Content Beyond Powerleveling (Shadwolf)

One of the biggest issues in games is always powerleveling.  Certain players will powerlevel and break the game and this becomes unfair to the other players.  There are some fixes to mitigate this, such as "no numbers," but these will not eliminate the problem. The problem is more basic than this; it is about motivation.

Everyone has a favorite story or movie.  They watch this movie or read this book and think "gosh, Aragorn is so cool.  I wish I could be him."  Fortunately, you have roleplaying games to allow you to play out this fantasy.  You whip out some dice, roll some stats, assign them in the appropriate order and list all your skills.  Next you buy your equipment.  Now the best part: you write the background.  Noble heritage… dispossesed…family heirloom sword…mysterious demeanor… etc.  Now you are ready to play.  What do you do?

You have a really cool character.  You know he is good at smiting evil and doing heroic deeds.  Hmmm… I guess you go look for some evil to smite.

Alternately, you are a game master or game designer.  You have a fantastic idea for a game world.  The people of Shangrila have lived in peace for centuries.  The have known limitless prosperity and developed amazing new sciences.  All this was shattered when the evil Necromancer Urghblech unleashed his mighty army of hideous orcs upon these unsuspecting people.  Can anyone save them in time?  Great – now what do the players do?  You need a plot.  Wait…. you don’t need a plot – you have an army of orcs for the players to kill!  When they get too tough for orcs the Necromancer will summon Ogres for the players to kill.  These will later be augemented by Ogre mages, Dragons, Red Dragons, Blue Dragons, Copper Dragons, Curium Dragons, Radioactive Polka dot Dragons, Elder Radioactive polkadot Dragons and ultimately by something called a K’tl’aa’draclqw that looks like a multitentacled jello cube and fires thousand point damage area affect lightning bolts and is only affected by +329 or better cheese based weapons.

With players like this in worlds like this, the goal is to kill monsters as efficiently as possible.  What is the best way to accomplish such a goal?  Powerleveling.  So how do you eliminate powerleveling?  Take away the motivation.  Maybe the event of the month involves finding the spy who has infiltrated the imperial court.  Perhaps the queen is dying of a strange illness and the king has promised great riches to the first person to find the plant that is needed to make the cure.  Perhaps a terrible artifact(s) is found and anyone wielding it/them gains great power but is slowly drawn to evil.  Some players want to obtain the artifact for their own use – others wish to destroy it.  These are simple plot ideas which are taken from common fantasy genre stories.  There are  thousands of starving authors out there writing this kind of stuff.  I bet they would be willing to sell such a storyline for far less than it costs to hire a programmer to come up with "There are these infinitely respawning monsters everywhere and the players have to kill them."

Okay, so now you have a plot.  What does this accomplish?  The players become immersed in the game.  They work to accomplish these goals.  Some players with more limited imagination will still waste their time powerleveling, but most will be more interested in seeing how the plot develops.  The best gamers will be rewarded by becoming integral parts of the storyline.  Never underestimate the power of recognizing a player.  When the web page anounces that Lord Ragan has been appointed as Field Marshall of the army of Blackmarsh, you have made that player’s life complete and most of the other players are going to wish they were him.  These goals must be meaningful, however. The anouncement that Chef_Dewd34 has won the royal cooking contest because he was the first one to make rice krispy treats does not add anything to the game.

(Rice Krispies is a trademark of Kelloggs corporation.  Useless cooking contests to enhance "roleplaying" is a trademark of Turbine games)

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