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Monday, 8th October, 2012, 02:03 AM #1
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
How to Powergame in Ten Easy StepsPowergaming is the act of gaming to gain power. It’s very much related to the competitive edge in sports, job hunting, and video games. During an intense match, it makes sense to use every asset, tip, and advantage you can get to come out victorious; sometimes even cheating. Even though RPGs are technically a team game, the lure of winning and power is often too much to resist. Also, being the best even among teammates is something everyone aspires to. Many players learn to powergame by default. If you haven’t learned to powergame yet, there’s always this article.
1. Always look to get the highest possible modifier in one thing. For instance, if it’s at all possible to get 53 hp at first level, +32 in seduction, or attack 17 times with a bow—do it.
2. Always ignore the intents of the rules. Take things literally. While the game might think you’re playing a warrior, that shouldn’t stop you from tossing in magic powers or giving your mage full-plate.
3. Review all options. If there are 275 feats in the book, you should read them all and only take the best one. Also be sure to look for little nit-picky rules which will make you too powerful. Never make any choices about your character until you read all the books cover to cover.
4. Interpret ambiguous rules in your favor. For instance, if a power says you’re insubstantial and another says you can jump in the way of enemy attacks to take the hit for allies, there’s nothing stopping you from doing both even though technically the weapon would pass right through you and hit your buddy.
5. Get all the books. Yes, this may cost you more than the U.S. Mint. However, if you don’t have absolutely all the rules you have less options which means less power. Because most game companies want to make money, you should have no end of extra rules to abuse.
6. Argue loudly. The GM will always change his mind if you whine and cry enough about anything. This is how people get 26’s in all their ability scores.
7. Rule combat. There’s nothing that says “I’m a Powergamer” better than being devastating in battle. When it comes time to role-play or do anything else you can always sleep or count your millions of gold coins in loot.
8. Seize all magic items. Magic items will make you powerful. It is the right of the powerful person in the group to take all the magic items and treasures found.
9. Forget some rules. Sometimes crucial rules may be forgotten. Then you can punch enemies and while you’re punching them deliver a touch-spell. Your interpretation of the rules is probably cooler anyway.
10. Try to be annoying, loud and obnoxious. This will improve the game for everyone. Be sure to focus on piddly, irrelevant details to the exclusion of all else. Cry for hours until the GM lets you re-roll your hit dice. Make it so much of a pain to catch you cheating that your fellow players would rather just let you get on with it to shut you up. After all, role-playing games are about ‘rolling’ the dice, right?
How Not to Powergame in Ten Easy Steps
Hark! It’s another article right after the first. What’s going on here? Well, given that all of your players are now powergamers, it’s probably in your best interest as a GM to stifle things before they get way out of hand. Chances are, you probably had a few powergamers even before reading this article. If that’s so, you’re probably better off burning the above How-To than sharing it with your players. If you’re crazy enough to burn articles, then read on and learn, my friend!
1. Always remember that people powergame because they’re ‘into’ the game. You don’t want to kill that creativity, merely channel it for your own diabolical purposes. Kind of like an Unholy energy diverter...uh-hum.
2. Is it just me, or was there no point to the above step? Anyway, the best way to encourage role-playing and discourage powergaming is to make it very clear right off the bat that you’ll have none of that. When people create stupidly weak characters, hand them sweet magic items and awesome abilities. When people take any choice because of power rather than what they want to do, frown and offer them no benefits. When they see that the players ‘doing it wrong’ are actually doing better than they are they’ll either flip out at you, or relax and actually play the characters they want to.
3. Ignore the rules. If any piddly little rule is giving someone too much power: abolish it, weaken it, change it, or whatever. Most RPG books say the GM is in charge, abuse that. If the guy is supposed to be a warrior and he’s somehow managed to get wizard powers, you can feel free to enforce the ‘intents’ of the rules on him. If someone has +32 seduction you can flat out say, “There’s no way you romance the troll.” Or, better yet, “The troll falls in love with you and carries you off to be its love slave. If you do anything to prevent that, the effect of your roll wears off.” And lastly (as all good GM’s know) whenever the players have more hp, it’s a great time to just give all monsters +3d6 to damage or something else arbitrarily stupid like that.
4. Train the powergamers. Powergamers do what they do to get power. This makes it really easy to manipulate them to your evil—I mean narrative purposes. When people role-play, pick weak powers and skills, and arbitrarily put themselves into stupid situations which enhance play (like jumping naked and weaponless into a pit full of diseased zombies) you can hand them out huge bonuses and loads of experience points. There’s almost nothing a powergamer likes more than experience points. If you start giving out massive rewards for silly things, they’ll do just that. Please note that silly things can always include stuff like: going on your adventures, donating all money to charity, doing noble deeds, and role-playing.
5. Reward esoteric conditions. For instance, you can automatically assume that all wizards are 90-year-old, arrogant, absent-minded, and incredibly weak. Whenever the ultra-powerful wizard is roaming a forest you can have him constantly bumbling around, tripping, making stupid mistakes, and otherwise embarrassing himself. All players think they’re awesome so this is great for discouraging powerful classes. Also, if there’s an elf in that forest with a weak set of abilities you can hand out insane things like: stealth, hunting, +1 billion perception, and so forth making the ‘weak’ elf look a heck of a lot better. This kind of thing tends to confuse powergamers and make people proud of their ‘weak’ elves.
6. Encourage Diversity. Chances are, if there’s at least one powergamer he’ll be training all the rest if not picking out powers for their characters. Also, because of how powergaming works, these powers will probably all be the same. This is how you end up with 5 duplicate warriors all with identical statistics and two weapon fighting or a band of wizards with fireball spells and invisibility. Whenever this happens, just chuckle evilly and prepare adventures to their detriment. Be sure to throw in magical obstacles for the warriors and say stuff like, “Gee, this would have been a piece of cake for any old 1st level wizard.” With the wizards you can just put a wall of rubble in their way and say “Gee, too bad you’re all 90 years old and can’t lift the rocks.” Or, even better, “Oh, too bad this whole planet is in an anti-magic zone, guess you’ll have to fight with daggers.” Yes, this is mean and unfair. However, it does encourage consideration of other ‘options.’
7. Use the World. Whenever the game concentrates on numerical statistics too much you’re usually in a bit of trouble. Instead, try to create a world where some random things could potentially happen. For instance, the stacked warrior could be turned into a toad and lose access to all his special abilities. The party wizard could be cursed and lose his mind, thinking he’s a thief. The party nincompoop could receive a mystical magical sword with such supreme powers he becomes like a souped-up version of Thor. The point is not to be random, but to give story consequences more weight than game choices. If the players feel so powerful they take on evil fortresses, it may help to have them stripped of some powers or come into possession of different ones. Players can’t usually powergame GM-assigned powers so this makes the game more ‘interesting’ as they gain abilities they never would have thought of or used before.
8. Take Advantage of Weakling Syndrome. If everyone is so weak they don’t stand a chance against a goblin, they ‘all’ must role-play. So if you gave massive experience points awards for being weakling fools and then they were all forced to role-play, that’s one way of doing things. Another is to let them be awesome yes, but then throw a jillion ultra-powerful enemies way beyond their level at them. This forces them to improvise.
9. Never play treasure or experience points ‘by the book’. This will only encourage killing monsters and grabbing their treasure. However, if this is what you wanted anyway, ignore this advice.
10. Encourage people to make stuff up. When they do, give them the bonuses they’re looking for. Reward imagination and not ‘rules-lawyering’. Powergaming takes a lot of creative energy, remember that you can always channel that energy into a pit of naked zombies.
Last edited by Challenger RPG; Monday, 8th October, 2012 at 03:24 AM. Reason: Nitpicky Stuff--David L. Dostaler: Author, Challenger RPG
Monday, 8th October, 2012, 03:22 AM #2
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
I assume that the intent of the above was to show that the solution to powergaming (behave like a dick, and never under any circumstances present a consistent or coherent world for the players to engage with) is generally worse than the powergaming itself?
Monday, 8th October, 2012, 03:27 AM #3
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Well, which is worse is probably a matter of opinion. Essentially, yes, it's meant to be funny and sarcastic. It's definitely not meant to be taken literally word for word. However, if anyone was to do so, I think that would be pretty hilarious.
Thanks for reading!
Last edited by Challenger RPG; Monday, 8th October, 2012 at 03:41 AM.--David L. Dostaler: Author, Challenger RPG
Monday, 8th October, 2012, 06:32 AM #4
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
How Not to Powergame in 10 Easy Steps
1) Remember that you are not a powergamer. Deliberately avoid options that would improve your character. Remember that your party should respect your position, and make sure to deliberately avoid any power, spell, or ability that would help them out, even if it would cost you almost nothing. Your party should respect your amazing roleplaying.
2) Take deliberate flaws and character issues that will show up in every session. Make sure that everyone realizes this shows off how little of a power gamer you are. For instance, if your Fighter has a crippling phobia of blood or your Bard has Tourette's Syndrome, this shows off how amazing your roleplaying is. Make sure to show off these syndromes in the most critical and sensitive of circumstances.
3) If you're at a loss for what dehabilitating flaws to take, crippled, blind, deaf, and mute are all wonderful examples of flaws that will generally make the rest of the group realize how amazing your roleplaying is when they influence the group's plans. These flaws will definitely be a constant demonstration of your incredible roleplaying.
4) Teamwork is the hallmark of Power Gaming. Only Power Gamers would bother to make characters that worked together with others. Your character should have plots to betray at least two party members at any given time. This is the hallmark of good roleplaying.
5) Remember to play off-spec. This makes you look much more interesting. In the real world elite military forces and special ops teams rarely use the most effective and most powerful weapons available to them, preferring antique weapons and weapons totally unsuited for the situation. Emulate them!
5) Anything that makes your character look weak is the result of powergamers exploiting the rules, no matter how essential. The DM should address this for you through targeted bans and nerfs. A good example is Monks. You've built a perfectly adequate Ranger who is blind, has a crippling phobia of loud noises, limps, and dual wields saps (because they don't make a loud noise when they hit metal). The monk keeps showing your character up, so you should get the DM to nerf overpowered monks. Monks have lots of words in their class description, so they're definitely cheesy.
6) Magic is a great use of roleplay. Remember that damaging magic is OP, and you should only use spells with nasty conditionals. This shows off that you're roleplaying an underpowered mage. Make sure to show this off by using cantrips and other spells to mess with other members of the party. Also, since you're not doing damage, anyone who is is OP. Argue that they should get nerfed.
7) Sometimes groups will be full of immature kids and trolls. If this happens, there's little you can do. They will disrupt your roleplaying experience and ruin your in-character events by preventing you from hurting other members of the party and vetoing your various character-enhancing flaws. If this happens, the only resort is to find groups of like-minded people on the internet and complain.
8) Magic items are probably OP. Don't just avoid them, insist that they are tools of the devil. A really good character would definitely eschew magic items and insist the rest of the party do the same. Remember, if they don't they're in league with the devil and this is a good excuse to backstab them (see point number 4)
9) Rules are overpowered. If something would prevent you from properly roleplaying, insist its not a rule. Argue long and loudly. If someone takes out a manual, make sure to call them a rules lawyer, because they are. You're right, and even if you're not, you really should be!
10) If all else fails, try to convince the DM that siding with the villain would be something that your character would do, in-character. Remember, many Paladins fall and break their code. It helps to make your characters chaotic, so they can do this easily. However, this shouldn't discourage Lawful Good. In fact Lawful Good characters are a good example of number 2! All characters who obey the law do so in all circumstances. Remember, it always applies. So if you have to steal a crystal from a museum in which all the patrons and guards are dead because of a lich who will end the world without the crystal to stop him, remember to insist the party gets the proper permission to take the crystal, because otherwise they're stealing.
With these tips, absolutely everyone you game with will remember you for all time! Your roleplaying will truly be immortal.
Monday, 8th October, 2012, 09:00 AM #5
Defender (Lvl 8)
Monte Cook established this rule some time ago, and I have gamed by it ever since:
Never play an RPG with someone who you wouldn't do anything else with.
As most of my 'real-life' friends tend to be reasonable and personable, following the above rule helps to reduce the kind of lunacy satirized above. Though one does have to grow a set every once in a while and kick someone out of a game (although this last resort has only happened twice to me in thirty years of gaming).
Monday, 8th October, 2012, 03:22 PM #6
Novice (Lvl 1)
Nice article, Challenger- a real hoot to read. I know it was all very tongue-in-cheek, but you did make some good points with the second list:
Last edited by Stouthart; Monday, 8th October, 2012 at 03:28 PM.Mild mannered programmer by day, earth’s mightiest gamer by night... he is... the Stupendous Stouthart!
Check out my new weekly EN World column Shut Up and Roll each Friday in October.
“You have nice manners for a thief and a liar," said the dragon.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Monday, 8th October, 2012, 05:55 PM #7
Lama (Lvl 13)
I'm a big-time min-maxer and power gamer, but the personality aspects are nothing like me. I make it a big deal that everyone who comes to the table has fun, but my kicks is build the best one-trick pony in any game. Not everyone's cup to tea on play style, but to each their own.
Monday, 8th October, 2012, 08:13 PM #8
Guide (Lvl 11)
So what does the Challenger RPG do to discourage powergaming?
Monday, 8th October, 2012, 08:18 PM #9
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
@GreyICE : Ha ha, that was freaking amazing! I haven't had such a good chuckle reading something in a long while. Thanks so much. I think we could probably hand the column over to you.
@gideonpepys : I've always thought that rule was a great guideline too. I've always applied it to my own games. What I never knew was that it originated with Monte Cook. Just one more reason he's awesome.
@Stouthart : Thank you very much! I also enjoyed reading your article, particularly the part about guano and fireballs on the quitters. Reminded me of the time I went in a real cave. Very true! The dialogue was pretty sweet.
@kitsune9 : One of my very best players (and role-players) is a total powergamer and min/maxer. He loves creating one-trick ponies as well, and I have to admit I 'stole' some of his secrets to use in this article. I apologize about the personality traits. I was running out of ideas at the end of the list so I just put in loud, obnoxious, and annoying for no good reason. As a player, I'm a pretty serious powergamer myself. I guess you could say I was exaggerating, assigning random (bad) personality traits, and making fun of myself as well.
@Libramarian : Warning: Long Answer!
Great question. I'm afraid it mostly offers only GM advice to address the problem. I added in an extra 60 pages of generic GM advice to the book to deal with all sorts of issues the GM always runs into. It takes a more moderate approach than the article implies, simply recommending handing out extra magic items/powers to particularly weak characters so everyone can feel they can legitimately play the character they want to rather than the most powerful one. Challenger has close to 40 classes and a couple dozen races so options are rather high. This makes powergaming Challenger a bit easier than tighter systems, but if a GM follows the recommendations to help out the 'weak guy' characters everyone should be encouraged to go for what they want (whether a character concept, or power) without being too worried about being left behind everyone else or useless.
I'm still shuffling things around in the book a bit. I think I need to make multi-classing a wee bit pricier (you can take 2 classes by default and pay powers for additional classes). I recently added in one free power for each class (by reader request) so the cost of losing one power to play an additional class kind of inadvertently lost its sting. Mostly everyone plays how the game was meant to be played (by taking two classes for a good mix of abilities) but the occasional smart player now takes 4-5 classes simply for the free powers and ignores the loss of power points (ugh). 4-5 classes is kind of ridiculous, in my opinion, but 2 gives you a lot of options (40x40 Classes multiplied by Races). Broad subtypes such as Warrior, Magic, and Stealth keep things from being totally random, but you can still play a telekinetic warrior if you really want to (at a price).
I've had some really great people help me with the book over the years. Many fine powergamers among them (they're the best at fixing unbalanced things). Challenger was meant to let you play any character you want. However, this led to a bit too many classes and races for my tastes, in retrospect. Ah, well, you live and learn, right?
Thanks for asking! I love questions about my games, so feel free to ask me any! However, I tend to get a little long-winded. Also, if you happen to get the free Challenger e-book, I'd love to know about any problems you find in it. I'm always on the lookout for things to fix. I'm not one of those crazy authors who will get mad at you if you point out how crappy my book is. In fact, I find it improves the most when that happens (provided whoever it is can explain what's wrong with it).
Anyone: Any ideas for the next article(s)? I was kind of thinking about "X number of Secrets to being a Good Player that No-one Ever Told You". Kind of like a spoofy list of all the things good players end up doing which no book ever tells you about (10' poles, checking everything for traps, randomly saying, "I search for secret doors", ignoring carrying capacity, looting everything but the loin cloth from all bodies, etc.)
Anyway, really appreciate the article by GreyIce. That was freaking hilarious (and much better than mine). I recommend everyone read that one.
Last edited by Challenger RPG; Monday, 8th October, 2012 at 08:41 PM.--David L. Dostaler: Author, Challenger RPG
Monday, 8th October, 2012, 11:09 PM #10
Novice (Lvl 1)
Mild mannered programmer by day, earth’s mightiest gamer by night... he is... the Stupendous Stouthart!
Check out my new weekly EN World column Shut Up and Roll each Friday in October.
“You have nice manners for a thief and a liar," said the dragon.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
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