June 30, 2013
What Is Maximum Fun?
Among my gaming groups, a new saying has come into being; “what’s maximum fun?” Though new, it has become so heavily used among them that I have actually forgotten where it originated from. Its meaning, however, is thankfully more clearly defined. “Maximum fun” is what happens when looking for a way out of a current bad situation; a character knowingly decides to do something that inevitably makes the situation worse, even if they are successful. It adds to the tension of the moment while simultaneously creating further complications that all of the characters will have to deal with.
If that sounds somewhat counter-productive, creating more trouble in order to get out of trouble, I won’t lie and say that it isn’t. It most certainly can be, but the point of a game is to be both interesting and exciting, and when used well, maximum fun certainly fits that bill.
Let’s look at an example. A team of shadowrunners are trying to infiltrate a building and they realize that there is a Lone Star patrol car heading their way, thanks to their air-born scouts. If the cops see them, the whole job is busted. They need a distraction and they need it fast. So, one of the runners dashes outside and gets on their racing bike, tearing down the street straight past the squad car, and fires a long-burst from their machine pistol just to get their attention. Well, it works. The Lone Star cops begin pursuit, gunning for the crazy biker-thug with a gun. Meanwhile, the rest of the team is able to infiltrate the building, collect the information they were sent to retrieve, and get out of there. The biker, however, finds themselves in a life-or-death chase with cops popping up out of the woodwork as the one squad car called in for backup. Lone Star aren’t nice. They started shooting, and it was only by sheer luck (and the expenditure of a lot of edge) that the character was finally able to get away without suffering any major injuries or damage to the bike. That is maximum fun. Solve one problem by creating another, one potentially much worse. And yes, this example does come from one of my games.
Now, maximum fun can also be abused, and I am not just talking about calling out maximum fun all the time like some sort of overused catchphrase (though that certainly gets old, too). Sometimes, players will try and do something completely outrageous and downright silly and/or foolish and claim it all in the name of “maximum fun.” A street shaman trying to call up a Force 16 Spirit of Beasts “just ‘cuz” isn’t maximum fun; it’s needlessly dangerous. Maximum fun isn’t meant to be an answer to “well, why not?”
On the opposite side of that coin are characters who are so careful that the game can become bogged down because the player is afraid of incurring undo risk. That is when you need to occasionally remind the player that their characters are adventurers/shadowrunners/super heroes or whatever you happen to be playing. Risk comes with the territory, and there is usually nothing at all that can be done that will mitigate all risk. That just isn’t the nature of the game. Risk = excitement. Excitement = fun. Fun = why people play these games in the first place.
Try introducing a little “maximum fun” into your games, sometime. Just make sure you are doing so with reason, and not just because. Assuming you pull through, I would be willing to bet that you’ll have some crazy fun stories to tell afterward.
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