The worst session I’ve ever played (or Gaming with Strangers)!

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The first time I ever played an RPG with a total stranger was a disaster, and it turned me off from gaming with strangers for years. Let me give you some context.

By this time I had been gaming for some years, but mostly with my friends, neighbors and classmates, people I knew outside of the game. There had been many players, by then MOST of my neighbors and many classmates had at least sat down and tried this “odd” game Roberto was running. But I was yet to play with strangers, and this was well outside my comfort zone.

Then one day after school my friends and I were at a local book store that carried gaming materials and this guy, about our age, approached us and struck up a conversation. He told us he was an experienced Dungeon Master, had created his own world and had been published in Dragon Magazine (something I’ve been unable to confirm to this day) all things that impressed us and we exchanged phone numbers.

On our way back we discussed the possibility of inviting this guy to run a game for us. We eventually agreed and arranged for him to come over to a friend’s house in a few days and run a game. He informed us he had a Forgotten Realms adventure he wanted to run and that we should make new characters. This was back in the days of AD&D 1st edition and the Forgotten Realms gray boxed set which I loved so I was really excited. I can’t recall what my two fellow players rolled up but I had a 1st cleric ready to go.

The day of the game he showed up and revised our characters. His only concern was that he needed one of the characters to be a female. We all looked at each other a little confused but I decided to do it, erased the word male in the character sheet, penciled in female and played my first female character. He proceeded to set up the adventure. It would be set in Waterdeep and the other two players were already in the city. However my character was in the Dales and had been summoned by her deity. Mind you this was YEARS before the whole Avatar debacle (sorry if you liked that story!), so when I was confronted by my deity made flesh I was impressed by this turn of events. What did this DM have in mind?

He then proceeded to play the god, literally, through the adventure. He narrated the trip from the Dales to Waterdeep in excruciating detail. Every stop, every conflict, the converts following us as the deity obliterated every single challenge, all my cleric did was follow him around. Oh and to add insult to injury, she became his sexual slave, he described how he raped her, and she liked it…

By this time I was done with the adventure, this wasn’t just a bad game, it was tasteless and rude and I knew I would not play with this guy again. But we were not gaming in my house so I kept my opinions to myself and pretty much disconnected from the game. We eventually made it to Waterdeep and the other two players, anxious to at least get to play began their part of the adventure. I don’t remember all the details but they had to rescue a Halfling from some criminal so they got around to it only to be faced by the criminal’s enforcers. Burly barbarians that attacked them with “two handed bastard swords”, when we exchanged puzzled looks and asked him about this he explained these were like regular bastard swords only larger, his creation. He proceeded to hit the other player characters and roll 1d20 for damage. The players were almost dead when suddenly my character along with her god arrived and saved them.

When he said, “Well let’s end the session here, we can pick it up later,” we all knew this was one adventure we would never play again. He said his goodbyes and when he called to see when we would play the next session we told him we were not interested and that was that. I wish I could say the traumatic experience did not influence me but for YEARS after that I was reluctant to invite another stranger to play with us. It wasn’t until college when I worked in a comic/hobby shop that I finally decided to invite others to play and the majority of those experiences have been positive.

I wonder what became of that guy? So, what’s the worst session you’ve ever played?

This post is dedicated to my friend Luis Alvarado, who had NOTHING to do with this story, but suggested the topic to me. Thanks Luis!

(And I promise NO MORE ellipsis… Too many post titles with them!)

12 thoughts on “The worst session I’ve ever played (or Gaming with Strangers)!”

  1. As an editor-type, I can say that you needn't feel too bad about ellipsis abuse. You are absolutely not alone on that 🙂 (I, myself, have a fascination with emoticons that could only be considered unhealthy).

    As far as worst game ever… I think something similar to yours, where the GM tried to sell my female character into sexual slavery in exchange for some horses. It was… unpleasant, especially given that I was playing a hardline elven fighter, so I felt the attempt to do so was completely unprovoked and based on the decision that I had boobs, and that, what, sexual slavery is hilarious or something? Still kind of creeped out by it.
    .-= Jenny Snyder´s last blog ..Lesson #4: Risky Business =-.

  2. I have two stories–a personal and a convention one. The personal one was when I first moved to the SF Bay Area back in early 2000. I met some lady who had a gaming group and they were regular D&D players. It turned out that they didn't play D&D at all because no one owned the books, but they played their homebrew game system. The adventure was one big homoerotic fantasy trip in which my character's decisions were always decided by the DM. The DM also had a couple of players who were completely horsewhipped by her and did whatever she told them to such as cleaning the kitchen, cooking dinner, etc. She told me that I "would get my turn" later. Sorry, but I'm not really into dominatrix kind of rpgs. That may turn some guys cranks, but I prefer dice, killing monsters, and taking their stuff.

    For my convention game, there was this guy who was running a 3.0 D&D game. The game had been out for little over a year at that point, but the guy hadn't read the rules at all, had skipped the entire 2nd edition period, and was making up the adventure as he went along. In short, the game was utterly terrible as I consider unprepared DM's slightly above mass murderers in the moral spectrum of life.

    I have quite a few other stories of gaming with strangers that I've really regretted, but I also have quite a few stories where I gamed with strangers and had a total blast, but alas, would never seem them again.

  3. I have had a few less than successful games I have attended some that I did not enjoy, and did not return to, but none of the utter disasters that some people have suffered through. All I can say is that I am glad such terrible experiences did not drive you from the hobby entirely.

  4. Thank you everybody for your comments…

    Jenny is anybody questions my ellipsis usage I will say I have Jenny’s permission! Some people can’t deal with females real or imagined in a mature way.

    Yongkyosunim, I’ve heard of stories where GM’s get that hold over their players. That’s one perk I’ve never gotten form many years of game mastering, must be doing something wrong! Just kidding… (See I have Jenny’s permission)

    When it comes to GMs I can excuse some doubts about the rules if the game is entertaining and consistent but if you can tell he’s just making it up, well that’s just bad!

    Sean I had been playing for a while and knew this was the hobby for me; even the terrible session could not get me to drop games. It did keep anybody I did not know personally form my table for about 4 or five years.

  5. I tend to think that when a DM plays a NPC it has potential problems. I remember way back as an early gamer playing D&D where the DM had his NPC in the party. I say "his" because he most definetly favored the NPC.

    I remember 1 instance where his character had "found" the treasure room, finding some amazing magic armor , as well as some other top end gear, and had it all outfitted , before the rest of the party had even delt with the threat in the room. It's tough to see a monty hall campaign for 1 person.

    I did however take this as a learning experience in later games that I have DM'ed however.

  6. What's kind of interesting is that when the media paints gamers as social misfits and really critical of gamers in general (we're a bunch basement-dwelling slobs who can't get a job, never kissed a girl, and worshipping the devil), we're the first to scream bloody rage against the media about how they "don't get it" and that we should put a united front to the media and preach the Gospel According to RPGs to the Ignorant Masses.

    Yet, when strangers want to game with us, we're like, "Awwww, hell no! That guy looks like some kind of basement dwelling slob whose probably never held a job and thinks anime girls are his girlfriends. He probably worships the devil too that freak!"

    Well, I meant the above as a humorous example, but it's interesting how we gamers become very, very guarded and cautious when it comes to hanging out with another and inviting one to their home and God forbid if outsiders make the same observation that we do.

    Happy Gaming!

  7. Misterecho, we were a very close group but I think the results of being more open to invite other people to game with us has been overall positive. I don’t think we are obliged to let just anybody game with us, but encouragement is just as good, helping somebody get a group organized is just as effective!

    Yongkyosunim, I agree… We sometimes criticize in others what we do ourselves. That’s one of the things we have to avoid. Case and point, we are trying to organize role players locally in Puerto Rico and promote activities were we can gather, game and get to know each other better. One of the things I truly believe is that we need to be inclusive. I realize I can’t invite every role player I meet to my table to game regularly but that does not mean I cannot occasionally play with them, help them meet other like minded gamers. We are quick to judge, but I think every gamer deserves a chance!

    (And yes I’m a glass half full kind of guy…)

  8. I think the larger problems happen when you ask a stranger to DM for your group. Asking a stranger to join your game as a player is less risky, less prone to failure, and less likely to make your friends want to beat you for inviting that guy over.

    I've had a few guys come over to play who we never invited back again, but we avoided ruining -entire- evenings by limiting these visitors to player status.

  9. Where I live i’m close to like 4 cities but it’s nearly impossible to get a group. Not many know what DND is and no one knows how to play it. I tried basically to get a group for around 5 years. I went to 4 hobbie stores that were mostly focused on that MTG game, they said each time they know of no DND groups and probably grew tired of me asking.

    So finally after years I found some people an online ad website that wanted to play. I was thinking to myself “This is great! Finally a group of like minded people who like DND and sci fi and stuff! We’ll all bond together nicely because of this!” Well what happened was this. There were 7 of us in total, the first 2 people made up excuses and left the group after a few adventures. We were left with 5. The DM was extremely rude and ignorent and would make fun of us and degrade us so we played with just us 4 (2 couples). Well they were really excited and could not get enough of playing, one of them became the DM, they wanted to play all the time! So after some time they started to make excuses like they were sick or had some important thing come up but they posted on face book they were shopping at a mall or some other thing so they lied to us. They introducted two more people into the group and then told us we should not play for awhile cause things got busy.

    We are polite, clean, shower, bring lots of snacks, down to earth, easy going etc. It’s just really weird. I thought we’d all bond and become good friends because of all the things we love and have in common which are not easy to find. It’s a really strange experience. It’s like we are only friends during the game then after the game we are strangers and not wanted. So based on the DND community I met, they are cold and seem to not want to bond or become friends.

    So even though it’s hard to find a group it won’t matter anyway because the people are just not very decent or nice. They don’t want friendship and they definitely don’t have loyalty to each other.

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