When I create a character, I always examine the rules to see if I can find one or two things within the rules that I can do well. It could be exceptional movement, a special power, the right combination of skills/spells/feats/perks/flaws that make me special. I also, of course, come up with a character background that explains, among other things, why my character is so extra special in these areas. Sometimes the plan works, and sometimes it doesn’t. In a recent D&D 4e expedition, I ended up with an elven predator power druid that had a move of 8, which is fantastic. I also included many “shift enemy” powers that I thought would make me unique. It turns out that many of the other characters in the group had similar shift enemy powers, so I wasn’t extra special in that department. I didn’t have time to read all of the powers of all of the other classes, so where I thought I would be special a lot of research would have told me otherwise. I was disappointed at not being special in that regard, but that’s OK. I still had fun with the character for the short time that I played him.
RPG Blog II has some fantastic advice on using a minimalistic rule set when dealing with large, all-encompassing games like GURPS and Rolemaster. The next time I venture forth into GURPS land, I’ll have to take his advice. I’ve always swung the other direction in order to allow my players the most freedom possible in their character creation. It’s always come back to bite me in the rear. There are just too many rules in GURPS for me to memorize them all, so the game suffers as I look things up and make sure I “get it right” instead of just making a call on the fly and looking it up later. By using a scaled down rule set, I think I can run a better game.
I love it when my players make an oath, take a pact or undertake a promise. It gives me some level of power of their characters that they have willingly (if not knowingly) given me. It allows for great adventure hooks, increased interaction between the PCs and NPCs of the game, and gives the PCs actions some meaning other than to do the typical adventurer trope.
I’ll admit that I’ve only been to one battlefield: Little Big Horn. While there, I was underwhelmed by the senses that I experienced since most of the battle took place away from where the tourist spot was at. While touring Europe in my youth, I did come across quite a few mass burial sites of various types (most of them from the Black Plague era) and the sensation of awe, wonder, respect, loss and grief that pervaded the area was incredible. In a fantasy setting, so much more can be found at ancient battlefields. Lost relics, undead (of course), ancient mysteries, magical items and so much more can be found littered about in the dirt. A GM of mine placed a large field of battle between us and our nearby goal at one point. I think we had more fun exploring the field of ancient dead (despite the constant harassment by the undead) than we did continuing on with our quest. Perhaps if we had made a promise or taken an oath to do otherwise….
It seems like most modern adventures are all about logically connecting monster A with room Y next to room Z that contains monsters B and C. Mike Mearls has some great advice on how to build a proper dungeon that will truly excite your players’ interests in moving forward through the crawl. It’s more than just monsters being turned into experience points. It’s more like challenging the players to think things through before they kick open the next door. I miss those days of true adventure instead of mindless hack and slash. Go see what Mr. Mearls has to say on the topic if you want to know more.