Everyone wants to become the next Matt Mercer or Chris Perkins. That’s way too hard. Let's aim to become the worst DM of all time. There are way fewer people aiming to be that, after all. What sort of things can we do to get those players to hate their time being in games with us? Follow every section below to the letter for maximum efficiency.
It's Your Game
You are the DM, so it's your game. Everyone at your table has to adhere to your rules. If people start to step out of line or question your rulings make sure to use the phrase “Because I’m the DM” or “Because I’m God”. These are completely reasonable arguments to get your players to follow your rules. Give no ground, because all your players are trying to bend the rules to win.
You vs the Players
Tabletop games are a zero-sum game, it's all about winning and losing. As the DM it's your job to make sure the players lose, because if they do you win and we all know it's about winning at everything. Never cheat in favor of the players because that is giving them a leg up on you, risking them getting the win, even if cheating would make the situation more interesting or funny. Punish them for the slightest error in judgment, kill them if they don’t take the optimal way out because that's how you teach them to not suck at the game.
Make sure not to treat new players with any leniency, they need to learn the hard way that this game isn’t for the faint of heart. Kill them at level 1 to make sure that they know who is in control (it's you btw). Take no prisoners and aim for those TPK’s. Never root for your players. They are the enemy.
You are the Author
You spent all that time on the story to prepare for your players to interact with, so make sure that you shoehorn them into it whenever you get the chance. Make sure their choices don’t have any meaning and definitely make sure to make them aware of it. After all, you have a story to tell, the players are just there to live out your fantasy of being a powerful overlord or undead mastermind.
If your players have suggestions or ideas for your world, shoot it down. You don’t need them to have any creative control over the universe they are in, it's your world and you control what happens in it. You are the most creative person at your table and your players don’t have a clue about world building or have any interesting ideas ever.
If you want to really nail down that it's your story, insert your own player character to help direct your players where you want to go and show how awesome you are at building interesting characters. Make sure your character gets the spotlight, because having to play the NPC’s is boring and totally not like playing an actual PC. Use your character to help the other players out of every terrible situation they get themselves into because players love having a character to look up to and bail them out of every difficult situation.
Since your players aren’t the author, you can make decisions about their character without their input. Need someone to actually be the villain's child even if the player had an established family? Doesn’t matter, you can just write that in and make the parents adopted parents who never bothered to tell the kid. You can change any detail about the characters you want to fit the situation.
On that topic, you don’t need literary consistency in anything you do. Just throw ideas at the wall and make sure they stick even if it doesn’t make any sense. That Ogre that the players were fighting in the dark dungeon was actually the son of the King who had been transformed by a witch so now the King hates you and so does the entire empire all of a sudden because your players were the only ones who didn’t know. When the players try to leverage that information to get aid from the nearby kingdom, pretend it didn’t happen and that the King never really had a son all along, he was just bewitched to think his son was the Ogre and you did him a service. It's sure to keep your players on their toes.
Take Away the Toys
You know those times that the players fall in love with that random NPC you created that has little to no bearing on the plot? Kill that character immediately. Squash them with a boulder from the sky or have the ground swallow them up. Don’t let that NPC sidetrack the important plot you came up with. Only let them fall in love with the characters you designed for them to love. Improvising is hard and it’s not worth the time to rewrite your story to include that random NPC as the secret ruler of the enemy cult or the lost true king.
Make sure that you have the players’ magic items stolen while they sleep. After all, they are way too powerful for them to actually handle, best to cover up your mistake by making it magically disappear on them instead of working to remove the item from the game or decrease its power in an interesting story method. While the thieves are at it, make sure to steal some of that gold you've given them because adventurers are going to destroy that precious economic system you have worked so hard to maintain. Carrying around thousands of gold pieces will have detrimental effects on the economy. Make sure the thief gets eaten immediately after stealing all of their stuff so the body can’t be found and the trail goes cold.
No Pets Allowed
Do your players keep wanting to get more pets and animal companions? Does the ranger always work on making sure that their pet is in peak condition and loves them more than the plot? Well, make sure to kill those right away. Have traps set in the dungeon that immediately trigger only for the pets so they are dropped into a pit of lava or a spinning saw trap. Pets are way too hard to keep track of in-game, and you’d have to get extra artwork or minis for them that you could spend on minis for your cool monsters or supervillain.
Who cares about the layout of rooms, your players only need the bare basics of what is in the room to function. Spend as little time as possibly laying out and describing the scenes your players will spend time in. Only give them details if they ask specific questions about it and then be super vague in those descriptions. After all, you don’t want them accidentally finding that trap you have put into every room in the world. That pressure plate on the floor? Don’t mention that ever, even if they roll high enough because you can change the difficulty of finding it to just above what they rolled. It makes it way more interesting for you if they trip it anyway. You have a perfect image of the room in your head, but your players aren’t in your head so they’ll never understand how awesome it is.
At this point, some of your players might start coming up to you outside of the game with concerns and give you some very well thought out feedback. Well, feedback is just that, and your players are dumb and don’t actually know what they want. It's your job to show them how wrong they are and double down on all the tips in this article. In fact, go so far as to punish them in-game for coming to you with such ideas, that will really show them how wrong they are. After all, this is your game and you run this however you want.
No Content is Off Limits
Tabletop games have a long history of diving into sensitive topics like rape, slavery, racism, bigotry, and persecution. This makes it completely acceptable to do all of these things explicitly in scenes to really villainize your villains. Don’t worry if you have rape victims or PoC in your game or in the audience watching your games. Don’t forget that it's your game, you’re the author, and everything is up to you. Besides, history is where we get our inspiration from, and coming up with other ways of making our villains hated is way too hard. So stick to the tried and true. Your players’ feelings mean nothing if it clashes with your artistic vision.
Make sure for the horror sessions you run for Halloween that you crank this up as much as you want to get the shock and horror factor. When your players suggest using the X-card, make sure to ignore that because who needs that kind of distraction from the game anyway.
Please avoid doing these things if you care about your player’s fun. Make sure that you have come to an understanding at the table of how you DM. If your DM does any of these things and you are having a terrible time, then it's worth bringing it up (if they listen to feedback) or stepping away from the table. I’m not condemning anyone who does any one of these things, because sometimes it's hard to recognize when you are performing something poorly or being unknowingly harmful. My hope is that you take away something from this article that helps you improve your own game to the enjoyment of everyone.
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Featured Image Credt: Wizards of the Coast