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Creatively Skinning Game Mechanics

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Creatively Skinning Game Mechanics

Post by Filth » Fri Jul 07, 2017 9:10 am

Note: I didn't want to throw this in into the Gamer Guild, huh, just noticed that's "GG". Anyways! I didn't want to put this there because 1. tabletop gaming to me feels as far removed from video games as books do from film, 2. this is focused more specifically on the roleplay side of the games, and 3. because I can and nobody can stop me.

Moving on...About a year or two ago I made a rogue for a short D&D adventure a friend made. Mechanically, it was just your standard halfling rogue. Fought with two daggers with the skills and stats you'd expect. However, the way this rogue was described in the game is that it was actually a pair of halfling twins that fought with a single dagger they tossed back and forth between themselves during combat. Essentially, they were like the ice climbers from Smash Bros. Mechanically your character controls a space 5ft by 5ft which is a reasonable space for two halflings to stand in. Since "flanking" is gone from 5e (thank the gods) it wasn't hurting anything to describe them as standing back to back when surrounded and they shared HP. So, their HP was both of them taking damage individually until they both fell unconscious. On their turn, mechanically, the rogue would attack, move around or between targets and then attack with the off hand dagger. Visually, though this was described as one twin moving around the target, while the first attacked with the dagger and then tossed the dagger to the other who performed the "off-hand" attack. The only downside to this was that I and the DM agreed that if the twins were ever disarmed, mechanically it would count as losing both daggers (they refused to use any other dagger but the one they had and were searching for its perfect match). A small price to pay for an idea I really loved.

Why I bring this up is that 1. I really enjoyed the character(s) so I find excuses to bring them up and 2. I described this to another DM earlier today who responded with "I'd never let something like that in my game", which is completely fair. I wouldn't begrudge him for telling me know I'd been a player in his game. However, this lead into a conversation about player creativity in how they skin the game mechanics. and I was curious how others, both players and GMs, feel regarding how creative players should be allowed to get with how they describe the way game mechanics look for their character. Over the years, I've noticed people seem to fall all over the spectrum from GMs that have a strict "game as written policy to those that say anything goes! I even met those that dislike certain games because they don't like how restrictive the rules feel to character creation (which seems like GM issue, not a mechanics issue).

So, what do you think? What's your policy on getting creative with mechanics and why? Where do you fall on the spectrum of playing the game as written, to doing whatever you want? Also, what's your favorite example of a character that takes great liberties with descriptions of mechanics in game?

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Re: Creativity With Game Mechanics

Post by HyperCynic » Fri Jul 07, 2017 8:54 pm

For me it would have to be a question of balance. Why does the player want to do said thing is it A) To be all powerful as a character or B) for the sake of role play.

Subject A I find will always be trying to worm out the best situation for them and never actually does what the game intended - Roleplay. As A DM though I find players like this easy to manage I scale the difficulty and never give said player inspiration points, though will allow customization as long as i can do my fair share of balancing.

Subject B though is described perfectly by this character, A great idea mixed in with an adequate weakness that also allows for a specific quest towards the end of a campaign to bring the character 'up to power'. Players like this often play in such a way that they put themselves at a disadvantage through their own character flaws allowing me as a dm to regularly give them Their inspiration points.

I feel that as a DM the mechanics are there as a guideline, not as a rule, character creativity is a beautiful thing. I once created an elementalist class where the character could change elements at will, but to balance it we brought in the aspect of weapon changes. An 'elemental Shift' as we called it took a full round action as if one were changing weapons, it also had effects that would effect everyone in a 5 ft radius around them.
Water (Heal 1d4 per every 5 character levels)
Air (5 move speed per every 5 character levels)
Earth (Everyone in 5 yards makes an acrobatics or athletics check of 15 or be knocked off balance, (+1 to roll every 5 levels))
fire (Explosion of fire doing 1d4 per every 5 character levels)

Each turn the could use the Elemental shift passive of their current enemy as their bonus action but if they did so they could not move as it required a concentration check to focus the power.

At levels 6, 12 and 18 the range of effect increased to 10,15.20.

The character was really powerful but had the side effect of having to play apart from the party or risk doing them a lot of damage to the members or play as a healer and risk healing enemies constantly. This is a very basic explanation of the class but it was one of the most interesting games I ever DM'd and the character ended up feeling far more balanced than one would think. Thinking back on this I actually hope one day to play the character myself as I spent hours making it.
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