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Hacking the Game
Posted By John Arcadian On September 12, 2008 @ 2:06 am In GMing Advice | 17 Comments
I’ve got a player who loves D&D, except for the parts of anything that he thinks suck. This class is underpowered in this way, this power doesn’t work most effectively, etc. He isn’t a power gaming type and he isn’t a houseruling type, but he turns to me as the GM to try to change/improve things.
With that in mind I’ve got a few questions and a few ideas.
What do you think about houseruling and hacking the game?
If you’ve seen The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, you know there can be some pretty heavy resistance to changing the rules of a game. What do you think about it? Answer in the comments, I’m curious about the general feeling towards this.
Here are some pros and cons, as I see them.
Fortunately, you might get closer to the game that you wanted to play.
If you are mostly satisfied with a gaming system but want one little thing different, then changing the rules to accommodate that can be a good solution. If you like Shadowrun, but dislike the long and intricate hacking sessions that go along with it, then changing the rules for Matrix diving might make the game more fun for those playing it.
Unfortunately, the players might not be sure what to expect.
If you rely on the rules to guide how things are resolved, then changing them might take away player’s options. If a person expects their magical powers to be constantly available, but thanks to a house rule they don’t work in a certain area, then you might have a pissed off player on your hands. The key to avoiding this is to make sure that players know about any major changes like that beforehand.
Fortunately, some balance issues might get fixed.
From a designers perpective a power may seem incredibly cool and fit right into the niche it was designed for. However . . . When mixed in with another lower level power or seemingly innocuous spell – KABOOOM. Changing the way one or more of these things works might bring things back into a playable balance. However, this might make it seem like a player is being nerfed for discovering a nifty loophole.
Unfortunately, some new balance issues might arise.
While making a change to powers and abilities you might inadvertently change the games balance. New loopholes might be opened and you are suddenly faced with 2nd level characters capable of taking down the tarrasque. It could happen. Something as simple as changing the way a sleep spell affects things so that elves aren’t immune might have unintentional consequences. Raising the damage on a certain weapon type might cause it to scale in an unexpected way.
Fortunately, it makes the game more fun for everyone.
There are some kinds of game hacking that make the game more fun. If everyone agrees on them and it eliminates barriers to play or enjoyment, then it becomes a null issue. I know my groups have always removed xp penalties for multi-classing. We just never found much reason for them in our style of play.
Unfortunately, it can make more work for the GM.
I’m always a little resistant to making major changes to a game system, especially if I’m not as familiar with all the intricacies of it or it relies on carefully balanced equations to work correctly. I never look forward to re-statting a carefully balanced array of powers or making it up from 1 to 20. Getting into the nitty-gritty of a system and changing around elements can be rewarding, but oh so time consuming. If you like this sort of thing then this is in the pro column and not the con column.
Hack away in the comments section and let me know what you think about game hacking in general. Do you hack game systems or prefer out of the box? What kind of things are you comfortable with changing about a game system? Success stories? Horror stories?
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