Mechanics that support what you want as a Player to feel like you matter

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
In 5e that third one ("I want to be competent") demands game knowledge on behalf of DM and players. As an example of the sorts of considerations they should have
  • The group need to play what I call "DMG D&D" which means at minimum applying the DMG ability check rules, the social interaction mechanics, and the full rules for earning XP.
  • GM should simplify their thinking on setting difficulty classes, using a small set of well-telegraphed (if not outright announced) step values
  • Players need to understand their characters mechanically
  • The group should talk about the kind of campaign they will play, so that characters with effective features can be chosen (there's a huge diversity of options, and some are most effective in specific kinds of campaign)
  • Use either standard array or points buy and agree on a judicious subset of races (otherwise you may see overshadowing, which can make some characters feel less competent)
  • Only allow multiclassing if all players have strong game knowledge (otherwise, again, those with stronger knowledge may overshadow those without)
  • Don't allow bladesingers, and restrict sharpshooter's extra-damage attack to heavy ranged weapons (I would call these out as most likely to overshadow, again risking making others feel less competent)
  • Encourage players to confer as they generate characters so that they can create space for and synergies with one another
I'll be honest and it didn't occur to me that being competent might mean not being overshadowed. It makes sense, but I haven't had this problem at the table in years. The more I think about it has to do with recognizing much of the above list and instituting it. I dont have a list myself, and probably would never write one, but yes I do some of the above.
No doubt folk can disagree with that list. The resilient point is that "I want to be competent" will often demand both game knowledge and choices about the game. To give an example from a PbtA game - Monster of the Week - think carefully before allowing The Divine (and in particular Angel Wings) because that playbook/power can very easily overshadow others, making them feel less competent.
Now this part is interesting. At no point did we ever feel incompetent in PbtA Monster of the Week, and certainly nobody felt overshadowed by another's playbook. The more narrative style is a lot more satisfying in my opinion from a competence stand point. Maybe I've just ditched optimizing powergamers but its strange to even consider the topic for pbta in my experiences with it.
 

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clearstream

(He, Him)
Now this part is interesting. At no point did we ever feel incompetent in PbtA Monster of the Week, and certainly nobody felt overshadowed by another's playbook. The more narrative style is a lot more satisfying in my opinion from a competence stand point. Maybe I've just ditched optimizing powergamers but its strange to even consider the topic for pbta in my experiences with it.
In a case that I am thinking of, three player characters did all kinds of stuff, and then The Divine Angel Wings-ed the outcome - as if they were the player-character embodiment of a deus-ex-machina. Powergaming was not brought to the table, but it did feel palpably weird... as if the efforts of the other players were irrelevant. The MC later told us they'd considered barring that playbook, having read forum discussion of negative impacts of Angel Wings on play.

Bottomline, there are many playbooks and a lot of moves: so it's not so surprising that some of them are more effective in play. If a participant's concern is - specifically, and quoting from the OP - "to be competent", then moves can be assessed against that. How one ought to feel about being incompetent is another matter. Here I am not assessing MotW play on any basis other than the relative impact of available moves on the game state.

Perhaps we should get into how we want to define "competent" in the first place. I took the OP's requirement to mean roughly, having a character that can effectively impact the game state. Perhaps that's wrong?
 


I feel this is less the job of mechanics, and more the job of the scenario writer and/or referee.

I'd say its about equal between both. Mechanics affect the immediate feel of different actions but the GM/writer/both can compound that feel either way it goes, and indeed can even intervene to circumvent bad feel, but that introduces other issues particularly of the "my actions don't matter" kind.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
In a case that I am thinking of, three player characters did all kinds of stuff, and then The Divine Angel Wings-ed the outcome - as if they were the player-character embodiment of a deus-ex-machina. Powergaming was not brought to the table, but it did feel palpably weird... as if the efforts of the other players were irrelevant. The MC later told us they'd considered barring that playbook, having read forum discussion of negative impacts of Angel Wings on play.

Bottomline, there are many playbooks and a lot of moves: so it's not so surprising that some of them are more effective in play. If a participant's concern is - specifically, and quoting from the OP - "to be competent", then moves can be assessed against that. How one ought to feel about being incompetent is another matter. Here I am not assessing MotW play on any basis other than the relative impact of available moves on the game state.

Perhaps we should get into how we want to define "competent" in the first place. I took the OP's requirement to mean roughly, having a character that can effectively impact the game state. Perhaps that's wrong?
I think you are correct, I was taken aback by the "other players are more competent or make me feel incompetent'" comments. Particularly with PbtA and MotW. I believe the conversation was, general concept of how mechanics effect a single character, and not balance of the entire group. I suppose its only natural to move in that direction. Its not like balance has never effected folks perception of competence in RPGs. I just worry about it being a divergence from a pretty good topic, but its probably too late.
 

Kannik

Hero
Putting aside the (important) non-game mechanics of it*, I'd posit that to have that impact the player would like, a character would need two main things:

- To be capable, that is, they have the skills, talents, abilities, powers, and etc as appropriate for the game to effectuate and be able to fulfill aspects of their core/high concept, including at the start of the campaign.

- To be competent, that is, when they take an action that is in their wheelhouse and is an appropriate challenge for their "level" or experience, they have a better than not chance of being successful in that action.

I don't think it's strictly necessary to have a meta-currency or for players to have any meta-narrative control to feel like their characters matter. That said, having a meta-currency that allows for something such as a re-roll or bonus can greatly help in that it allows the player to spend it when they want to succeed and fulfill at their high/core concept at a critical moment, which should, indeed, show they matter and that their character changes the narrative going forward.

(And having meta-currencies that allow players to activate special abilities, or to introduce things into the narrative, or the like can be additional elements to support further character shining.)


* ie the GM side of it such that they do allow the characters to change the world and forward the narrative by their actions (successful or not) or their lack thereof, and in ways that reflect those actions.
 

aramis erak

Legend
As a player:
What I want are
  • clear mechanics that take into account difficulty
  • at least a modicum of simulationism
  • the ability for my character's abilities to matter
  • understandable odds for the mechanics.
  • a comprehendable setting.
this is all predicated upon a GM who (1) uses the rules, and (2) isn't a jerk. If a GM isn't going to use the rules, I'm out of there; they're wasting my time, as my understanding of the character's world is based upon the rules, save in licensed games.

Those first two are why I've never tried to run any of the close AWE/PBTA variants.
 

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