Almost as big as the debate over GMs fudging or not fudging die rolls is the debate over whether games should be balanced to the rules or cater to the players enjoyment. Well maybe not so much, but it is definitely something we talk about in my gaming group.
Games (in any system) that focus more on the balance of the game elements and the rigidity of the rules are examples of this. These sorts of games usually appeal to the no fudge set. They are by the book and work within the established guidelines.
- Players feel a sense of accomplishment when they overcome a hard challenge.
- If the game is being run in a published campaign setting then the players know what they are getting when they encounter certain elements. This helps the players connect to the world, and thus the game.
- Most role playing books have detailed guidelines for how to set up encounters or run the game. The GM is responsible for steering the boat and has an accurate map to guide them.
- Characters might die off more frequently.
- If the GM changes an established element of the setting then the players might feel slighted that something isn’t the way it is written in the setting book.
- Players might bring in too much out of game knowledge from the detailed guidelines (they have access to the books too) and ruin some of the game balance.
Cater To The Players
These types of games tend to throw out the rules to focus on the players. They have rules (through game system or houseruling) that are more open to interpretation and changes
- Can facilitate incredibly cool moments. If the players know that the challenges will be made so that they can defeat them, then they focus more on how cool their characters are in defeating them.
- The players have more of a say in how the game goes. This generally leads to them feeling more involved in the game.
- The GM is more free to gear the game to the player elements. There is more freedom to waive entry requirements to organizations, allow characters to branch out from established molds, or break them completely.
- It can make it hard to make the players feel challenged or out of their league.
- The GMs authority might be eroded by players questioning decisions or plot points. You know the saying: Give an African swallow a coconut and it will fly to Britain. (or was it something about an inch and a mile . . . )
- The GM usually has to do more work in prep and more on the fly improvising. When working in uncharted waters you have to steer the boat AND make the maps.
When I GM I try to aim somewhere in between these two types of gaming. I like the rules set to give me the opportunity to enforce it, but to also give me the freedom to do what I want with it. It is a difficult line to walk and it isn’t the best way. There is no best way in gaming since every group differs in what types of gaming they enjoy. So, the inevitable question at the end of the post is more of an imperative: Give me some more pros and cons that you find. Tell me if you think these two styles of gaming are accurate and how you would change them. I’m looking forward to the discussion.