Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Using Your Environment

What I am talking about here is that sometimes players don't think beyond the limitations of the 'stats' they see in front of them. An example of this would be a relatively 'low powered' party suddenly faced with having to take on a creature (or starship, or whatever) that is vastly more powerful than they are, stats wise. If they were to go toe-to-toe with the thing, they'd lose. So, what is the option? run away? Kamikaze attack? Sure, you could do either of those, but those aren't necessarily the ONLY options. Or rather, they shouldn't be.

As a game master, I love it when players come up with an 'out of the box' idea- one that doesn't revolve around their stats or skills or equipment. In a game- as in any good dramatic media- there should be room for improvisation and just plain clever thinking. You see it all the time in movies and books. The hero will find some unorthodox way to win against impossible odds. And yet in games, it seems to me that players sometimes get so boxed in by stats that they don't try these things as often as they could.

In a superhero game, for instance, one of your people goes up against a 'brick'. A villain who is so tough that pretty much any attack thrown at him does no damage. A player might cry foul to his GM for putting him in an unwinnable situation. But a clever player will quickly realize when the 'standard stuff' isn't working and look for some other way.

In a mini-campaign I ran, one of my players faced this very situation. Sharon was running a modified version of Spider Girl. Modified in that she wasn't QUITE as strong as the 'real' spidey. So it was that when she was faced with a brick (Rhino), her normal attacks weren't doing it. When she realized this, she began to look around for something else. Yes, there. That huge electrical junction box. Some acrobatic leaps and taunting later and she had Rhino charging right at her- at which point she lept out of the way and he plowed- horn first- into a lot of electricity. Down he went. I loved that maneuver. It was very 'comic book', but very plausible at the same time. I loved it- and I would encourage it in any player. Look around, think creatively.

On the flip-side, however, as a GM you should only try to reward good (smart) or dramatic (fun) ideas— and only when they're 'fresh'. Otherwise you might fall into a situation where players start to rely upon some MacGuffin to always appear suddenly to solve their problems. For instance, every time they face a 'Brick' they'll start to look for the huge electrical junction box. If the technique becomes 'routine' then its no longer fun or special. I am a firm believer in giving any plan a chance at success, even the 'wacky' ones, but keep in mind that a 'chance' means just that. No plan should be guaranteed every time its used.

Anyway, it was just a random thought. Back to work.

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