The Second Fury of Gruumsh
Handling Player Requests
Players will always want more out of the game than you can give them; this is to be expected. If they are complacent with what you give them, it will be only a short amount of time before they grow bored of the repetition and want something new. If they don’t know what they want, they may just start losing interest in the campaign and, let’s be honest, you put too much damn work into this thing to simply abandon it.
Encourage players to ask about new things that you can add to increase the attractiveness of your world or game in general. Hell, I even dropped hints to my players as to what they could suggest, such as achievements, allowing them to feel as if they suggested it while still not catching me completely unprepared for it. Some things, however, are outside of my control, but that is ALSO good, because it means the players are thinking about the game independently of my prodding. A recent example of this, which I have yet to implement (9/10/10) is special feats and/or powers that can be used between characters if they have high enough relationship value with one another. Anyone who has played Suikoden, Final Fantasy 9, or Disgaea might be familiar with combination attacks that multiple characters can use together, usually being stronger than a single attack, sometimes stronger than both attacks separately, and sometimes adding elements or status effects into the mix. An example might be an encounter power shared between a mage and a fighter, where the fighter gains the elemental damage type of one of the mage’s at-will abilities for a single at-will or basic attack. The idea is that their compatability is so good that the fighter merely needs to give a signal to initial to attack, and the mage is able to follow the order swiftly, running his magics through the fighter’s weapon at the moment of the strike. This is a very delicate mechanism that, without great care, can easily break the game, so while I want to implement it to make the game more interesting and dynamic for my players, I have to make sure these attacks are balanced correctly and may take time to put them into play.
That is another thing you always want to be careful of when altering, adding, or deleting rules from the given ruleset: balance. You don’t want to change a rule that will make your ranged fighters more effective if they are already out-damaging your melee fighters, and you don’t want to add anything that will make your illusionist’s status effect-like abilities’ durations border on permanence. Any time a rule, ability, or game mechanic is put into play, you should make it clear to players that, if it is too powerful or game breaking, you are completely within your right to change it or remove it altogether. You can playtest the rule if you want, running a couple of mock battles with your players’ party or a similar one and seeing how the rule effects things, but that is not strictly necessary. My mode of testing is usually to simply throw the new rule into the game and hope for the best. This can lead to hurt feelings when one specific player finds out how to exploit a broken rule, forcing you to remove it and causing that player to cry foul, but in the end you are the DM and you have to make the game fun for everyone,
even especially if that means balancing out an overpowered character.
As with all things regarding your players, you should take each request with a grain of salt. Always be wary of requests and make sure they aren’t self-serving or exploitable. I can’t provide a proper example, but imagine a player introduces a conceptual rule that would allow two specific attacks to be used in quick succession. The player lays out reasonable arguments as to why the rule should be allowed, even pointing out game mechanics that support the introduction of the rule. All in all, their research seems completely solid. However, you also notice that they have a couple of abilities that increase attack rolls and damage rolls and, after doing some research of your own, you realize that allowing this rule would allow the player, a level 8 character, to do nearly 100 points of damage in a single round. Thank them for their input, inform them that you just cannot implement the rule and show them exactly why, tell them you would appreciate any future input, and warn your other players that he is likely to kill them in their sleep and steal their items.
That last part is a joke… maybe.