Tuesday, February 08, 2011

so let's get into this

So Fey Corgi left this comment recently on the blog entry where I talked about the dude who was unhappy with his wuss dark elf character in my Monsters! Monsters! game:
Giving a player a character that's terrible and almost worthless compared to the other members of the party is generally considered bad by reasonable people, because it makes them totally replaceable by NPCs. Not having a meaningful contribution to the game is boring. I'm completely for crazy free-wheeling games sometimes (I have a 1E Gamma World game I run that is just that), but the Dark Elf player had a point. I'm not sure what you would consider "meeting you halfway". It was a little disappointing to see you dismiss his concerns, because you've otherwise always seemed like a cool GM.
I don't think I'm dismissing the dude's concerns.  I am still unhappy that he didn't have a good time in my game.  What I'm dismissing is the concept that comparing your stats to other players is a meaningful metric for how much fun you are going to have.  Sure we had a giant demon with the 12' tall scythe and a flaming dragon in the party, both of whom were much more valuable in a fight.  Guess what?  They were also more valuable in a fight than everyone else in the game!

No one else said to themselves "That dude is playing a bigass skeletal demon with 10 times as many dice as me in a fight and that chick is playing an even bigger, badder flaming dragon, I guess I can throw in the towel right now."  Instead everyone else took their crummy statlines and made characters out of them.  Kathleen decided that her Black (i.e. Chaotic) Hobbit with a Sax (the knife-type weapon the Saxons were named after) was actually Bleeding Gums Murphy in furry-footed midget form.

And like I said before, the Warlock actually had crappier stats than the Dark Elf.  Every time he cast one of his puny 1st level spells he would fall unconscious and need to be revived.  That didn't stop him from seducing the comeliest bar wench he could find, or torching the village bar with a molotov.  That dude and Doug's Chinese Fox (more crappy stats, though he could shapeshift to look like other people) would end up being the ones who burned down the big city, not the dragon or the demon, who wouldn't have been able to get within a mile of the place without raising a hue and cry.  

The Rock Person had somewhat better combat stats than the Hobbit or the Chinese Fox or the Warlock or the Dark Elf, but I don't remember her for her fighting ability.  I remember her for how she spent much of the session trying to find and kidnap the prettiest male in the village to bring home to her lair to serve as pool boy.  Imagine adventurers on a dungeon expedition finding a captured paladin, not in the torture chamber on the rack or in some filthy cell, but chained to the wall of the underground swimming facility and forced to wear golden bejeweled swim trunks as his only attire!

Even the dragon and the demon weren't just walking piles of combat dice.  The demon took several opportunities to sign up people for contracts with his infernal boss.  (One smooth merchant said he needed to have his lawyer doublecheck the language.)  And the dragon was always on the look out for the proper herbs and spices to employ whenever she roasted some victims.

In short, while there were some fights in the session, we weren't playing a combat game.  We were playing a role-playing game.  And I dispute the idea that one needs good stats to make the magic happen, or even stats that are as good as the other players.  What I mean by not "meeting me halfway" is that the dude made no effort to develop a personality or goals.  That crappy dark elf could have been many different things.  "I'm looking for my cousin, the jerk with the 2 scimitars who is embarrassing the rest of us."  "I'm a playing a ladytype in standard drow dominatrix garb.  She's a feminist evangelist hoping to free women from the perverted patriarchy of the surface world." or even just "Hey, I've got a 30 Charisma so why don't I play the faceman for the party and see what I can talk people into doing for us?"

Also, no PC is totally replaceable by NPCs.  That's just crazy talk.