to put in the story.
For example you can create food for all the party with the goodberries spell. If he wants to play around hunger, he should modify or ban the spell.
GM responds that you can take the spell, but if you do you will be incarcerated and forced to cast it every day to make food for the people.
He asks what characters we wants to play (I want to play a Druid, Mr Precise a Wizard) and after we create them he starts to ban some things:
the only available race is human
you can only use the class specialty in the Journey to Ragnarok module
you can't use fire as a wizard or other spells he thinks aren't right (he literally says this, so we don't know what he means by "right")
wizards can't have a book, writing doesn't exist in this world
Ok... so Me and Mr Precise stop modifying our characters at every new "rule" and ask him to make a full list of what is banned or modified, he responds that it will be too long to read everything and make a list. Days have passed. He still hasn’t the core books yet.
Mr Precise still wants to play a Wizard and the GM suggests he can sew runes in his vest instead of having a book...Ok cool! But he will have to find the rune corresponding to the spells to learn them AND roll a sewing skill check (not arcana) if he fails he can't learn spells until next level.
They start to discuss this because...it is obviously ridiculous and of course Mr Precise thinks this is unfair. Bear in mind this isn’t a fight but a discussion. After a while the GM says he can't be the GM because we are too hostile to him.
There is an italian saying: clear agreements lead to long friendships.
But at least the problem is avoided, right? ...Ahah, not so fast!
The GM changes his mind and brings new home rules to the table, like: using swords wears out the edge.
I ask if hammers have the same problem. The GM responds that they don't have it, because hammers didn't exist in the viking era. He corrects himself right after, saying that they exist, but only smiths have them and are 10 times as expensive as a sword.
After some discussion the GM cancels house rules and just says that he can use whatever he wants in the campaign because he is the GM ... we don't agree, of course the GM can create his world and modify rules BEFORE the campaign start, but especially after all he is saying, we want clear rules.
At this point The Hippy who has participated very little in the discussion makes a long message that says that changing all the rules in this way is too much and repeats to the GM that he should at least read the manual for start.
Mr Precise adds that changing random things really changes the balance of the game.
The GM ignores the Hippy and says that there is no balance since the GM has all the power, and that he is changing everything to make the world more realistic and similar to the viking age.
We explain what we mean by balance but he doesn't listen. Or can’t understand.
At this point he was also mildly insulting us claiming we are always negative and talking nonsense.
So I made a long post in which I say he is ridiculous for not listening to all his players. If he wants to GM properly this is the first thing to do, other players agree with this.
He spit out some other insults and stated that he will not be our GM...nice!
But wait, there's more!
Mr Precise and the GM keep fighting about changing the rules to accommodate the setting.
So I suggest removing all magic... it's really bad to remove magic from D&D, but this is what he was describing for days... a gritty world where people fear hunger and cold, how can we fear hunger and non magical cold if we can make our food and fire out of nothing or create magical space with comfortable temperature?
So GM finally decided: we will play Symbaroum (a D&D like game, with low magic) but with a viking setting.
Ok, finally he changed his mind…
I read the Symbaroum manual, I don't like it very much, but whatever. The GM asks what characters we want to play.
Here we go again.
Mr Precise asks if he can make a necromancer which is a school of magic exactly like the others in the game.
GM says he can do it, but if he does it he is an NPC.
We explain that a necromancer is basically a wizard and doesn't have to be evil, the GM responds his spells suck because they can harm allies.
In reality, there is one necromancer spell that targets all living creatures nearby... but he can just use it at the right moment or simply take other spells.
Of course the GM continues to make home rules and changes things up just like he did for D&D.
After i make my character, some sort of paladin, he tries to modify my abilities distribution, my powers choice, my background, not because it didn't fit the setting, he just wants to make my character one eyed, maybe to resemble Odin I don't know. Even the picture i want to use and my character’s name, Gorm because it wasn't viking enough... I literally searched on google "viking names" as HE suggested and chose from them.
I discuss some things with him, trying to accomodate what he is looking for, but I just refuse to agree to the nonsense.
At this point you may ask, why do you still want to play with a GM like that? I guess at this point I’m so invested I need to see how it will play out.
So the campaign starts…
When we roleplay between characters it is really exceptional, but even the parts with the GM are pretty nice, the problem is that in combat. He continually gives us malice for our actions and tries to defeat us by "cheating" using narration he said but never killed us. The worst was that whatever we do, the most predictable thing always happens.
We played the first sessions using a draw program with the GM sharing his desktop (we switched to roll20 later) and at some point he alt-tabbed and show us some notes by mistake:
It was a graph formed by 9 or 10 hexagonal boxes and arrows, like this:
Encounter with NPC, go to the woods -> wolf attack, injures NPC -> Return to village, other NPC punishes them for leaving first NPC there,
He had our entire game scripted.
I read only the first boxes, understood what it was and stopped, but everything I read happened.
I lasted 5 sessions…
The last thing was an encounter with an invincible NPC. It healed more damage per turn than we could possibly do.
So I just tried to die in the old fashioned viking way before leaving the campaign, but apparently this wasn't his plan, so I didn't die.
So I write a message in the group telling that this is not my style of playing, i'm not having fun and so i'm stopping.
The GM insulted me one more time, said he should have never accepted me as a player (I was contacted by Mr Precise on a role play website and asked to join the group) and kicked me from the chat group before other players could say anything.
The other players messaged me privately telling me they get it, but will continue playing mainly because he is a friend.