How to Alienate Your Players

After reading Ten Secure Ways to Screw a Pen and Paper RPG Session, Richard, a fellow GM and good friend suggested that someone find an article for GM’s on how to alienate players.  This is my attempt at providing such a guide.  All of the cases below are real experiences that I have had as a player.  Hopefully we’ll all learn what not to do as a GM from these examples.

Provide a Hostile Environment

10) Host your game at a house without a working toilet or running water.

Bathroom breaks are for suckers!  No, you can’t have a glass of water, that would lead to the unnecessary aforementioned bathroom break.

9) Keep your house a filthy, disgusting mess.

Your players shouldn’t care if your cat is in the corner, playing with a dead mouse in a heap of trash. Those cockroaches crawling around your sticky dining room table add ambiance.  If they can’t handle a little mess, gaming must not be very important to them.

Stick to Your Vision

8) Railroad the hell out of your players.

The story that you have painstakingly mapped out in excruciating detail must be played out exactly as you envisioned it.  If the players find a loophole that allows them a glimmer of hope for freedom, squash it.  You can’t have them going off god-knows-where and doing god-knows-what.  Stick with the script!

7) Ignore the dice rolls.

While trying to railroad your players (see #8 above), if a player tries to do something that is not in your plans, make them roll a dice to see if their character can pull off that action.  Then overrule the dice roll.  “Yes, you critically succeeded on your dice roll.  Your character ALMOST makes it over the fence.”  “Yes, you critically failed while swimming across the lake.  You barely make it across the choppy water, but don’t drown.”

6) Deny your players’ requests, always!

It doesn’t matter if every single player at your table agrees that you need to make a change in your campaign, your house rules or general attitude.  Ignore them and deny their requests.  “No we can’t have more combat” “No, you must lose experience points when you die” “No you can’t have a mentor”.  Learn to say “NO” every time they ask you something, no matter how reasonable.

Keep Them in the Dark

5) Schedule your games at your convenience.

Don’t bother using a regular, repeating schedule.  Keep things random.  Make sure to let your players know about game date and time changes at the last possible minute.  This will keep them on their toes.  While you’re at being inconsistent in your scheduling, change your location for the heck of it as well.

4) Don’t bother communicating with them.

Your players will whine that they never get an email, phone call, voicemail, tweet, or face book notification when you’ve changed your plans (see #5 above).  By denying them the crucial information they seek, you are helping them develop their telepathic and precognitive skills.

Make Sure No One Else Has Fun

3) Don’t remove the problem player.

Consider it a learning experience for the problem player.  It may take years, but they’ll eventually catch on and improve their game.  Don’t bother explaining to the player what they are doing that is disruptive and ruining the other players’ fun though.  They have to figure it out on their own or they’ll never learn.

2) Play to Win

Show the player characters no mercy.  Then rub it in the players’ faces when your uber NPC’s and Antagonists win every single conflict and combat scenario.  You’re the Game Master because you’re the best at creating munchkin twink characters, right?

1) Run the game for your own amusement.

Who cares if your players are having fun.  You’re here to project your vision onto a captive audience.  Ignore the yawns, bored stares and dice juggling of your unenthusiastic players.  If they don’t get why your campaign is awesome, then they’re idiots.

Complete Campaign – Lessons Learned Along the Way, Part 3

After finishing up the first campaign that I’ve intentionally completed, I have contemplated the lessons learned.  This was the most character driven and story intensive game I had ever run.  In this short series I’ll be sharing a few examples from the Solo Ravenloft campaign. Hopefully you’ll end up inspired to try something different for your next campaign.

Random Awesome!

Since this was very much a sandbox campaign, I wanted the player to feel like he could take his character anywhere in the Ravenloft domains to accomplish his goals.  This meant that there were times when he drifted off in a direct I did not expect.  Rather than panic, I employed a series of automated and random tools to help me keep the game going.  I would record the results from the random generators for later use and to keep things consistant if the player chose to send his character back to those places at a later time.  Here I will review the sites that I found so helpful during that game.

Chaotic Shiny’s Tavern Generator

This generator is very easy to use.  Just go to the website.  If you don’t like the tavern there, refresh your browser and a new one pops up.  I always found one that suited my needs within 4-5 refreshes.  The taverns generated will list aspects such as cleanliness, prices, a menu, patrons, bartender quirks and more.  I love this site and will use it for any future fantasy games that I run.

Thousands of Medieval Names

Very helpful for finding a quick and unique sounding name.  They have names from many countries, so that you can have NPCs from different domains have a certain flavor to match the area’s cultural influence.

Buck’s Random Dungeon, NPC, Town, Treasure Generators

Buck’s tried and true generators have been used by  countless GM’s for many years.  They are simple to use and come up with interesting things for you to use on the fly.  Every GM should have this website bookmarked for their fantasy games.

What I did not find useful:

3.5 character generators.  None of them gave me a ‘complete’ character.  The closest I could find were unequipped characters.  This resulted in the PC obtaining much more gold than he should have gotten.  Since I didn’t mind, I left it as such.  Many times it was easier to just use the NPC stat blocks in the DMG and just give the player character the appropriate amount of gold after the encounter instead of dealing with choosing equipment for the NPC’s every time.  I also recycled NPC’s very often by simply changing their description and main weapon.


Complete Campaign – Lessons Learned Along the Way, Part 1

This weekend I will be wrapping up the first campaign that I’ve ever completed. EVER. I’ve learned a lot from the process and am quite thrilled at the idea of finishing a campaign on purpose with a fairly tidy ending (I hope). I feel that this was one of the most interactive and fun to GM campaigns that I’ve ever run. In this short series I’ll be sharing a few of the lessons that I learned along the way with examples from the Solo Ravenloft campaign. Hopefully you’ll end up inspired to try something different for your next campaign.

Communication – Have THE conversation with your players!

In the past I’ve TOLD players what a campaign was going to be about. I’ve given them an idea as to the theme or the nature of the campaign. I’ve told them the location or the setting information. It’s usually a fairly one-way conversation… This is totally wrong I realize. For the Solo campaign that I’m wrapping up, I made sure to ASK the player what he was interested in happening for his game. It was very much a two-way conversation. These are the important questions I’ll make sure to ask each player in the future when I plan on running a campaign: Continue reading Complete Campaign – Lessons Learned Along the Way, Part 1

Studying Magic Would Be Easier

I spent a few hours the other day working on some visual aids for a classic fantasy game. I’m running two campaigns set in Ravenloft right now and thought that some realistic notes and scrolls would be cool to hand out to players. It turned out that the process took longer than I thought and left me with a lot of mess to clean up. It may have been easier to actually study Arcane and Divine to make scrolls the old fashioned way by magic…

I bleached paper from yellow envelopes, treated brown paper bags with acidic lemon juice, darkened papers for letters with tea and stained ancient scrolls and tomes with coffee. In the end, many of the various papers turned out looking similar, despite the many different types of paper and the myriad of alteration methods that I used.

Scrolls were left to dry rolled up. Some were rolled around paper towel card board tubes, some were rolled from both ends to meet in the middle and others were left to dry more loosely. In the end, the scrolls turned out pretty cool. I’ll have to add a photo of them here soon.

Wax Seals no longer exist in my Ravenloft universe. For some reason all of the wax that I melted would stain the paper or envelopes that I poured wax on to. The wax would not pour out neatly, it would glop all over the place. I wasted many cool looking props by trying to add a neat seal.

I used a bottle of ink and a dip pen to write on some of the papers and scrolls. The ink was not always legible, which added to the feel of documents. Many were not written in any real language, as I more scribbled and created funky looking lettering than anything. When all was said and done, I had a box full of cool looking props. It was a fun, albeit messy process.

Fun, Fundamental, Functional, Flexible, Fast – The 5 F’s of Preparing Great Adventures

The following is a set of ideas to help any Game Master design fast, fun and functional adventures. Following through with these concepts will give you a flexible and fundamentally sound module. At the end of this article you will find a list of resources to help you create your own awesome adventures.


Your players want an interactive world that they can enjoy. If you’re busy railroading your players through a tightly planned adventure with no side path, they will know it. When your players want to wander off and follow up on some red herring, let them go for it. They found that red herring more interesting and you should give your players what they are interested in.

Your players want to go into the sewers and you hadn’t done any work on them yet? You can’t give it to them unless you are able to hold ideas lightly and take cues from your players. Don’t shoot down their ideas, follow through on them. That can be difficult though if your modules aren’t flexible and fast.


Simple means you can customize it later. You can toss in ideas that flutter into your brain or details that fit your campaign. Sticking to the basics for your adventure means that you end up with a small, light weight document. Small means you can throw it in whenever you want because you can play it in a single session. Sticking to the fundamentals also means that you end up with an adventure that is perfect for one-offs or classic style campaigns.


Clean design means that you can quickly find the information you need. Don’t clutter up the page with a myriad of details. Make the most important information take center stage by leaving out the unnecessary stuff. You need the basics, the skeleton of the adventure planned out to run a smooth game.


Flexible means that it takes almost no work to adjust the adventure. You don’t have extra garbage to get rid of, so you don’t need to sort through to get to the diamond in the middle of the rock. You get the most bang for your buck with a modular adventure because you can reuse it so easily. Modular Design


Don’t make too much work for yourself! You should have a fun time too, this isn’t a homework assignment. Use the resources that make adventure creation a breeze. Keep these tools handy! You can make insanely swift, impromptu adventures with a few tools.


The Big List of RPG Plots – Get your adventure off to a running start with a quick plot.

Creative Conclave’s The Lazy GM Products – Fully stated variations on many monsters and creatures for d20 D&D style games.

D20 Random Dungeon Generator – I’ve run a few impromptu adventures using these.

Dungeon Crawl Classics #29: The Adventure Begins– A fantastic collection of level 1 D&D 3.5 adventures.

Instant GM Bag of Tricks – Plot Seeds, Stock Characters, Props

Instant GM 2: On Your Mark, Get Set, GM – Adventure Hooks, Stock Characters, Props, Tips

The One Page Codex Deluxe – Generic Adventures that fit into any Game System!  An entire adventure on a single page.  FREE to download!

Play Unsafe: How Improvisation Can Change The Way You Roleplay – Learn to GM on the FLY and have FUN!

Random Tavern Generator – Always Handy

Story Telling Adventure System – A lightweight, modular system for creating encounters and adventures that work in any White Wolf game.  This sytem can easily be adapted for other games

What I Want from Published Adventures – Fantastic article on creating modular adventures that are flexible and reusable.