5 Reasons to Say No

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on July 19, 2011

I believe that players should play the characters they want to play. I’m a total 4e, say yes convert. It took me awhile to come around but when I’m the DM I encourage creativity and I say yes… a lot. However, I’ve realized that as much as I want to always say yes, there are times when I probably should not. In a few of these cases it’s actually caused me more grief in the long run.

Players make choices during character creation and between levels during character improvement. Normally I’m very hands off as a DM and let the players do whatever they want as long as it’s legal. But it’s this absolute freedom of choice that often ends up causing the most problems. If I’d only stepped in earlier and said no, a lot of the problems I’ve experienced wouldn’t have been problems at all.

It’s taken me a while but I’ve learned the hard way that just because a choice is legal in character builder doesn’t mean that the DM has to automatically say yes to every choice that the players make. In fact the more I’ve thought about it the more I’ve realized that sometimes the DM should step in and say no; especially during character creation. Here are five examples.

1) Your character is too specialized

When I create a character I like to start with a concept including where I see this character getting to in the long-term. I don’t always stick to the original plan, but it helps me focus those early choices. As the character advances he gets to choose more feats and powers that let him move closer to the picture I have in my mind. Add unique magic items into the mix and it all starts coming together. By the time the PC reaches paragon tier he’s in a good position to really distinguish himself from other similar characters of the same class or race.

This is when the DM has to be particularly observant of the player’s choices and if necessary step in and say no. Some choices will indeed make a character extremely specialized, and in those specific circumstances that PC will be awesome. However, in all other circumstances he’ll be a lot less powerful than his more generalized counterpart. The specialist often overlooks more versatile options that apply broadly to many situations in favour of being that much better in his area of expertise.

A player that wants to play a dragon slayer, demon hunter or giant killer should talk to the DM about this desire before just going ahead and choosing an extremely specialized build. If the DM knows where the player wants his character to go then perhaps it can be worked into the campaign. Otherwise the DM should step in and say no if he see a player making a character that’s too specialized.

2) Why are you even with this party?

When the players create their characters in a vacuum, without any discussion with the rest of the group, there are going to be times when one or two of the PCs they bring to the table just don’t work. But if you’re following the 4e mantra you say yes and try to make it work. The results can be a campaign that gets derailed because of in-game fighting.

One of our very first Eberron campaigns featured three of six PCs with Dragonmarks. Two PCs possessed true Dragonmarks, one PC possessed an Aberrant Dragonmark. In the world of Eberron this is a recipe for disaster. The player running the PC with the Aberrant Dragonmark agreed to keep it concealed from the party. Eventually they found out and suddenly the PCs were plotting each other’s deaths.

The party eventually split and half of the players created new characters for the next leg of the adventure. If the DM had just said no to such conflicting PCs things might have worked out very differently. Sometimes it makes sense to ask the players why these characters are working together and if they can’t come up with a good explanation that includes everybody, say no to one or more characters until the party has a good reason to be together.

3) Enough with the power gaming!

I’ve seen more characters than I care to admit that have starting scores of 20, 16, 10, 10, 10, 9. This is similar to the “You’re too specialized” problem mentioned above. The PC is exceptionally good at one thing and terrible at everything else. Usually the high scores are assigned to the top three abilities while the bottom three abilities get what’s left. The result is a character with below average skills, among other things.

I’ve seen players who slot their character’s ability scores like this refuse to participate in skill challenges because they know that they’ll incur a failure. This is when I know that I’ve waited too long to step in and say no to this distribution of points. A character that’s poor at combat doesn’t sit back while the rest of the PCs fight the monster. Yet some players believe it’s ok to take this approach during skill challenges because they have a weakness (which came about entirely because of choices they made!). DMs must say no to players who aren’t willing to live with the consequences of their bad choices.

Another problem that I’m seeing more and more often with power gamers is making Constitution their PC’s dump stat. The results are low hit points and very few healing surges. One bad fight and that PC is out of surges. Now the player is screaming for an extended rest. Again, this is a problem that’s easily avoidable if the player had made better choices. DMs that are more watchful during character creation can step in and say no when they see below average Con scores. Unless of course the player has done this deliberately and knows the challenge they face.

4) Not another one

With all of the choices available you’d think it nearly impossible for two out of six players to show up with nearly identical characters. Think again. I’ve seen it happen a lot – especially during LFR. Some builds are just really appealing (especially a lot of striker builds). In a public-play situation you can’t really say no to similar or identical characters, but at your home game it’s an entirely different situation.

We recently had two Elven archer Rangers in our party of six. One used a long bow and the other used two hand-crossbows. They chose almost all of the identical powers but they played these characters differently. At first there didn’t seem to be any need to say no. And then they both chose the same paragon path.

Until they reached level 11 I’d never asked ether of them what paragon path they were thinking about choosing. Nor did I look at their character sheets and see that they’d both taken all the necessary prerequisites to qualify for this paragon path. By the time they’d made their selections (neither realizing that the other had made the identical choice) it was too late. Lesson learned, when two players want to play the same characters, say no. Ask them to make different choices along the way or better yet see if one is willing to come up with a different character all together.

5) You’ll never use it

Some players want to roll dice and kill monsters; others want to get immersed in the story and role-play for hours on end. It’s players that fall into the second group that I’ve found I need to say no to. They often choose powers and feats that add flavour to their character and absolutely make sense given that PC’s back-story. But often these choices will never have any in-game benefit.

For example, in an older campaign our party was a group of explorers who were good at finding lost artifacts (yes, they were tomb robbers). They often needed to travel across vast distances so they secured the services of an airship. The PCs would travel from place to place in the airship, and when they arrived at the location they would go into the tomb, dungeon or catacombs and find the hidden treasure. When a new player joined he brought a PC that was specialized in mounted combat. Not a flying mount (which we might have been able to work into the game) but a regular warhorse.

It was a cool concept but all of the feats, items and powers he’d chosen to reflect this part of his character were never going to come into play during this kind of campaign. The player decided to play this PC anyway and eventually retrained a lot of his feats and powers as he realized their ineffectiveness. He had a poor experience because I didn’t step in as the DM and say no to the character concept right off the bat.

What situations, specific to character choices, have you found that the DM should have stepped in and said no? Do you agree with all of the situations that I’ve described above? If not, tell us why?

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 stacey July 19, 2011 at 9:46 am

I am not into Dungeons and Dragons, but this article was interesting, since it can apply to most games. Knowing when to say no is not an easy thing to figure out as a DM. Great article.
stacey´s last blog post ..Locations for New York City Dresden Files Game

2 Blinkey July 19, 2011 at 10:38 am

I’d just like to say how much I relate as a DM to your points #2 and #3.

My ongoing campaign is still my first and early on there was a decision that everybody could create the characters they wanted. They could have any personal background and they could use anything they wanted (within legality). We discussed that we’d bring the party together with the ‘met on the road, all going to the same place with the same immediate goal’ style hook. Big mistake. We finished the first adventure and then people began asking ‘Well why am I adventuring with these people?’. I agree with your sentiments that had I nipped this early, it wouldn’t have become a problem.

The ‘Why am I here?’ question now sadly comes up a bit too often from almost all my players to try and justify something they personally want to do that the others don’t. From a certain perspective on point #2 though, it should be agreed and generally accepted that the players gloss over a certain amount of this nonsense to ensure that the game progresses and that everybody has a good time. Too often this is overlooked under the facade of ‘good RP’ when in practice the player doing it is being an ass and causing problems for everybody else. I love good RP but when it gets in the way of somebody’s fun then it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

To be a little more brief when I discuss point #3, I can’t for the life of me get ‘optimised’ players to roll skills they suck at. I entirely understand why they won’t do it. To a certain level I accept the ‘My character wouldn’t do that’ or the ‘My character knows [PLAYER X] is better at this and would let them do it’ but I refuse to believe this is the case EVERY time for EVERY skill that doesn’t correspond to their primary stats. I don’t want to try and punish them for this because forcing them to roll likely failures will detract from their fun. Any suggestions on how to gently encourage participation here?

3 Judd July 19, 2011 at 11:03 am

Are these really reasons to say no or are these reasons to have a conversation with the player about how and why their character could be better crafted so that they and everyone has more fun at the table?

I’ve seen in a few blog posts lately, people saying that they need to say no but what they mean by that is a conversation needs to be had so that something at the table is better.
Judd´s last blog post ..What makes a role-playing game Bad Ass? The Most Bad Ass RPG?

4 iserith July 19, 2011 at 11:37 am

I’ve eliminated all of these problems in my campaigns. They were a problem in the beginning, but not anymore.

1, 2, 4 & 5 – I’m a blank slate at the start of a campaign. I bring nothing to the table other than an abiding interest in entertaining. I have the players tell me what kind of campaign they want to play and what they want to play in it – both in terms of their characters and in how their characters fit together and know each other. We kick it around and brainstorm a bit. Then I write stories for those characters in that context. You can’t go wrong this way. I also enjoy the challenge of the players dictating what I am to write and then delivering it with my own take. After they’ve told me the theme and tone of the campaign they want, I lay down house rules (character creation rule and what have you that help focus the theme) and we’re off to the races with everyone on the same page before pen is put to paper.

3 – In my most recent campaign, my players wanted a return to “old school” tone – dungeons with wandering monsters, low magic items, and emphasis on exploration i.e., rolling Perception on a room is just not enough to discover everything. As part of my house rules, I had them do the following on ability scores in order to make it feel a little more “old school” but not enough to cap people at the knees: 18 in your primary, 16 in your secondary, 4d6 drop the lowest in order for the rest, no rerolls. Due to a good Cha roll on the FIGHTER (yeah, I know), he’s fantastic at Streetwise and even took a feat later to get Diplomacy. Yes, a Fighter… with DIPLOMACY (cue scary music). Other characters find themselves with similar “odd ball” skills and career paths because of unexpected ability scores.

As to skill challenges, well, I write them to the characters’ strengths obviously so they are encouraged to use their full range of specializations. I also tend to give pretty good incentives for making the rolls, not just “earning a success.” As well, I often rule that if you use the same skill more than once during a skill challenge, the DC goes up by 2, cumulatively. At a certain point it becomes better to use untrained skilled rather than keep spamming one you’re good at. What’s more, I include in the skill challenges options like basic attacks, ability score checks (with requisite lower DCs), and assists (of course) to encourage hesitant players to jump into the action.

Bottom line – these are problems that come up when you and your players are not on the same page prior to the start of the campaign. Communication is key. Once you’ve laid down a good foundation, the rest is easy to build.

5 Sully July 19, 2011 at 1:29 pm

The culture of “the player’s always right” has gotten so pervasive these days! I think char-gen has gotten completely out of hand with letting everyone choose whatever they want from a million different perfectly balanced options. Its time we tip the scales a good bit. A lot of the fun in old-school games is rolling up your character to see what you could be. That makes character optimization a completely different beast when your options are significanty limited.

6 Svafa July 19, 2011 at 1:47 pm

All of these but number four sound like my sort of character. Maybe that’s not entirely true, I’m not terribly big on power-gaming and tend to create/prefer under-powered characters.

I think a lot of it comes down to the skill, knowledge, creativity, and personality of the player though. I enjoy playing characters with fatal flaws and am perfectly content to play a character that takes the backseat. In the only supers game I’ve played, my character was essentially Alfred Pennyworth. Almost all of my interaction took place off-screen, where I cleaned up the various messes the other players created and managed their check book.

Thus, I don’t believe these are areas where saying ‘no’ is necessarily best, but where the DM needs to sit down and talk through the character with the player or party. Some things might not work best, but that doesn’t mean they will necessitate a problem.

Granted, this list is a good summary of some of the more prevalent problem characters should they not be accounted for in creation. I do veto characters from time to time, especially for the over-the-top power-gaming (Minotaur Rogues are not playable, sorry), but most of my character veto/direction is based on world design rather than character concept.

7 Toldain July 19, 2011 at 3:04 pm

I don’t tend to get authoritatarian and say “no” to this stuff. Instead, I point out to the players the likely consequences. To the overspecialized, I will say, “You aren’t likely to have much of an opportunity to use that. I don’t forsee there being many chances for (dragon-slaying, mounted combat) in my campaign, so you’ll be kind of crippled for no benefit.”

Fortunately, my players are smart enough to see this stop sign and decide to do something different.

Low con in one character can be fun, especially a squishy. But if a melee fighter is making con their dump stat, something is wrong. But my approach to gaming is that we follow a story arc to set up the battles, and I’m going to want to do running battles, and marathons where the players simply don’t have an opportunity to take healing surges.

I’d tell them that up front. I’d describe the kinds of battles I want to portray, like the heroic defense of the castle for three days without sleep, and that this character would be at a serious disadvantage to that.

If someone was so hardheaded as to go ahead after this warning, I would not change my style to accomodate them, but I’d be sure to have an epic, three-days-without-sleep castle defense.

Fortunately, none of my players are that much of minmaxers.
Toldain´s last blog post ..The Xorian is Deciphered

8 Bigtowel July 19, 2011 at 9:26 pm

In regard to the ‘Why am I here?’ point I have wondered what to do about a campaign where players have conflicting alignments. It would seem strange for most characters to be Good and one Chaotic Evil (which I’m sure happens often enough). The solution I have come up with for our next campaign is to demand that all players create a PC who is a scum-bag. The players are pretty interested and so I’m hoping it turns out well.

Has anyone else ever tried a similar approach?

9 Captain DM July 20, 2011 at 1:33 am

@iserith

I really like the bump in difficulty for using the same skill in a skill challenge! Man, why didn’t I think of that? I’ve been having trouble thinking of how to make them a little more difficult lately.

I’ve definitely had my fair share of incidents where “no” was the better choice of response. One time in particular, I had a player who wanted to have a giant sword and shiny plate armor and ride a horse. He was playing a Dragonborn, and one of the other players brought up the fact that he was probably really heavy and would need to make sure a regular horse could even hold him and his gear. This player was also a cheapskate, so he wanted me to say that a regular horse would be enough, but there was no way I could justify it. In-game physics are still physics to some degree, so he had to by a warhorse and even so it was overburdened.

I had another instance in which the Paladin was upset since he didn’t do as much damage as the Fighter. We were a few months into our game, and he thought his stats were just too low comparatively. I assured him that the Fighter just walked around and swung at things while Paladins sacrifice physical strength for divine powers that can be just as handy and typically more versatile. He retrained his character anyhow and tried to get me to allow him to have a large sword with a grip on the blade so it would count as an axe so he could have a better chance for a crit. I put a stop to his antics right there with a firmly stated and resounding “no.”

In home games, communication will trump all. As long as everyone is clear on what kind of game they are getting into, and they communicate with each other, these issues really shouldn’t come up. I know, I know, it’s easier to say than to actually have happen, but that’s how I like to run my table (whenever possible~). More than a few times, the other players themselves vetoed and argued down a player’s character choices and I didn’t have to say a word. That’s really when you know things are going well.
Captain DM´s last blog post ..Jenn, the Silent Archer

10 Naz July 20, 2011 at 3:07 am

Good comments all, and to those that have said its more about communicating up front vs. saying no, I agree with you the most. But there is a theme that I have been seeing a lot of lately, not only on this subject, but in several others both on this sight, and others as well. That theme is that DM’s, and even some players, seem to be increasingly worried about keeping the “Rules” under control. In other words, trying to find ways of penning in characters that are very much within the rules as written, but, whether by exploitation, or just simple rule’s intuitiveness, seem to be overpowered, or unfair.

I see and hear a BUNCH of people who say “I make my character around a theme and not a set of stats” or “I like playing or making characters that have a major FLAW” (no offense to Svafa or any others who have stated something like this in this forum) and then end up coming out and waylaying encounter after encounter. Yes they may have a Flaw, or they may have a quirky set of stats/skills/or feats, but nearly to a one, they don’t out and out suck, because unless you want to be the butt of every party joke, or actually cause the group to stuggle, you don’t make a completely bad character. And if you do, then yeah, the DM, or more likely the other players SHOULD talk to you about this character.

Case in point, I have 2 friends, 1 who is an unappoligetic Power Gamer, and another who makes it a point every time he creates a character that he Doesn’t go for stats, he goes for role playing. Well, I played with both of these guys in the same party, and guess what. After about 10 sessions, I, as well as about everyone else in the party, and the DM, noticed that of ALL of the party members, the second player mentioned above (the Not Powergamer) had the character that hit the most, Crit’d the most, and got missed the most. Did his character have a flaw, sure kind of, I think he had low Con (see above) but he had stacked his feats and equipment to get crits on an 18-20, along with some racial and class re-roll abilities, and it was as if he NEVER missed. The self proclaimed Power Gamer wasn’t far behind, but his character was actually less effective in combat. No rules were being broken, everything was on the up and up, and yet, the campaign basically fell apart due in large part to the party, and the DM, argueing about that one particular character, both for and against it.

I’m not trying to defend my friend, I was a bit sick of it myself, but in all reality, WoTC has put out a product with rules. We as consumers, and gamers, have taken up these rules. So, if there are things we don’t want in our campaigns, we need to say so up front. Be honest as players and DM’s about what is felt to be okay, and how in the future, (not if but when troubles come up) the group will address issues. Saying NO is fine, having conversations are fine, but understand why you are saying NO, and be ready to discuss the reasons. “That rule is broken” might be valid enough, but “That rule makes me have to work harder” may ring a bit hollow in the ears of a player that has really tried to get the most out of his or her PC.

11 Jim S. July 20, 2011 at 9:39 am

I agree with all who have said communication is key. I work with those players who desire a backstory to bring it in line with the campaign and make sure it does not create too much friction within the party. Some intra-party conflict is permitted, but anything that jeopardizes party unity/the quest is forbidden.

I also work with players to create their characters. As I do have power-gaming tendencies when I’m on the other side of the screen, I warn when something is simply going to be wasted and naturally point players towards things that should make my monsters cry. But, that just allows me to turn up the fight intensity and wail on the group more. As long as everybody’s roughly the same power level, it’s all good. Beyond that, I treat the first few sessions as a shakedown cruise for the characters. Players are largely free to retrain anything if their concept isn’t working.

Regarding stat arrays and participation in skill challenges, that is more an issue in skill challenge design. If you allow players to sit out skill challenges when their skills aren’t up to par, they will sit them out. So, the answer is not to do that. If you construct skill challenges so that they require everyone to take up a “slot,” (such as a crew position on a ship), or if the skill challenge is related to a character’s role in combat, or even if you scrap skill challenges all together and work skills into the normal course of fighting and roleplaying, players won’t have the option to not participate, no matter how bad their skills are. Those players who let their characters suffer poor stat arrays will have every reason to invest in skill training feats and skill boosting items to make up for their obvious deficiencies.

Plus, not all 20 16 10 arrays are created equal in this regard. If the 20 is Wis or Cha, and the 16 is Dex, Int, Wis or Cha, there’s likely plenty for the character to do in a skill challenge. A 20 16 Str/Con, however, is a big problem.

12 iserith July 20, 2011 at 11:00 am

@Captain DM

Thanks. It seems nowadays I have a skill challenge of some form or another in every combat. I really like using skills in the game, so I encourage my players to do so every chance I get. If I don’t do a skill challenge in the combat, I insist on at least having a terrain power (and sometimes both). That said, while I do use the escalating DC for skill spamming, I also try to build in incentives to using different skills. An example is below (adapted for use in Dungeon’s White Lotus Academy adventure).

I could talk all day about skill challenges, but it will probably get away from the point of this particular article. As it relates, however, you can break your players out of non-participation in skill challenges by incentivizing them to do so. Power gamers will always go for an easy bonus, even if the potential for failure exists. Also, explain to your players that failing a skill challenge doesn’t mean they’ve *failed* anything at all. There’s just a different outcome. Power gamers don’t like to think they’ve *failed.* Perhaps the actual skill challenge terminology should be revisited to change that perspective.

PEP RALLY
The students of Hestavar Academy are suitably cowed by the malfunctioning mannequins. Can you rally them to use their burgeoning arcane and divine talents to assist you?

Diplomacy (DC 20): As a minor action, you inspire the acolytes of the church to pray for your victory. Choose yourself or an ally to gain a +2 bonus to defenses until the end of your next turn.

History (DC 20): As a minor action, you make it a teachable moment and the students respond with helpful advice. You or an ally can stand up from prone.

Intimidate (DC 20): As a minor action, you goad the nerdy arcane apprentices into blasting the mannequins with magic missiles. One enemy of your choosing takes 10 force damage.

Religion (DC 20): As a minor action, you implore the divine scholars to channel their healing powers to help turn the tide. You or an ally regain 10 hit points. You can choose to have the clerics restore a dead student to life instead of regaining hit points. Taking this option eliminates Diplomacy and Religion checks as an option for the remainder of the encounter as the acolytes are spent.

Special: If you fail any check by 5 or more, one of the students meets his fate in some tragic way (you describe it). If three students die, the pep rally ends.

13 marco July 20, 2011 at 12:03 pm

I have one player who does nothing but power game in a vaccume. His characters NEVER fit in. Then I have my brother, who believes that all characters should fit HIS version of the setting, and he’s not even the DM! Ill definetly keep all this in mind, but saying NO to these two is tough, especially since they think they’re part DM…

14 Sunyaku July 20, 2011 at 11:19 pm

Haha, on the topic of #1/#3, I recently had an idea for the next season of Encounters. I’m going to run a character that is “just OK” at everything… which average stats across the board around the 14s. I think it will be a blast to develop some basic roleplaying elements… there’s certainly an element of “middle child” syndrome when you have a character that is better than average at everything, but not remarkable at anything.

And heh, just remember, average people (or slightly above) live in Neverwinter too… not everyone can be awesome at something…
Sunyaku´s last blog post ..Lair Assault Will Kill You

15 Ameron July 21, 2011 at 3:33 pm

@everyone
Rather than reply to all the comments individually I’m going to try and address as much as I can in one longer reply.

Communication
What I read in a lot for the responses was that communication is essential and I agree wholeheartedly. In every case I’ve described I’ve assumed that there was a conversation (or in some cases many conversations) that took place before the “no” was, or should have been, thrown out there. I guess the point I was really trying to make in all cases was that AFTER you’ve had a conversation with the players you should not be afraid to say no. If the players decide not to change because they know that they’re still within the rules as written, it’s ok for the DM to say no. However, this should be the last step and certainly not the first step. Too many DMs believe that they have to say yes all the time and that’s the myth I’m trying to help debunk with this article.

Mish-mash
One way to avoid the “no” when a party of extremely different characters get together is to just have everyone agree to suspend their disbelief. If they all agree to do this then everyone gets to play the PC they want to and don’t have to worry about in-party friction. Others will say that the friction is often a fun aspect of an unusual party. In those cases find a reason that works for your group knowing that in some circumstances PCs may end up leaving. I really liked the idea of a party made up of all scum-bags. I’m going to suggest it for a future campaign.

Addressing Weaknesses
Players that refuse to make skill checks they think they’ll fail when there is every reason in the story that they’d try anyway is really starting to grind on me. I’ve got some ideas on how to address this which I’ll be putting into a complete article in the next week or two. Anyone who has ideas on how to overcome this problem, please share with the rest of us.

I agree that characters with maxed out Str and Con do suffer in the skills department. These PCs more than any others need to consider taking Jack of All Trades or other feats that will help their poor skills. My experience has been that PCs built in that middle range tend to be fun to play and meet with more success that anyone really good at one thing and really bad at another.

I have no objections to players that want to work in flaws, but if that means lower numbers then I want those choices to have repercussions. Taking a low Charisma because your character was a shut in all his life doesn’t mean that you never have to talk to people. From time to time I will make you talk. It may require a Diplomacy check, which you likely suck at, but that’s just how things work. I usually create skill challenges that can be overcome if the party uses their best skills, but I do throw a few checks in that will be tough and possible require a skill no one is good at.

Specialization
If players give the DM some advance knowledge that they want to play a very specialized character or that they have a certain flare they want to include in the character’s background then I’m all for it. You want to play a Dragon Slayer, fine. You want to train in mounted combat, fine. As long as the DM knows up front he can either work that into the campaign or advise the player that it’s not going to come up. The player can then make an informed decision about sticking to the original concept or changing it. It’s only when it totally catches the DM off guard that the DM may need to say no.

The Sky’s the Limit
Although 4e D&D does not usually impose penalties or restrictions, perhaps DMs need to veto certainly powers, feats and items in order to reduce excessive power gaming. I’m not a huge fan of this approach, but I’m not above doing it if I think it will help the greater game.

You’re the DM; It’s Your Game
At the end of the day the DM has final say. Play within the rules as written or don’t. It’s up to you to make the game enjoyable for everyone. Not every table will find that the same solutions work equally well for them as others. Say yes, say no, it’s your game, do what you think works.

Never forget that there are real people running these fantasy characters. Sometimes you may need to just live with some of these irritants in order to keep the peace in the real world.

16 Kenneth McNay July 22, 2011 at 12:12 am

Fantastic! I wouldn’t remove anything. If this continued to a list of ten, I would include: It dillutes or does not belong in the setting.

i.e. Warforged in Eberron are fitting. In FR, less so; in Dark Sun, out of place.

While it is a fascinating and enjoyable game to add in fantasy races and strange constructs, those are not appropriate everywhere.

A DM should be creating a campaign with some limits on the races, classes, power sources, or other choices that can be used to best represent the setting.

17 M Higbee July 24, 2011 at 5:17 am

I guess I don’t get this discussion at all. The game is for the players. It’s their adventure, and it’s their job, as a group, to “hire” or “fire” members of the party. If they create a party that doesn’t work well together, then that’s how it will be until they decide to fix it. I wouldn’t care to play with any DM who thought he or she had the power to say “no” to a character. The DM is merely a facilitator, providing places to go and obstacles to overcome. Decision making is the players’ job.

Pointing out potential problems with characters is one thing, but saying “I won’t allow that character to play” is not in the DM’s power, any more than saying, “I won’t allow you to use that attack now. It wouldn’t be wise.”

18 Chris July 24, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Love it! I’ve got a group of experienced gamers right now who seem to insist on either creating ridiculously specialized characters or just ones that don’t mesh. While I applaud their creation of interesting characters, it’s become a real frustration.

Glad to see it’s not just me dealing with it.
Chris´s last blog post ..Top 10 Must Read Travel Blogs

19 Domanar November 5, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Hi! I know I might be late, but I just couldn´t resist the urge to add in on the conversation.

While I agree there might be some exceptions, I favor more M Higbee´s opinion. I have DMed ever since I have started playing, and while I come up with basic plots and stories for my group, I tailor the adventures accordingly for the PCs. I work with what they give to me.

If I´m seeing a Character Sheet filled with abilities and powers and stats, I´ll let them use them as innefective as they may be but I desing plots and adventures so they can use those skills and powers and whatnot. In short, if a player chooses something to play with, he/she is expecting to use it, and I´ll Facilitate the means necessary so the player can feel accomplished in using his/her character.

Even those flawed characters can add fun to the mix. I believe there is power is working with what they give us, instead of blatantly saying no.

Maybe I don´t get the conversation either, but it feels to me like there is a tendency to mold the PCs the way the DM wants, rather than said DM working to include events and challenges where said PC can shine.

Nevertheless, I agree that there should be a talk before character creation where the DM lays to the players what kind of adventure it´s going to be about so they can create characters than can fit more easily with the game.

I can see where it would be fine to say no (powergamers) or just working with said player to fit said PC into the party, but I stand by what I believe: that the Player is not to blame for using the very same options the rulebooks provides to create the character he/she wants. The DM facilitates whatever is necessary for that player to make the most of the abilities, skills and powers he/she picks for his/her character. That is true even if there is a similar character in the group. Ineffectivness should be left to deal with to the players in-game, like M Higbee said.

You can by all means clarify to me the point of the article if you want, maybe I got it wrong. I just wanted to add my perspective to the mix as I see it from this side of the table, so to speak. =D

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