|~Beyond the Border~ > Rumia's Party Games|
|On storytelling, gamemastering, and the approaches thereto|
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Stuffmangen says it well.
Though I would argue the unbalance is pretty pronounced in DnD. When the human commoner is the weakest thing in the world, yet humans are still predominant...because. And don't get me started on dumb stuff like immune to normal weapons and normal attacks that cause level drains and so on.
Need an update every once in a while.
So You Want To Run A Game: Players
As odd as it may seem, it is up to the GM to pick the players for their game wisely. Of course, what normally will happen is that the GM will announce their game, get a group of takers, and run the game once the group has filled up. While there is nothing wrong with this approach if the GM and his players are all unfamiliar with each other, something that will inevitably happen is that the group will run into player mismatch.
Players can, in general, be divided into three types based on what they want out of a game:
Gamist players like to crunch numbers, calculate distances and optimise approaches. These are the players who will turn anything into a science, from shooting an orc to seducing the king's daughter. They enjoy using the game's mechanics to lead them to victory.
Narrativist players enjoy stories, both experiencing them and making them happen. These players will pursue options that will yield the most engaging story for their character (or, indeed, for other characters). They enjoy letting stories proceed as they should happen.
Simulationist players wish to see the fictional world presented to them and experience all it has to offer. They will take interest in the details of court intrigue or the mechanics of a country's currency fluctuation. They are happiest when allowed to explore and investigate.
Fightest's note: All three are viable and respectable gaming philosophies. Indeed, many RPGs are designed to cater for one or the other type of gamer, sometimes several types simultaneously.
During player mismatch the group suffers from split priorities: some players absolutely want to go one way, some players absolutely want to go the other, based on their fundamental preference to what they want from the game in which they are playing. In the short-term, the Masterful GM solves this issue by Splitting the Party. The issue, however, will remain a strain on the whole group in the long-term if the players are unable to settle their differences and come to a compromise, and, indeed, it is entirely possible that a game can fall apart for this very reason.
In addition to the above major categories, players can also be classed in three different divisions based on their experience with a certain system, the wrong combination of which can also cause player mismatch.
Newbies are players who understand RPGs but have not used a particular system before. They might have trouble grasping certain systematic conceits, but should have a lot of enthusiasm for learning a new system and playing around with it. A newbie will give a GM little trouble outside of requiring guidance. A newbie is more likely than not to work in a team, as they will probably be aware of their shortcomings and rely on other players (and their Player Characters) to fill in the gaps.
Experienced players have been around the block a few times. They know the trappings of a system, and know most, if not all, the little tricks and shortcuts. In my experience, an experienced player will give the GM the most trouble due to their ability and willingness to strain a system to its breaking points and sometimes push past entirely. Experienced players will often stick together to the exclusion of other players and, if they are the only representative of their kind in a group, are unlikely to work well in a team.
Veteran players have seen it all, and are entirely comfortable being entirely aware of how to bend a system over a barrel but not doing so, as they are all-too-aware of what that might cause. Conversely, they know how to use the system to fill in gaps left by other players. They are the most adaptable to a group's composition and their preferences. As such, they work well in any group.
As such, it falls to the GM to pick his players carefully. He must understand well what definitions his game falls under and be aware what player types he wants to or even must exclude. A game tailored for and run for a carefully chosen group of players will almost certainly be excellent and rewarding for everyone involved.
I really love this guide. It's absolutely wonderful. I'd like to add my thoughts on a few systems:
D&D 3.5/Pathfinder - overall, the system is just plain too imbalanced to be safely used by newbie DMs. If you really want to do it, and are dead set on it, use the D&D tier system. Banning Tiers 1&2, and suggesting that Tier 4/5 characters take a few options to up their level. As the guide puts it, instead of Wizard/Fighter, suggest they play Beguiler/Warblade.
It's not perfect, but if you really want to play 3.5, this is a great fix.
Pathfinder is less of a good fix, mostly because all of the balance issues are still there, but some of the new classes are quite fun, and integrate reasonably well into existing D&D tier 3 classes.
I'd still recommend a different system, but this is the best you'll get out of it.
D&D 4E - if it's your first time DMing a game, DM D&D 4E. Making encounters is easy. Balancing the party is reasonably easy (one of each role, 5th can be all sorts of things). Balancing encounters is fairly easy, especially at low levels. Roleplaying is generally left to be free-formish (Skill challenges can be used, but overall it's best to let characters do what they want). Overall, this is probably the best system to start out with if you have never DMed before and your players are moderate-low experience. It is just that easy and kind to run.
Notes: Print out power cards, and make sure people are keeping things moving. Combat is usually fairly snappy, but some people have reported that combat takes forever. I don't quite know what they're doing, but if it's an issue for you, well, you can always double monster damage and halve hit points as a quick and dirty fix. As you move past level 10, there's more to discuss, but since you'll probably have been DMing for about a 6 months - 1 year at that point (if you started at level 1) it should be a lot easier for you to make the transition.
Dark Heresy - The Warhammer 40k Roleplaying game, and it makes up in deadliness what the Warhammer Fantasy game lacks.
What's that you say? Warhammer Fantasy is deadly and dangerous? My friend, you have NOT played Dark Heresy. Based entirely on rolling D10s, the system is fairly snappy. And lethal. Oh god, so lethal. Your average lifespan if you're outside of cover, can be measured in seconds. Fortunately, many of your enemies suffer the same. Wait, no, I'm lying. Demons of Chaos can be hilariously durable, to the point where they can take close range fire from your best weapons easily (note the standard 40k weapons are at the top of the chart, so if you can imagine facing down a Khorne Berskerker with a few laspistols and a crossbow, well, you're on the right track).
So you turn to the magic... I'm sorry, the Psyker. And, like D&D, Psykers are far more powerful than the rest of the party. Unlike D&D, accessing the warp can have... consequences. Horrible terrible no good very bad consequences. When you have achieved the legendary TPK (Total Planet Kill) you are on the right track. Many experienced and paranoid veterans take 'kill the Psyker' quite literally, and liberally friendly fire their own party's psyker, sometimes mere minutes after character creation.
Fortunately character creation is based entirely on random tables, and thus you can have a new character made in a few minutes. Which is good.
Imagine if Shadowrun met D&D, and had a baby that was kidnapped and raised by The Computer and you'll be on the right track. Utter insanity where the most likely plot for your second party is finding out what happened to your first party.
Play if you like: Wound tables which include results like 'the surround area for 2d10 feet is slick with blood, characters walking on it must make a balance test or slip and fall' and facing down implacable enemies with the most ridiculous of weaponry, and laughing constantly at the amazing things the random character generator spits out.
Don't play if: You want a serious, mature game with lots of character development and deep, moving plotlines. Or if you think White Wolf are gods among men and produce flawless gaming systems.
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