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Fair or Foul: Unexpected GM Fiat
Posted By Walt Ciechanowski On June 18, 2010 @ 12:01 am In GMing Advice | 41 Comments
I was playing in a Shadowrun adventure where one of the other players, Amy, made a “Face” character. I forget the character’s name, but she was a disguise expert/martial artist with a boat load of social skills. Her forte was to use her charms to gain access to “employees only” and other restricted areas.
During one part of the adventure, she attempted to charm her way past a troll bouncer in a nightclub. When asked what the penalty was for trying to seduce a troll, the GM told her not to bother. In his mind, a troll simply wouldn’t find an elf attractive and refused to give her even a minimal chance of success.
Needless to say, play stopped as an argument erupted at the table. Amy protested that the GM just nerfed her skill set 25% of the time (it may have been 50%; I don’t recall the GM’s stance on orks). She asked why he didn’t tell her this when she made the character and the GM responded by asking what made her think that a troll would find an elf attractive? After a few minutes of discussion, we bent to GM prerogative and kept playing.
So, fair or foul? Are there times when unexpected GM fiat is okay or should the GM always let a player know up front where he’s deviating from established game elements (from what I recall, there was nothing in Shadowrun to support the GM’s position)? Or was the player wrong in making an assumption about her character’s effectiveness? Should she be prepared for a nerf every now and then (at least as long as every restricted area isn’t guarded by a troll)?
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