15 thoughts on “What’s the cruelest move you’ve seen a GM pull?”

  1. The cruellest move is often not making a move directly, but forcing a player to choose between two very hard options.

    “Lux, if you save Avon now, in the midst of his demonic ritual, he’ll live, but your God will turn their back on you. Can you live with yourself, though, if you let Avon die this way? What do you do?”

  2. It wasn’t actual cruelty by my side, but I once had the ranger choose between taking her last breath or let her wolf die; it was very appropriate at the moment to give her this choice. She saved the wolf and rolled a 4. One of the best games of my life, we were literally crying at the end of it. So many feels.

  3. Kevin Weiser once made my elf mage turn his back on his people’s non-belief in order to save his life. We’d established that elves were atheists. I mean, when you can work powerful magic who needs gods? Through the course of the adventure my wizard found evidence of the old elf gods and started having doubts. A terrible battle later and my character blew a spellcasting roll. My choice was let it fail (and likely die) or succeed but I had to accept the existence of the elf gods and work to promote them going forward.

  4. PK Sullivan I don’t mean to be annoying, but I would feel uncomfortable telling what a character should believe. I mean, it’s not really a GM move. Maybe something like: you will have the unmistakable mark of the elf gods right into your face from now to eternity. But hey, it worked for you in your game, so!

  5. In that instance, Kevin Weiser was making a GM move; “Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask.” He was saying “if you want to succeed, here, you have to give in to all that doubt in your mind. You have to accept that the world is not the way you wanted it to be.” That’s very powerful stuff.

    It’s not telling the character what they believe, it’s giving them a narrative fulcrum on which to tip their characters mind-set.

  6. Still convinced that something like “you will have to promote the gods” won’t work in my games, or specifically, for me! I find the right comfort zone in more “physical” moves, and then watch how characters react by making a free choice.

  7. Alessandro Gianni what do you think of Last Breath bargains that change a characters’ alignment or outlook in some way?

    “You may live, but must dedicate your life to ending those who have magically extended their time in the world of the living.”

  8. Adam Koebel outlook, all the way. Like once a character had to be reconstructed as a mecha-golem in order to survive, and the one who saved him lost an arm doing it. Loads of fun. Alignment, I don’t know. Best case scenario, I’d do it if the player would have expressed some interest in it. Like, “you know, I love fallen paladins…” there you go, you come back from the dead as a badass black guard!

    Actually, I once did something similar to the gods thing: on a 7-9, the dwarven pantheon’s Death let the atheist dwarf artificer survive in exchange of absolute faith, assisted by the dwarf cleric, his long time friend who was trying to convert him since when they were young. It didn’t feel right, it was sort of clunky from that moment onward, and I didn’t do anything similar ever since. I mean, it was like, the player was really enjoying being all scientific and rational, took the opportunity to twist his character but then discovered he didn’t really have an interest in that.

  9. Nathan Roberts OMG what a punny title. I rolled on the Vornheim table the other day for the name of a tavern in the Frozen North and got The Frigid Elephant. So good.

  10. “so you’ve been fired off one ship and at another. You crash heavily into the deck: do you land on your head, or on the arm that’s inflated with infection from the pus monks?”

    He choose the arm. It exploded.

  11. +Alessandro Gianni In our group exactly the same choice came up, and the ranger chose death to keep her wolf alive. Plenty of animal lovers pick the Ranger it seems.

  12. Myles Corcoran I’d love to extend the discussion about how that specific player of mine doesn’t really care about animals but she sees the animal companion as the friend she always wanted to have, but that’s meat for another topic! 🙂

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