April 28, 2014
When it come to a role-playing game, the last thing any Gamemaster wants is to see a player struggling with feelings of inadequacy regarding their character, and yet this is something that will often crop up in new campaigns. Not all things are equal, and despite many games attempting to find some measure of equality within their mechanics, some character builds just do not work as well as others in a given situation. The social butterfly in a combat heavy game, the psychic in a game where you face mindless robots, the illusionist in a game where the main foes are undead. This is not necessarily poor design, as these characters could be very good given other circumstances, but rather it is a case where not every character works for every given situation or every game. Whenever this comes up, it is something the Gamemaster and player must work on in order to ensure that the player will continue having fun with the current game.
How you deal with this matter is up to you, but there are a few ways I have found that tend to work the best.
Option 1: Change the game. Rather than ask the player to change their character, the Gamemaster might alter the game in order to better suit the player. This is, in my opinion, the best option. Often, this does not take much. Merely change the sorts of enemies the players face or the specifics of the situation they find themselves in. Changing up these variables in order to accommodate the player a little better tends to have the least impact on the game as a whole. It does put all the work in the Gamemaster’s lap, but this is something Gamemasters should take up gladly as it helps the game along by ensuring that everyone involved is having fun.
Option 2: Allow a character to re-specialize. Allowing for minor changes to be made to a character can go a long way into assuring the player continues to have fun and the continuity of the game survives. Sure, things change and the character can possibly do things they could not before, but it is still the same character at heart. For spell-casting characters, this might mean a re-selection of spells or even a switch of classes from time-to-time, but as long as the spirit of the original character remains, the game-play will most often proceed unhindered by any changes.
Option 3: Let the character retire. Often the most drastic change, this is when the player in question retires their current character and brings in a new one. Gamemasters, be careful when allowing this one. While on the one hand, you want your players to have fun and should trust in there judgment, this can be an excuse to simply have the best possible character at any given time. All too often I have seen this option used by players who simply want to have the most ideal character for any given scenario, and that is not what this option is meant for. Allowing a character swap like this causes the greatest change to your game, as one of your main characters is stepping out and a new one is coming to take their place. Imagine if this happened in your favorite book or television show – which it has, and it never goes unnoticed by fans. This option tends to be a last resort.
Having fun is the most important aspect of any game, and if certain characters or character choices are not fun, then something does need changed. How you deal with this change, and what change you allow to happen, is all up to you. Just remember that there is more to this game than just the numbers. Have some consideration with the fluff of a game as well when you make your decisions. Doing so will help ensure that whatever change happens feels as natural and part of the overall story as it possibly can.
As always, thanks for reading and I wish you all good gaming.
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