January 23, 2014
Things that Make You Go “Ugh”
Everyone has their own preferences for what they think makes a great character and what does not. Everyone has their own opinions of what is cool and what is not. What one person finds really interesting and compelling others might think of as trite and overused. Gamemasters are no exception to this, only players will often give greater notice to the opinions of their Gamemaster for the sheer fact of the authority that GM holds over the game. For example: ninjas. You might love the idea of the ninja. The stealthy warrior who strikes unseen from the shadows, possibly possessing mystical powers and nigh-inhuman physical prowess. However, you might still rethink playing one if you have overheard your Gamemaster say something about how they dislike ninjas, or that sort of character in general. After all, you do not want to end up as the Gamemaster’s punching bag for playing something they do not like.
Personally, I find this to be a terrible thought on both fronts. One player’s idea of what is interesting should not influence another player’s decisions, even if one of those players is the Gamemaster. Sure, you might not like someone’s character concept but it is still their character concept. It is going to be their character, not yours. Just as you have every right to play whatever you want to play, so do they. Gamemasters, do not think that your rule over a game extends to hampering your players choices about characters. While limiting some classes or concepts based on setting is acceptable, disallowing something merely due to personal preference is nothing more than you lording your supposed authority over your players. In short, that is bad Gamemastering.
This extends to conflicting character concepts as well. If your party includes both a witch and a witch-hunter, the player playing the witch-hunter has no right to tell the other player “you should not play a witch or else my character will just have to kill yours.” No. Part of playing a role-playing game is having a diverse and interesting party. When you have conflicting ideas, what you should do is figure out what would bring these opposing characters together. What great evil has brought these enemies into an uneasy alliance? Will a friendship form between them? Will they find something they have in common? These are the sorts of things that make a game interesting. Saying “no, nothing will change my character’s mind” is simply a player being too stubborn. In this case, if anyone should have to change their character idea because of conflicting concepts, it should be the one who has a problem with it in the first place. I first realized this issue with a thing called “Sheele” in Anima: Beyond Fantasy. Sheele are tiny little spirit beings born of someone’s soul that can be bound as familiars. They are incredibly useful, versatile, and can be very powerful, and for a while there I was seeing multiple Sheele in the same game. At one point, there was a risk of three of the six player characters each possessing one of these little spirits and I, as a Gamemaster, was growing tired of them. Still, I allowed them. I was not going to deprive a character of them. I instilled a rule that I wanted players to be able to acquire them themselves rather than just start with them, which I thought was fair, but that was it. Then, when talking to a player about something, he made a joke about not wanting to have one because he knew my distaste for them, which I immediately told him to have one if he really wanted. My preference was my own, and despite my running the game, I was not going to force my own opinions on him.
Players and Gamemasters both, watch out for this. It can happen all too easily and is often not done without even realizing it. Let players have their fun, whatever it might be. Sure, it might leave you saying “ugh,” but who knows? Maybe seeing how they use whatever it is you dislike will change your opinion of it and make you interested to try it yourself.
As always, thanks for reading and I wish everyone good gaming.
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