Welcome back to the Hand of Power! For those of you just joining us, this is a series regarding the benefits of a certain style of Game Mastering depending on the experience level of your players. I highly recommend you read part one of this series by clicking this link after you’re done with this article. Without any further ado, let’s get started!
Last week we discussed the pros and cons of a soft handed approach to your game when your players are fairly new to the game. But what if your players are a little more experienced? Let’s just say you’re GMing a game for a group of four people that have played for years in the system that you’re running. Why would you approach that group with a soft hand? They should be able to handle the rules and restrictions that are built into the game right? Absolutely. 100%! The benefits of this approach as far as teaching the game or providing a deeply challenging experience are limited at best with a group like this.
That does NOT mean that it is unfulfilling or dissatisfying. When I was VERY new to GMing, I approached everything with a soft hand. I didn’t want to deal with character death and would make things easier than they should have been for my players. In my first game, I even reduced the amount of damage taken for a player so they wouldn’t become unconscious. (I don’t recommend doing what I did there, it was just something I did during the first game I GMed when I was naive and didn’t know any better.) Thinking traditionally the game would be unbalanced, and therefore un-entertaining right? Not quite. The game was still a lot of fun! It gave these more experienced players a chance to let loose their creative side and not worry too much about their characters dying. The experience was very fulfilling, and more importantly it was a lot of fun.
But of course, for every benefit this approach offers there is a negative as well. First up is the presence of “power gamers.” These are the players that take advantage of the rules to make their character ultra-powerful while still technically following all of the rules in the book. One of the easiest examples to use is rolling stats. There are some people out there who are just very good at rolling dice. I am not one of them. So when a player of mine decided to get all of his stats between a 13 and an 18 without racial benefits, I knew there was a serious problem. If a gm was taking a soft-handed approach, they probably wouldn’t rectify this further than nerfing one stat rather than re-rolling the entire pool.
Power gaming also extends into other aspects of character creation as well. “Using a certain feat/multiclass combo to dramatically increase damage without sacrificing anything because the book doesn’t say you can’t do it so it must be okay. Right?” Said the power gamer. This line of thinking not only takes advantage of the rules, it takes advantage of the GM as well. If a GM’s approach is soft when running a game with experienced players, they will almost always be taken advantage of, and that is never a good thing to see.
I hope you enjoyed the article! If you have any stories of when you were a soft-handed GM, please share them with us! Did it go well for you?
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