Welcome back to the Hand of Power! This series is all about asking how a GMs approach to a game can affect groups of players based on their experience with the game. Today we move into examining how a soft approach can affect a game full of more experienced players. For the sake of these articles, “experienced” is classified as having more than 4 games or so under your belt on any given game or system. This is to account for all players taking a different amount of time to become comfortable with, or proficient with the system they are playing.
Now into the nitty gritty. What are the advantages of “going soft” on an experienced player? At the risk of sounding repetitive, I’m going to re-hash a point that I used in Part 1. Going soft can be a really good idea when running a one shot. The implications of a player’s actions have significantly less impact than in a long campaign. Playing a little bit off of the strict lines that normally exist can allow players with experience to really flex their muscles in a way that they couldn’t do within the “normal” guidelines. As a GM, it doesn’t have to go so far into the “make it easy” territory, but rather into a wider point of view as to what is possible. What are you willing to allow? Expand that and loosen those shoulders. Let the players drive the story a little bit more, and be willing to fly by the seat of your pants a little bit. Experienced players will almost always give you a unique experience.
Now for the cons. The first one is pretty simple and easy. Going soft doesn’t really challenge seasoned vets of a game. Even though it may be a good choice for a one shot every now and again, the novelty wears thin very quickly and becomes a rather fruitless experience for the players. This takes place either over multiple one shots or during a long campaign. The second disadvantage is the lack of control that comes with it. As a GM, you pretty much have to pick your poison at the start of a game and roll with it. Changing your stance halfway through a session can end up being just as detrimental as one player deciding to go to war with all of the good NPCs against the will of the party. Having a single “bad egg” in the party can throw off the entire game in a bad way unless the GM starts the game ready, willing, and able to lay down the law.
It goes without saying that a softer approach like this requires a general knowledge of how the players are going to use their new-found freedom. Trusting players without any knowledge of their tendencies is a HUGE risk for the GM and all of the players. The entire group can lose a fun experience because one person doesn’t care enough about the game.
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Thank you again for reading, and as always, Happy Gaming!!