Thursday, February 5, 2015

Worst Case Scenario

A friend of mine came up with this analogy last week when we had a little bump in the road in my other pal's homebrew Superhero game. I liked it, and decided it would make a good, brief post.

Picture this.


The GM has told his players that he will be running a game session. He tells them that they may each choose any one item.

One player tells the GM he's choosing a knife.

Knowing this, the GM sets up an adventure in which the very first thing the PCs encounter is a burning building. A fire.

The player has brought a knife to a 'fire' fight.

Heheh. Sorry.


What's wrong with this scenario?

The GM, knowing full well one guy chose a knife, created a scenario in which a knife was pretty much useless. He took that one guy's special thing, and made it irrelevant.

Moreover, the player, given the choice, wanted his character to have a knife. By making the knife pointless (so to speak) the GM makes the PC, and player, feel pointless as well.

But the player is at fault here too. He refused to put down the knife, and maybe, oh I don't know, throw some dirt on the fire. He could've looked for water. He didn't try to do something, anything, else.

Having a knife was not all he could do, but it was all he could think to do.

The thing is, given the opportunity to chose an item, and having chosen a knife, he fixated on the fact that a knife must be useful here. There must be a way to use the knife to fight the fire. Why else would the GM allow him to pick a knife?

What is the moral of this story?

If you, as GM, allow a player to bring a particular character into play with a particular ability, allow that player to use that power. Do not, knowingly, create a situation where that character, and therefore that player, feels useless.

If you, as a player, can't use one of your abilities for what ever reason, use the one ability we are all guaranteed to have on us at all times. Your brain.

Be flexible. Great creative. Figure something out.

Barking Alien

This is my 860th blog post. Wee!


  1. Yep, I've encountered this from a player before:

    GM: "Here's the situation! What do you do?"
    Player (examines sheet and tosses it on table): "There's nothing I *can* do!"
    GM: "Errr... don't you want to do this thing or that thing or that other thing?"
    Player (re-examines sheet): "Can I use my super-cool, but not-applicable skill in this situation?"
    GM: "No, that won't work."
    Player: "Gah! Then I just sit there 'cause there's nothing I *can* do!"

    I hate that guy. Players, don't be THAT guy.

    1. Ah, but don't miss a key point of this post. In this case, it isn't just the player's lack of flexibility (or presence of hyperfocus) that is the issue.

      GM: "We are playing a DC Comic games. You can be any DC superhero."
      Player: "Can I be Aquaman?"
      GM: "Sure."
      Player: "Cool."

      A few days later...

      GM: "OK, the adventure is set in a desert. There aren't any sea creatures for miles around."

      That's just not right.

    2. Oh, I got that part as well. I've just encountered the "my one primary ability doesn't come into play, so I give up on the game" guy far more often.

  2. There's not a bad guy and a good guy here, just a person who either wasn't clear in advance about what kind of campaign he was doing or was guilty of bad adventure design and a player who has a hammer and thinks that every problem should be a nail.

    This is why I sort of liked the "Scene Distinctions" in MHR. If a player's PC had "Knife d6" and couldn't figure out how to get it into his dice pool, he could always look at the "Burning Building d8" distinction and try to angle that in.

  3. I did a bit of the opposite recently while running. Long story story, a reward they earned was gold and they had ample opportunity to spend it, but not a large amount of "wow!" to spend it on. In order to keep the reward meaningful I told them to spend any amount of coin on a nebulous "item" and mark it on their sheet. Now the each have an opportunity once if they need something and they could have gotten it for that gold in the city they were at (and carry it), they bought it back then. Sort of a preemptive flashback to let them use their creative urges that by definition will be relevant.