Roleplaying In A

Gamemastering Preferences

In General on April 9, 2010 at 5:35 am
Role Playing Gamers at the Burg-Con in Berlin
Image via Wikipedia

Loved this article at Spirits of Eden so I decided to jump the bandwagon. I don’t think anyone is going to accuse me of being the cancer killing RPGs though. I added a bit of a rating system though. If the left hand choice is 1 and the right hand choice is 10, I pick a number somewhere on the line.

1 Comprehensive Rules vs Minimal Rules 10

7. When comparing games like 4E Dungeons and Dragons to systems like d6 Fantasy and Cyberpunk 2020, I much prefer the latter but I do want rules of some sort. I prefer a game with fast, abstract combat rules that can be expanded when needed.

1 High Power Fantasy vs Low Power Fantasy 10

9. Low power, in any game, at least at the beginning of the campaign. This gives me room to develop the setting and reward the players without having things fly out of control too quickly. I also really enjoy the grit of what my friends and I call “dirt-farming” games, both as a GM and a player. I want rewards to be earned through the campaign, not just handed out because you hit 7th level that game.

1 Narrative Mechanics vs Simulation Mechanics 10

9. Simulation. My preference is for modern games and our group knows enough about firearms to make this a huge issue. Narrative mechanics are fine for fantasy but suspension of disbelief and campaign immersion gets a huge boost from keeping combat as realistic as possible. That said, I did make sure to include the words, “as possible”. We still want to be able to actually play the game and truly simulationist combat would take forever.

1 Strategic Chargen vs Simple Chargen 10

6. A lot really depends on the system. As a player, I hate making characters in almost any game, regardless. As a GM, I don’t want character creation to take 3 days. I’m going to go very slightly on the side of simple.

1 Tactical Encounter vs Strategic Adventure 10

8. Definitely strategic adventure. If tactics were my thing, I’d play Warhammer 40k more than I do. It’s a direction the hobby seems to like that leaves me out in the cold.

1 Combat Balance vs Adventure Balance 10

2. Combat balance is a function of the system where adventure balance is a function of the GM so a system needs a good, balanced combat system. This is one reason I really enjoy rules light systems. It’s a lot easier to modify the combat mechanics to suit our group without destroying balance.

1 Balanced Encounter vs Balanced Adventure 10

6. Both. I went slightly to the side of balanced adventure though. GM’s need to look at the over-all adventure when designing encounters. Also, if you make a mistake with one encounter, it’s not such a huge deal if you’ve worked at making the adventure good.

1 GM as player vs GM as referee 10

10. GM as referee. GM as player has far too many problems inherent in the concept. If you really want to play, then play already and let someone else be GM.

1 Fantastic Characters vs Common Characters 10

7. Common characters at the start of the campaign working their way up to fantastic characters over time.

1 Established Setting vs DIY Setting 10

3. An established setting with my own unique fingerprints. I’m better at modifying other people’s ideas than coming up with something completely new. It’s also easier and let’s me focus more on the game in progress.

1 Resource Optimization vs Creative Problem Solving 10

9. While the resources of players, such as how much ammunition they carry, is important to the kind of game I run, games balanced around how many resources the players will use in an encounter have missed the point of the words “role-playing” and take the game away from both the GM and the players to their detriment.

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  1. I like the preference scales. Some are easy for me to pick my position on but others take a bit of thought.

    I’m going to twist one of them a little. Does your position change with this?

    High Power (any genre) vs. Low Power (any genre)

    I also see your explanation of Combat Balance vs. Adventure Balance a little different. I think both are, or should be, supported by the system. Some games really put the mechanics on combat and they leave the adventure unacknowledged. This allows a GM to do as they wish for the adventure. But, I have seen a few games that have mechanics for the adventure portion also and they seem, in my opinion, to level the scales between the two poles.

    Anyway, good article.

  2. Scaling it made it easier to write about each choice and took them out of the either/or category.

    As for high vs low power, my position doesn’t change. I answered the choice between high fantasy vs low fantasy with more genres in mind than just fantasy. I just left the words the same because I’d jumped off Wyatt Salazar’s article to write this one.

    As for adventure balance, I think it shouldn’t be part of a system’s core rules although a supplementary book on the subject would benefit many systems. Too many GMs, and players, take core rules of any system as gospel and let it hamstring their creativity.

    Glad you enjoyed the article 🙂

  3. Too true on the hamstring. I played in two Pathfinder games last GenCon that are the perfect example. I was playing a half-orc of low Int who loved to stick things with his big stick (a reach pole-arm). The first GM let me stick things at my reach distance in the whole circle around me and fudged it a little when an ally was between me an the enemy in cramped quarters. I had a blast in that game. The other GM allowed me to use the pole-arm in the four orthogonal positions at reach distance. Since we were on a square grid I only had four places I could come in contact with my enemy where as the other players could attack all around them. One GM made the game fun and the other made the game a chore.

    That weekend was the first time I got to play the Pathfinder rules. If I was new to RPGs it probably would have been my last time as well. I’m not too sure what the actual ruling on reach is in Pathfinder but it’s not a weapon I plan on using in the future.

  4. And it’s a real shame that some people feel they have to play RPGs that way. I really wish there was some rule that required GMs to run a rules light system sometime in their “career”. They’d learn to be more creative.

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