I've been reading several interesting threads over on the paizo boards about the worst player/gm stories. When reading things like that, I always have a sour feeling in my stomach. This anxiety is a feature of my personality I've learned to ignore, I've long ago come to terms with the traumas of my youth. The physiological sensation that occurs in response to someone else passing judgment on other peoples malfeasance that I (may) recognize in myself remains.
This is related tangentially to my earlier post this week. I would like to clarify that not one thing said about my players was meant to be taken as a critique. It was simply a process of communicating about what one likes, which is what seems to be the primary problem on these worst player/gm threads. Lack of communication and maturity seems to be the key factor in these stories.
Recently the Tao of D&D commented about the need for a "universal rule variation repository". This seems like an excessively pointless exercise because I'm hanging out with my friends while we role-play (or wargame, or card game, or boardgame). Our house rules and norms are just what works for us - hence why my earlier post wasn't a critiqe. I'm simply more knowledgable about what they enjoy. There is no absolute external metric for "fun".
Dungeons and Dragons, in spite of the desires of many people throughout its history, is not a competitive sport. The vast majority of players are playing with people who are their friends and family.
The greater part of these horror stories have to do with situations where this is not the case. People trying out games with new people because they are looking for a game instead of trying out new games because they are looking for an activity to do with their friends.
Let's examine some of these stories:
Rape in the game stories: there can be a place for this in a game. Last weeks session used this, along with other horrible to distinguish that not only were the bullywugs evil (which many likeable people are, including no less than four party members) but that they were morally repugnant with no redeeming value. At no point were such activites ever performed on the pcs. Also, I talked beforehand with the players to ensure that none had any problems with such lurid descriptions (and yes, the players are mixed gender).
However these examples included players having their pc's rape other players pc's who a) were played by female characters and b) playing their first game with the group. There was more than one tale about DM's trying to use rape survivor as origin for female pc's.
Is it surprising that in these same games rape exclusively means male on female violence? I'm going to say no. There was no mention of horror stories of male/male rape.
There were several comments by people who attempted to justify such behavior as simulationist. i.e. "the DM can't do anything about that because he shouldn't control in player choices" this is, I hope, plain to all as raw idiocy. Anyone who is acting to make someone uncomfortable or cause trauma has nothing to do with a game. Any sort of abuse, violence, or harassment should be addressed.
I've had my own player horror stories where something similar occurred. One player decided that because he turned out to not like the style of game he requested to try out that he would start pissing in game on NPCs. This is childish and immature (not what I would expect from a college educated father of 2), and that was iirc the last session I ran for that group of people.
The game was boring/stupid/deadly: There were several of these types of stories - a player showed up and the group was going from room to room killing monsters, occasionally in alphabetical order. Or the group 'looked for adventure' for four sessions but didn't find any, and was told by the DM that if they wanted adventure they would have to make it on their own. Or the group that didn't name their PC's. Or the one that had 14 players, and when the player brought up to the DM that some of them felt left out, the DM replied "They should have spoken up."
It's in response to these I have to cringe. I understand why each of these was a 'horror story', but I see all of the above as valid styles of play. Hell, even Gygax himself ran with 10+ members in a group, and had players who didn't name their PC's (Bob's cleric, etc.) On of my players used to do that exact thing of rolling random encounters out of the Monster Manual for her brothers to kill. The primary issue I see with the above horror stories is one of communication (and possibly the vocabulary to communicate about them). I could see myself running a game where the players make their own actions and the world responds, instead of a traditional dungeon crawl.
It certainly seems that if people were better informed about what these games consisted of, there would have been no horror story. I feel that sitting in judgment over other peoples games and what they enjoy is a little silly. I mean for my next trick, should I tell them they are masturbating wrong?
The creepy/immature/crazy player: There were many of these. I however don't consider these a class of gaming story because it's just a factor in anything you might choose to do - there are these types of people in all fields and interests, and I don't think role-playing has any greater or lesser percentage of them. Of course this view might be colored by the fact that I work in an Insane Asylum, and out of the 1000 or so (unique) patients we've had since I've worked there, I've only ran into 1 who even had heard of Role-Playing games.
I'm pressed for time, so I'll summarize. There are no gaming horror stories, just horrible people and bad communicators.