Game Mastering Conundrums… Limiting player choices!

For those wondering why there was no post yesterday, the Stargazer is sick! Doesn’t seem to be anything life threatening (sorry guys we are not inheriting the blog just yet!). With our fearless leader sick it falls upon us minions… I mean other contributors, to pick up the slack. So here we go!

Recently I posted about my interest in running a Vampire the Masquerade game. I’m reading the 20th anniversary book and all sorts of idea are percolating in my head. One of them is how to bring all the characters together. Games such as Vampire where characters have so many built in conflicts it can be particularly difficult, but this consideration is important for any game. Unless all you adventures begin with “You are all together in a bar…”

For the Vampire game I have been considering various options:

  • The characters are all neonate vampires, recently embraced but their siresare nowhere to be found. Then there are two options stemming from this…
    • The characters are all from different clans, adding to the mystery, why would such a diverse group of vampires embrace these people and disappear?
    • Or perhaps they are all Caitiff, maybe even fourteenth generation.
  • All the characters share a common benefactor an autarkis who the character’s sires all owe favors. He or she has taken the characters under his wing. But why?

 Those are just two ideas, but by their very definition they will limit the options available for players from the get go. Be it for Vampire or many other games I feel some trepidation when I do this. I understand that limiting character options can establish the tone and feel of the campaign, and if this comes out from an open discussion and agreement between all parties, players and game master, it can be a great thing. But when it’s a unilateral decision it can be frustrating.

Mind you I have done it, and when I play fantasy, which is a genre I play so often and that we have played so much, placing limits doesn’t quiet bother me as much. The players have tried many options in fantasy games. And even then if the player has some really interesting concept that may stretch these limits I’ll consider it.

Let me explain my rationale. I am a firm believer that all parties in a game should have fun, and for many players making the character they envision is part of that fun. Playing just what you want, within the limits of the game, can be terribly exciting and satisfying. If as a GM I limit these options from the beginin, then I am truncating the fun even before the game begins. As a GM I should be able to account for different player styles, interest and character types.

And then there is the fact that when we get to play Vampire it will more than likely be a short mini-campaign, in a game I have not previously run, and which many players have not played. I think limiting their options may shortchange them from the Masquerade experience. So I’ll find a way to bring the characters together without limiting them rule wise. As a Storyteller that will be my responsibility.

How do you feel about limiting player options? How do you go about it? I’d love to know!

PS – I didn’t even notice that my previous post was number 200. Wow how time flies. Thank you all for reading!

3 thoughts on “Game Mastering Conundrums… Limiting player choices!”

  1. Personally, I’m all for G/DM limits on players, within reason.

    All limits should be used to encourage player creativity, fit the setting, or avoid imbalance (for my group, this detracts from their fun).

    If I’m (as G/DM) limiting the game for my benefit, I know I’m doing it wrong.

    Really, if it’s not contributing to immersion or player fun, then I think it’s a bad limit, and I include rules in that.

  2. I am also for limitng player options in a game. I only make limitations based on the game that I’m running. For example, I’m working on a Pathfinder setting where gnomes really won’t fit, so I will not be allowing them in the game.

    I also tend to limit things if it is a system I and my ground have never played so we will not be overwhelmed by choices. I tend to work a lot better when I have fewer choices to make.

  3. I try not to set ‘limits’ in the form of prohibitions. Instead I try to go with guidelines that will make the character fit better within the game I’m trying to run. So for instance if I was running Buffy as a game, I might have said “You’re all in some way related to the Sunnydale High” instead of “You all have to be high school students.” because then I can work with the player who wants to play something slightly different and we can get Giles in the game.

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