I haven’t had many truly crummy gaming experiences. Certainly not on the level of others I’ve read about. The same goes for funny experiences, at least beyond the silliness that ensues (I assume) in most game groups.
Among the bad experiences, but not the worst, were a couple of convention games many years ago. One was a Palladium Fantasy game that was, for all intents and purposes, a continuation of a regular game. Nearly all of the players were the regular players, and everybody else was handed the PC of a player that wasn’t present. I received a female healer (I didn’t have a choice) who was in a relationship with another PC (awkward). I was constantly having my actions countermanded by the GM as “That’s not what she would do.” I came up with an excuse to be somewhere else pretty quick.
The second game was a Champions game. Apparently the GM ran the same scenario, with the same characters, every time. The character sheets he handed out were stained, marked and falling apart. The scenario was like a railroad on a conveyor belt, bundled up and frozen to absolute zero. Predictably, after the game the GM asked for the character sheets back.
The last one was a GURPS game where the GM made everyone sign what amounted to an NDA promising not to reveal any of the contents of the scenario. He had some kind of prizes, but I never got around to figuring out what they were because the game was so mind-numbingly boring.
My worst experience, however, was playing Tribe 8. Prior to this game, my buddy and I had an awesome group that, unfortunately, split up due to a number of factors. We searched for a replacement group online and after talking to a few people thought we had found good matches. Showing up at their apartment, I finally knew the true meaning of “Cat Piss Man”. The place was disgusting, reeked of cat piss and cat vomit and who knows what else. They let their cats rampantly jump up on people, knock things over, etc. There were some excuses given about illness (cat or human, I’m not sure), but we still cut the session pretty short. Granted, I’m the type that busts my ass to clean our house up even when people I know well who won’t judge me are coming over. Near strangers? I have to fight back the urge to repaint the walls and scrub things that they’ll never even see, like the underside of the refrigerator (yes, I said underside).
On the way home, my friend was pretty disgusted by the whole thing, plus being in the apartment caused a bad asthma attack (he had deadly asthma and a heart condition). I called the people and explained my friend had asthma and a bad heart, and their place wasn’t fit for him to be in for long periods of time. The cats would need to be relocated or contained, and the place thoroughly cleaned. They seemed like all right people, so Anthony offered for us to play at his place (he did have the most awesome geek bachelor pad), but they had transportation issues. They promised it had just been a bad patch and that things were getting cleaned up. We went back for a second session, and it hadn’t happened – on top of that, they were turning out not to be so all right, in terms of personality and appropriateness (which I was starting to get in email conversations). We made up a crisis, bailed and afterward I called the game off, citing our honest inability to function in that environment.
As for hilarious experiences, there were a couple good convention games. One was a Mekton Zeta game I was running, where the players totally got into their characters. A player rolled a “pet” on their Lifepath and decided it was a reptile-like creature named “Commander Mander”, who he gave a little helmet proceeded to talk to the entire session. The second game was a Cybergeneration game that was supposed to involve the characters being trapped in a mall after dark, where we would have to fend off vampires or zombies or something. Instead, we never got around to that, instead running around the mall doing crazy things, getting into teen age drama, and then getting into a massive paintball fight that ended with one character getting accidentally shot with a real gun (one of the maxims of Cybergeneration was that the children of the Cyberpunk Edgerunners hated firearms). The GM just rolled with it, and it was awesome.
Right after high school I ran an unintentionally hilarious Mekton game set during a Kargan invasion of Elara. Two of the players, who were dating at the time, played the pilot and sensor operator of a recon mech. We established there was an access tunnel connecting the two cockpits, and the girl’s character was in the top cockpit. Their in-character arguments in the middle of combat were true comedy, especially when she decided to drop wrenches on his head because he decided to go melee with another mecha (she had no piloting control over the suit). When he shut the hatches, she hacked them and dumped the whole tool bag on him. The game turned out to be a strange combination of Red Dawn, Stripes and M*A*S*H. To make things even more colorful, that game was typically hosted at my friend’s house. His mom was remarkably…friendly. Nowadays she would probably be classified as a cougar. The bonus is she did make snacks and whatnot for game night.
Then there was the game – I think also Mekton, but perhaps Shadow World or Champions – that broke out into a fist fight. Or, at least, a “throw a punch and the other guy runs away screaming” fight. All of the players had gone to high school together (or even junior high) except for me (I was introduced to the group by a mutual friend while I was in high school myself). Two of them had a running animosity, but one was extremely passive aggressive about it. After a few sarcastic remarks, the other one had enough, jumped up, and took a swing at him from across the table. What ensued was a bunch of running throughout the house with yelling, screaming, possibly crying, hiding, jumping over couches, and the host desperately trying to restore order before his grandparents were woken up. Also, a wiener dog chasing everyone, barking and nipping at their ankles.
Similarly, a Cyberpunk game when I was in the Marines resulted in one of the players – a very short Filipino guy – throwing such a gigantic temper tantrum over something or other that we actually put him in a wall locker until he settled down.
I’m sure that there are a decent number of groups out there that have even more horrific or funnier stories. What are yours?