Thursday, July 29, 2010

Game Breakers

One of the guys that hangs out at my FLGS is pretty well known for finding ways to legally "break" any game he is playing.

A recent case in point involved the following: During a planned, published adventure, buying an ox from the supply table, killing/sacrificing it, and then re-animating it so as to have a Zombie Ox for use in combat. (And rendered the fighter of the party useless in the works.)

His alignment and diety situations were such that this was all totally legal and in no way affected his moral standing nor his ability to gain XP for the adventure.

He liked the idea so much that he did it again in another adventure in the same system (because you don't keep equipment from session to session in the organized play league).

He also formerly ran a droid in one of the Star Wars games where he bought skill chips for any possible scenario, and left all the other PCs twiddling their thumbs.

Sometimes this type of behavior is funny- and the group loves it. Other times it is truly annoying and makes playing NO FUN. Most of the time, it's the response of the GM that bothers me.

The mentality of "well, it's legal so I must allow it" really aggravates me. I like games where GMs and players work together to make things fun, and I don't mind an occasional "here's why I think this might be appropriate" kind of good natured arguement. But when it comes to rules, whether something is allowed, or making the game a sham of what it should be, I'm firmly in the "I'm the GM and I say NO" camp.

Some folks are not good at saying no to other people. Others are so intent on "let's have a good time" that refusing something that is legal (but potentially game breaking) is out of their mindset.

I played with a guy recently who was unintentionally coming close to breaking the game we were in. He kept trying to use OOC knowledge in character and kept justifying it off through very shaky reasoning. The GM in question called him on it several times in very subtle (but effective) ways. The player continued in some of this behavior by asking questions that he really should not have been asking to another player in the game. The other player was doing a pretty good job of avoiding the questions, but my character found the whole thing creepy and told off the offending character.

I knew this player would be a little problematic. He's young and just learning the social aspects of gaming, and still hasn't outgrown the "look what I can do" mentality. He really has not had a lot of opportunity to roleplay (most of his experience has been in miniatures) and so many of the lines between personal knowledge and character knowledge have yet to be drawn. Despite all this, he's a good and willing kid, and I don't mind helping him learn - other people helped me learn when I was in his position.

The difference between these examples, I think, is intent. The first guy INTENDS to to find ways to break the system- and in many cases, takes pleasure in it. The second guy doesn't know better.

There's also a difference in response- the first guy has gotten away with quite a bit because of GMs who don't want to say no, or feel they can't. The second guy has a GM who is not afraid to tell him "stop doing that; it's annoying".

I actively look for GMs that will say no, and avoid the known game breakers as often as possible.


  1. We had a player who was playing some sort of higher end paladin. (I can't think of it, but they have to be stricter about following their alignment) The player played this character constantly asking the GM "Can I get away with this? Can I get away with that?" Why even play the character?

    Now, for a GM to say that it's legal is to forget the golden rule most systems build in: GM gets the final say. Most GMs seem to forget this or when they enforce it, aren't consistent, which just frustrates the players.

  2. Dave- the "can I do that" metagaming is almost as bad as game breaking, to me. Just do what you think is appropriate and take your consequences, already.

    GMs that don't know how to or forget to enforce their power are also frustrating, I agree.

  3. Absolutely.
    When I ran a larp I banned all versions of the "lore" ability, but it frustratingly didn't prevent a bunch of young vampires from chatting about all the ins and outs of their competition on the supernatural food chain.

    I also agree with the problem of players cookie cuttering tactics like the zombie ox. I recently had a DM suggest a build to me (which in itself bugs me since I prefer to just make a character instead of a maxed out spec) that was exactly the same as one of the PCs from another game going on.

  4. On the Larp- I think Lore's a dumb ability anyway. I never take it or use it because it's a cop out.

    However, if an ST says "don't do this" and I do it, I'm inviting character death. My WOD ST has very inventive ways of keeping our group in line, usually involving peer pressure (which works well in a large group).