GMs and Players vary in perspective on game balance in an array of fiery passions running the extremes of “Nothing not in the Pathinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook” to “Show up with a character, if it is a problem I’ll just kill it.”
Though the later is still adversarial I would have to admit it is closer to the heart of my own gaming style. And as that SO much time and effort is launched into reasons why even a single spell or feat is “game shattering” I thought I would share a few reasons why the power of YES far outweighs the tyranny of NO in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and many other games.
* Fear – Lets face it. Balance trolling boils down to ONE main thing. Fear. Fear of comparative performance. Fear of games being “ruined” by a character. Fear of lost control. More than any one reason THIS is my frustration with the balance oriented rules lawyer. Many cry “fairness” but at essence a simple fact underscores that: If a player could choose an option in my game, so could anyone else in the same circumstance. So fair doesn’t really play in to it. Getting back to fear then, the principle reason I am against aggressive balances or extremely limited rules environments is that as fear-based reactions these things go against the very heart of heroic storytelling. Yup, over focus on rules balance often times is a form of cowardice and it is highly unappealing to me as a player or GM. Heroism wilts in the face of actions born of fear, in or out of game.
Own your character or story and be brave enough to stand by your choices regardless of their comparisons.
* Simplicity – Yup. It actually makes running the game MORE simple for me to allow ridiculous amounts of content. If my only base line questions is: “Hey is this source allowed in your game?” I have a yes or no answer and I have just saved HOURS of game time line by line reading and “stamp-of-approval”-ing things. I got that time back to game, to roleplay better, render my world bright and to challenge what is no doubt going to be an awesome character. Yes it means a bit more time on the front end of things but if this is going to entertain people for hours I should probably be giving it proportionate thought.
Experience the freedom of an assumed “Yes” – gain more time to roleplay, worldbuild, and spend less time micromanaging rules decisions.
* The Edge – Guess what? Power-Gamers, Alphas, Shapers and Optimizers are PEOPLE not rules. You are NOT going “stop” a power focused player by setting limits. YOU ARE GOING TO CHALLENGE THEM. Congrats! You took the rabid frothing badger and put it in a smaller box with you. While the GM can “always win” in any situation if a power-gamer is “ruining your game” stop blaming third-party products or “power creep” – there is a smirking person across the table that is your situation – and you just challenged them to try harder. The Advanced Players or Class Guide didn’t break your game, Grant being an A-Hole (or you refusing to deal with that) did. A person wants to be effective NOT the rules. I guarantee if you say strict “Paizo Only” for your game that power-player is going to come at you with a mind-meltingly effective character. The majority of build guides and internet optimizers FOCUS on this situation. If you have a problem with this play style (I don’t) then you need to talk it out in the meta because it is NOT going away with limits.
Talk to players about disrupting or problem behaviors, face the monster sitting at the table, not fighting on it.
* The Ocean – Perfect Imbalance as a game design concept thrives when there are more options. That means that performance curves smooth and checks arrive for “spikes” more and more as the Ocean widens. A lot of folks scream “Rules Bloat” and “Power Creep” as they are watching a game system get the countermeasures and buffers it needs to NOT break. They are screaming watching the “edge” because it is getting bigger. Yup. And like a primitive fleeing the puffing plumage of a chicken players react with negativity when they more honest should be saying “Dude, I don’t care about your game enough to research my own character, so I am gonna pick apart this other build.” It also means your players can find options that speak them and build characters truer to their vision of things. They can play more diverse creations and reduce burn out. More options equals more variation and more stability.
Let the world unfold into a robust, fully realized whole and care enough about it to study it, mechanically AND story-wise.
* The Payoff – Is the story hurt by the ruling? No? Simplicity winning might be better than explaining twenty of minutes on why your No had to be. Like it or not our worlds become shared the moment we share our tables. An obsessive need to have things run “correctly” or “right” will result in negativity, disagreements, and game bogging rules nattering. Why? Is it damaging the story? Not your artistic vision of the absolutes of your world. But the actual story people are going to remember and retell? That? Is it threatened by 46 more gold pieces at the end of the day? Is a lieutenant dying in one round that much more different than them dying in three?
Did a swift or different resolution ruin anything your story or did it just speed it on to the next awesome?
Every GM is different. And I do understand I am nearly freakishly liberal when it comes to rules and content I allow in my games, that said I advise everyone who holds a d20 now and then to chew on the above and try saying YES, to each other, the GM and themselves a bit more often.