In which our intrepid hero meekly enters the world of GMing advice.

Martin Ralya’s inspiring blog on GMing, Treasure Tables has a thread on the problem of having too much choice as a GM, and comparing it to similar problems as a player.

I’ve offered my comments on the subject a couple of times, which I’ll repeat here as a possible jump-off point for discussing some of the points therein, in the privacy of my own blog. Firstly:

As a player, I’ve either had a pretty solid idea of where I want a PC to end up, or I’m stubborn enough to try and shoehorn the rules around a concept. In the latter case, I sometimes end up with characters that solidly defy D&D stereotypes, but the system works okay to accommodate them. Option paralysis has never been a problem for me as a player.

As a GM, however, it was—I’d have too much cool stuff to draw from. In the end, I came up with a “three-book” rule—I limited myself to material from the core rulebooks and three other sources.

For a mystic Asian-flavoured campaign, I might pick Oriental Adventures, Magic of Incarnum and Ghostwalk. Or I’d pick three books, say The Book of Hallowed Might, Green Ronin’s Advanced Bestiary and the Penumbra Fantasy Bestiary, and see what I could make out of them.

If I needed anything more, then I’d have to work it up myself. It meant a little more work, and thought, but at least it meant I wasn’t spending all my time going from book to book preparing for a campaign, and didn’t have to carry so many books to and from games.

And the second:

I agree with Zephiros’ comment that it’s quite possible to shoehorn most character concepts into D&D—the variety and flexibility of sub-rulesets allow for this in many cases. Most problems, in truth, come from not being stubborn enough to prioritise character concept over implicit D&D stereotypes, not from the rules system itself.

That said, whilst D&D may be the lingua franca of RPGs, there are certainly settings that D20 doesn’t adapt well to—Call of Cthulhu comes instantly to mind.

I think that the requirements of your setting should be more a determinant of which rules system to use, than whether or not your ideal PC fits stereotypes in the game. After all, if you want a unique PC—and most players seem to—then you shouldn’t be afraid to think outside the square.

Then again, if your game requires characters that a system simply can’t cater to, then you should change systems, as michael suggests.

(On this subject, whenever I buy a new game system, one of the first things I do is try to stat myself out as a starting PC. Like anyone, I don’t really fit into a clichéd fantasy niche, but if I’m satisfied with the outcome, and the letter of the rules lets me get away with it, then it’s a good indication of the flexibility of a character generation system.

Incidentally, Martin, having readers stat themselves out as D&D characters—and justifying their decisions—might be an idea for a future TT article, as an exercise in how to break through stereotypes in NPC creation. Just a thought.)

I’d like to expand on the “three book” rule and self-statting in future posts here in the future; aside from blowing my own trumpet, I think they’re topics that deserve a little further examination.

And I still have more articles on Aleister Crowley to come—it’s just a matter of finding some time to write them.

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