Tales from the Gazebo – The Alliance Method: There be Hybrids on RPC! Part 2

The Alliance Method: There be Hybrids on RPC! Part 2
By Cape Rust

Last week, I pontificated about the importance of players and the considerations that must be made based on their desires. This week I will cover why considering what type of game you are running is a key element in the character creation process. If you’re lucky, I might even cover the final element of the Alliance method, the rule of cool, but don’t hold your breath.

Games are not, and should not be created in a vacuum. The type of game you are running will affect the characters that your players create. If you listened to me, the previous conversations that you had with your players should give everyone involved with the game an idea of what to expect. I fully understand that there are times when it is really fun to surprise your players or use a totally random character creation process. But as a GM, if you are looking for the largest chance of success, planning and collaboration is the way to go. When I say type of game, I actually mean two things. The first and most oblivious “type” I’m talking about is the setting and/or genre.

Is the game a fantasy hack-and-slash or a space opera? A horror or zombie survival? Knowing what they are getting into will allow your players to base some aspects of their characters on factors that might make them more durable – or in the best case, more playable. These adjustments shouldn’t completely thrash a player’s character concept, but if you have done your homework and socialized your game concept properly with your player’s concept, thrashing will be kept to a minimum. I tend to take this a step further. I like to tell my characters that there may be certain types of environments involved and that throwing a few ranks or points into abilities that might make dealing with those environments easier, might not be a bad idea.

This does two things for the players. First, without blowing the whole plot, you give them a chance to prepare for some situations in the game. No character can be completely prepared for all situations but when players spend a few points in the obscure gazebo slaying skill and run into an angry dire gazebo, they will have a chance to shine. If you are running an Arabian nights type of game in the middle of the desert, having your player invest large amounts of resources into swimming would only serve to piss them off. There is nothing worse than having your beloved high-level character die because they didn’t have any swimming skills and lost their footing while crossing a swift stream. Sounds ridiculous, but it has happened to me.

The other advantage to giving out a few hints of this nature is to give your players a preview of the awesome, totally epic adventure they might face. If you mention that climbing skills might be a good thing for characters, then your players will start to wonder. Mountains, high walls, spelunking in deep dark chasms… what will we use those climbing skills for? As a GM, I get a large amount of joy when I confront my players with one of these previewed situations or environments and the players say things like, “You said invest in performance skills, but I never expected to encounter The Death Juggler (Juggle or die!)!”

The second “type” of game that I want to discuss is a bit more esoteric. This “type” deals with the feel, theme, and style of the game. Will the game feel dark or will it be full of sunshine and unicorns? Is the theme of the game about class struggles? Will the style of the game be cinematic or silly? These are all valid questions that you as a GM should look at before players create their characters. If the game has a dark feel, a player’s choice of deities or skill sets can give them a huge disadvantage. These disadvantages are the stuff that great characters are made of, but these unique choices often need to be explained in a characters back story. These quirks will often lead to plot hooks that the GM and the other players can exploit for good and evil.

If the game’s theme is based on class struggles, then a player’s choice to play someone of a high stature when all of the rest of the players are playing characters of a lower stature will change not only party dynamics, but cause the GM to make some adjustments. If players know that game has a cinematic style, it will dictate some of the creation choices your players make. Some character classes or archetypes just lend themselves to cinematic play. One of my players loves to play studious characters that can build things and do lots and lots of research. Well if we are playing a cinematic game, this character might not be much fun to play, but instead of making the character a scientist, why don’t we make him a mad scientist? Just by adding the “mad” moniker, we make the character a much better fit into a cinematic game. This change still fits in the player’s style but creates a more useable character for both the player and the party.

I hope you were not holding your breath, because I won’t get to discussing the rule of cool this week. Including the type of game that you are playing into character creation can make your game better and your players happier. There are some character concepts that are more difficult to play than others, but if you give your players a heads up and work with them, you can create useable, playable characters that everyone will enjoy… even you, the GM!

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