View Full Version : questions of a inexperianced GM

28 February 2002, 10:56 AM
Hello. This is my first "real" post on the Holonet, and I'd like to start by thanking you for all the information that I have already gleaned from this site.

As to my questions, a little background might be helpful. I am the G.M. of my game, and my players and I have only been playing for a little under a year.

I want to have fullfiling and enjoyable games and get away from what I think is termed "power gaming". How should I do that? Should I take the players character sheets away during the games so they don't focus as much on the game system? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

I posted this here because I GM in the d20 system. Should this have gone in the "General RPG Discussion forum"?

Sorry, I'm new to this forum thing as well.


28 February 2002, 11:21 AM
I wouldn't take away their character sheets. In my experience, there is a certain breed of power gamers (and I don't mean to offend anyone on Holonet) who min-max and make godlike characters to compensate for a lack of power in their real lives. They make up for their inadequacies by trying to play the baddest guy around, and despise the idea of their character having any weaknesses, vulnerabilities, or (sometimes) any personality beyond that of Invulnerable Tough Guy. For these people, taking away their character sheets will only frustrate them further, and they will probably just act up more. Too often, I find there's just no help for these people.

However, not all power gamers are like that. Other power gamers just like playing with numbers, getting the "right" combination of elements to make an effective character. This is just something they enjoy doing -- part of the experience for them. Taking control out of their hands will also take away a lot of their fun, and they may end up feeling cheated.

There is one path to this which I have found pretty common: the "competition syndrome," where GMs have to be at least as clever, or more clever, than their players. If the characters insist on being backstabbing, sneaky, and double-crossing, they have them meet NPCs who are at least as much, or more so. The characters rely too much on an imbalanced or ill-gotten piece of equipment -- the GMs damage or destroy it. In other words, they try be as insidious and back-stabbing as the characters. The problem with this approach is that it can sometimes for a "GM vs. players" atmosphere which is not only not that fun for some, but also unfair -- since the GM is holding all the cards in the universe anyway. He can drop a meteor on them pretty much any time he chooses, so there's no real "competition" to speak of. (Of course, he may not have players after that, but those are the breaks.)

This approach can also be problematic in that the GM, without even realizing it, can put himself in the position of punishing players for their ingenuity and resourcefulness, which is something (in my opinion) no GM should ever, ever do. Just because the players ruin your clever adventure with their ingenious plan -- and believe me, they will -- is no reason to punish them.

There are more benevolent ways of encouraging good roleplaying and discouraging power-gaming. Give out extra XP or other rewards for good roleplaying, and diminish the importance of combat. Make scenarios that players have to think their way through, and not just blast everything in sight or roll vs. their Superskill. Every once in a while, put them in situations where most of their maxed-out skills are outright useless. The players will find their blasters, lightsabers, and bad-a** equipment to be no good, and so might be discouraged from being so anal about it in the future. However, I think this technique should be used sparingly, as any player will get frustrated with not being able to "shine" at least once per game.

Most of all, I would say be fair, and reward your characters in kind. If they continually behave in a mercenary, treacherous fashion, then make that their world -- sooner or later no one in the Galaxy will trust them, they may even become infamous. On the other hand, reward good deeds (or at least deeds fitting with the flavor of your campaign) appropriately. In other words, gently nudge them with rewards in the direction you want them to go, and sooner or later they will probably go there. Trying to bludgeon or shame them into a course of action, though, will hardly ever work.

Also, it's been my experience that most players, no matter how excellent or lame, rarely want anything more than a chance to shine and impress themselves. Make scenarios that will play to character's strengths, and give everyone in the group at least one chance to show off, steal the show, get off a few good lines, or pull off an amazing stunt. They will be satisfied and your headaches will be much reduced.

That said, there will come times where certain players just are not compatible with your play style, or that of your group. This is unfortunate, but 15+ years of gaming has taught me that this is an unfortunate reality. When that happens, just try to deal with it as diplomatically as possible and move on.

Anyway -- just one man's opinion. I hope you find at least some of this stuff useful. Good luck to you. :)

Matt Richard
28 February 2002, 11:27 AM
if you dont mind, may i make "how to handle power gaming (aka godmoding, munchkin playing)" the discussion title for the next GM Convention?

If not, thats ok.

28 February 2002, 11:52 AM
My first thought is whether or not you actually have powergamers in your group now, or you're just trying to avoid a pitfall down the road?

If you think you're having a problem now, you might want to spell out a few examples and get some input on those to get your feet wet.

If your request is more general, then we'll just continue to spout off our collective wisdom at you. :)

28 February 2002, 12:03 PM
I'm going to move this to General (since it could feasibly apply to both systems). Matt, why not just discuss it here rather than creating a whole new thread?

28 February 2002, 04:53 PM
All of the players in my group are powergamers and I'm not. We're constantly at odds. They call it "using common sense". I call it "limiting your potential".

Well, after playing with these goons for this long, I've realized there's just not all that much I can do to change them... at least not with them knowing it. So I do little things like I promise to give them some extra XP if they'll write a good description of their character's bio and personality. I tell them that the more story hooks they leave, the more it would be worth. So these powergamers end up handing in essays that detail their characters' backgrounds, families, love interests... and I add these elements to the campaign I am running and they become more than just powergamers.

Ok... they might still powergame when their choosing feats and allocating stats... but so long as I get to tell a more involved story than your average powergamer generally seems interested in, I'm happy. And who's to really say Powergaming isn't roleplaying, anyway? THese powergamers are very impressive sometimes.

I still hate it when they talk about how "powerful" they are and they measure power purely on combat ability... but its a lot easier to deal with just that little pet peeve than to try to change them.

28 February 2002, 05:58 PM
dgswensen, all of your comments were useful. It all rang true with my limited experiance, and I will try to incorperate it.

If you are asking me, it's fine to use this as the topic of the next GM's Convention. I read the first one and it was very helpful as well.

I do deal with some powergaming now, but I find that your collective wisdom adresses the issue better than I could hope. Please keep the advice coming. Any general advice to overcome my deficiancies as a GM is welcome also.

Thank you all for your time and interest,


28 February 2002, 06:02 PM
best way to deal with power gamers.. get a RPer to select a nobel and put em in a postion where the noble kicks SERIOUS ass :) (remember guys.. in the SWRPG you assign XP for ADVENTURES not for kills:)

Lord Diggori
28 February 2002, 06:27 PM
Power gamers. Power gamers.

I only have one real bad one in my games, so the interests of the others curbs him. BDavion has a good point. I find that XP awards are good for getting him to stretch a bit. But you have a bunch of them together *shivers*

I say just keep making encounters they cant shoot or fight out of that easily and they'll start to come around.

1 March 2002, 11:07 AM
To be honest I have never had to deal with Powergamers per sae, however I have had to deal with certain players goin "powergame" for an adventure or two. As the GM I think that you have the greatest potential to curb the behavior. All you have to do is taylor your adventure to a large variety of skills, rather than just a few "key" ones.

Put in some investagation moments, some repair moments, some bluff moments, some tracking moments, some diplomacy moments, and of course some rip-roaring battles. Sometimes players will deal with this by creating parties where everone has their powergame strengths, but you can eliminate this by splitting up the team from time to time. That way you force the players to diversify somewhat. Sure you may have a Slicer, a Bountyhunter, a Noble, and a Scout, but if you mix them up and split up the party from time to time, the Scout may see the benifit of raising his bluff for times when the Noble isn't around. Also showing the advantages of added synergy is good too. If the Scout can add a +2 to the Slicer's repair roll...well that is always helpfull.

If someone is powergaming now and you drop them into this sort of adventure they will see that they will spend a lot of time sitting around while others to the work. That should be enough to encourage them to diversify a bit.

1 March 2002, 11:23 AM
I have a terrable power gamer, well actual i have couple of types one buys all the books and trys to find out the best of evreything and trys to do my job for me , i also have one that is allways powerfull but he genraly puts a weakness in delbratly that i can use. as for some of the stuff that was said this is what i do in the game at my friends house all the below were made democraticaly (Within the group)

I take the sheets home with me

a players rolls must be vouched by another player (we have a realy cheating git in the group and i cant use one rule for him and another for the others + they suggeted it)

Try to give everyone a fare amount of time in game sometimes 1 player can keep getting shoved back to the end of the que , i now this isint nice from past experiance

if the player gets himself into a situation from stupidty multiple times you have to do something or the other playes will get anoyed + he will think he is immortal if not kept in check

be leanant if a player is roleplaying his chr try not to punnish him cause he is playing his chr. but as above dont let them now you are being leanant with them. cause they will abuse it

(also suggested by a player)
most reacnly added to the rules list of the group the only person allowed roleplaying supplmants at the table that are not relevant to the situation is the Gm. (The core books are allowed) this is relvant to me because the certain player has a lot more money than me( i am in colleg and looking for work , well sort of anyway and before i know it he is offering Classes to players that i have never heard of

Hoped i helped i got rid of some of my frustration with a certain player by gabing about it Thanks

3 March 2002, 07:34 AM
As both a gamer and a GM (both for years...)
I noticed one comment that was made...

"just using common sense"...

This can be interpreted many ways.
The feats and skill ARE put there to be used after all.

I can admit, I have taken feats and skills to make my character better, duh.

I can also admit, that i have taken feats and skills which were just useless fluff.
The other day my slicer character spent an extra 200cr on a better quality data pad. My gm asked me what for, and if I expected bonuses.

Well, I did not expect bonuses, it was just that my character had come into a little extra cash, and I did not want to buy a cheap computer, I wanted one a little better.
now, if the gm would later choose, to give me a +1 on some roll, that is fine, but I told him that just like you might buy a better stereo, or a better widget, you might want a better quality computer.
On the other hand, when it came time to upgrade the sensors on our ship, we wanted something with better stats , so we would not get surprised so often.

Some of the posts here are excellent.
I will not even try to repeat them.

However, if you gm for too long, you may forget that the players WANT to do better, and as long as they dont abuse things, let them!


3 March 2002, 07:22 PM
Another thing I've been thinking about, is how to effectivly implement music in my games. We were playing near a computer at one point, and I left some music on during the begining of the session. It had an interesting effect on the mood of the game. How do you implement music in your games, and to what effect?

I GM'd using the techniques you guys suggested. It helped quite a bit. I'll keep working on it, and if any of you have more suggestions I'll be more than happy to hear them.

Just another question by the resident GM padawan, Sil7

3 March 2002, 09:25 PM
As for music, the subject comes up every now and again. Try this thread:
And you'll see I link to a thread even older than that one in this thread. If you read both, you'll know what people have said about music before.

I tend to stick with instrumental pieces that aren't TOO loud (so I don't have to talk over them or compete for my players' attention with the musician's words). Anyway, you'll find the specifics on these threads.


Lord Diggori
4 March 2002, 06:52 AM
Music is real easy to deal with, Sil. I take a soundtrack and I listen to every song once. After each song I write a few notes on the mood it seems to set and type of scenes it would go best with. I put these notes with the CD, folding up the paper to fit in the CD cover usually.

During a session, when a scene is coming up, skip to the song you think best captures what you're gonna do. Players really pick up on the foreshadowing.

23 April 2002, 06:00 PM
the music you play can greatly affect the general mood of the game and help the imagination a great deal i.e. playing the cantina song in the cantiina, playing some leaves rustling type music in a grave etc.

as for powergamers well make sure you dont powergm either.
i remember this one experience with a powergm who pitted our party of 3 1st lvl heros and some specforce people againts a gruop of 8 medium level hunters with rifles that delt 6d8 damage (oww) well you can only guess the outcome of that little adventure

27 April 2002, 10:36 PM
if people want to powergame letem i say.as they max things out remember they r minimizing something else and what does that givem a weakness.u can even work with peoplemaxing stuff out as u wont have to hold back as much(makingbadguys more powerful or 8 stormies instead of 4) if the problems a rulemonger(a trait ive found that goes hand in hand w powergamers) point out that the rulebook every 5 pages (or so it seems) says everything is up to the gm or ask your gm. as to how2 keep players focused on roleplaying and not on the rules give out additional xp's and such to those players who roleplay not rollplay, give u detailed backgrounds( that u can work with).oh and dont forget to roleplay yourself whenever possible really ham it up be enthusiastic or somber (depending on the npc of course)have fun with it if your player just stares blankly at u use that as the characters response(so nothing to say 4 yourself. so be it, take him away the inquisitor will be here shortly.)hope this was coherent and helpful.

28 April 2002, 09:43 AM
As both a GM and a player (though never at the same time!), I know how difficult it can be to "get into the game." I recommend a couple of things. First, try to play with people that are actually interested in playing the game. I've had a couple friends of mine who I refuse to play with because they want to play Ever Quest and role play at the same time. It just doesn't work. Second, find out if your players like to go more for storyline or action. I use a combination myself but one of the two is going to be dominant so it's good to find out which and plan ahead. Third, character sheets are fine but there is no reading of the rulebooks or magazines while game play is going on. Even if a character isn't doing anything they're still around of their surroundings. Fourth, limit joking if you feel it gets out of hand. You're the one in control. Fifth, one of the things that we do in our game sessions is use music to get us "in the groove." Battle music and others work especially well to help set tone and get players interested. And finally, find out what works for you. Experiment. Some groups like music or props while others don't. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any other question. May the force be with you.