So you @#$%ed up your campaign…

Ok so this is a little under a day early, but the wife and I have plans tomorrow so I figured I would get this up tonight instead of dragging things into a rush in the morning.

If you took a look at the comments from my friend Xen a few posts back we had started talking about communication and the way some of these things end up resulting in your entire campaign being #$%^ed up.


Yeah the world goes boom. Players go boom. GM goes boom.

So Xen suggested I use that as an article header, and ya know, he was right.

So this may be an ongoing, may not. But for the moment lets take a look at the two major categories of problems that cause a campaign to get completely @#$%ed.

  1. Your Game Master #$%@ed up.
  2. Your Players @#$%ed up and the GM let them.

Hmmmm, looks like a lot of responsibility ends up on the GM no mater what. I mean sure the players can go ahead and hit the big red button…

big red button

But in the end it is the GM who took the risk of putting it in the game hoping that his players would not go all cartoon happy and rush to see who could trigger it first.

The same sort of thing goes with all the potential magic items that could be out there that could completely destroy everything…

magic swords

Sigh… swords… why does it always have to be swords…

Anyway, what I am going on about here are things that go well beyond derailing a campaign, and lead to the destruction of the game world. Or the nation that your game is being played in. Or something else of that Armageddon level, world ending level sort of thing. There is also the aspect that a player or GM may use language/terms/settings/thoughts that are offensive or threatening to players. Or that players may use the same things to have the same impact to each other or the GM. There are a lot of ways from game balance, story use, rail-roading, and interpersonal communication that can @#$% up a campaign.

Maybe I should re think this a little and take a look at the levels of @#$%ing up a campaign… hmmm

  1. A player is allowed to play a character that does not fit the campaign
  2. The players want to do something other than the story you have prepped.
  3. The game has become slightly unbalanced / A single player has become offended
  4. The players manage to use an unusual means of accomplishing a mission that was completely unforeseen
  5. The players manage to sidestep a major portion of the story
  6. The game has become significantly unbalanced / The GM has become offended
  7. Ok so one side or the other in this story sneezes and the other falls down dead / Players realize they are being rail -roaded and the GM wont listen
  8. A chain of events has been allowed to take place that has resulted in the destruction of the campaigns primary city/village/dungeon
  9. A chain of events has been allowed to take place that has resulted in the destruction of the campaigns primary nation/continent / All of the players have been offended
  10. A chain of events has been allowed to take place that has resulted in the destruction of the campaigns primary world/dimension
  11. Someone brought foods to the game that the GM is allergic to and they will not be able to game because of the need for hospital time and they will never trust the players again not to threaten their life for something even so simple as an extra 50′ of rope. Other less savory tales of assault or physical action taken by players against each other (and yes that includes GMs when I say players there)

Yeah ok so that dial goes to Eleven.


No not really to her but I love the show and I had not put a link into the page yet so I thought I would get a two fer… heh

goes to 11

That is much better… and the right reference

So yeah. I have heard all those things used as reasons why a campaign is completely @#$%ed. Heck I have uttered it myself more than once for  more than one of the reasons on that dial. But to be honest I really dont feel like anything on that dial less than an eight is really a reason to say the game is over and we need to think about something else to do with our time. If the players and the GM are willing to talk things over and take a few risks, then you can recover from pretty much anything on that list as long as you dont crank it up to 11.

Sometimes a fix might mean a change in the story. It might take a series of apologies and taking a new approach to things. There is also resetting game balance. A games setting might need to change worlds. But there is no way a game should survive intact if assault or other physical interactions that are non-consensual have happened. That last one there is when the dial hits eleven and you need to get at least one person out of the group and start up something else so the game session itself does not become a trigger but a means of support and family for the person or people who were harmed.

So I know I dropped some humor in here, and there are parts of this that are more serious than others. And because of that combination, as I do not want to be insensitive, but I also do not want to push a topic to the point where I @#$% up an article I am going to pull the plug here for a moment. I may come back to the topic and pick a spot on the dial to make suggestions on how to fix the situation, may not… we shall see.

Ok so I am out… gimme the dice, I need to see if I can come up with a functional D11.

Keep gaming keep safe and keep having fun out there all of ya.


  1. #1 by Xenzirril on August 4, 2019 - 7:55 am

    First off, huzzah for taking this idea and running with it! Personally, I don’t think this kind of topic gets brought up nearly enough, so I’m glad this is here.

    It’s valuable to recognize there is a scope from the ridiculous, narrative breaking goof-off (or goof-up) to a very serious breach in taste, trust and consent. All worthy topics for the genre. Fortunately, we are not solely tasked to provide all the answers, but instead simply be open to the discussions. Should there be any other articles and forum threads on the topic I hope some links to them appear here in the comments.

    So instead of trying to encapsulate that scope in terms sweeping generalizations all in one comment, let me offer up (one of) my own personal DM sin(s): Not being able to say No to people that want to join the game session.

    I am notorious for having a crowded table. I think my smallest group has been five players plus myself. This may not sound like much. To many, five is perfectly manageable. But it is far more typical for me to have upwards of 8-9 active players.

    I admit, I succumb to the flattery that so many people want to come join the fun. That is what has made it so hard to put my foot down and say “maybe next time”. And it doesn’t help that I came up in a large table group myself. It was a very focused and down to business group, so having a full dining room was a non-issue.

    But when I pull back and look at the campaign I run after the fact, I must admit I don’t run a “tight” table without major assistance. It’s probably about 50% game play and 50% “faff” of chatter and off topic mis-behaving. So, the overall tone is far more of a friendly get-together than an immersive role-playing experience. And while this is a perfectly fine way of coming together, it can scan like a less than optimal way to spend the time for those that came to kick monster buttocks.

    My personal pledge for the next time I run a game is to limit the table to 4 players max. My goal is to make better use of everyone’s time and energy. I think this will also reduce the amount of crunch that always bogs down my sessions. Its not the fault of the rules that everyone has a role to play and a different set of conditions around their abilities. It’s part of my job (I feel) to steward a good table experience. So, setting limits on the amount of extra activity (provided this is what the room wants) come with the DM territory. And that can mean keeping the number of players down to a lean mix. It is my feeling this can go a long way to address many of the other potential issues that can come up at the table and in-game.

    So, this is perhaps a whiffle-ball pitch on the scope of potential miscalculations in a tabletop gaming experience. But I feel it falls in the ‘essentials’ category in so much as know your limits as a DM and steward a good table experience. It can go a long way to prevent other types of issues from cropping up.

    At least, for me.


    • #2 by authortao on August 9, 2019 - 12:00 am

      See I think that you brought up something that could do with a little clarity… While every dial may go to (and does really) go to eleven, there is a lot of personal space in that dial. I think the max point is going to be pretty much the same but the things that make up the rest of the dial come from personal experience, pain and personal limits. I mean someone that has a specific phobia or trigger might rate something as much more significant than someone without those personal traits. And that also needs to be respected. So Xen, on your dial, that goes as high as it goes… nuff said?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: