[RPG] What’s the name of style where GM assumes idiotic behaviour unless stated otherwise?


When I played my first two actual RPG sessions in 2013, the GM treated me in a bit… peculiar way.

  • The first session was in Prehistoryk. (For context: it's an RPG system where all PCs are hunter-gatherers, and have to distribute 10 points between Strength and Intelligence – the former is the stat used in literally all rolls, while the latter is the number of words your character can speak (or, in some variants, understand), aside from their name. This means that players communicate with the GM almost exclusively through grunts and gesticulation, so all game-related communication takes longer, is difficult and has a chance of failing.) We were going through a mountainous region and didn't know where to go next. I decided to have my character climb onto another character to scout the surroundings. After some time, I managed to communicate that to GM and he told us where to go next. We decided to move on, and GM told us that we arrived at a top of cliff and announced that since my character didn't announce that he climbed down from the other character, he – precisely at the edge of the cliff, not earlier – falls down the character, down the cliff, and *dice roll* dies.

  • The second session was in Gone with the Blastwave RPG. We started waking up in our camp at the top of a skyscraper in a war zone. My character tried to get down to the streets, but GM said that the door wouldn't move. I asked him why the door didn't move – he refused to provide details. Then I made an argument that since our characters probably barricaded the door, my character should probably know how the door was barricaded, particularly since I was the scout of the group – he refuse to provide details. I said I disassembled the barricade, but GM refuted that I need to be more specific. I then made my character pry open the door with a crowbar, which resulted in part of the board that clearly and visibly was blocking the door to splinter of, hit my character in the face, and take out 10% of my HP. The point here is – even with me, the player, having practically zero knowledge about the task, my character still managed to do it in the most counter-intuitive, nonsense way possible.

Is there a term for such gaming style, where the GM assumes that the character does any suicidal, nonsense action unless the player speaks directly about performing minor, common sense actions?

EDIT: As KRyan points out in the comments, this style is not necessarily a bad thing. Despite my poor personal experience, it would be a good fit for some systems/settings/campaigns, like Paranoia as a whole or a campaign of Maid RPG centered around constant risk of committing faux pas.

Best Answer

I'd call this "fail-dangerous", as in, the opposite of "fail-safe". A fail-safe style would be to assume that your characters will, in absence of evidence to the contrary, preserve their own lives in simple and obvious ways. What you have is that, in absence of evidence to the contrary, your characters are stupid, and will die - which means that the players have to protect and guide them. (Sounds like some video games I know.)