I played a World of Darkness (Werewolf) campaign that fell apart because of the GM. He was smart and good with roleplaying NPCs but he loved being smarter than the players and showing how dark the world of darkness was.
He also believed that the world does not revolve around the party. That means:
- there are more plot hooks than the party could take on their own.
- if you don't follow one, it will resolve itself naturally in time, or some NPCs will tackle the problem instead. (but they might fail at it)
- if you do follow one, there is no guarantee that the party has the resources needed to tackle the problem.
During an unrelated quest, we found a drunk in the street, who turned out to be an important werewolf gone missing. He turned out to be suffering from harano (werewolf depression. Since they are half mortal half spirits of nature, it is a very serious problem when they "lose the spirit") . We got him sent to a psychiatric hospital belonging to some werewolves and their relatives, specialising in such cases.
It turned out, while he was still sane. the guy had been making photos of various crimes against environment. This included a factory by the river, which apparently was dumping their waste straight to the water. I started researching the place and was about to pay their boss a night visit, when I met the owner at the party and learned that the factory belongs to one of ours ( the GM had been creative with my botched gather information roll). As it turned out, they have toxic waste pooring out of their pipes but it isn't theirs and they don't know what is going on. We went into that pipe - nothing there. Our shamen summoned spirits - they found nothing. Some time after we started sniffing around it, the problem semingly disappeared. whoever it was, he moved it elsewhere.
I later asked what it was about. The chemical plant next door drilled into their pipe and masked the connection with illusion magic. We had two shamen on the team but nobody who could detect it. We were supposed to guess it must be some other type of magic and find an NPC in our caern who could detect that stuff - which we had no idea about, as he was a different "tribe" and each of as had only read about his own.
Oh, and the hospital staff was warped by evil so the guy we sent there to heal totally got worse and died there. We were supposed to go there and find out later but in the end, an npc team followed that quest chain and they missed the clues.
I was a lawyer. This got me two sub quests during the campaign.
- use my connections as a lawyer to help a guy go to his mother's funeral (his legal situation demanded that he remained in New York.) I did, solving the subquest through talking. My reward was harm to my professional reputation as the guy met some old friends from his criminal past and promptly disappeared.
- asked by a friend of a friend to defend a woman accused of murdering her husband. Everything pointed to her and she didn't make it easier (she was using a false name to get a good job despite her criminal past - and she was paranoid about her cell being bugged so she wouldn't tell me straight). Still I brought a teammate who could detect lies and established that she was indeed innocent and someone was framing her. Her story didn't add up with evidence though and there were several witnessess that condemned her. I checked the crime scene with my shaman powers - surprise! no spirits at all to ask anything. I also received a piece of anonymous advice to drop the case or my career would suffer again. That was the only lead I managed to get something out of: the voice reminded me of something and after summoning an oliphant spirit to refresh my memory, I found out that the guy was a hitman to one of the most influencial guys from my tribe in New York.
After the campaign, I asked the GM how was it organized. No bribes at all - illussion magic again. All the witnessess really believed what they saw But even if I solved it, there was no way to prove it in court. The case was unwinnable by design and was supposed to provide some set-up for later plot. All I could do was choose between telling my friend I drop the case or letting my reputation be ruined by sticking to a hopeless case.
Example 3 which broke up the party
After a string of failures (two major quests solved by NPCs, all the stuff mentioned above and a rescue mission that ended with us wiping out another pack of werewolves through a misunderstanding) we got some news about a ritual murder. What we saw on TV indicated a botched summoning ritual, so we went there to investigate. We managed to learn that something powerful was indeed summoned and that was about it - there were a lot of tracks and smells but most belonged to other investigating teams. We tried to get to some witnesses (local students who almost got sacrificed) but got hopelessly stuck and as the tension between characters shifted to the players, half the group quit.
We later asked about the solution to the case.
There was none. The best we could have done was find out that the crawler was going to return to the spot once it heals, and warn the local weres to be ready for it in a month or so. The quest was designed as one of the errands the corrupt hospital staff would have sent us on to waste our time while they worked on their plans - we hadn't gone there at all but the ritual still happened and apprered on the news. It was our choice to go there.
I feel cheated because the board just ate a VERY LARGE EDIT i was making. Shit.
Whatever, i'll type again because i think it's worth it.
Example 1 is something i'm fine with. Werewolves with higher gnosis can sense if there's magic at work in a location, and is something every Werewolf party needs in a game. Also, a peek into the Penumbra would've revealed the illusion, because only very high level illusions seep into the penumbra and umbra, most just mask it in the reality level.
Example 2.1 is fine, too, because if you made a lawyer character with no means of detecting ulterior motives, or didn't bother to make a prior's check on the guy that was asking you to break the law, it was very imprudent of you to actually have pulled the strings. Helping someone break the law can and has unforeseen consequences in the real world, and is something that translated to the table, helps set the mood of the setting. I'm currently on my final two years of law school, so i have some RL background on that.
Example 2.2 could have been deduced logically as thus:
You have a lie-detecting friend, and he detected the supposed author was not lying. Unless he has some protection from magical lie detection, he's telling the truth. So, from that, you can make two assumptions:
1 - The witnesses have lie detection protection, that's why what they said registered as true. You follow that lead, investigating prior connections, seeing if they are a mage or had recent contact with someone that could afford such a charm/talisman. If it doesn't pan out...
2 - It means the scene has been altered, or the minds of the witnesses was altered. Either way, magic was at work. Because if they were bribed, what they said would register a lie. The only way of someone be completely telling the truth even if they're lying is, they've been magically compelled to do so, or were tricked into thinking that way. So illusion or jedi mind trick. Verbena mages are not mortal enemies of the werewolves, so you could enlist the help of one for a suitable fee, or even get a more experienced werewolf of a more magical disposition to help you discern if it was one or the other. Actually proving the lady wasn't guilty... Well, that would require some very good lawyer & police work, or proving, without an ounce of doubt, that the author couldn't have been there. If even then it was unwinnable, you could still hope to get her to a milder sentence by talking to the prosecution - or, if you're of a more chaotic disposition, rigging it to an Insanity defense.
Example 3 is the one i have more of a problem with. It's the kind of thing more suited for a Mage game than a Werewolf one, and clearly one you should've gotten the help outside of Werewolf society, if possible. Even then, shit happens in WoD, and not everything is up your alley, it's just like the real world.
I long for a game of this type, because i like using logic to deduce things, and i like being challenged. I also like the feeling of not being able to do anything, and having the world made to suit me, just like i'm the center of the world. For that, i actually don't see a problem with your examples... Even if the DM has to adapt to the players play-style, the players have to adapt to the play-style of the DM, too, because that's a two way road. Talking could've probably defused that situation, since from what you've described, the DM promptly explained the background stuff that was going on and you didn't find out, which sounds to me he actually planned those things in advance, as opposed to on the fly - which, if he did, would REALLY qualify him as a dick DM.
tl;dr: I don't know why you left that game, i long for a game like that for a long time.