Awesome Point Abuse

Breathing World FH NameplateI continue work on my Breathing World book. Here is an essay I added to the section on Awesome Points.

According to the rules as written, a character could get to very high level in a week by trying to climb a wall over and over all day. The character could test Brawn of -2, consistently fail, and consistently boost the roll with Awesome Points. If the other players thought that was awesome, and the points kept coming in, by the end of the week the character could be legendary.

That is not awesome. That is a boring abuse of the Awesome Point system to grab power by gaming the system. Is the system broken because this is possible? Yes and no.

There is a balance built in to prevent abuse. If the players find another player’s power gaming tactics annoying, they can stop giving that player Awesome Points. Without Awesome Points it does not work. In a similar way, if the DM is annoyed at power gaming tactics from the players, the DM can slow down the flow of Awesome Points to the Bowl. Then the players will find they are running low when they need Awesome Points, so they can choose between advancing by using cagy maneuvers, or stockpiling Awesome Points for real challenges.

The balancing mechanism is beside the point. Awesome Points are designed to be a way to express mutual appreciation, reward entertaining play, and celebrate each other. Spending Awesome Points is designed to relieve the tyranny of low-rolling dice sometimes, and to allow your character to do awesome things. When players squeeze maximum power and advancement from this system, they are focusing on what the rules require instead of what the rules allow.

The Awesome Point system allows Fictive Hack to be much more rules-light. If an ambiguous case arises, you can throw some Awesome Points at it to bend the rules or improvise, without altering the basic assumptions of the rules. A power gamer can approach the Awesome Point system and other elements of the Fictive Hack system and gleefully accrue broken levels of power by cherry-picking the most advantageous elements and building a real monster character (sometimes literally, using the inhuman templates.)

Power gaming is only wrong if it leads to bad feelings in the game. If everyone is having fun and loves that one player’s character is a juggernaut of destruction, then that’s fine; the game is designed to accommodate a wide variety of styles. However, if one person (or a group’s) quest for power is souring the play experience for everyone else, then there is a question that the group must answer.

Should the rules reign in the power gamer, or should the game group? The wildly diverse templates and talents of the system sprawl over lots of rules territory, and every effort has been made to bring a level of balance while preserving the power and fun of each ability. The system could be reigned in and powered down, scrutinized to make sure that no synergies and weak spots allow characters to be hugely overpowered. Or, game groups could agree that the breathing space and freedom of the game inspire them to work within its intent and listen to the feedback of other players if something gets unbalanced.

You can alter talents for your game table. You can make your own talents and templates. You can customize, select, restrict, and house rule this game. If something doesn’t work for your game table, you are free to adapt, restrict, revise, and expand to fit your style. If, in play, you don’t see how an inherent ability or talent is balanced and it’s ruining the fun—change it. If the player protests (and this is likely), smooth the situation over by offering the opportunity to take a different talent instead, or offer a big handful of Awesome Points.

If you find yourself feeling defensive, and thinking “But the rules say I can do this, so there” a lot, you may be pushing the bounds of how this is all supposed to hold together. Keep an eye to the fun, the possibilities, and the enjoyment of the whole group and you can’t go wrong.

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