Tales from the Gazebo – The Alliance Method: There be Hybrids on RPC! Part 3

The Alliance Method: There be Hybrids on RPC! Part 3
By Cape Rust

We have finally gotten to my favorite part of preparing for the character creation session: the rule of cool. It is a bit ironic that the rule of cool is so similar to an old rule about stupidity. The old rule about stupidity goes something like this: if it is stupid and it works, it is no longer stupid! The rule of cool advocates that if something in a game breaks or stretches the rules but adds oodles of enjoyment for the players, then it becomes cool. If it is cool, do it!

For rules lawyers, the rule of cool is the worst thing in the world. It goes against everything that the rules lawyer stands for and believes in. The problem is that normally, the rule of cool brings joy to most players. If my rudimentary definition wasn’t adequate, please let me give you an example (I tend to do better with examples). Because this article is about preparing for the character creation session, my example will deal with the rule of cool in that context.

Here is the example: One of your players wants to be a pilot (for our game, two players want to pilot) but based on normal starting income, there is no way your pilot could afford a ship of their own. There are many alternatives to giving the character their own ship, but why use them? Sure, you can make the pilot a freelancer who is hired to fly the ship that the party is traveling in, but is that really cool? I admit that is a great way to interject some interesting plot hooks, but isn’t there a cooler way to deal with this situation? Instead of making our pilot/pilots ship-less freelancers, why don’t we use the ship issue to build a link between two of the party members?

Here is how I would build that link: I would give both of my pilot players the options of being ship-less pilots for hire, or they could take the rule of cool option. In this case, the rule of cool would dictate that is would be much cooler if the pilots had a ship. Please notice I said a ship, not ships. Yes, both of the pilots would be part owners of the same ship. This is where things get really cool. During the character creation session, let the players figure out how they both became part owners in the ship. They could be related and the ship could have been left to them. The players’ characters could have been the only two survivors on the ship after a pirate raid and were able to escape with their lives and the battered ship. As a GM, you will be surprised at the cool things that your players come up with. Now, because a ship isn’t a small inexpensive item, I always like to add a few twists… you know, for coolness sake!

Because I have the two players who want to be pilots, I have to come up with a way for them both to get enough stick time to justify their character concept. I need a cool idea… I will make their ship a training model! “Why would you do that?” you, my loyal, outstanding, and totally cool readers must be asking. Well, this particular model requires two pilots to control it. I’m not talking about a pilot and a co-pilot, I’m talking about two pilots! This will mean that both of my pilots will get the same amount of stick time no matter what. They might fight over who gets to sit in the left or right seat, but they won’t be able to argue about who is getting the lion’s share of the piloting duties. Now because I like to think I’m cool, I will give the ship some maneuver bonuses because there are two pilots operating it. Now, if the characters want to modify the ship at a later date, it’s up to them, but to me this is an interesting and cool solution.

Here is one more example: Let’s say that one of your players really wants their character to have a pet monkey. I don’t remember seeing many monkeys in the Firefly series, but I know they were there. You can say no to your player or you can implement the rule of cool and say yes, but with some interesting deviations. These deviations could include having controls over the monkey’s natural curiosity. You could make the monkey a kleptomaniac. Those two ideas alone are worth at least fifteen or twenty plot hooks. The player gets what they want and you as a GM have plenty of plot hook ammunition.

Being a cool GM isn’t just about giving your players whatever they want. Part of the joy of RPGs is the quest; make everything easy, but always try to make it cool. Don’t be afraid to say no, but try to find ways to say yes. When confronted with strange requests or situations, ask yourself a few questions. Is a player’s strange request an avenue for some possibly epic plot hooks? Will the request wreck the game? Can I adjust the request to keep all parties involved? How can I make this situation as cool as possible for everyone involved? If you plan for some of these situations before character creation begins, you will be able to think of some pretty cool ideas to enhance your players experience, and how cool would that be?

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