January 24, 2014
Starting At A Higher Tier
There are going to be times when your Gamemaster allows you to start off your character at a higher tier of play than normal. If the game you are playing is a level based game, this means starting at a level greater than level one. If the game is a point-buy based game, then you will be starting off with more points than normally allowed. Gamemasters will do this sometimes when they either want to give players more options at character creation, have a particular story in mind that requires the characters be at a higher tier, or they are preparing for a pick-up game, one-shot, or generally do not expect the campaign to be a very long one and want to skip past the normal tedium of lower tier play. For players, this often comes as music to their ears, as it gives them much more to work with than a standard beginning game. For Gamemasters, they had better hope they know what they are getting into, as beginning play at a higher tier is a whole new kind of monster.
For a Gamemaster, when you start off at a higher tier of play, you are allowing your players access to many options not available to beginning characters while at the same time depriving yourself of the opportunity to learn what sort of characters you are going to be dealing with through the earlier tiers of play. This can be a very hard thing to deal with that many newer Gamemasters are not ready to handle. Powerful player characters make creating an appropriate level of challenge very difficult. Without knowing your characters, you risk making a challenge either too hard or not nearly hard enough. This is why it is a good idea to “test the waters” as it were with a few test encounters where you scale up the difficulty with each one until you are able to figure out what sort of challenges will challenge your players without destroying them.
For players, there are also a few things it is a good idea to keep in mind for such a game. It can be very tempting to put all of your resources into a single feature. Maybe you want to put everything into being able to score Critical Hits more easily, possessing the ultimate defense, or doing the most damage possible. It may even allow you to start your character off at one of those magic levels. While this may sound great, it turns your character into a one-trick pony that is likely not going to be as fun as you think. The more well rounded a character is, the more likely you are not going to force your Gamemaster into the position of having to crank the challenge of encounters beyond what the other players can handle just to keep up with you. On the other hand, it can also be very tempting to try to create a character able to handle any and every situation that might possibly arise. This is also something you need to try to avoid. For one, it will not work. For another, how much fun can it be to not be the best at anything? If you do not specialize, you will always be behind those who do.
Starting play at a higher tier can be a lot of fun, even with all of the troubles and headaches it can cause. For shorter length campaigns, this is often a good option. The only time I find myself hesitant to do this is when there is a new player on the scene, someone who is unfamiliar with the game. Of course, if I expect the campaign to last, I much prefer to start fresh at level one. This gives both the Gamemaster and the players to grow into their characters and their game much more naturally. Of course, in the end, every Gamemaster and game group is different. What works best for some does not work as well for others. Try it for yourself. Figure out what works for you. Then run with it.
As always, thanks for reading and good gaming to you all.
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