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Killer Game Master
aka: Killer DM
Never argue with the GM.

Attendant: How do you deal with players who try to break the game?
Gabe: Lie to them. Rob them. Drive them mad. Concoct impossible scenarios whose only outcome is their death.
And then, when their eyes glisten with shame and rage, drink their tears.

Opposite to the Monty Haul Game Master who heaps rewards by the truckful upon his players, the Killer Game Master has set himself up as a hostile entity playing against them. To this guy, it hasn't been a good day until the players have been forced to roll up several new characters in a single session. In short, this Game Master subscribes to the Amber Law of gaming; the game session is a zero-sum battle of wits between players and GM, and the GM holds all the cards. For exactly this reason, the Killer Game Master is in most cases considered the biggest example of what a Game Master shouldn't be. Since the GM has the ability to kill off the entire party at will at any time, his "winning" such a battle is hardly an accomplishment.

Any world in his hands will inevitably turn into a Crapsack World where every innocent-looking item will turn out to be a Death Trap which kills the player without so much as a saving throw, every magic item they pick up will be cursed or even worse, no NPC (especially not the friendly ones) can be trusted, and their every deed will lead to miserable failure or end up helping the forces of Darkness (or Light, if your band of adventurers is a bunch of evil doers). They won't be crushing orcs or goblins at level one, they'll be getting stomped by ancient red dragons and tarrasques. And frequently, they'll have to make Dexterity checks to avoid randomly tripping and falling down.

If there are paladins or other characters who depend on a certain alignment, this may also extend to making such characters "fall" for such small things that it effectively becomes impossible to actually stay a character of this type for very long. An example of this would be loss of Paladinhood for even the smallest non-combat interaction with an evil character, whose alignment is only revealed after you lose Paladin abilities, as the Paladin code forbids association with characters that you know are evil. Another common 'Killer DM' response to Paladins is to place them in a situation where the paladin must commit an evil act or die/cause the end of the world. You can tell if this is the work of a 'killer' if the Game Master actively torpedoes any attempt to Take a Third Option.

The simplest and most brazen of these will simply collapse the dungeon on the players the moment they enter it. The more subtle have a habit of making life for the average Player Character a living hell where he will perpetually suck. Going Off the Rails is your only hope, and even then you should keep an eye out for falling rocks. If the players are competent enough minmaxers (or if the group sports a bona-fide Munchkin — actually, a Killer Game Master is what happens when a Munchkin becomes a Game Master), this kind of DM may be necessary just to give them a challenge. Conversely, of course, these kinds of game masters can actually inspire Min-Maxing in their players, as they feel they need to do so just to survive a given DM's game.

Some of the oldest Dungeons & Dragons modules seemed to encourage this sort of trial-and-error, Nintendo Hard gameplay, such as the infamous Tomb of Horrors. Gary Gygax, one of the two creators of D&D, has often been accused of viewing the game as a competition between players and DM, when in actuality, he counseled against the Killer Game Master approach in the various D&D manuals (since a DM who sucks all the fun out of the game is likely to no longer have a game; the players always have the option of just getting up and going home), and the "meat-grinder" dungeons that he made were designed for use in tournaments, where the winning team was the one that survived the dungeon with the most characters still standing. Sometimes, entire game settings lend themselves to games where a Total Party Kill is not a question of if, but when.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • The Yu-Gi-Oh! manga and its first anime adaptation is this trope taken to its ultimate extreme: the DM (Ryo Bakura, or at least his dark side) is not just intending for the players to lose, he's actually outright cheating and even goes as far as to invoke evil magic against them. Getting a natural 99 or cheating on their side traps all of the players in their figurines — and by the rules of the game, if their characters run out of HP or the figurines break, they're dead. The trouble for Dark Bakura starts when his good side (a much fairer DM) starts screwing with him... He actually avoids instantly killing the entire party, instead giving them a (.96)^3 chance of dying (which he considered merciful).
  • Sword Art Online's Big Bad Kayaba Akihiko, despite his initial "Zero HP equals real death" rule successfully turns an MMORPG into a Crapsack World, he doesn't seem to be satisfied enough. He disguises himself as Knights of the Blood's guild leader as he will lead the members to the top floor then perform an epic betrayal to kill everyone. Fortunately, his plan is foiled by the protagonist.

    Card Games 
  • Ninja Burger is similar to Paranoia, in that it's designed to be extremely easy to die. Simply being seen by an NPC could result in an invisible ninja running up and cutting your head off. Or even "An NPC saw you. You must commit Seppuku." Yes, the game has an actual mechanic for seppuku.

    Comic Books 
  • The DM in the Jack Chick tract "Dark Dungeons" is evil to the point of declaring a player character dead without even giving the character's player a saving throw. This will remain true in the live-action movie based upon the comic. Dark Dungeons: The Movie! is currently being funded on Kickstarter. The "good version" fanfic actually gives her a motive: she's only a Killer GM to that one player, because she's jealous and wants to drive her away.
    • She has a motive in the tract, as well. She's using the game to find out whether or not the players are worthy of learning "real" witchcraft. The player who let her character die was too weak. Note that since these tracts are designed to teach the truth about non-Christian (i.e. incorrect) lifestyles, the logical conclusion of this is that Jack Chick thinks witchcraftnote  is real.
  • B. A. Felton of Knights of the Dinner Table is sometimes accused by his players of being this, although in fact their characters' demise is more often brought about by their own stupidity. On the other hand, Weird Pete in his first appearance was definitely this. Crutch's Crime Nation game has an incredibly high mortality rate, and yet is incredibly popular with players.

    Comic Strips 
  • "Weird" Pete of Knights of the Dinner Table makes every gamer in Muncie tremble when he steps behind the screen. His campaign world is so ridiculously lethal no-one has survived beyond third level in it. Lampshaded with his "Temple of Horrendous Doom", which requires the characters to die before they can even start the dungeon.
  • FoxTrot
    • In one storyline, Jason convinces Paige to play a game of Dungeons & Dragons with him as the DM. After a week's worth of strips of Paige creating characters for her party, Jason causes the cave to collapse, killing everyone, on her very first turn. Followed, of course, by:
      Jason: Your bodies will remain undiscovered for... (roll roll roll) ...82 centuries!
    • Jason also creates equally sadistic dungeons for his friend Marcus in several strips. Only Marcus actually enjoys it. Jason and Marcus's D&D games tend to be a bit... extreme. There was an instance of an Elven archer taking out 10,000 orcs with one shot.

    Fan Works 
  • A meta-example: Earth Scorpion partially writes Aeon Natum Engel as an imaginary tabletop RPG session. Which explains a lot actually.
  • Mewgle, in the Pokemon Fanfic, Latias Journey. Much more so the second, third, and fourth times around. He also returns for Brave New World as a literal GM, and ends up being banished by the "Holy Dice of St. Gygax".
  • Not so subtly implied of Carapace in the Reading Rainbowverse. She has an obsession with flaming spike traps.
  • Although Natural Twenty is this in The Vinyl And Octavia Series, he claims that he does so to be realistic and that he's not being unfair. Nopony buys it.

    Gamebooks 
  • The Lone Wolf series of gamebooks by Joe Dever absolutely counts as written by a KGM. The second volume is especially infamous as it can result in, among other things, an Unwinnable situation because a key item was stolen from you and never recovered, and an instant death outcome because you didn't fetch a magical weapon (which ITSELF can become an instadeath situation because fetching it puts you against one of the strongest enemies in the book with no warning whatsoever). And that's just two of the many, many deaths you can experience in the average Lone Wolf book. The sheer amount of BAD ENDS in this series is staggering, and the enemies you meet in the later books can be absurd, to say the least (the Chaos-Master and the Ruel Giganites come to mind).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Daniel in the anti-RPG scare film Mazes and Monsters doesn't even let Jay-Jay roll to see if he survives diving into a pit. A pit with gem-encrusted spikes. The team also does not attempt to get enough money to revive him (such as prying the gems off the spikes). Daniel don't even let him just roll a new character at the required level — Daniel just declares the entire campaign over and done with! So... basically, about as accurate as you'd think a film like this would be. In his defense, Daniel didn't actually shut down the game then and there; Jay-Jay just proposed his own LARP-ish idea, which apparently put Daniel's campaign on hold or ended it. Plus, it's very strongly implied Jay-Jay was blatantly being Too Dumb to Live so he could derail the game to make his pitch.
  • In The Cabin in the Woods, being this trope in Real Life is Hadley's and Sitterson's profession. And the players don't even know that they are playing a game, let alone what its rules are.

    Literature 
  • At the beginning of the third book in Peter David's Sir Apropos of Nothing series, Apropos plays a roleplaying game (though not called that, since it's already in a fantastic medieval setting) with a literal killer game master named... Ronnell McDonnell, of the Clan McDonnel. (Apropos eventually bests him... and blows a hole in the ship they were all travelling in at the time.)
  • In Sharyn McCrumb's Bimbos of the Death Sun, Jay Omega plays Killer Game Master in order to try and ferret out the killer of a famous fantasy author: He kills the hero of the dead author's novels in a crushing and humiliating fashion, causing the obsessive fanboy to tip his hand and confess. And by confess, we mean go Ax-Crazy.
  • This Is Not a Game by Walter Jon Williams characterizes each of four friends by their habits when acting as DMs. The most antisocial one has every NPC betray the players, and often sets them up to betray each other. The main character eventually realizes that he expects everyone to betray everyone else in real life as well, and hence betrays them first.

    Live Action TV 
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Worst Case Scenario", Seska had secretly rewritten a holodeck program into a deathtrap for its author, Tuvok.

    Music 
  • Dan Marcotte's song "Screw You, DM!" is about one of these.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Any classic DM that allowed wishes and knew how to use them against the player. Or any DM who got tired of the players abusing Stoneskin. Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies was a common method of dealing with abusers of this particular game breaker. Oh, your spell blocks a dozen hits? Well, let's just drop fifty thousand rocks on you. If you're lucky, you die right away. Otherwise, you get to spend a few frantic actions trying to dig yourself out before you suffocate. Not to mention goblins who carried bags of a dozen stones to throw at the players, especially the wizard, to negate the spell, then would fall upon the spell-caster and massacre him before he could recast it.
    • There's also the fact that spellcasters need 8 hours of uninterrupted rest to renew their spells. Cue constant interruptions...
    • Special mention must be made of how incredibly lethal early editions (1st and especially 2nd) were compared to later editions. Later editions specifically tried to nerf things which weren't fun. For example, early editions had Level Drain, where a character lost 1 or more whole levels permanently, usually with no save. Later editions turned it into a removable debuff which could become permanent. Various editions from 3rd, Pathfinder, and 4th have rules for characters being KO'd when below 0 HP, but early editions played Critical Existence Failure straight barring an optional rule. The rule for max HP at 1st level was optional; you could really be a One-Hit-Point Wonder. A number of spells from Sleep to Unholy Word could wipe out a whole party of the appropriate level with no one receiving a save — and if the caster won initiative, with no-one even getting to take an action. There were goofy "trap" monsters clearly designed just to kill players. Only a few were grandfathered into later editions, like the Cloaker, Roper, and Mimic. Finally, players started to gain a piddling number of HP for gaining levels after 9th-10th level (depending on class/edition) while damage continued to scale for some of the nasties; a great wyrm red dragon in AD&D has higher damage on its breath weapon than 3.5 (144 vs 132). The fighter, meanwhile, has been gaining 3 HP per level above tenth with no bonus for stats, unlike his 3.5 counterpart who should be going up by at least 10 per level. Magic resistance was a flat percentage chance to ignore your spell, with very few ways to overcome it and all of those hidden in obscure splat books. Some monsters could hit about 80% plus. Some of the designers of later editions and Pathfinder have explicitly stated they wanted to avoid these kinds of unfun rules for players.
    • Gygaxian Dungeons such as Tomb of Horrors offered an excellent means to speed player characters to a painful doom, unless they were exceptionally lucky and of godlike intelligence. Gygax created Tomb of Horrors as a Take That to criticism his modules were too soft. It's also one of the best-known and most popular modules he made.
    • There is apparently a module for D&D 3.5 whose pages have a legend across the bottom of every single page that reads, simply, KILL THEM ALL.
  • Amber Diceless Role Playing
    • In Amber, it's not the GM you have to worry about, it's the other characters, most of whom are encouraged to come down with Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
    • The GM is encouraged to foment this from the very beginning with the attribute auction in which players bid character points to attempt to be the best at fighting in one arena or another. Players can overspend character points offset with "Bad Stuff", which is basically a number that represents just how much of a target sign you want painted on your character for "Killer" GM'ing. A common phrase in the Amber community is, "Death is for characters with Good Stuff."
  • Palladium's Beyond The Supernatural was tough, but not overtly hard if you weren't fighting a cosmic being. However, the corebook included a suggested game mode where the characters played normal people, and the GM rolled up a horrific monster which they had to survive against. The idea was to simulate the sort of stuff that goes on in a slasher flick. Hilarity Ensues. The fact that the suggested character class for this is called the "Victim OCC" should have been a tip-off.
  • Call of Cthulhu: Cthulhu devours 1d6 investigators per round. Lose 1d10/1d100 Sanity. It doesn't really take a Killer Game Master to make CoC deadly; just take some stock situations (and if you ever end up actually facing a Great Old One in combat, most fans would argue that you already screwed up beyond repair and are only getting what's coming to you), be willing to let the dice fall where they may, and the system will usually do the rest. Now, if there's a trope for killer game designers...
  • Dont Rest Your Head plays a strange subversion of this trope by which the GM is basically encouraged to try to kill the Protagonists, but the game rules don't allow for quick deaths, but instead slowly wears the Protagonists down until they die, collapse (a Fate Worse Than Death) or turn into a Nightmare (a Fate Even Worse than Collapsing). The result is that Protagonists are often fairly resilient, but, once the game gets going, always a little to close to the edge for comfort. It's a horror game, so this is deliberate.
  • Indy game Kill Puppies for Satan plays this trope for laughs since your characters are basically total losers who commit acts of petty evil for favor from the Devil. The GM (and players) are encouraged to make your characters' lives as miserable as possible.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and its 40K variant Dark Heresy:
    • Rules as written, it is entirely possible for a Wizard or Psyker to cause a TPK by using a single spell or psychic power (in the latter case, even at the very start of the campaign). Combat is incredibly unforgiving as well. Fate Points alleviate this somewhat by almost acting as extra lives but this game's combat system wants you to die and a devious GM will be happy to accommodate you.
    • These games were made by Killer Game Designers. Even a character who is well above average in a stat (say, 40) with a good bonus from training (say, +10) is 30% likely to fail a "Routine" task in a skill they possess. It's amazing the characters, rules as written, succeed in getting dressed every day. Emperor preserve you if you actually have to jump; rules as written, a physically fit human being has a decent chance to leap with all their might...and land ten centimeters from their starting point. With a 30 as his/her score, a character who is standing still and jumps finds it equally probable he can jump ten feet or ten inches (about 20% either way).
    • This trope is enforced, and assimilated into the system, so to speak, in the simpler board games based on Warhammer and 40,000, respectively Hero Quest and Space Crusade. Other players play heroic RPG-ish player characters or small squads of Space Marines led by one, and one player holds all the secret information about what's going to happen in a particular adventure, and controls all the (always hostile) NPCs. This last is obviously a lot like a game master, but the thing is, they are also the designated bad guy who tries to direct their Mooks (and sometimes other nasty tricks) to kill the heroes... and they have to play by the rules too, so the contest is fair. Except when and if, especially in Hero Quest, a "GM" with the right kind of mentality realises that letting the heroes prevail is in the best interests of the campaign, and stops really trying to "win".
  • Paranoia demands this. The sourcebook makes it crystal clear that this isn't one of those nice RPGs where the players cooperate and the GM tells them a story. In Paranoia, the GM is out to kill the players and the players are out to kill each other. Each player is given a six-pack of clones, with more available for purchase, so that character death is a momentary inconvenience. Which it needs to be, since in Paranoia if you don't die early and often you're doing it wrong. (And, of course, it's Played for Laughs.) It's also said that a good game of Paranoia results in deaths during the mission briefings. A really good game results in multiple deaths before the briefing.
  • New World of Darkness (particularly Werewolf and Changeling) inverts the problem that mortal characters had in the old editions (see below): sure, your character probably has freaky supernatural powers, but the mechanics of how dice pools and damage works in the new system means that a particularly death-minded storyteller can pretty easily set up an entirely mundane bystander that can survive death and resist abilities, in turn drawing the attention of mortal organizations filled with rather unfriendly and violent people who are similarly statistically skewed toward resisting terror/disbelief/mind control/fireballs... players that make the mistake of annoying the GM or abusing the npcs too much are frequently rapidly buried under a practical demonstration of the viability of mortal technology and will.
    • Vampire: The Requiem is perhaps the only non-comedic game where it is entirely possible for the player characters to kill each other on first meeting, simply by playing the rules as written. Vampires have what is called the Predator's Instinct, which requires them to resist frenzy on first meeting another vampire. There are ways to mitigate this (if you expect to meet another vampire, you get a decent bonus towards resistance), but if more than one person fails...
    • Genius The Transgression: There are rules for a genius trying to get funding for their schemes, generally causing chaos, havoc, and hilarity as they try get funding for research that mere mortals can't understand. The rulebook tells GMs not to enforce these rules all the time, since it's no fun being a broke and miserable Genius without resources, but says that GMs should bring this up any time they need to cause trouble for the players.
    • In the Old World of Darkness, later rules made it impossible for normal humans to soak (prevent) damage from lethal sources, such as being stabbed, shot, or hit in the head with blunt trauma. Taking more than your stamina in damage (3-4, if lucky) in a turn could stun you. There are only eight health levels, and you accrue huge penalties to all rolls and to movement speed after taking more than 2-3 damage. You can only dodge/parry attacks you are aware are incoming. Anyone with a shotgun who gets the drop on you or who sets up with a hunting/assault/sniper rifle from cover and concealment can simply ruin you; the weapon will average 4-6 damage, and the next shot will likely end it. A truly evil ST could have you simply picked off without warning by a mind-controlled mook or supernatural being with concealment/movement powers, which makes sense in the setting.
    • Changeling The Dreaming was the oddball game in the Old World of Darkness. Since most of the violence took place between fae, it was "imaginary." A player could get cut in twain by a battleaxe or fed to a dragon. His human self would likely wake up in a hospital with very confused doctors attending him a few weeks later, having forgotten his fae side until rescued by his comrades. Fae combat was supposed to be over-the-top violence in the spirit of the best heroic fantasy, and the Killer Game Master was encouraged because everyone was just going to get better. When guns or "real" weapons came out, it stopped being heroic and started being just as ugly as the rest of the WOD.
  • In a similar vein, Eclipse Phase characters almost always have a back up of themselves and so death is not really that much of a problem for them. Oh it sucks for them, and it costs money, but they do survive it. This encourages killer GMing at least towards the end of adventures, both to really stretch the players (who are fully aware they are immortal) and to force some sense of drama by inflicting nasty permanent psychological problems on people.
  • Cyberpunk 2020. It's meant to simulate a gritty, dirty, Darker and Edgier city of the future. It encourages the GM to not let the Player Characters relax or rest without being just a little paranoid. Even of each other. Even Shadowrun, in a similar genre, didn't quite go that far in the sourcebook.
  • If this sublist is for games that only a Killer Game Master would have the group play, Recon might be worth a mention. The fact that it's based on The Vietnam War should give you some idea of how high the fight casualties can be.
  • Speaking of Shadowrun, it is well-known that nine out of ten Johnsons will deal straight with you, but the tenth is the one you really have to watch out for. Characters in a Killer Game Master's game will be lucky to see a single Johnson who will deal straight with them, and more often than not, the reward they are promised will inevitably turn out to be a lie. Shadowrun's zig-zagged this one, having gone through an early phase where player characters were incredibly hard to kill if they had a decent Body stat and armor. It became a joke that stuff happens, but no one cares since it can't penetrate your t-shirt. Later editions over-corrected by upping the lethality, then wound up dialing it back.
  • Traveller is one of the few RPGs where player characters can die during character creation (though supposedly this mechanic was originally intended as a mechanism to prevent dice rolls from generating a character too weak to survive a game). It's probably the only one of those worth playing, though. In more recent editions, they've made "Iron Man" character creation an optional rule.
  • In GURPS there is a disadvantage called "Cursed" which basically says the GM has to be a Killer Game Master to that PC.
  • Ammo is a Tabletop RPG based on (many) manga. Almost every character ("Protagonist") can make himself powerful for a short time (via magic or demonic shapechanging), or until his battlesuit is in working condition (usually a short time). Villains (demons and/or servants, often spellcasters) are powerful most of the time, able to kill a human by sneezing in his general direction. Oh, and what about the Protagonists that have no timed powers? They are scientists, support cast or ineffectual fighters, and should be congratulated when they survive five combat turns. Luckily, combat is just part of the game, and good players know to fight only at their convenience.
  • Greg Vaughan's The Slumbering Tsar Saga has eight pages dedicated to recording the obituaries of player characters who die during that adventure path. The encounters are harsh enough, but nothing cues players in that they're entering an area where the site-based encounters are going to be overwhelmingly over their power level, so PCs tend to die early and often.

    Video Games 
  • Left 4 Dead has truly random spawns, but early in development it was discovered that they needed a way to make it so that things are fairly balanced. They created the AI Director, who usually does a good job, making sure that you don't get a long string of good or bad rolls (via monitoring numerous variables, to know when to step in). Then you play on Expert, and find he stops caring about the bad rolls...
  • Mission Force Cyber Storm is rife with this, since your Bioderms have limited lifespans, you are enticed to send them out on suicide runs with some weapons mean to turn Bioderms to living suicide bombers.
  • Makai Kingdom literally has you be forced through a bunch of dimensions created by rival demonic Overlords. In other words, they're all Killer Game Masters.
  • Temple Of Elemental Evil is also very unforgiving compared to other games. It's easily possible to be interrupted while traveling to the very first area by Trolls which you have no chance of killing with a low level party, and can't run away. And even when you arrive, most people end up being eaten by giant frogs that can potentially take the entire party out of action if you move ahead too quickly. That said, it at the same time does give it a charm in that no matter how many times you've played through it, there's always a reasonably high chance of being obliterated no matter how much you've min/maxed.
  • The Galactic Civilizations II AI will do this via Events. Though they are called "random" events, in practice the game usually does whatever will sow the most chaos it possibly can when things have been going well for a while.
  • A non-malevolent example appears in Borderlands 2: In the DLC Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep, the titular Tina runs a tabletop game... somewhat poorly. One of her flaws is making her challenges too damn tough, such as throwing a Hopeless Boss Fight at you right out of the gate and having ridiculously overleveled enemies in side routes. Downplayed, in that she relents pretty easily and she's simply bad at balancing and properly preparing fights rather than being actively malicious.

    Visual Novels 
  • Umineko: When They Cry. All the Witches ( and Sorcerer) of course. Seeing as they are setting up a murder mystery scenario by killing everyone on an island, then reviving them to restart the game, this is kinda obvious. If things aren't worked out before the seagulls cry, then The Detective (the title given to the protagonist of each story) and the survivors suffer a literal, horrific Total Party Kill.

    Web Comics 
  • Matt from Dork Tower and B.A. from Knights of the Dinner Table are infamous for this. Their players' constant Off the Rails rebellions largely emanate from their frustration over having a control-freak Dungeon Master.
    • B.A. tries to craft elaborate adventures involving roleplay, diplomacy, and intrigue but the players (minus Sarah most of the time) immediately opt for Hack and Slash at the first opportunity. BA started out as a bit of a control freak, but the killer GM tendencies came later after Brian and Bob had trashed one too many of his adventures.
    • B.A. has nothing on Weird Pete. The Knights played one session run by him while B.A. was out of town. He wiped out the entire party five minutes into the session with no die rolls, entirely by GM fiat.
  • This Penny Arcade strip.
    • And this one.
    • And this one.
    • And this one.
    • As it turns out Gabe wasn't harsh enough, and even Tycho is having trouble finding something that would frighten them.
    • At the end of that storyline, it's Deconstructed. Turns out that even if you just kill all the PCs, they'll eventually leave for greener pastures.
    • Further Deconstructed in that, for all Tycho's talk on how a DM should act, he hasn't actually run a game since highschool precisely because of his reputation for being one.
  • Parson Gotti from Erfworld apparently did this to his gaming group at least some of the time. And ended up stuck in one of his own killer scenarios. It's made clear, however, that Parson was just bored as a GM. He specifically stated that his plan was to cheat as much as the rules let him, until his players found a way to cheat him and win. The hope being, of course, that the result would be interesting. Well, when the tables were turned he certainly managed to do something interesting...
  • Darths & Droids
    • Pete when acting as the substitute GM immediately Railroads the characters into the droid construction facility. And gives one character 5 deadly blades to dodge, where he needs a 14 on a d20 not to get hit. Consider the odds of surviving that. Granted, he did it primarily to get revenge on them for letting his character die during another game. After the real GM looks at the layout of the factory, he says "Wow... it doesn't look like anyone could get through this," confirming that the others only made it through by SHEER LUCK.

      To make matters worse, of the three characters caught in the factory, only one had anything to do with that other game; the other two (including the one caught in the five blades) were collateral damage. Didn't stop Pete, obviously. While they're griping at Pete, he starts deriding them for not twigging to the ludicrously specific method he'd written to successfully navigate it. It turns out that you can get through it, if you're a Munchkin like Pete. Later, the regular GM punishes Pete by forcing him to take his character back through the factory he created, which causes him to miss the entire final battle.
    • The annotation for this strip explains the "Wandering Damage" system, which is basically a way to "cut out the middleman" (wandering monsters) "and just deal out damage to the characters directly".
  • In Homestuck: Vriska Serket, when playing FLARP (which is basically Live-Action Role-Play, but with players suffering real-life consequences). She makes monsters that are impossible to beat, and when Tavros refuses to make a move, she mindcontrols him to jump off a cliff, causing his paralysis. She assumed he would be fine . In her formal introduction we learn that she actively tries to kill the other players in FLARP and feeds them to her lusus. And in Eridan's intro, we find out that she doesn't do those things in that order. Defeated players are captured and made to "Walk the plank" by being mind controlled like Tavros was — the plank being the cliff above her lusus's nest.
  • Herbert, the GM who controls the universe in which Goblins is set, will sometimes subject his players to monsters far more powerful than they would be expected to survive against. Examples include the Pit Fiend he sends after a party of level one adventurers when they complain about his DMing, or the shapeshifter that One Hit Kills Tuck by instantly drinking all his blood, then tears Bakka in half as he complains that the monster didn't roll initiative so they had no idea combat had begun.
  • In Casey and Andy, Casey serves Andy's Rogue character such gems as a "gem of detect-proof god-fooling rogue slaying".
  • "Weird" Pete of Knights of the Dinner Table makes every gamer in Muncie tremble when he steps behind the screen. His campaign world is so ridiculously lethal no-one has survived beyond third level in it. Lampshaded with his "Temple of Horrendous Doom", which requires the characters to die before they can even start the dungeon.
  • Played With in the case of Steele from Another Gaming Comic. His goal push his party to the absolute limit of their abilities, such that they can win, but only if they are absolutely at the top of their game. See this strip for an explanation.

    Web Original 
In addition to making the players roll for everything as described above, he also considered the Arduin Grimoire critical hit tables (where it is not uncommon to lose three limbs, among other things) to be coddling the players. Considering the content of the campaign, quick death might be a mercy.
  • When Jeremy from LoadingReadyRun acts as DM, his goal is to kill the party in the first round. Preferably via 40 points of acid damage. When Kathleen, new to Dungeons and Dragons asks what comes after the surprise round during one of Jeremy's encounters, a long-time player replies "... Character creation?"
  • The Spoony Experiment
    • Spoony is notorious for turning simple encounters into bloodbaths, e.g. the Leaping Wizards scenario, where three level 1 wizards incapacitated half of the party that outnumbered them nearly 2 to 1 and several levels higher, and managed to kill two of them. Partly this was due to Spoony changing the loadout on two of the wizards to include a sleep and charm spell to at least give them a fighting chance, and later found out that the games in the club he had been playing at had been made super easy so no one would be sad their character died.
    • A more recent scenario had the party encounter a squad of level 1 zombies. Due to a combination of bad rolls and the party using the wrong type of weapons on the zombies note  led to two of them getting killed. Their horse actually killed more zombies than anyone else, and Spoony had to bring in an absent player's Paladin character to prevent the rest of the party from being killed. Needless to say, this traumatic event has made the party very wary of Spoony.
    • Though to be fair most of the time it really isn't his fault and the player characters were just very unlucky.
  • We Are Our Avatars: The Dungeon Master, a Tabletop Game-themed super villain from Silver City. He narrates the actions of the heroes coming after him and uses giant dice to determine their rolls. He invokes Rule Zero too much and angered Starlight. The group fought back by becoming annoying Munchkins.

    Western Animation 
  • Dexter from Dexters Laboratory does this in one episode, throwing badly unbalanced encounters at the party and changing dice rolls behind the screen all in an attempt to satisfy his ego. Then Dee Dee took over and was a more benevolent DM, and the players rejoiced. For instance, one of the random encounters she threw at the party turned out to be a piņata. As in, resembling a dragon, but full of candy.

    Real Life 
  • The Role-Playing Game Association's Living Greyhawk campaign was rumored to have a 25% death rate per table as one of its goals. Even if it wasn't true, their published modules reinforced this belief.
  • John Goff, who wrote portions of both Dungeons & Dragons and Deadlands. His most infamous creation is the Deadlands Dime Novel adventure known as "Night Train," which is nicknamed the "PC Death Train" by those who went through it.
  • Hampshire College in Amherst, MA has Deathfest, a roleplaying tournament based around this concept. It's the GMs' job to take every opportunity to hurt or kill the PCs. The goal for the players is not so much to survive, but to die in the most creative way possible.
  • Dragonlance author Tracy Hickman's "Killer Breakfast", run for years at GenCon, was a Killer Game Master showcase, in which audience members received numbered tickets to come on-stage, be handed a character sheet, and then concoct an excuse for why their PC just appeared in the Death Trap dungeon. Unimaginative or lame answers got their characters killed immediately; clever excuses (or flagrant bribes of cookies) kept them alive until Tracy thought up a more amusing demise for them.
  • While Gary Gygax wasn't a Killer Game Master, he may have been a trolling one. Dragon magazine once ran a series of columns entitled "Up on a Soapbox" where he describes such things as a trick staircase that fooled players into thinking they were going downward, when really they were going nowhere; the players only found out because he couldn't hide his amusement. And in another column he talked of a time when he fooled a pair of players into releasing a Sealed Evil in a Can so they would lose their Infinity +1 Swords — while Gygax was drunk. One gets the impression that his early games of D&D were a competition between the players and the DM - but a fair competition, where the DM can't just have Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies. (Getting the players to be Hoist By Their Own Petard, on the other hand...)


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alternative title(s): Killer DM; Killer GM
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