Anyone who knows much about us, knows we aren’t exactly fans of limits in the Pathfinder Role Playing Game. That said, there is something powerful about being forced to accept a limitation. In the broad array of the possible sometimes the vast potential of doing “anything” can be brought into focus and give us stronger (or faster) results.
Embracing the Power of Limits
To be clear, we are not advocating limits as a means to leash an Alpha. While possible the leashing of a power-gamer is often its own punishment. Much like a cornered animal, the entirety of the Alpha’s being becomes focused on a few possible points of effort and the results are often worse than if you’d left the game fully permissive. No, today we are looking a voluntarily engaging limits to kickstart creative process in a game.
Much like our above power-gamer, the voluntary acceptance of a limit can be used to achieve faster, more intense results. If we peruse a single book or source we master that faster. If we accept a character limitation, we can move on to the open parts of the generation process immediately. Fast, firmer choices mean more effort of other details and more time at the table gaming. Consider the following:
- A player chooses this figurine for his next character – She is full of limits. Gender is selected, racial options are suggested. Gear and play style are implied. There is a good deal of room. With the headscarf she might not be fully human (half-elf, tiefling, or some other mixed blood). Probably a class that doesn’t use weapons or hides them if it does. We have already streamlined play choices and got our player more than half-way done with a character concept.
- A GM wants to use a new flip-mat she purchased – She has the tavern as a local limiter but otherwise the map is full of possibilities. The inside water feature suggests all sorts of possibilities. Maybe the bar caters to merfolk? Maybe the owner is a sea-elf and need water exposure regularly? Maybe it is a gladiatorial or shark fight pit. The acceptance of the map as the starting limiter gets us to adventure planning fasts and with several possible course of “attack.”
- A player asks his GM if his ranger’s species enemy will even matter – The GM resolves to make heavy use of the types the rangers selecting, allowing the ranger player a lot of influence over the game but similarly, cutting down options the GM needs to review to make a compelling villainous threat.
- A GM bans prepared spell-casters for storyline reasons – The players decide to go all-in on spontaneous caster, picking oracle mysteries, bloodrager and sorcerer bloodlines to round out party roles. The party gels faster than ever as that metabalance supports the spontaneous casters “co-dependent” casting.
- A player wanting to play a melee class finds out his favorite (“eastern”) weapons aren’t available for genre consistency reasons – The player can jump right in to looking at options that favor the allowed weapons and explore new ways to utilize them.
Not everyone will be thrilled with limiters and some players will outright rebel, but they don’t have to be the end of fun. An embraced limit can get your to a playable fun game far faster than an open sandbox, but if it chafes a little, don’t hesitate to let the group know. Who knows, next game you might get that pixie taskshaper gurisame master you have been talking about.