Welcome to the final installment of The Hand of Power! Today we’ll be discussing the advantages and disadvantages of a GM being very heavy handed as far as rules go when they have a party of seasoned players. Now I want to clarify very quickly what I mean by “heavy” or “hard-handed.” This simply means that a GM does not allow for much, if any, deviation from the core rules and guidelines set up for their game. The main question is this: How much will the GM allow the players to do within those confines?
As always, let’s start with the pros. What benefit comes from being hard-handed on experienced players? The first and most obvious benefit is that it can help provide a challenge. Being a bit more strict with the rules forces the players to really exist and make decisions that aren’t always easy. If a player can get away with pretty much anything, then decision making isn’t too hard because the consequences can be dealt with easily. Experienced players will take advantage of this every single time. Grounding the game in reality a little bit more makes the players really think about what they do and how it will affect them in the future. The second pro of being hard on seasoned players is that it increases the longevity of your game. Operating within the guidelines of the world expands how much interesting and hidden content can be explored by the players and it makes the payoff for those discoveries much sweeter. Experienced players want to earn their stripes in a long campaign, and by improving the game in both depth and complexity seasoned players get the best possible session.
Now for the negatives of being hard with the rules. Well to put it simply, experienced players have these magical things called opinions! That’s right, experienced players have their own thoughts on how a game should go and if they disagree with a single decision they become frustrated. A couple of more minor frustrations later and you have someone playing angry, and that is not at all what the goal of GMing is. Alternatively, some players will voice how one decision or another made by the GM doesn’t fit into the rules, and sparking debates like that at the table tremendously slows down the pace of the game. Basically the biggest downfall of being hard on the rules with experienced players, is that those players may not agree with how you execute those rules and become frustrated. It’s a test of maturity in cases like this, and both the GM and the player need to be willing to make things right so the game can continue to be fun and enjoyable for every member of the party (GM included).
In conclusion, the GM holds a lot of power and influence over a game. Obviously, right? They build the world, populate it, and make the gears turn for the entire game. How they do all of those things has serious consequences, and so does the makeup of the players. Levels of experience and patience on the part of the party can seriously affect how enjoyable a game truly is, and all GMs have to take this into consideration when deciding what rules to implement, and how strict they will be with their players.
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