Saying no to your players

Okay, so, just a quick post, since I haven’t put anything up in a while and I was inspired while cooking dinner. Having played a couple of different game systems recently, I’m musing on the concept of GM interference in what the players want, more specifically in character creation. How much free reign do you give players in your games?

I was involved in Mutants and Masterminds recently, which is a game I love, but one that has the most ridiculously broad character creation system, allowing you to create almost any character imaginable. Now, given that it tries to recreate the wild and varied world of comics, this is pretty necessary. It’s almost entirely freeform point-buy, in the sense that any stat in the game and any power can be bought at any level from maximum to minimum with a pool of points. No minimum scores, required powers or anything beyond what a player imagines. Which sounds great, right?

Now here’s the hitch. There’s something you may not know about me, if you’re not one of the people who knows me IRL, as the kids say; I am a heinous power gamer. I mean, real bad. Well, not bad, I’m actually very good at it, but that probably makes me bad to play with. I like my characters to be good at what they do. It’s not always combat, in fact quite often it’s not. It’s just that if I play a character’ I want them to be awesome. Fortunately, since I, more often than not, GM games as opposed to playing in them, it’s not an issue that comes up to often, but whenever I do get the chance to play you can guarantee I’ll be scouring books and crunching numbers to try and find the most effective build.

It’s not nice, but it’s the truth.

Okay, so where am I going with all this? Well, the character I made for my most recent game, the aforementioned M&M game, is a prime example of this. Sure, he’s fun, but he’s also a huge bundle of terrible powers and point-refunding character flaws. He’s literally a psychic box. He’s a paraplegic with incredible psychic powers (which is a concept I totally nabbed from the Ravenor series; a great read if you’ve not had the pleasure); it’s not actually as much of a munchkin concept as it sounds, and it has ended up delivering some interesting character opportunities, but I do wish someone had stepped in during character-gen and told me to scale it back, make it something more straight up and simple.

At times, it’s made it awkward for me and the GM. I think I probably would have enjoyed the game more with a simpler character. Flying around and blasting guys with energy rays might not give as many opportunities for character driven angst or allow for such a wide ranging set of powers, but sometimes it’s those restrictions that make the game enjoyable. If you can’t do everything, then it’s more interesting when you’re presented with situations to overcome. Now, credit where credit’s due, my GM definitely presented my character with challenging obstacles (at least once he was left with a powered down life-support chair, basically powerless), and that really made the character into more than he was, but I think these kind of interesting situations would have come up more often with a less heinous build. And I probably would have enjoyed the game more because of it.

So how do you deal with players whose concepts might cause trouble in your games? Do you ask them to scale it back, or do you accept what they want to run with and try to run your game accordingly? I tend towards the latter, but maybe that makes me a power gamer and a control freak?

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