Is powergaming bad?

jpariury

Duke
I split this off into a separate topic because I think it's worth discussing, but it's far more "game theory" than discussing the rules.

Dreamingfurther said:
jpariury said:
Dreamingfurther said:
make it so expensive that storing into golems only happens for plot specific reasons and very rarely
there is no PC economy that I have seen that is so rich anyone could support or even justify a scroll + 15 comps every event for 6-8 events a season
I suspect that would fit his definition of "reasonably expensive"... it's actually pretty close to mine. Having that one event a year where two or three guys bust out the big golems to bring on the noise and the pain sounds awesome. Having every event be that sounds powergamery.
Is there something wrong with powergaming? I do kind of object to the idea that if you are 'gaming' the system to have a powerful character/stats you are somehow doing something morally 'wrong' as a player. Did you mean to imply this?
I think there is a distinction between "having a powerful character" and "exceeding the bounds of an enjoyable game for the population at large" that is warranted here. Having a "powerful character" is simply a function of comparison - a ninth level character is "powerful" when thrown in with a group of 1st level characters. "Powergaming", otoh, is a matter of adding layers of power simply for the purpose of having layers of power. It's neither good nor bad, until applied to a specific context - more specifically, whether or not it reflects the style of game both the designers and the game runners want to run.

Pulling back a bit to the abstract, there's nothing inherently "bad" with letting players throw Obliterates like beads at Mardi Gras - it's simply a matter of the game context and culture you want to create. There's equally nothing intrinsically wrong with giving all of your players access to super powers like "Invisibility" or "Flight" or "Time Warping" - it simply a function of whether or not you want the game to absorb those into its lexicon and daily activities. So, when I speak of powergaming, I mean what I mentioned earlier - adding layers of power for the sake of adding layers of power.

Now, is it bad? That depends on what you feel makes for the best potential in storytelling and daily activity. In my opinion, the game is best experienced when moments of greatness are intermittent. Don't get me wrong - I think golems and the ability to store in them (in general) are awesome. But I think as a function of rules supporting great storytelling, it is more interesting and rewarding if that is not something that people want and can do on a daily basis. In much the same way any adventurer that earned their way to high-levels strictly by playing events might view "yet another end-of-the-world plot", I feel generally the same way about "yet another spirit-stored golem". End of the world plots are best served as the capper to a long, drawn out story. Characters in Heinleinesque hardsuits are best as the "we seriously need to get stuff done, or badness will ensue". Golems as daily survival, though, is power for power's sake that detracts from the tension of the game.

I get and agree that it makes sense for characters to seek out the best possible solution for their daily survival needs. That doesn't mean that the rules need to be written to make it be a daily thing, though.
 
I don't think powergaming is bad.

I think prioritizing the power of one's character over that of being a thoughtful, considerate player is bad.
 

Dr_Chill

Fighter
If it takes someone years to build up their character to the point that they can store into a golem, and years to collect all the scrolls/reagents/catalysts to create a golem, and then said golem will "pop" in 1,2, or 5 years, I don't see why one wouldn't want to always run around in their suit of funness, as they have "earned" it.

It should be a given that very few characters should be able to survive long enough (adventuring is dangerous) to get to the point where they can store into golems; not to mention finding the right scroll and catalyst should also be difficult and rare (also dangerous). These conditions in itself should be a control on the number of mechanized suits of joy running around.

As far as it being power-gaming, I dont see it that way as they clearly have survived, and put in the time to find/build said golem.

Just my $0.03

-Ryan
 

jpariury

Duke
It's worth pointing out that they've "earned" the right to store in a golem daily only because the system currently allows for that. By that token, if we design the system to allow fighters to swing Eviscerates every five swings and have five thousand body, they have as much claim to having "earned it" as well. That doesn't necessarily make it desirable for the purpose of using the rules to tell a story, though.
 

Alavatar

Baron
This is an interesting discussion.

Personally, unless we can all agree on a definition of "power-gaming" it is all a matter of perspective. I think the only thing that can be agreed on at the moment is that daily Spirit Store into a golem has significant potential to be power-gamey.

Anywho, I agree that power-gaming with disregard to the impact of the surrounding players (not characters) is bad. If a player is able to "power game" while still providing a fun environment for their fellow players that I would argue that is not really bad.

If a player is power-gaming to such an extent that they are disrupting the story Plot is trying to tell, then I think the owner and the Plot team need to sit down and discuss their options such as potentially limiting or eliminating the thing that is causing the disruption. For instance, if a Plot team really is having issues with telling a story because there are golems prevalent in the PCs then perhaps the Plot team should (a) start not allowing golems; and/or (b) work with the PCs that have golems to appropriately and fairly remove them from the game (as opposed to being a jackass and just destroying the golem); and/or (c) remove the Master Construct scroll from Goblin Stamp purchases; and/or (d) not put out Master Construct scrolls / catalysts.

Surely this argument isn't solely in reference to golems, though. Are there other aspects or examples of power-gaming that should be addressed or looked at in this discussion?
 
I have to agree with Seth...what is powergaming to me (or the entire West Coast) might be the norm for someone else (or the entire East Coast -you No Coasters are on your own). Someone can consider NPC'ing (or NPCing multiple chapters simultaneously) & using that towards character build to be a PG situation.

To the question: Is Powergaming bad?
It can be unbalancing. It can make for a trying weekend for players that hang with the Powergamer. I can drive away players.
Powergaming can be bad, but it is not bad on it's own. Just like a latex weapon, it is all about how you use it.
 

Mobius

Squire
It's only Power-Gaming (twinking, chipmunk, mini-max) in comparison to the game at large. One could hardly say the Bulls are powergaming when they play the Lakers; but if the Bulls called out Lincoln Junior High's Lincoln-Lancers (¡Go team Green!) for a game of street pick-up, one might consider accusing the Bulls of some amount of cheeze.

The problem here seems to be less whether Constructs themselves, Constructs every day, or Constructs once a season are powergaming and more whether: A) they are used proportionally to the rest of the players and the plot; and B) there is an appropriate and measured response from the Plot team.

Problem A is hard to address since there will always be disparity in any game. As Ally matures there will be a larger and larger spread of levels, abilities, and gear - just gotta live with it. Plot just needs to empahsize a game designed for everyone and build a better tiered plot. Means having plots/adventures for low, medium, and high groups. It's a difficult task, but that's why Plot gets the big bucks (¡HA!). If Plot can't create a well-balanced game, that's not players' fault.

As for B, well players in Constructs just have to realize when they hit the field sporting Uber-Mojo and looking to play the Lincoln-Lancers, the Bulls are gonna show up instead to give them a good game. Big Guns attract Big Game.

I don't think any player, character, or group should be cast as nefarious solely because they are clever enough to be well and intelligently geared. They shouldn't, however, exepct that plot isn't going to give them a run for their money either.
 

jpariury

Duke
At the risk of airing a metal tin of invertebrates, I'd suggest that to some extent the entire build system is a bit powergamish, at least in comparison to its origins.

Not to be all old-man-on-the-porch, but a simple look at how the build spends now vs how it spent bitd should give an indication of this - to cite a few examples, assassinate and dodge used to be one skill that required you to pick which one you used it as, and cost 10 build (for a rogue). Now, for the same build cost, you get both, or, if you prefer to optimize, you just pick up the one you really want (which I suspect is more often dodge than assassinate). This means over the course of ten levels, you're gaining an extra backstab or two, which translates to an extra 2-4 points per swing. By the same token, profs used to ramp in cost as you bought more: your first prof (as a fighter) was 15, your second was 18 (iirc) and your third and beyond cost 20; the obvious impact is now you get 4 upper profs at the cost of what was once 3.

No one change has brought about the downfall of mankind... my cat and dog seem to be living together just fine. But like a death of a thousand cuts, we've evolved a system that puts more power into players hands faster, seemingly for the sake of simply letting people do more. As a result, the combat-effective disparity between low- and high-end game play is widened further than it would otherwise be. But the cumulative end result is that from a strict rulebook-governed/build-spend view, Alliance is the more powergaming system.
 
If the system has slowly moved to make it easier to 'put power' into the hands of the players over time, is it possible that has happened because the owners, or folks who have changed the rules slowly over time have felt that each of these changes individually was more 'fun' for the players?

In some ways the way I've heard that the combat system, ritual, magic item, and what have you rules have changed over time has made it easier to attain high levels of 'power' more quickly, and in a way this allows newer players that haven't been playing for 10+ years even in 3-4 years time if they are very committed to 'catch up' and roll with the big guns, if they want to pursue that avenue. Is that a bad thing?


Mobius said:
I don't think any player, character, or group should be cast as nefarious solely because they are clever enough to be well and intelligently geared. They shouldn't, however, exepct that plot isn't going to give them a run for their money either.
This exactly. I agree with 100%.

In fact I have seen no 'powerful' high end players that are not considerate of the story plot is trying to tell and fitting within that story.

The fact is that the options to pursue 'power' for ones character ARE open to everyone... I hope we aren't pigeon holing those who choose to pursue these routes to attain 'powerful' character/gear just because some don't...
 

jpariury

Duke
Dreamingfurther said:
If the system has slowly moved to make it easier to 'put power' into the hands of the players over time, is it possible that has happened because the owners, or folks who have changed the rules slowly over time have felt that each of these changes individually was more 'fun' for the players?
I think you're glossing over that small changes add to large changes, and if the reason for small changes is that large changes are undesirable, then multiple small changes should be equally undesirable. Whether you get there by baby steps or giant leaps, if the end result is undesirable, then the way you get there shouldn't matter. I would also suggest that, in general, it's hard to have removing something from the playerbase be a popular opinion to get passed once it's been given.

Is that a bad thing?
I think the error in the question is that it somewhat suggests a moral judgement where none is warranted. It's not about "good" vs. "bad", it's about "intended" or "desirable". I don't know that a system which encourages if not demands speeding towards substantial disparity is desirable.

I would point out, also, that your vector for discussion seems to come from a position of "more power is good", rather than addressing it as a function of participatory storytelling to be enjoyed by a large audience.

Mobius said:
They shouldn't, however, exepct that plot isn't going to give them a run for their money either.
This assumes a relatively self-contained environment, though, which is not necessarily good for the purposes of storytelling, given that it doesn't necessarily exist. In a world where there are the power discrepancy between your low end and your top end is wide, plot can address it in one of two ways - 1 - ignore it, in which case either your low-end are speed bumps (if that) or your high-end is alternatively bored/overbearing; and 2 - adjust for the change. The issue with #2 is that it marginalizes the lower end by artificially creating the very problem it proposes it is intended to solve. i.e. there are bigger monster because characters have bigger tools, which they acquired in order to fight bigger monsters.

High-powered characters require high-powered monsters in order to entertain them, which, narratively, suggests that the high-powered characters were necessary to begin with, which they weren't. We generally don't play in a static environment - plot scales for the playerbase it has. If we have an event with 30 high-powered characters, then the monsters being sent out will be high-powered. If we have an event with 30 low-powered characters, plot scales for that. Not to snub any egos here, but no one character or group of characters is necessary for the game to continue - plot will (ideally) adjust the power-levels and story to fit the characters they're presented with. You might have felt that Leroy Jenkins was absolutely critical to the success of the mission, but from a more removed vantagepoint, if Leroy wasn't there, Sally Struthers might very well have been the one to be "utterly necessary".

Dreamingfurther said:
The fact is that the options to pursue 'power' for ones character ARE open to everyone...
And if they weren't, then you'd be just as good with that, right? If the basis for your argument is "high power is desirable, because high power is the limit they've given us", then by the same token, "lower power is desirable, because low power is the limit they've given us", yes?

Maybe it would do well to rephrase the discussion: is a wide disparity in power levels between new characters and older ones desirable? If so, how wide a disparity is preferable?
 
jpariury said:
Dreamingfurther said:
If the system has slowly moved to make it easier to 'put power' into the hands of the players over time, is it possible that has happened because the owners, or folks who have changed the rules slowly over time have felt that each of these changes individually was more 'fun' for the players?
I think you're glossing over that small changes add to large changes, and if the reason for small changes is that large changes are undesirable, then multiple small changes should be equally undesirable. Whether you get there by baby steps or giant leaps, if the end result is undesirable, then the way you get there shouldn't matter. I would also suggest that, in general, it's hard to have removing something from the playerbase be a popular opinion to get passed once it's been given.

Is that a bad thing?
I think the error in the question is that it somewhat suggests a moral judgement where none is warranted. It's not about "good" vs. "bad", it's about "intended" or "desirable". I don't know that a system which encourages if not demands speeding towards substantial disparity is desirable.

I would point out, also, that your vector for discussion seems to come from a position of "more power is good", rather than addressing it as a function of participatory storytelling to be enjoyed by a large audience.
I'm not intending to gloss over the fact that small changes have become large changes over time. However I am perhaps suggesting that if all the small changes have been in the same direction than perhaps the end result is not undesirable. I think you are making an assumption here that all the changes have brought us to an undesirable place game/power wise, and I don't think that's necessarily true. And as for speeding towards substantial disparity I was actually suggesting that perhaps the current system allows newer folks who want the chance to quickly 'catch up' to some degree.

jpariury said:
Dreamingfurther said:
The fact is that the options to pursue 'power' for ones character ARE open to everyone...
And if they weren't, then you'd be just as good with that, right? If the basis for your argument is "high power is desirable, because high power is the limit they've given us", then by the same token, "lower power is desirable, because low power is the limit they've given us", yes?

Maybe it would do well to rephrase the discussion: is a wide disparity in power levels between new characters and older ones desirable? If so, how wide a disparity is preferable?
If pursuit of powerful options were not open to anyone I would absolutely be just as okay with that. My response to your re-phased question would be, how can you not have a wide disparity in power levels between newer and older characters given the disparity in experience and contributions between newer and older players?

I mean seriously if someone has been playing a character for 15 years... I'd WANT them to be miles ahead of myself if I just started this event. Otherwise why would I have any incentive to pursue 'longterm' dedication to the game? I guess I'm trying to say that I think high power/level characters usually aren't a problem and in my experience have generally been fun to play with. It gives our game more depth and gives people things to work towards.

What bothers me is when people assume that such 'powerful' character are 'breaking' the system, when the reality is that 99% of players with powerful character pretty much have earned the place that they have gotten to.
 

Mike Ventrella

Duke
Owner
Moderator
HQ Staff
Part of the problem is that our rules have been written by committee -- the owners. Just like in any democracy, instead of having our laws all comprehensive, they are put together piecemeal, with a small change here and then a small change there, and in the end what seems like a small change ends up being quite large because of how it affects all the other laws.
 

jpariury

Duke
Dreamingfurther said:
I think you are making an assumption here that all the changes have brought us to an undesirable place game/power wise, and I don't think that's necessarily true.
I would disagree. I would suggest that the changes bring us to a position where the power disparity is wider than facilitates good participatory storytelling. You can't have a David vs Goliath telling because the rules simply do not support it. David has no shot to take down Goliath because Jesus showed up that day and now Goliath is scaled to APL 32.

And as for speeding towards substantial disparity I was actually suggesting that perhaps the current system allows newer folks who want the chance to quickly 'catch up' to some degree.
I'd disagree. IIRC, two years ago, the discussion was "What can we do to make high levels feel cooler?". When that is played out in the form of increased power levels (which, arguably, I'd warrant near-free spirit storing is), you don't reduce the disparity, you increase it. Calling back to my original statement about comparative build expenditures, a 105-build character now has substantially more skills available in the current Alliance system than the source NERO system allowed for. Making more skills available more cheaply didn't decrease the power gap - it increased it, because the number of effects, calls, and improvements from 1st to 10th has increased. By the same token, golems as a mechanic don't reduce the power disparity - they make it so that a 1st level character is that much smaller than the 20th level guy than they were before the addition.

If pursuit of powerful options were not open to anyone I would absolutely be just as okay with that. My response to your re-phased question would be, how can you not have a wide disparity in power levels between newer and older characters given the disparity in experience and contributions between newer and older players?
Glad you asked! Build-caps, mandatory retirements, magic item limits, and a restructuring of the build system would all make immense strides towards reducing the power gap between new characters and older ones, just to throw out a few ideas. The older characters will still and always have more power than newer ones, and that's fine. I believe the game works the best, though, when who is on top is always a cycling series. It works best when the guys saving the day, the farmer's daughter, or the galaxy, are new and different characters. I believe that a larp, whether it's this game or a different one, can be crafted in such a way that the system encourages this overtly, rather than relying on the kindness of strangers to reduce their own involvement. But to reach that stage, we have to first come to an agreement that speed-powering, gaming for power rather than contribution to the collective narrative, and the disparate gap it creates between the new characters and old ones, is preferably smaller than larger.

What bothers me is when people assume that such 'powerful' character are 'breaking' the system, when the reality is that 99% of players with powerful character pretty much have earned the place that they have gotten to.
This isn't personalized. This isn't about "Bob leveled too fast and now its screwing up everyone's enjoyment. This is about how the system itself supports, encourages, or even demands that the story become secondary to the race for power and creates substantial disparity between where you start and where you end up.
 
I've seen games self destruct because they were geared towards power gaming over enjoyment of a well written and NPC'ed plot.
My personal opinion is that most people, if they want a system where you grind encounter after encounter out for the players with little or no actual interaction beyond that of an old school Nintendo RPG game, they will go elsewhere and what you’re left with are the few who are there BECAUSE all they want to do is throw death spells left and right with no limits.
I guess for me, it boils down to this – If you can’t lose yourself in the game, if there’s no risk because you’re always the biggest and baddest then why play?



Tom
 
I guess I simply don't think that the level disparity that we have prohibits a fun story driven game from working. I've seen too many different ways of getting all different characters of various levels involved and making them feel like they 'matter' to be convinced that our current system makes that 'impossible'.

jpariury said:
I would disagree. I would suggest that the changes bring us to a position where the power disparity is wider than facilitates good participatory storytelling. You can't have a David vs Goliath telling because the rules simply do not support it. David has no shot to take down Goliath because Jesus showed up that day and now Goliath is scaled to APL 32.
Why can't you have this story? Just because 'Jesus' showed up doesn't mean that Goliath MUSt be scaled to fight him. Come up with some story reason (I can think of half a dozen out of hand) why 'Jesus' can't fight Goliath. And they don't have to be cheesy. Perhaps because Jesus showed up with his supper tank golem some guy who particularly doesn't like golem's but wouldn't necessarily have teamed up with Goliath shows up to 'take care' of Jesus (and OOG give that player a good time) while leave Goliath to have his epic defeat from David. The examples could go on, and I agree it can be 'harder' and take a good deal of work but I don't think it's impossible.

jpariury said:
Build-caps, mandatory retirements, magic item limits, and a restructuring of the build system would all make immense strides towards reducing the power gap between new characters and older ones, just to throw out a few ideas. The older characters will still and always have more power than newer ones, and that's fine. I believe the game works the best, though, when who is on top is always a cycling series.
I don't disagree that these are reasonable and fine options to pursue, and I would certainly not stop playing if there was say a mandatory level 20 build cap enforced, a magic item wipe, and then differently structured treasure policy, or other similar 'capping' policies enforced. However mandatory retirement I can't get behind. "Requiring" players to get rid of a character they have built up and played for years seems entirely unnecessary.

However the one big counter I would ask again, is how are you 'helping' the game if you arbitrarily structure it to 'decrease' depth? It seems to me that a large percentage of players that our game caters to are longterm veteran players (maybe I'm wrong) but if that is the case then giving them less reasons to keep continually 'investing' in the game because their character can go incredibly longterm seems a bit out of place.

jpariury said:
This isn't about "Bob leveled too fast and now its screwing up everyone's enjoyment. This is about how the system itself supports, encourages, or even demands that the story become secondary to the race for power and creates substantial disparity between where you start and where you end up.
And again I don't see how the story is secondary to the 'race for power'. I mean the 'rules' of the rulebook basically codify and structure the combat element of the game. But I'd wager that just about any player (and certainly myself) typically doesn't play the game for the 'rules' longterm. Its the stories, the IG encounters and the people that keep the game live and fun. Yes if all we talk about are the rules in pen and paper because well that's a much easier thing to quantify then maybe it looks like that.

At this point we may simply be at a difference of opinion, but there you have it. The thing I like about our current system is that it DOES allow for a very wide variety of players to play the game/system for all sorts of different angles. And as long as all those different players are respectful (which I've seen 99% in nearly a dozen chapters to be) I don't think the level or power disparity our system allows is so great that it ruins the story. Yes I agree sometimes it can take some extra 'work' from the angle of plot or stating, and that is certainly not nothing, but it doesn't seem insurmountable by a long shot.
 
I take great exception to the ongoing assertion that high level characters and long lasting characters are bad for the narrative. At the risk of sounding over-prickly, or even the dreaded elitist, I enjoy writing both plots and challenges for player characters with a decade or so (or more) to their names. As I have been writing plot for a decade now in the same place, I am in the position to reward the characters who survived and thrived long enough to be able to remember stuff from 2002 and be thrilled when it makes a cameo or feel dread that it is rising again. So long as that is not being done to the exclusion of including new players, I fail to see how it does anything to the game world other than make it feel more historically full and thereby immersive; immersion, I am given to understand, being the goal.

I cannot recall an occasion where I said to myself "Dan, the story has to take a backseat here because the players are just too powerful." I've abandoned plot ideas because the physics of Fortannis made them unfeasible, or a lack of available NPCs, or because the players of the game gave me a better idea via their own creativity, but never because I felt that the characters were too high in level, or too awash in magic items.

The one thing that the rules system simply cannot do is cater to people who want the option to be very powerful and people who don't want the option there at all, because those things are mutually exclusive. Without legitimate, empirical data indicating that one style of play or the other is consistently and globally more fun, this discussion is little more than a comparison of opinions; these arguments are subjective and unsupported by facts. One thing that is not subjective is this:

People can play low level/power/survivability characters in a system that allows for high levels of power. People cannot play high level/power characters in a system which specifically disallows such.

Does the argument have to go forward from there? Does anyone truly have objective evidence that characters above 25th level are not, in fact, the right kind of fun? I realize I'm not just showing my personal bias but putting it right out on the table, but I'm honestly pretty frustrated that this has come up again. Without proof that:
1) high powered characters make the game less fun for everyone,
2) that reduction of fun is reducing the number of new players thereby stagnating the growth of the game and
3) these new players that are being turned off from the game by high powered characters represent a preferable community than the people already playing
it really seems a lot like trying to impose personal preferences on others. If we've agreed to all order pizza, that's sufficient consensus. No one person or minority group needs to or should be able to dictate everybody's toppings.
 
We are sort of on 3 different things now:
Powergaming
Level Disparity
Level vs Plot

All 3 are or can be present in the game.

I addressed my ideas around Powergaming, it can be bad but it would depend upon how the player wields it.

Level Disparity: I have started my 1st character about 4 sessions ago, my son started his character at this time, & I have seen about 6 other new players roll in within a few sessions before or after this. I count myself lucky because if it was just myself & my son, we would really be wandering around either alone or with characters a significant amount higher than us. This can be a bit of an issue for new players.
In talking with several newer players, they were of a similar mind that when signing in that they would be a large gap between them & the next highest player. Needless to say, I spent most of my weekend with these players because our ability levels are similar.
This past event, I also saw a few times where a group was involved in something & a higher level group came in (by higher level, I mean 5 players walked up & over doubled the total player levels). In turn, Plot ramped up the monsters & people basically became just another pair of eyes.

Level vs Plot: While I don't think Level becomes an issue with Plot in general, I think it can become an issue when trying to keep the Big Bad Guy & various minions as a challenge to a wide player base & not just become some steamroller for the lower levels players where they just have to find somewhere to wait out the storm.
Granted, being a lower level player does mean picking your battles a bit more selectively than higher level players because you don't have the skills to act as your Get Out of Jail Free card. But if everything wandering around will 2 shot you, how long would you stick around?
 

jpariury

Duke
There is nothing within the structure of the rules that encourages having low-level characters be the critical piece to combats. On the contrary, every problem that requires "beat it down" as the solution essentially becomes "turn it over to the highbie in the golem swinging 30s and immune to yahzoo". Every event that occurs in the form of "I beat the guy down!" could have been done better by the highbie than the lowbie. If the lowbie manages to be the one to do it, it's incidental at best. This is not a function of storytelling - this is how the rules are set up. A low level character has to hope and pray to even get a shot at being The Guy® because the rules simply do not allow for it. In fact, the rules suggest that the solution to not being able to be The Guy® is to survive and wait. But I would argue that this is the essence of powergaming: set aside your intentions of being The Guy® in favor of gaining power, in the hopes of later getting your shot.

Can plot go through some hoops that are not covered in the rules to have that be different? (Dude that's only affected by people 10th level or lower, guy that's immune to everyone but the sole dwarf who happens to be 8th level) Sure... but those are solutions that exist outside the rules. However, if the rules were structured in such a way that the power gap between high-end and low-end characters were not as disparate as they currently are, then a different possibility exists - more characters get their shot at being The Guy®, because that is supported by the rules.

it really seems a lot like trying to impose personal preferences on others.
I would suggest every change in the rules is, to an extent, someone imposing their preferences on the rest of us. By the nature of the game, the entire system is someone imposing their preferences on the rest of us - simply because the rest of us don't get a vote in what gets put out. Yes, yes, representative hierarchy and all that, but in the end, every game is someone's preferences being applied to everyone, whether or not they believe that to be the optimal conglomeration. I don't see anything wrong with that - it's pretty much just the way the world works. And the nature of the Alliance game is one of perpetual beta - we make tweaks and adjustments throughout the course of the game and continue from where we left off every time a new version comes out. So revisiting how we do things and what we do is very much a part of the culture of the game - I don't understand the frustration you might have that David and I (or whomever else might like to jump in) are having the discussion. Even if nothing comes of it, the discussion itself is useful. Heck, it took years of us discussing latex weapons before that change went through, even though it was poo-poo'ed time and again, eventually it was deemed acceptable and desirable.

Everything beyond that in your post again tries to suggest some sort of moral judgement on the current state of things that does not exist in my discussion on the matter. Suggestions that I believe make for a more perfect/better game should not be read as me saying "The current way is bad and you're all going to be subjected starring in Rebecca Black videos for your crimes!".

Dreamingfurther said:
I guess I simply don't think that the level disparity that we have prohibits a fun story driven game from working. I've seen too many different ways of getting all different characters of various levels involved and making them feel like they 'matter' to be convinced that our current system makes that 'impossible'.
I don't know that I've suggested that it's impossible, just less possible, and to a large extent, discouraged.

how are you 'helping' the game if you arbitrarily structure it to 'decrease' depth?
I don't know that I'd call it "arbitrary"; that seems unnecessarily dismissive. Decreasing the power gap allows for greater involvement across the board. Let's take your Big Town Fight - in general, there's some monsters on the high end of the scale and some monsters on the low end of the scale. In the current ideal, the guys swinging 20s will go deal with the High End Uglies and the guys swinging 2s will go deal with the Low End Uglies. Generally speaking, that's a good fight. But that's not really a coinvolved fight, which, as fun as our current system is, I think could be made even better. It works only because players artificially adjust their play style to allow the low end guys to have fun - which isn't a function of the ruleset, but of the player culture. There are arguments to be made for methods in which the lowbies can be more co-involved - as support cast: healers, looters, pick-me-ups, runners, distractions, etc. When you talk about the bad guys from that fight, it was Bossy McBosserson and his Minions. I'd say that from the bad guy's side of things, it's Jake McCool and his Minions. And few people walk in wanting to play minions. My suggestion to decrease the gap would allow those that came into the game looking for that (being support cast) to still do so, but also allow those wanting to be hotshots and rockstars to get a greater chance at it.

Powergaps will always exist. Striving to improve the character will always happen. My suggestion is simply that the rules could be structured to tighten the gap from low-end to high-end, and that so doing would allow for greater involvement in the story.

I agree sometimes it can take some extra 'work' from the angle of plot or stating, and that is certainly not nothing, but it doesn't seem insurmountable by a long shot.
Sure, but wouldn't it make for more fun if the rules helped with that? Something not being insurmountable isn't a strong reason, in my book, for not making it easier.
 
jpariury said:
When you talk about the bad guys from that fight, it was Bossy McBosserson and his Minions. I'd say that from the bad guy's side of things, it's Jake McCool and his Minions. And few people walk in wanting to play minions. My suggestion to decrease the gap would allow those that came into the game looking for that (being support cast) to still do so, but also allow those wanting to be hotshots and rockstars to get a greater chance at it.
If everyone is on the same level, if everyone has fairly similar power, or likewise if everyone is 'special' no one is. I would argue that even if you decreased the extent to which you can have a difference in power/abilities you aren't going to get away from the general structure of societies. There are always going to be 'leaders' and 'minions' the reality is that everyone can't be a leader... It would be nice if we could all just have robot/cpu supporting casts, but that's not really realistic. I would almost say isn't it nice that the rules structure supports the 5-10 year experienced player with a 20+ level PC being on a power level that is appropriately scaled such that 'minion' NPC's can't punk him generally?

jpariury said:
Sure, but wouldn't it make for more fun if the rules helped with that(inserted comment scaling I think is what is being referred to here)? Something not being insurmountable isn't a strong reason, in my book, for not making it easier.
However isn't retaining longterm depth and characters a pretty decent reason in my book not to 'dumb down' the system or make it harder to be super powered? I don't know if you have intended to do this but it seems a little like you are ignoring that point. Do you disagree that longterm, very powerful players/PC's add to the depth and immersion/flavor of the game? As I've said I think they add a lot.

jpariury said:
There is nothing within the structure of the rules that encourages having low-level characters be the critical piece to combats.
What combat/rules system, that has a sliding scale of power could possibly not be better to be more powerful in? I am really struggling to understand the purpose of this comment. Like I said above there are always going to be more or less powerful people and there can only be a few 'standouts' (hence the term). Could you theoretically demonstrate some system that encourages having less power?

On the flip side this is EXACTLY the sort of thing that is awesome for lower levels to figure out how to accomplish through more than just the strict pursuance of rules. For example if they (the new low levels) figure out that they can 'trick' whatever powerful baddy mic bad is bothering the town while the 'high power/level' characters could never do so because they have such a reputation as undead haters. Those lower levels could use their lower power level to be the 'heroes' of that story, while the high levels can feel cool holding off the hordes and super strong big bads. Isn't it possibly a little presumptuous to think that the 'rules' of the system can solve these sort of riddles rather than trusting to the writing and plot?

And lastly if that majority of the culture has adopted to and likes a system that expects courteous players (for example the immuno golem guy swinging 20 earth not one-shoting all the 30 body swinging 3's skeletons) why should we look for a significant change in the rules to 'fix' something that the culture/community already doesn't have a problem with?

jpariury said:
- I don't understand the frustration you might have that David and I (or whomever else might like to jump in) are having the discussion. Even if nothing comes of it, the discussion itself is useful. Heck, it took years of us discussing latex weapons before that change went through, even though it was poo-poo'ed time and again, eventually it was deemed acceptable and desirable.
I can't for certain speak for Dan here, however I think Dan's frustration might perhaps just come from his appreciation/enjoyment of writing/playing with characters and stories that have been going for well over a decade and a fear that this sort of discussion could 'destroy' all that. It's easy to jump to conclusions online and I might even go so far as to say its easy to forget just how little impact these discussions do really have.

But it's worth noting that everyone can keep in mind this is mostly a theoretical conversation with (as Dan said) relatively small amounts of evidence mostly just because those involved enjoy discussing the game on a game-theory level. :) No real 'end of the larp as we know it' aspirations I'd assume.
 

jpariury

Duke
Dreamingfurther said:
If everyone is on the same level, if everyone has fairly similar power, or likewise if everyone is 'special' no one is.
I would counter that if people are closer in power level, then what they do matters more than what skills they have, and such a structure provides more opportunities than currently exist.

However isn't retaining longterm depth and characters a pretty decent reason in my book not to 'dumb down' the system
Depth is created by the story, though, not the stat-line. Or, at least, in my vision of what could make for a better game. I haven't suggested dumbing anything down, just reducing the power gap.

What combat/rules system, that has a sliding scale of power could possibly not be better to be more powerful in?
I think you infer something I'm not saying. In a tighter gap, there's still a sliding scale, but the reach from low to high does not cross into "nigh-insurmountable". In a game where hit point totals cap out around 50 and damage calls cap out around 5 (arbitrary numbers for the purposes of discussion), it's still better to swing 5s than 1s, and it's still better to be able to take 50 points than 10. But your range of effectiveness is somewhere between Competent and Really Good. But compare that to a system where the upper end is 20s and 1000 hp - it's pretty pointless to be the guy swinging 1s. Your range spans everything from Negligible to Necessary.

Isn't it possibly a little presumptuous to think that the 'rules' of the system can solve these sort of riddles rather than trusting to the writing and plot?
No, it is not presumptuous to think that the rules can be written to help support this kind of plot. That's what the rules are there for: to support the plot lines. If the rules can be shifted to better support the plot writers, then I think it's worth looking at.

Much of the discussion of objective proof assumes a lot of things that aren't realistic. How do you measure fun? If it's by attendance, then we have to assume that the game was most fun when player levels ranged between 1 and the high teens, because when I started playing 21 years ago, we had events with 100-150 PCs and 50-60 NPCs. Yes, the counter arguments can come up: reduced novelty/more LARPs, other entertainment distractions like WoW, etc., but ultimately you are then saying "No, attendance isn't a good way to measure fun". What else do you have? At that point, it becomes a personal evaluation. "I am having fun with the system, and think it couldn't or shouldn't be improved upon or changed." ceases to be a call for objective proof, and becomes "I want it this way". So we're back to imposing one person's ideas on the whole of the rest. Ergo: discussion. :)
 
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