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Mark Charke

How to Allow Power Gaming

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A decade plus veteran of game design, I've been working on a LARP rule-set re-write for ten months. I'm concerned that the hard caps on damage and resources will frustrate power gamers to the point of quitting and I need every paying customer I can get my hands on. Alternatively they will start cheating or desperately cling to, and hide, any rules loop-hole they have decided exist. I'm inheriting a LARP community where abusing the rules has been standard practice for several years as management lost enthusiasm in the game.

So how do you allow people to Power Game without letting them dominate the system? There may be 60 people out there, so if everyone can "boost" themselves once a game, there will be boosted people all the time and that will become the normal state of affairs. I don't want that either.

As a balancing factor, I've decided everyone will be the same level. This is great for infrequent players, but again, makes it worse for power gamers who want to dominate play. I'm asking for the impossible I know. I've gone through a lot of ideas on this front. Also the solution has to be so simple it can be easily memorized because in LARP you don't run around with a rule book and I don't want to stop the game to look things up.

 

This is a level based system, very D&Dish, using mana to power spells, halo (your soul) to power special abilities, and a rank 1 to 10 based point-buy skill system.

 

Does anyone have an ideas?

Mark Charke

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You can't force players to bend over/break their existing progression for some rules you want to test. You need to speak with them in this case otherwise your small community will most likely vanish.

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The game design has been 10 months of communication with the community. I'm looking for ideas so people can power game sometimes without it being a constant problem. This is one of hundreds of issues I've worked through and often I approach other game designers like yourselves. The last system had a policy of being able to use a loophole once and then it would be patched. But they stopped patching and it got rediculous. I've tried to do an end run around the loopholes but I want a pressure relief valve.

Mark Charke

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So how do you allow people to Power Game without letting them dominate the system? ... This is great for infrequent players, but again, makes it worse for power gamers who want to dominate play.
 

 

I'm not entirely sure how you define "power game".

 

A common pattern is to segregate players based on their skill levels.  Those who demonstrate skill, either through actual skill or through manipulation of the rules or through blatant cheating tend to go into one region, those with lower skills are moved to another.  

 

From your description it seems like that isn't your problem, but instead you've got a group who wants to abuse other players, either by exploiting mechanics loopholes or through removing caps or other safeties in the system. The solution for that type of player is also to segregate them, either to an 'island of the banned' type world where they can abuse other like-minded abusive players, or with actual bans.

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I've never played a larp game so my idea will prolly sound stupid..

Once every 2-4 months, allow a chosen one to be God-like for a short amount of time. The One will not know he/she is the One at the time of creation. Using the powers of God will shorten his/her life. And you might as well have someone be a prophet named Morpheus to find and guide him/her.

So sorry if I wasted your time

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Thanks everyone for the replies so far. I've seen some really good ideas!

@ Frob, Segregation isn't an option. It sounds good on paper but just imagine being called a cheater and put in your own special group. It's just not an option.

@ Servant of the Lord, Yes....power gaming includes min/maxing, cheating, rules abuse but also highly skilled rules knowledge because of hard work and study of the rules.

 

@ Sunandshadow, I really like that idea. Turning "power gaming" on and off could be an option. The Story Teller could control it to an extent. Or perhaps the Players could request it and if they were denied the next "power gaming time" would offer them greater bonuses. This gives both the Storyteller and Players some level of control over it. Maybe this combined with the last idea....

@Alberth Running a second game isn't a bad idea but it only works on paper. It goes back to segregation. And I already have this avenue because there are other LARPs in the area but I'm hoping, as are each of us, to make the best game rather than depending on the other games to cater to player types I don't cater to. (I can't afford to lose paying members.)

@Mach3000, There are no stupid ideas. It's an interesting idea to allow one player to be elevated at some form of cost. I have built several systems to this effect. The problem I'm having trouble over-coming is that there are so many Players that there is always going to be -someone- who is "elevated" at any given time and they will be wrecking encounters with their amazing powers. If the powers aren't great or the cost is too high, no one is going to use it. It's a tricky problem, always either being too good or too bad. Combining this with the on/off idea earlier might fix my old system - you collect "points" that let you exceed the limits and caps but you can only spend those points when the "power gaming" is turned on. Might have something there.

 

More ideas are always welcome.


A lot of my design inspiration has come from the YouTube channel; Extra Credits. Something to check out, especially if you are a video game designer. For this problem I have been especially keen on the 4 types of gamers; Killers, achievers, explorers and socializers. While most power gamers are killers, I've seen power gamers of each type, even socializers although they are pretty rare.

Mark Charke

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