I’m on the road and trying out the blogging software on my ipad – it seems functional if unexciting, but I’ll keep it brief today if only to avoid surprises.
I want to bring up one last point on the topic of balance, possibly the most important point. A lot of the behaviors I’ve mentioned as being unbalancing are not necessarily bad behaviors in their own right. They only become problematic when only one person engages in them.
In a system that rests on mechanical balance, having one character who is too badass is a problem, but having EVERYONE be crazy badass is a feature. Having one character who has so many interesting plot hooks and background elements that they constantly drive play can get awkward. If everyone has plot hooks that drive play, that’s a good thing.
There is an instinct when we see something out of place (and most things that mess with balance seem out of place) to knock it back into line. Things that stick out too far get lopped off. As a generalization, this is a bit of tricky business – sometimes the outlier is really a problem – but sometimes its where things are potentially exceptional.
So with that in mind, the next time you see an unbalanced behavior in a game or at your table, ask yourself whether that behavior is bad on its own rights. If it’s a behavior you’d like to see more of from your players, then look at the imbalance as an opportunity to help the rest of your group reap the same benefits.
Obviously, this is a tricky line to watch. Communicating to your players i important, but you don’t want to give them the sense that they suck and you’re trying to fix them. That suggests a show-don’t-tell approach, of illustrating the benefits of the imbalanced behaviors, but that runs the risk of just looking like favoritism.
I’d suggest treating your players like they’re *already* doing what you’re looking for, and just forgetting to mention it. Ask them questions and treat them like they’re already awesome, and you’ll be surprised just how quickly they prove you right.
1- This is, curiously, why I consider phased character creation to be a balancing mechanism. By tying everyone’s stories together, you make it impossible for any one story to take off without taking everyone else along with.
2 – Razzin-Frazzin Kender