Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tailoring To Your PCs

Well, we're post Thanksgiving and November is wrapping up. That means this is the last short week for the blog - unless I have issues getting back into the full swing next week - and that we should be back on our normal schedule soon. I hope everyone had a good November. Personally, mine was pretty good. Then again, this year I've got a lot to be thankful for and I'm hoping I can keep the positive trends up. That said, I have missed ranting and prattling on about GMing, game design, and other things associated with RPGs. So, let's get down to that, shall we?

Does It Matter Who Your PCs Are?
When it comes to GMing adventures there seems to be two different approaches when it comes to the content of the actual adventure. The first kind has the adventure, the story, ready to go and everything is set down before the players make their characters so it doesn't really matter what those characters are. End up with three rogues, an archer, and a bard? Well, too bad because you're going against a mage and his legion of constructs that are immune to sneak attacks and highly resistant to piercing weapons (daggers and arrows.) The second kind, while they may have the core concept and basic gist of things, tailors their adventure to the PCs that they have. You brought in a lot of sneaky types and ranged types? Ok, well now there are more traps and other creatures instead of an over-abundance of constructs.

Now, to be clear, there is nothing wrong with either approach. Anyone who has run a module has almost assuredly done the first kind. After all, modules have no idea what your group has and thus will likely be made off the assumption of a standard party construction for the game. It can also be good to have some adventures specifically not be tailored to the players' strengths. After all, life isn't always going to give you challenges that are in your wheel house and it can lead to some very interesting problem solving. Still, I would suggest that you try to generally opt into the second type of approach as opposed to the first. Why?

Engaging The Players
The first, and best, reason to tailor your adventure to your characters is because it will engage the PCs a lot stronger. If you have a character that absolutely hates hill giants, they're going to be a lot more inclined to get in on an adventure when the enemy is hill giants than they would be if it was say a group of normal human bandits. If one of the characters likes to save young wealthy merchant sons to reap the rewards and because they like reversing the normal dichotomy of the damsel in distress, than you're better of making that hostage a  handsome prince than a beautiful princess.

The tweaks to your adventure don't have to be huge, but by lining up objectives with things that the PCs like/want to do you make them more likely to actually grab the hook and pursue the adventure. That is what you want, yes?

Defeating the "I'm Useless Here" Feeling
You want to know what sucks? Playing a rogue archer that is reliant on crits and backstabs with their attacks to contribute to fights and having to go against hordes of constructs, skeletons, or other creatures that are immune to criticals and can't be backstabbed as they have no vital spots. Why does this suck? Because you're useless in the fight. Now, this is a combat application where it may be the most obvious, but in a similar way it can suck being a social character who is constantly forced into positions where being social won't help at all. Why? Because, again, you can't do anything.

This feeling of being unable to do anything can quickly lead to boredom, or worse anger, and other forms of being dissatisfied with the game. Now, again, having this pop up on occasion is fine, but you want to avoid it. After all, the point of games is to have fun and that means for everyone at the table. This is also where a good Gm will discuss the game with players at character creation. If you see someone bringing a social guy into your dungeon crawl, maybe you should tell them that there won't be many chances for their social wiles to shine. Maybe tell the rogue archer that they want to bring some bludgeoning weapons and maybe grab a feat to let them backstab with that bludgeoning weapon to the party too because you intend to have a lot of skeletons around.

Both of these methods - communication and tailoring - keeps the challenges in the area of "things the party can do" which means that the game is more likely to have fun. This is also the big worry I have for games when the GM doesn't cater things to the group. The group could end up feeling useless or trapped, and no one wants that.


  1. I tend to favour option 2. Mainly due to being on the receiving end of a type one GM, and watching as the plot gets totally ignored as the players quickly realised that they had next to no chance to complete it with the characters they'd created. GM then went into full railroad mode, and the game ended shortly after.

  2. I go with a mix - Option 1.5. I don't have the free time to develop all of my adventures from scratch. But I can rework and reflavor encounters and challenges in a published adventure. I also choose adventures that will work well with the characters I have.