My inbox is abuzz because one guy has posted a "I want to run a PFS game where I will go all-out to kill you." What he calls "Hardcore Mode" where he is flat out trying to kill people. That's not quite my cup of tea at least at the lower levels but at the high level: BRING IT ON. My characters are built to beat the crap out of your NPC/monsters, but I also planned them to survive the return punch. Low-level... meh...
What really got me irked this morning is the littany of players who act all holier-than-thou. "YOU CAN'T DO THAT!" and begin putting up a number of posts by Mike Brock, Chris Tulach, Elvis, or their cousin's dog to prove their point. They want robots to run endless, boring adventures where their characters can smash through everything and have everyone in the universe marvel at their greatness.
GMs are people. Every person has different interests. They bring a different baggage to the table. Their own experiences, tastes, skills, talents and abilities. They're not ALL the same.
What will these whiny bitches accomplish?
One less GM willing to run what HE like, less play opportunity for ME, they win, everybody loses.
Yes I call you whiny bitches because that is the EXACT result you will accomplish.
People who offer to GM adventures do so because it is fun for THEM to do so (usually). I've played with enough players in PFS to know that many have yet to take damage in 2-5 levels. My own AC 13 character spent 5 adventures without taking a single point of damage from the bad guys!
If someone wishes to put up a HARDCORE MODE adventure, then he is welcomed to try! If he gets a table of maniac who share his obsession for death & mayhem, let them!
Where my problem is/would be
A GM who does NOT announces that he is running in this Hardcore Mode and who surprises the party would be in bad form. Usually, with a bunch of dead characters in his wake.
As long as everyone knows what they're getting into, then that's fine. You're not a jerk if you are told "I will kill anyone who goes down" AHEAD OF TIME. If you start doing it as a "SURPRISE! I'M PLAYING IN DICK MODE" I would support anyone picking up their stuff and leaving with a "this is not what I signed up for" comment (and a rude gesture including your middle finger).
The Game Contract
This is what I call "the game contract." If everyone sits down knowing this is gonna be as tough as the GM can make it. Then FINE, let people play together if they want. If they all want to have the "Bambi Mode" where the bad guys only tickle them for no damage and the PCs don't attack either. THAT'S ALSO FINE. You will find that most people prefer a middle-of-the-road option. I would not participate in Bambi mode and I'm likely not to take on Hardcore mode either.
But prevent it from happening?
The Positive Experience
I've always been outspoken and a strong proponent of offering people what they want. That's why I love NeoExodus so much. I can change or adapt the adventures to my group as much as I want. My goal is to provide a "positive game experience". And players are not ALL the same. Heck! I have changing moods and sometimes I do want to just kick the door, defeat the monster and steal his stuff. Other times I want to plan and interact with NPCs.
As a GM, make sure everyone leaves with this positive experience and people will love you for it. I don't go out to kill players, it happens. I don't like it. However, at my table you are guaranteed to have a challenge and I think I'm pretty competent in my craft overall.
I make no qualms that I change, tweak, adapt, cheat, or modify adventure for them to be more interesting for me to run. I will fudge dice rolls, make odd math calculations, ignore tactics, change maps (usually making them larger), merge combats, whatever I can to make the player's experience positive and entertaining. In spite of this, I generally run with full tables most of the time, whether it be Call of Cthulhu, NeoExodus, (I don't really GM PFS anymore but) PFS, or any other game system.
Running cons, I've always encouraged my GMs to provide that positive experience to players. That will keep our hobby strong, growing and fresh. Following hardcore guidelines that turn GMs into a computer is one of my main disagreement with Mike Brock and PFS under him. It'll work until the next good thing come along and the good GM jump ship. Where did I see that before... it was in 2009 or so... What was... oh yeah! Many good GMs jumped to Pathfinder from 4e because they felt like they had some freedom to run their game...
Bad GMs get no players. Bad players get no table
A GM that runs adventures with a chip on his shoulder quickly finds himself alone. No one joins his tables. There are local GMs who I never sign up for their games simply because I know they run the Bambi mode and I'll never fail, rarely take damage, and it'll be a nice walk in the park.
Just like a player who is a dick is not invited.
And word get out quick. If "Joe" runs his game oddly, people know. A number of GMs at local cons are not asked or offered to GM for these reasons. The problem is that a GM who doesn't run, doesn't improve...
But what about the Campaign admin?
Really? Do you really think any campaign admin can do ANYTHING about it? No. No they can't. So I bought the scenario, organize my own table with my friends. Do you think any campaign administrator has the time or the interest to come to your house and forbid you from running. If they do they are not doing their job, and I don't know any campaign admin who falls into that category.
Stop panicking and stop your whining. Make characters that the aren't one-trick pony you've been trained to create because it is the best build. And PLAY.
I stand by my original assessment. If the GM announces his intentions and the players KNOWINGLY sign up for it. Then GO FOR IT!
It's unreasonable to think that some type of "OP Police" exists. If everyone agrees that we're ignoring the rule for XYZ, then fine.
Of course if you agreed, don't come crying "the GM did Z, he's not suppose to."
Yeah I know you think you can do that. And you might get away with it too. Okay your death is invalidated by act of campaign staff, the GM gets publicly insulted.
Your character lives... But I know one table you will be invited at again.
Have fun playing with yourself! (Pun intended but the non-double-entendre is also valid).