Customization, Part IV: The World

Of all the ways to let your players customize their RPG experience, letting them effect the world is the most daunting. It also happens to be the one customization every player enters an RPG hoping to make, whether they know it or not.

Role playing games can have many different goals, but they’re based around the concept of telling a story. Stories, in turn, tend to be based around characters and their affects on the world. Even in stories that are based around internal conflict the author has to allow the characters personal descisions to have a lasting affect on the setting.

In the same way, if your RPG players spend a campaign arc rescuing a princess, only to have her killed offscreen in the next session, they will get discouraged. The more freedom your players have, and the more you allow thier actions to change the game world, the more invested they will have to be in the game every time they play.

If characters support a kingdom, make a note that that kingdom should prosper more, or at least be better protected, than its neighbors. If players make a base it should endure, even if the ownership changes, and if they make allies those allies should be reliable.

I haven’t done it yet, but I’ve always wanted to run a campaign, then run a second one set in the same world. Even without running the second campaign, I think it’s helpfull to keep the question in the back of your mind: “How can we change our world this game session?”

Customization, Part III: Home Base

Home bases have always been very populare in every RPG my usual group has played. These bases can take several shapes: spaceships, ranch homes, small cottages, steam boats, or even the spare room in a friendly beekeepers house.

Home bases have always seemed like a great way for players to customize the game world through thier characters. If you’re having trouble bringing your players and thier characters into your world I suggest giving them a base of opperations, even if they’ll only have it for a few weeks.

Additionally, I’d say a good idea would be to give the players a flawed home base. If you give the players a room, maybe it has no curtains or lock on the front door. If it’s a spaceship, maybe it has mechanical issues, no guns, and a room which isn’t airtight. This will encourage players to either set thier characters to work modifying the base, or accept the circumstances and improvise as needed. This is what we did in the ranch home base, where all of our bullet holes were patched up on the kitchen table.

A base is an exellent way to encourage game play though customization, but there are more ways to do this, which will be coming in the fourth and final installation in this series…

Fun Limitations vs. Character Flaws

First off let me say that I’m slightly annoyed at the terminology already used by D&D, because it makes diferentiating a error in character abilities from a playable limitation difficult. What D&D refers to as character flaws I would call a limitation: Your character is afraid of snakes? Very good, have fun playing with that characteristic.

What I would refer to as a character flaw is a character whose game balance is flawed. If your character cannot hit an enemy, notice any object in a room, recall any information, or survive a couple of enemy attacks, then I would call that character flawed.

I’ve been playing a Dwarf scholar in an RPG called Adventures in Middle Earth for several years, and when the character was at his first level he was flawed. In the first two battles we played he was almost totally useless, and in the next two battles he came very close to dieing. Fortunately our DM saw this issue and realized it for what it was, a flaw in the characters balance. To remedy it, he gave my character a more powerfull weapon. I still didn’t hit very often, but when I did I could take out a significant chunk of the enemies health. I now had a chance of removing enemies before dropping unconscious.

We played Adventures in Middle Earth again last week, and I took a moment to appreciate that my character has some limitations, not flaws. My character can’t talk very well, but insists on trying. It results in alot of fun, but he can easily be overruled by other players. My character can also hold his own in a battle, sure, he might get down to single digit health points, but I know I can deal damage and heal myself, battles aren’t frantic attemps to survive anymore, they’re fun.

Why is My Character Starting in Prison?

For an upcoming one-shot I’ve been told that the party will be starting the game in a prison. I don’t know if the GM will be telling us why we were all arrested, so just in case he doesn’t I’ve been brainstorming a few reasons and thought I would share them here.

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Buying RPG Dice for Beginners

Don’t Buy a $50 Metal Dice Set… Yet

The first reaction of many people I’ve introduced to Role Playing Games is “I want to get my own set of dice.”

I personally love this sentiment. I started buying polyhedral dice years before I played an RPG.

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Using Mental Stats

An Incomplete Education

Your party sits in the restaurant, anxiously awaiting the governors arrival. He walks through the door, attendants on either side of him, yellow robes billowing behind him.”

I stand immediately!” the Bard blurts. At last, this is his big chance to put all that charisma to use. The rest of the party follows suit much less eagerly, but even the Barbarian knows that this meeting is important.

Very good, the governor sits at your table.”

Governor Basho, thank you for deigning to hear our petition. Would you like anything while we talk? Food? Drink?”

The Barbarians player rolls his eyes at the Bards speech and wonders how long he spent preparing it.

The governor fixes his gaze on you and smiles thinly. ‘I would like a glass of warm wine, that is all.’ he says in a clear voice.”

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