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Power Gamers
21st Feb, 2010

I to do not think min/ maxers are a problem per se. There are merely specialising; which is a perfectly natural instinct, and ironically quite ‘team player’ when you think about it (as a specialist on their own is vulnerable).

Min/ Maxers are merely trying to stack the odds of their survival in their favour. They have an idea that all encounters are going to be direct fights and they need to throw everything at the enemy. It’s all about survival (and if they survive it’s all glory). It’s hard to ask someone to go against base instincts and drives like these. Most young males (and a lot of gamer females) run through hypotheticals (like games) to test themselves. To see if they can win, to beat the system. It’s important to them. Older players have less of this type of drive because they have already proven themselves.

This can be neutralised by shifting the goal posts, and GMs have their ways…

Some ground rules as to what is expected can help – merely pointing out that it’s a puzzle game not a combat simulator, and that you (the GM) will match the enemies to the power levels of the players; so most straight up fights listed in the scenario will scale to at least be 50-50 (and a real chance of the PC dying without them coming up with some superior tactics!). Those enemies that are weaker than 50-50 are likely to run (why would a little sneaky goblin charge/ stand their ground against an overpowered human?), and ‘boss monsters’ should usually invincible (to the point they may not even have stats, you fight it: you loose) unless you have a trick up your sleeve. Defeating a boss is a puzzle and will require a bit of lateral thinking. Catching those that run (lower power NPCs) will require ambushes, and shifting the odds of a 50-50 fight will require tactics. You only earn experience on 50-50 fights and the use of tactics.

So no matter how much the min/max; they usually have a 50% chance of loosing in a fight with NPCs who actually want to fight, and the boss monster is ‘the boss’ and will kick their ass.

‘opponent scaling’ or ‘risk scaling’.

Reminds me of the old Warhammer Fantasy RPG (1E) ‘risk rolls’, which tended to be 50%…

In conclusion, I think most of the time it’s hard to blame a power-gamers for doing what they do – it’s a personality trait. If handled with care, and they are made aware of the parameters of the game, it can work to your advantage. However a power gamer will test your resolve. You will probably have to kill them at some point, and do it early before their mindset thinks you were full of BS and they act up. The first ‘easy’ fight the power-gamer wants (i.e. bullying or picking on mooks) the NPCs should run away, the first 50-50 fight they have they should walk away bloody, die, or surrender. If they walk away bloody and get into another fight – kill them.

I’m sure the non power-games will be ahead of the curve, and start suggesting tactics and perhaps a bit of stealth. However, this is ‘adaptive’, and what works once should not work again (once word is out that there is a ‘gang’, that ambushes, operating in the area – NPCs will be weary (and they know the terrain)). It is possible that the PC will intimidate many, but criminal gangs can be powerful and may hunt the PCs down. Usually the PCs are operating in a society, and threats will be taken very seriously. Humans are aggressive. Territory will be protected. (Protected by the NPC version of a min/ maxer!)

When thinking about what an NPC would do, just ask yourself: what would you do in their shoes?

Do not blame the player for power-gaming: blame the system and the lack of in game consequences.

Power-gamers are power-gamers because it often works. Simple but effective. If you want a more sophisticated game, I would suggest the system and game world has to be sophisticated too. You can’t rely on ‘social norms’ and ‘unspoken understanding’ and what is the ‘correct attitude’ to make up for an unsophisticated system. A power-gamers will see the weaknesses and exploit them. It’s their nature, and that nature is in all of us. In many ways the whole point of RPGs is to have fun and ‘cheat the odds’, to solve the puzzle, power-gamers are merely starting with the rules (simple tactics lots of maths), those who like the setting exploit the setting (complex tactics little maths): rules hacker – setting hacker.

We are all more similar than different, more often than not…

Philip

PS: As for ‘centre of attention’ you can’t beat being a GM

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