A Few Thoughts On A Game I Was Invited To...

As I mentioned last post, I have been invited to join a group that's playing through a 12th level 3.5-only campaign.

This could be fun. Epic (not in game-rule-sense) characters, trying to stabilize the world in the aftermath of war! Or cleaning up the remnants of the dark forces before they can rebuild their most devastating weapons! Or resealing the wards that lock down the ancient terror(s) that one army was trying to unleash upon the world!

Sounds cool, right? Any way that could go would be awesome, but the bad thing about the campaign is that, try as I might, I can't get any info about the setting from the person that runs the game. Info that even a character as high level as 12th would know. Not even day-to-day stuff.

Not only that, but I also can't get the information I need to make a character, so that I can bring something to the table and not have to drag the game down with time-consuming character choices.

This seems to be for multiple reasons. First, the person running the game is apparently writing a book, and seems to think that even IP that doesn't belong to her is her IP, and thus, is wary of sharing anything that could aid and expedite her game (character creation away from the table) and also seems to make arbitrary calls on what is and is not allowed in the game.

Granted, these calls could very well be made to uphold the flavor of the setting, but I just feel that this person is falling into a trap that many novice GMs fall into... the "My Game Is So Cool" trap. This is characterized, variously, by different things that GMs do to make sure the PCs don't mess up their campaign worlds.

Things like...
  • GM PCs, characters created and ran by the GM to railroad the group into not doing things that the GM feels would spoil their world (i.e., takeovers, assassinations, etc.) These characters are generally characterized by being created outside the boundaries of player creation rules.
  • Intense control of character options through every step of creation. On the outside, one might say that every GM does this, but usually not to the same extent. In these cases, very few limitations are actually communicated, but then crop up at every stage of character creation, limiting class, race, spells, and even feats and skills.
  • Setting Static, in which no matter what you may do to disrupt person, place, or thing X, there is always answer Y to counter it, whether that be the person being immensely more powerful than they should be, protective wards on the location, or unforeseen NPCs ready to jump into any vacancies created by the PCs before they, themselves, have a chance to do so.
The fallacy here is that by putting up these things, that the GM invariably sees as non-restrictive, they are choking the life out of their own creativity and the creativity of their players, which can lead to bitterness between players, or between players and GMs.

The fact that it is a fallacy is upheld by the fact that, no matter how many limitations are put into place, the players, if they are not having fun, will begin to make the campaign fun for themselves, or will eventually end up dropping out of the group. To quote a classic paraphrase in the gaming community, "No campaign survives contact with the players."

Having said all that, it may seem that I am being very derisive toward the game and the persons running and playing in it, but that's not my intent. I'm merely putting forward an at-a-glace opinion of what I see.

I certainly do hope that the game is fun, and that all participating enjoy themselves, but ultimately, I feel that the game will fail on the points I have presented above. Already, one campaign was aborted after only a few meetings, and I just feel that, perhaps, there is too much on the plate of someone who seems new to the task of GMing.

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