Follow TV Tropes


Killer Game Master
aka: Killer GM

Go To
Never argue with the GM.
Black Mage: You ever get the feeling that universe is a vast, impersonal emptiness that exists to only hurt you?
Red Mage: Yes, it's how we know DM is doing his job.

Opposite to the Monty Haul Game Master who heaps rewards by the truckful upon their players, the Killer Game-Master has set themself up as a hostile entity playing against them. To this person, 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. This is the Munchkin on the other side of the GM screen - equally obsessed with winning, and in this case winning means a Total Party Kill. 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, them "winning" such a battle is hardly an accomplishment.

Any world in a Killer Game Master's hands will inevitably turn into a Death 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. They won't be crushing orcs or goblins at level one, they'll be getting curbstomped 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 those falling rocks. If the players are competent enough minmaxers (or if the group sports a bona-fide Munchkin — actually, a Killer Game Master is one possibility for what happens if 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.

Compare to Unwinnable Training Simulation, when a training exercise acts like a Killer GM towards trainees.


    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 (Dark Bakura, an evil spirit possessing Ryo Bakura through the Millennium Ring) 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 the actual Ryo (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, locked his players into a virtual reality game where reaching Zero HP equals real death. Then he prevents the artificial intelligence that was supposed to help the players deal with this trauma from helping them by locking her inside Cardinal. Third, he creates rooms where healing and teleportation crystal (literal lifelines) are rendered useless. The 25th floor boss is a Difficulty Spike, along with the 50th and 75th one. If all of that weren't bad enough, He disguises himself as Knights of the Blood's guild leader so he can perform an epic betrayal at the final level. On the other hand, "safe zones" are definitely always safe, which Kirito notes and becomes a plot point in one of the side stories. He also invokes Let's Fight Like Gentlemen with his final duel with Kirito, and though he kills both Kirito and Asuna, he allows both of them to survive Aincrad's destruction.
  • Yukio Tonegawa in Kaiji was The Dragon to the ringleader for the Deadly Game that Kaiji found himself in, and organized most of the events which were seemingly designed to keep as many people in debt as possible so they could have more poor people maimed for their amusement. In the second round the contestants are forced to race across narrow beams in exchange for their prize... which is revealed to be the opportunity to do it all over again from an even more precarious height in order to finally get their money. The ringleader, Kazutaka Hyōdō, was even worse as he was a sadistic lunatic who lived to make others suffer.
  • Goblin Slayer has the god Truth. Truth and other gods of their ilk treat the world as a role-playing game with random rolls. Truth will tip the odds against the characters by increasing the number of monsters, cranking up monster power, putting traps in rooms and other dangers. He's thus incredibly frustrated by the titular Goblin Slayer, who never leaves things to chance and "never let's the gods roll the dice".
  • Blade Skill Online has the Devs of the titular game. At first, they're well-meaning but incompetent idiot-savants who are excellent programmers but total idiots at everything else and can't formulate a valid business model to save their lives, even leaving their official website completely unsecure to the point internet trolls can just jump in at any time and recommend the weakest possible job, weapon, skills, and stat builds to new players as the most powerful and promising. But once Yuri joins the game, and succeeds to unprecedented levels in spite of the handicap of getting the quadfecta of choosing the worst of all four go out of their way to target Yuri for nerf, NPC harassments, negative karma, the hardest possible game-play, and even hiring (in game) assassins from other rival VRMMO, because they're butt-hurt that Yuri is winning the game via legit Flaw Exploitation, Loophole Abuse, Combat Pragmatism, niche equipment and monster synergy, and taking advantage of his hard-earned accomplishments and skills.

    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 being funded on Kickstarter. Her motive for doing this is that 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 witchcraft (as it's portrayed in Dungeons & Dragons) is real.

    Comic Strips 
  • Knights of the Dinner Table:
    • B.A. Felton is sometimes accused by his players of being this, although in fact their characters' demise is more often brought about by their own stupidity. 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. B.A. 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.
    • On the other hand, "Weird" Pete makes every gamer in Muncie tremble when he steps behind the screen. 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. His campaign world is so ridiculously lethal no-one has survived beyond third level in it. It is Lampshaded with his "Temple of Horrendous Doom", which requires the characters to die before they can even start the dungeon.
      • He met his match with Sara, however. His attempts to kill her character were all Epic Fails, because she was just too savvy. Even when he gets frustrated and pulls out the Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies maneuver, Sara simply invokes a magical debt to survive it and then uses class level skills to begin digging her way out.
    • Crutch's Crime Nation game has an incredibly high mortality rate, and yet is incredibly popular with players.
  • 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 is as sadistic as they come. In his first appearance, he removes every save point in the game, and this is the tamest thing he does. He returns for Brave New World as a literal GM who abuses GM privileges like hidden die rolls, extremely broken equipment for his own character and making the game Unwinnable by Design (until Leo out Rule-Fus him). He 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.
  • In Pony POV Series, Shining Armor and his friends are playing a friendly game of Oubliettes & Ogres when the Blank Wolf takes over Gaffer's body and turns him into a Killer Game Master. He separates Shining's character from the party and attacks him with a version of the Blank Wolf, and actively resists Shining's attempts to flee or fight back and his party's attempts to assist him. It is implied that the in-game Blank Wolf killing Shining's character would have resulted in the same fate for the real one. Fortunately, the Wolf is forced to leave when one of Shining's friends attempts a Heroic Sacrifice for him (one rule the Blank Wolf cannot break is that it cannot harm anyone except its targets).
  • The GM of the All Guardsmen Party has his players roll up hundreds of Player Characters in their first session, and kills off nearly all of them - only 37 survive. Not for nothing is he described as being "on the 'Hitler scale' of death measurement".
  • One flashback side story in Roommates: Memoirs of the Hairless Ape shows that Beanie used to be one, setting traps everywhere and treating it like "winning" when she kills a character. Naturally, everyone gets angry with her and she even drives one player to tears after the time it took to create the character. She learns better by the end of the story and the present day, though.
  • Whatever Happened to Elfstar?: As in the original tract, Gina Frost springs a trap on Black Leaf, Marcie's character, even though Black Leaf would have seen it coming, then declares her dead without a saving throw. The fic actually gives her a more realistic motive: she's only a Killer GM to that one player, because she's jealous and wants to drive her away.
  • In When Reason Fails, Izuku can be a sadistic Dungeon Master, and Katsuki says letting him be the DM of a Dungeons & Dragons session is a mistake people make only once.
    Katsuki's Thoughts: He still remembers the delighted grin on his face when Deku announced to the group that the mimic they just destroyed was actually the mission end treasure chest that the BBEG, in the last gesture of defiance, enchanted to appear like a mimic.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Daniel in the anti-RPG scare film Mazes and Monsters puts an instant death trap into his dungeon, a pit filled with gem-encrusted spikes. When Jay-Jay's character jumps into the pit, Daniel simply announces that his character dies, without any rolling or chance for escape. Daniel seems as dismayed by this eventuality as the rest of the party, making one wonder why he put an instant-death trap in his dungeon in the first place. This is all about as accurate to actual tabletop games as you'd expect from such a screed.

  • From the Lone Wolf series, 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. There's also 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).

  • 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.
  • In Robert Bevan's Critical Failures (also known as Caverns and Creatures), the "Cave Master" Mordred gets pissed at the players for not taking the game seriously and making fun of him, so he uses a set of magical dice in his bag to send them all into the game as their chosen characters, where they have a real chance of dying for real. To be fair, though, Mordred at least makes a genuine effort to keep the most dangerous foes from the players, while they're still level 1. He even helps out Julian, a novice player, several times by explaining how spell selection works and which spells are useful. However, Mordred doesn't hesitate to send people into this world if it's convenient, such as when the sister of one of the players comes home early and demands to know where her brother is, Mordred tosses her one of the magic d20 dice, she tosses it right back at him, rolling a 1 (Critical Failure) which results in her being transported into the game. He does the same to her boyfriend, who shows up minutes later. He appears to have a hair-trigger temper, and his usual response to being insulted is to resort to murder. Also, he later reveals that he's done that to at least one other group of players before them, who are either still stuck in that world or dead. At the end of the first book, Tim tricks Mordred into going into the Chicken Hut's freezer, which can't be unlocked from the inside, only to discover that Mordred needs his magic dice in order to bring them back, and the dice are outside the freezer.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Squid Game, the first two rounds of the titular Deadly Game contain the possibility, however remote, that every player could survive. From Game 3 on, the challenges are designed to kill other players, if not directly then as a consequence of others winning.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Worst Case Scenario", Seska had secretly rewritten a holodeck program into a deathtrap for its author, Tuvok.
  • Don't expect games in Kamen Rider to be fair:
    • Kamen Rider Ryuki is about thirteen people being recruited to participate in the Rider War, a Highlander-style game where they must fight until only one remains. What they don't know is that the thirteenth Rider, Odin, is under the direct control of the Game Master, Shiro Kanzaki, and impossibly broken to such a degree that any of the others winning the war is impossible. Whenever things don't go the way he wants, Kanzaki can use one of Odin's many powers to reset time all the way back to the beginning of the Rider War.
    • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid has three different game masters in charge of Kamen Rider Chronicle over the course of the show, and all of them are this trope. The game's creator Kuroto Dan, a raving lunatic with a god complex, is the nicest GM, because his version is theoretically beatable...if you played it every day for sixteen years and survived. Parado, Kuroto's Dragon with an Agenda, intends to use the game to slaughter humanity as revenge for their repeatedly destroying video game characters like himself. Masamune, Kuroto's sociopathic father, intends to hook every person in the world into playing an unbeatable version of Chronicle so that he can become the absolute ruler of the world.
    • Kamen Rider Geats centers around the Desire Grand Prix, a game held every few months whose winner is granted any wish, and which the title character has been winning for the past 2,000 years while spending his wishes on efforts to crack the secrets of the game and its connection to his Missing Mom. By the time the series begins, the Game Master is completely fed up with Geats and actively trying to eliminate him, with an increasingly callous disregard for the rules in how he does so.

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


    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—once you hit zero HP, you were dead. The rule for max HP at 1st level was optional; you could really be a One-Hit-Point Wonder, especially if you were a wizard. 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. Death was the default effect for poisons; those which only impaired or inflicted damage had to be specifically designated as such. Cursed magic items generally killed the character who tested them out, often without a saving throw. 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 2E 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.
      • Although Tomb Of Horrors is one of the most well known killer modules, it is far from being the hardest one. Nearly all of the traps in Tomb of Horrors have clues about how to avoid them, although the clues are often very well hidden. It is designed to force the players to use their brains and punish players for kick-in-door style play.
    • 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.
    • There are some pre-Fifth Edition modules for Ravenloft that instruct the game masters to not tell their players that they're going to be entering Ravenloft through its Mists; some GMs interpret this as "lie to your players about the genre you're playing in and encourage sub-optimal builds".
  • The Pathfinder Second Edition playtest module Doomsday Dawn has a side mission called Heroes of Undarin that is designed to end in a Total Party Kill by having the player characters face waves of enemies that are way more powerful than what they can reasonably be expected to beat at their level. Since it is part of a playtest module, it was written as a way of testing the game's combat system by putting the players in an unbeatable scenario. And even if the players do manage to win, there is no reward because they don't get to use the same characters in later parts of the book, and if the player characters all die the ritual the players are defending will always be finished just as the last character dies so their deaths are not in vain, so it technically isn't possible to actually fail the mission either.
  • In Amber Diceless Role Playing, 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:
    • In its purest form, this game has the trope built into it, as the player characters are all human investigators who grapple with eldritch abominations. The characters can only succeed in the short term, as the more they interact with monsters, the more Insanity points they acquire. Surviving monster attacks only prolongs the inevitable. The most powerful abominations are many times more powerful than any possible group of player characters. Cthulhu himself infamously eats 1d6 investigators each round automatically. There's a reason why you never hear about groups playing the same Call of Cthulhu campaign for more than a few sessions.
    • It's also worth noting this is a game where your character is lucky if they die quickly and early on, blissfully ignorant of what's really happening.
    • The infamous Old Man Henderson, a.k.a. "the only character to ever win Call of Cthulhu"note  was created as a response to a particularly sadistic Killer Game Master in order to deliberately send his campaign Off the Rails as revenge for killing Henderson's player's previous character in a completely BS manner (dropping a horse out of an airplane right on top of him).
    • The campaign recapped in The Adventures of Herr Schnitzelnazi rolls with it, wherein, as the name suggests, the players deliberately came up with unlikeable assholes who are intended to be crushed to paste at the earliest opportunity (to whit, a Jerk Jock with an indeterminate amount of identical brothers, a republican senator who is openly hostile to Green Energy Initiatives and poor people, the senator's bodyguard, and a 92-year old, thoroughly bonkers afroamerican nazi who was Hitler's chauffer). Schnitzelnazi lives a surprisingly long time, surviving his carload of dakka being eaten by a monster, a plane crashing into a gas station, a fight with the army, and finally, making a Heroic Sacrifice to nuke the Great Old Ones power nexus.
  • Don't 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. Instead, the session 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 HeroQuest 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 HeroQuest, a "GM" with the right kind of mentality realizes that letting the heroes prevail is in the best interests of the campaign, and stops really trying to "win".
  • Descent: Journeys in the Dark follows the HeroQuest model in actually pitting the Overlord against the Player Party. In a nice touch, Overlord victories in Act I of a campaign result in completely different scenarios being played in Act II, compared to if the heroes had won, further incentivizing the Overlord to win.
  • Paranoia has this as its main appeal and is Played for Laughs. The sourcebooks 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, often, and as absurdly and arbitrarily as possible you're doing it wrong. 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. No character in any given session is expected to carry over into the next session.
  • New World of Darkness:
    • The new setting increases the resilience and power of mortal characters. Supernatural player characters may have freaky supernatural powers, but the mechanics of how dice pools and damage works mean that a particularly death-minded storyteller can pretty easily set up an entirely mundane bystander that can resist the player characters' abilities, bringing them to the attention of even more dangerous humans and triggering a potentially fatal demonstration of the efficacy of mortal technology and will.
    • With the introduction of the God-Machine, this phenomenon is played with in an incredibly meta fashion, seeing as the G-M is a terrifying Eldritch Abomination that organizes bizarre sequences of events in order to achieve certain results, with players usually taking the role of interlopers that try to send its plans Off the Rails.
    • 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, and the book outright states that your characters have almost certainly met nearly every local vampire beforehand), 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In the world of Shadowrun, it's 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 Shadowrun 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: the game is more realistic in how it deals with combat and damage, so characters are much more easily killed than in most other games. There is also 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.
  • The line of Grimtooth's Traps books are clearly targeted at this type of GM. Each book includes a selection of trap concepts suitable for any fantasy RPG setting, all presented in a light-hearted manner encouraging the reader to make his players scream for mercy. One installment, titled Grimtooth's Traps Lite, focused on the less-lethal traps for game masters who would rather not simply kill off their whole party in one go.
  • Lamentations of the Flame Princess is criticized for being very cruel to the players in ways that may be amusing to the game master but are not fun for the players. Modules by the original author Raggi are filled with Moon Logic Puzzles and unavoidable traps. Many of them are impossible for the players to win, or can only be won by doing very specific things that the players are unlikely to think of and don't have any clues pointing to them. The supplements and modules by other authors are better though.

    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 travelling to the very first area by Trolls which you have no chance of killing with a low level party, from which you are unable to flee. 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, there's a strange sort of charm in that no matter how many times you've played through it, there's always a reasonably high chance of getting obliterated no matter how much you've min/maxed.
  • The Galactic Civilizations AI will do this via Events. Though they're 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. Someone's about to conquer everyone else with an unbeatable army? Weird space stuff permanently makes hyperdrive super-slow, making conquest infeasible. The player has a perfect society with a booming economy and happy citizens? There's a sudden mass rebellion across all of space by a faction opposite in alignment to your own, probably taking a fair chunk of your most prosperous planets with it. Everything is peaceful for a while? A political leader suddenly gets assassinated, causing war to break out, and due to the nature of the AI in Galactic Civilizations, everybody will jump in on this.
  • A non-malevolent example appears in Borderlands 2: In the DLC Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep, Tiny Tina, a 13-year-old girl who isn't quite right in the head, runs a tabletop game... for the first time ever. 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 (level 100 in a game where the level cap with all DLC is 72). Downplayed, in that she relents pretty easily and she's simply impulsive and inexperienced at balancing and properly preparing fights, rather than actively malicious.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Monster Capsule GB, losing in the RPG Worlds means Game Over, and Kaiba and his followers are determined to defeat you by any means necessary.
  • The Game Masters from The World Ends with You are tasked with killing as many players as possible within the rules of the Reaper's Game, and will concoct the most ridiculous challenges to make it happen. If players are still alive at the end of the week, the Game Master will personally have to fight them to the death.
  • The Stanley Parable is a game that has you doing things that the Narrator that provides voiceover tells you to do. But try to go Off the Rails and subvert the Narrator's story, and you'll learn just how sadistic the Narrator can actually be.
  • Rimworld: The Storyteller system works rather like a GM directing what events your colony faces. Naturally, for harder difficulties all of them can qualify; Phoebe Chillax least of all, since she gives you long breathers, but will still hit you with a deluge of bad stuff all at once when it's time to suffer. And Cassandra Classic just gradually squeezes you dry until you can't keep up. Randy Random can be the worst of them by hitting you at the start with the worst events of the game, and having nothing stopping him from hitting you with, say, ten raids one after the other. Or he can be the opposite; he's moody like that.

    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 everyone else still alive all suffer a literal, horrific Total Party Kill.
  • Monokuma from Danganronpa is trying to get his captees to kill each other as part of their Mutual Killing Game, especially since whoever "wins" his Deadly Graduation becomes the Sole Survivor. He's even willing to cheat to do so like using the corpse of someone he killed as a victim to frame someone he doesn't like or drive people into madness. And to take it even farther, every single "graduation" ends up being a trap. The first one would result in the "Blackened" being let loose into a Villain World filled with murderous lunatics, the second would result in them potentially being preyed on by the evil AI possessing their victims, and in the third there simply is no outside for them to go to.

    Web Animation 
  • Puffin Forest: Ben can sometimes be a Killer DM
    • In "Miscellaneous Monsters and Bears of Sand" Ben killed two of his players and forced the others to retreat by having them fight a permanently invisible beholder. To be fair, the beholder was from a module.
    • In the first Malikar video, he admits that he sometimes adds in monsters just because he thought they looked cool, without concern for CR.
    • In the video about the first time he was a dungeon master, he has an annoying player character killed for complaining about the story and being too Genre Savvy, but it turns out to only be an Imagine Spot.
    • Something similar happens in Last Orders At The Yawning Portal Tavern. When a player makes a pun that nobody found funny, Ben has the monster instantly kill the player's character, but then he changes his mind and declares that the character is OK, but the monster has instead killed the player ''in real life'', so the player is now metaphorically dead to them.
  • Baby Cakes: "Role Play Tournament (Be Aggressive)" takes place during an RPG tournament. Baby Cakes declares, "The dungeon master is the bastard known as Creamy Be Ill." Baby Cakes is the only character left standing, though the game itself seems to be a deathmatch anyway.

  • Matt from Dork Tower is infamous for this. The players' constant Off the Rails rebellions largely emanate from their frustration over having a control-freak Dungeon Master.
  • Penny Arcade: Tycho is shown to very much adhere to the "Players are the enemy" mindset and tries to encourage Gabe to do the same in one storyline. However, that story Deconstructs this trope by having Gabe's players get rightfully frustrated and quit, and when Tycho tries to convince him that this should be the desired result for any "good" DM, he's forced to admit that he hasn't actually run a game since junior high school, showing exactly what being a Killer GM will get you in the long run.
  • 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, including death. Hence the F, for Fatal). She makes monsters that are impossible to beat, and when Tavros refuses to make a move, she mind-controls him into jumping off a cliff, causing his paralysis. She assumed he'd be fine. In her formal introduction we learn that she actively tries to kill the other players in FLARP so that she can feed them to her troll-eating lusus rather than get eaten herself. Eridan works similarly, but kills the players' lusii rather than the players themselves (typically the lusii of Vriska's victims, for efficiency's sake).
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • The titular girl from Sandra and Woo can be one if her boyfriend misbehaves.
  • Crispo, Phineas and Foomy accuse Kavonn of being one when he doesn't let them bend the rules the same way Charby does as GM in Charby the Vampirate, also since he likes to apply the rules of actual magic within the comic to games instead of using the game's rules.
  • Frank of Full Frontal Nerdity is usually a complete aversion, with his players running roughshod over him through vicious Rules Lawyering or just generally bad behavior, but sometimes he turns things around on them when something (in or out of game) upsets him sufficiently.

    Web Original 
  • Al Bruno III of RPG.Net fame keeps a Binder of Shame in which he gives fictionalized accounts of his time with a truly dysfunctional gaming group. The RPG.Net rant "A Night at the Inn, a Day at the Racists" (sic) features Killer Game-Master "Psycho Dave", whose style of running a game is described as follows:
    As you can see I soon realized that Psycho Dave ran a game in roughly the same way that Warwick Davis in the film Leprechaun granted wishes. Everything you said your character did was scrutinized for some way to screw you over and the dice ruled all. He was the only guy I know who used a random monster encounter chart for Call of Cthulhu. You haven't lived until you've had a character go mad because he saw a nightgaunt sitting in a restroom stall reading a copy of the Necronomicon.
    • 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. All things considered, a quick death might have been mercy.

    Web Videos 
  • 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 One admits to being one of these in his show on tabletop gaming called Counter Monkey. Spoony says his goal is to be a tough but fair DM, wanting his players to Earn Their Happy Endings because just handing them victory on a silver platter is unsatisfying. However, he tends to get labeled a Killer GM when the "tough" part of his campaigns intersects with his incredible luck with the dice. A few examples:
    • The Leaping Wizards incident, where a team of three Level 1 wizards almost caused a Total Party Kill. The official rules said the wizards had only one spell each, Magic Missile; Spoony felt this was moronic because Magic Missile does piddling damage at low levels and once spent they had nothing but their staves. So he made what he felt were common-sense alterations to their spell lists.note  Good rolls on his part plus bad rolls on the party's part lead to half the party dying, with only some later good rolls on the part of the fighter putting down the wizards before they killed everyone and to Spoony being thrown out of the RPGA.
    • 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 led to two of them getting killed. note  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.
    • Some viewers especially complained about the death of Lord Vane I, Angry Joe's original character in the Dethklok Campaign. After a battle which ended with The Good King trapped in magical amber, the castle guards arrived and demanded that everyone present surrender. Everyone except Joe complied (and the other players strongly urged him to do the same, but Joe refused), so the guards attacked en masse and killed Vane. Spoony responded to the protests by pointing out that as far as the guards knew, the party had assassinated the king, so their reaction was entirely justified given the circumstances.
  • Critical Role: Averted and actively discouraged by DM Matthew Mercer. In his Episode 12 DM tips session, he says he doesn't believe in the attitude of GM vs. player. Instead, he likes to present his players worthwhile challenges that make them feel like heroes. He does run a tough campaign - he's knocked out the team barbarian four or five times already, nearly drowned the party with an active lava flow that briefly crippled the rogue's foot, killed their cleric once before the streaming sessions began, and had their ranger killed by a trap - but it's easy to see he'd rather see the players win than die:
    Matt: [to Pike, the cleric, after a particularly hard fight] I was so worried you were going to die again!
  • While Brennan Lee Mulligan from Dimension 20 is happy to ham it up while playing the Heel as the GM, he strongly averts this in his campaigns, where he usually designs pretty difficult (but totally fair) combat encounters. It wasn't until the Season 5 campaign "A Crown of Candy" that we saw the first actual, permanent PC death.
  • T The Writer usually isn't one of these when he runs D&D games, but he does have a few stories where he did kill several player characters.
    • "The Scroll Mistress" story was about the players rescuing the men of a town from being enslaved by a succubus who was forcing them to make magic scrolls. After defeating the succubus and freeing her slaves, one of the players decided to check what the scrolls they were making did, and it turned out that all of them were explosive runes, which all went off at once and killed the players in a huge explosion.
    • In the "Enter the Labyrinth" campaign, the player characters are death row inmates forced to fight their way through an endless maze for a chance at freedom. What he didn't tell the players is that he was using the Tomb of Horrors for the dungeon containing the only way out of the maze. However, almost all of the deaths that took place in the campaign were the players' own fault. One particularly stupid player died so many times that T couldn't remember all of the characters that he used. Another player walked into a Kaizo Trap after the boss which was set to kill anyone of Chaotic or Evil alignment, thinking it wouldn't affect him because he was Lawful Good, but it killed him anyway because T had decided that he had lost his Lawful Good alignment due to the choices he made in the story.
    • And then there was the "Zombie Town" campaign. T had all of the players play as paladins who worshiped a god with very strict rules, including a rule that any paladin who lost their powers due to breaking those rules must be killed. He then had the villain of the campaign purposefully put them into situations where they would be tempted to break the rules. By the end of the campaign, three out of the four players lost their powers and got killed for it, and the villain completely got away with it.

    Western Animation 
  • Dexter from Dexter's 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, the first (and only) random encounter she threw at the party turned out to be a piñata. As in, resembling a dragon, but full of candy.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: Gamer 2.0 creates a video game fighting tournament by capturing all previous Akumatized villains and then using them against Ladybug and Cat Noir in a real-life versus match, with Gamer presiding over the game.
  • In the She-Ra and the Princesses of Power episode "Roll With It", Adora shows herself to be this trope, demanding that the players anticipate everything an entire army might do and refusing them any sort of saving throws. It's not that she wants to upset her friends, but that the game is a way of strategizing for an upcoming battle Adora is irrationally anxious about. (It doesn't help that they frequently derail the session with showboating and unrealistic tangents.) Eventually they realize that nothing will satisfy her paranoia and get her to talk about what's really bothering her.

    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 Hoist by Their Own Petard, on the other hand, was much fairer and much funnier.)
  • The famous tale of "Eric and the Dread Gazebo" tells of a normal GM who turns Killer after one of his players turns out to be a ditz who doesn't know what a gazebo is, but is too stubborn to just ask. Thinking the structure to be some kind of monster, the player tries to detect its alignment, shoots arrows at it, and freaks out when his arrows do no damage. When he tries to flee, the exasperated GM gives him what he wants by declaring the gazebo woke up and ate his character with no saving throw.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Killer DM, Killer GM


Killer DM

A DM who makes everyone’s campaign really hard to survive. Fudge dice rolls to defeat this menace!

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / KillerGameMaster

Media sources: