[RPG] Should I leave this group or recover it


Long Version

I got a friend into Pathfinder less than a year ago. She had lots of fun. She had so much fun she decided to become a DM/GM. I was very excited about it.

Her grasp of the rules is terrible, but I told her I'd let her know if she got too far off course. That's not the problem. The problem is she is an awful GM.

I'm pretty sure she takes it personally when we solve her material any way other than how she plans.

She targets people that challenge the logic (or lack of most of the time) of her world:

  • Last week, another player kept asking why the population of a city we had just visited dropped by 20,000, yet no mass exodus or plague had happened to cause it. Not even 5 minutes later, a red dragon at least 10 CR above us swooped down, ate the player, then proceeded to kill the other half of the party (we ran away obviously).

  • Another time I questioned why something barely larger than a lake was an ocean when it wasn't even salty. She killed me with a shark immediately after.

    (At that point I was no longer emotionally invested in my character, so it was pretty funny at the time. I think laughing when I got killed just made her angrier. 😛 )

I've tried to teach her the best I can (I've done 2 sandbox style campaigns to the end with no complaints) and she won't listen or even try to fix what's wrong. I'm trying really hard to keep the campaign alive by stepping and putting it back on the rails every so often, but it's obvious she doesn't care.

Short Version

Should I leave or try to teach the DM/GM what she's doing wrong? Do I share responsibility for this awful campaign because I encouraged her to start it?

The group as a whole is unhappy, this isn't just me ranting. I have been upfront with her the whole time, and she gets upset/more defensive when I point out larger mistakes. I've already upset her a lot by saying straight-up what all the problems are in private. I'm contemplating just leaving and letting the campaign deteriorate on it's own, to preserve the friendship.

Best Answer

There's a common phrase: "Vote with your feet." She's entrenched and defensive, to the point that she is vindictively killing PCs to punish players. That is never acceptable, and a very strong sign that this is beyond fixing without breaking it a bit more and starting over. You can talk to her outside the game, and that might help and is always worth trying first, but you've tried and at this point more words are unlikely to get through.

Your instinct to leave to avoid more strife, and continued unhappiness in a pastime that is supposed to be fulfilling, is right. You always have to be willing and ready to walk, else you're a willingly-captive audience. Words are hollow if you're going to stay no matter what she does. If you're going to stay, she doesn't need to change, right?

Leaving doesn't need to be hard for you or unpleasant for her

Be ready to walk, but don't try to use the idea of leaving to convince her to change, since threats aren't going to bring a defensive person out of their emotional bomb shelter. If there is no change, and it sounds like there won't be, walk.

When you leave the game, communicate clearly and without venom that this game isn't for you and that you won't be participating anymore. You don't need to justify or explain (which will just invite argument), just inform that you're not going to play. If she tries to argue with you, don't try to convince her (her permission isn't needed!), just respond by gently repeating that the game isn't for you and you won't be playing anymore, then remove yourself physically from the conversation.

You can use this calm repetition again later if she seeks you out to try to start an argument. Feel free to talk with her otherwise; she's your friend, after all. If she wants to talk about the game and you feel like it's an honest attempt to communicate, feel free to. If it becomes an argument, of it becomes an attempt to convince you to stay/return without actually changing anything, the best you can do is express your preference to not talk about that:

I prefer not to discuss returning to the game right now. How about we talk about something else?

You can repeat that as necessary when the conversation is going in unproductive directions. Also feel free to back it up with "You're my friend, but I don't want to have this conversation now" calm repetition+leaving response.

Leaving is the best thing that could happen to her as GM

She does need your help, and leaving is probably the biggest help you can give her. She can't continue like this if she ever wants to GM again. She needs to stop if she doesn't want to ruin friendships. You're doing her a favour by leaving, because leaving works.

Why does walking work? Actions speak louder than words and don't invite argument. She can't fight a person who isn't there and make them "stop being absent!" by flexing her GM muscles. You can't fight an absence, and absences don't provoke the fight/flight reflex that arguments do, but absence is very loud. And if she's not fighting, she has a chance of hearing the message sitting in that empty chair.

Walking also discharges any responsibility you might feel for the other players: you've broken the illusion that the gathering is socially OK, and shown them a way out. You've also shown the GM that the remaining players have a way out, and maybe they can now get through to her with words. But regardless, they're their own people and responsible for their own happiness and choices, so leaving also discharges your perceived responsibility: by trusting them to use their own words/actions to take care of their own needs.