Tuesday, August 30, 2016

RPG a Day - Day 30

Today's topic: Describe the ideal game room if budget were not an issue.

I don't have much to say here; maybe give me a room from Britannia Manor with a digital table top and I'd be set.

For a more interesting topic, one of my own consideration: What's the biggest mistake you've made as a GM?

I ask this question because I've been thinking a lot about the games I've run in recent weeks (go figure) and it occurs to me that there's a lot to be said for learning from our mistakes.  I certainly have enough to choose from. However, there's one in particular I'm considering.

Fear the Boot frequently talks about The Golden Box. It's this concept to illustrate the idea that a player's character shouldn't be changed by the GM, at least not without some measure of consent. After all, the GM has control of everything in the game, while the player only has control over his character; take that away, violate The Golden Box, and you've breached a social contract and diminished the game.
Tread carefully.
When I ran last Dresden Files, I definitely violated The Golden Box.

I won't belabor the details, but within my game world there were five Items of Power, tied to powerful patron spirits, that needed to be claimed in order for the local ley lines to be balanced. This seemed like a fun idea at the time. The provided a physical link to a campaign idea, and offered some fun options for sponsored magic and other boons from the items.

The problem was, I hadn't opted to provide the players with any more refresh to take up the Items of Power. (Refresh is the resource one uses to 'purchase' powers and abilities, and it's the basic measure of how powerful a character is. Taking up an Item of Power usually requires spending refresh to gain access to its abilities.)

I hadn't considered this from the players perspective at the time. Here was something that, as I'd structured things, had to be taken up in order to prevent calamity, but I wasn't making it free to use. Thus, they had to give up the abilities they'd built into their characters in the first place in order to take up the Items.

That's definitely a violation.

I didn't realized the mistake I'd made until one of my players vocalized just how much he resented having to trade off the powers he'd wanted to use for the powers of the Item. In the end, I allowed the players to pass of the Items to NPCs if they so desired, but the damage had been done.

There's no great solution here. Probably would have been best to make the items free to use, although then I'd have run into issues balancing the game. Perhaps, had I been up front about the items with my players, we could have reached an understanding that would have suited everyone. The items were a central mystery to the game, so that would have ablated much of the investigation and exploration as they went.

All the same, I know how not to handle it in the future, and that's the most important part.
Cool as this is, it may not be the vision your players had in mind.

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