Especially when it comes to character generation, I’ve found over the years that the best approach for PC options, abilities and funky tweaks that you think might be game-breaking is to allow them, and dial them back if you turn out to be right.
This doesn’t apply to things that are obvious game-wreckers, or to players who are clearly out to bend the rules to the extreme. But if you’re not sure, why not allow it and see what happens? Just make it clear up front that if it breaks the game, it’s going the way of the dodo.
Do you agree, or do you prefer a different approach in this situation?
I agree on that all the way. A players character in one of my games had an ability called Mist Form which allowed him to change to mist instantly to avoid an attack or move, etc. He damn well near broke the game with efficient use of the ability, but it was cool. It wasn’t overused, it wasn’t overpowered, it didn’t kill my encounters, but it made you go “huh, wait I didn’t expect that.”
Any ability can be overpowered if used correctly and at the right time, and any high powered skill can fall useless because it doesn’t fit the situation or the enemy has some kind of work around.
I’m in that spot right now with a character who is using the Dragon Breath Mage from the Dragon Magic supplement in my D&D game. So far, he’s played the character in a way that doesn’t abuse this cool breath weapon.
I’m not sure it’s breaking the game.
However, the breath weapon (a human of dragon ancestry who breathes fireballs at will?) has been more jarring to the setting, like an out-of-place character type.
Part of me wants to see how it plays out. At higher levels, the character class gains more game-busting type abilities. I’m really curious to see the character in action before I make a judgment, though.
For the most part, I’ve always been willing to experiment with character abilities, then attempt to dial them back.
Although I favor this approach, the key is to make sure your players are mature enough not to begrudge losing new, abusive toys. If you think they would whine down the road about trimming back their kewl powers I feel it would be better to just say no up front.
i sometimes suspect that i fall into this category of player. honestly, i never knew, i’ve been the DM for the vast majority of the time i’ve gamed. but when your 200 pt GURPS character can dish out over 200 points of damage per round on average, without taking a headshot, before he’s even had his morning coffee, you begin to wonder.
as a GM, i’m pretty free-market. if being a jedi is clearly available to everyone, i don’t see it as my problem if some people take advantage of it and others don’t. and i’m fortunate in that everyone in my group generally sees it the same way. i can’t think of any instance where i’ve dialled things back later, though there have certainly been some instances where it might have been appropriate.
one way to do take away or tone down a power would be to offer something in exchange. Sorry I’m taking away your ability to breath fire, or making it much less powerful but you can have . . . this in exchange. Kind of goes along with the idea of retconning, or even a new plot branch can be developed as to how the character loses the power and gains the new one.
Though you should do what you can to make it clear that a specific ability is on probation, so the player can anticipate having it tweaked.
You might have to work together very closely on some abilities– particularly when they’re close to the core of the character. (If, for example, you allowed your player to be a werewolf, you might get away with lowering the DR, but you probably wouldn’t have a workable character if he stopped transforming. The core of the concept’s gone at that point.)
I’m slooooowly coming around to the “why not” approach to gaming. I blame my past as a Monty Haul DM…
At some point, the DM has to recognize that it is much tougher to “reel it in” than to just say no in the first place. IMC, some things just won’t be allowed (no Complete Munchkin books, no psionics).
But as time progresses with d20, I’m finding myself more willing to accept the strange or the potentially powerful.
I’m more likely to dial back, allow, and then dial up as needed. That just seems to work better with players in our group.
Mentioning that a specific ability is “on probation” is an excellent idea — that way the change doesn’t come out of the blue.
Personally, I’ve never tried swapping out the offending ability or dialing back first, then ramping something up if it’s too wimpy later, but both sound like good approaches.
I’ve always used a probationary period for ANY new feat introduced in the middle of a campaign. What I’ve discovered is that it’s not typically a feat alone that causes the game to break, but some combination of feats that the abusive players always seem to find that break the game. I also do not allow an ability, class or feat into the game umtil I’ve had time to review it thoroughly. I’m way into setting continuity, so this is more a statement of “does this concept fit into my setting or not?” Lastly, when the PCs reach 12th level, I “lock down” everything. In other words, no new powers, classes, feats or abilities that haven’t already been allowed. This creates some stability in the game and allows proper planning of a PCs career path for the final levels of the campaign (taking it to 20th level).
I prefer to be flexible and let the players try things out. We can make adjustments as needed. As long as everyone is having fun, let’s play.
I prefer a different approach. Don’t play broken games.
If you’re game has anything in it that is broken then find another rule system or write a house rule to fix it and give it to the players before they create their characters.
If you (as GM) thinks it might be game-breaking, it probably is and finding it out later in the game is a good way to ruin a game. Cut it out if you are not sure. Why take the chance?