Monday, September 11, 2017

Character Build: Story vs. Power

When it comes to building your character, how much mechanical power are you willing to sacrifice in order to match the story you have for your character?

It's an interesting question. A lot of places online tend to frown on people sacrificing story for power, but no one wants to end up with a character that can't pull their own weight when the chips are down right? And if you're being honest with yourself, it's pretty easy to bump that story to justify that powerful ability you'd love to grab and try out in the game.

Still, it does come up sometimes. How much do you sacrifice to keep your story together? How much of the group's power? Does the group's benefit factor in at all when making the build?

I find myself in this situation with my Dragon character in an l5R game. I recently hit Insight Rank 6, having just finished Mirumoto Bushi at 5 and am looking where to go. I've spent several hours looking through books and schools but nothing grabs. So what to do?

The question though is one I'm curious of in general. SOme characters are easy to work with mechanics, others harder, but when the choice comes down how much power do you sacrifice for story? How much story do you change for power? Where does your style sit?


  1. Regarding frowning on sacrificing story for power, I think it's a matter of degree. In my FFG Star Wars campaign, I recently had a player in chargen put every single point into his character's Brawn. Now, the system strongly encourages players to use points on Attributes in chargen, because you can't after chargen. However, every single point going into one Attribute catches your eye.

    What do you do? Well for one thing, whenever appropriate, don't miss a chance to have that character make Charm rolls, right? :-D

    As far as when I'm a player, it depends on the group & campaign. Hard to spend points on soft powers in a campaign/group strongly focused on combat. But if I'm playing in a group/campaign that focuses/rewards non-combat play, it can be fun to focus on story areas.

  2. The games I most enjoy running tend to sacrifice 'power' a lot in favor of storyline. This is largely because I am most interested in (often tragic) stories of 'the heroes struggling against a odds.' The original CoC from Chaosium was a favorite for this, but also Bunnies and Burrows. However, it's important in these sort of games to ensure that all the players are keen to chase the story at the joyful expense of their characters. The only real problem in these games is when their is a mismatch between the players and / or the GM.