When GMs go bad – Powergamers

18 09 2009

I’ll start with a generalisation – GMs often make for the best powergamers.

Did I say best?  Well, if min-maxing a PC were a competitive sport, I think GMs would give the average gamer a run for their money.  A GM with too much time on their hands would win every time.

GMs know the rules.  They know which skills and feats cause the maximum disruption to the average NPC.

As a new GM to the group, and having been out of the hobby for so long, I had to allow the players an element of freedom in creating their characters.  I encouraged a back-story from the group and I wanted/expected  this to form the basis of their character.

I already knew that one of the players would look to min-max.  His best score would go into Charisma (as he’s always a sorcerer) and he’d take a feat to increase his initiative (he always wants to be first into battle to score the kill and pick up the loot).  What I didn’t expect was the usual GM to power-game to the extent he did.

His backstory was excellent.  Two pages of his history and a credible story as to why he ended up at the starting point for the adventure. 

My frustration started when I saw his character.  First he explained all the different classes he would switch to and at what levels, in order to maximise certain skills and abilities.  This was in direct conflict with his back-story that had him pegged as a Cleric for the duration of his career.

Next he’d chosen Goblin as his bonus language.  His back-story made it clear he’d never even seen a goblin, yet he was fluent in their language.  Why?  Is it a coincidence that the opening story of the campaign is all about goblins (and it’s well documented as such)?

I’ve already explained that in my RPG ‘career,’ I was given clear guidance that all skills must be logical – even if they don’t fit the story.  And secondly, that any career change must be appropriate and practical. 

If the group level up during down time between one fight and another, when did your Paladin have time to learn to become a Rogue?  Moreover, what on earth is a Paladin doing becoming a Rogue?

Due to my status within the group, I am going to let it go for now.  Does it bother me?  Yes.  Am I going to do something about it?  No.

I could change the story  to make the contrived skills redundant, but I won’t.  What I will do is twofold:

  1. Demonstrate that I appreciate ‘proper’ characters.  I’ll ensure that obscure skills, chosen to stay in character, will be utilised by me as a GM.  And I won’t make a secret of the fact.
  2. When the players level up for the first time, I’ll ask questions about the why’s and wherefore’s of their decisions.  I’ll let all choices go through but drop some unsubtle hints that in future campaigns, I will anticipate logical character progression – and that applies to character creation too.

For the next campaign, I will have laid enough ground rules to enable me to veto any out of kilter characters if I deem necessary.

The only proviso, is the whole point of being there.  It is about having fun.  I will not force everyone to become a method actor in order to role-play.  That may be why I choose to set characters up in a certain way – but I won’t force it on other people.

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