Friday, July 13, 2018

Description: Do You Prefer Mechanical Flaws Or RP Flaws For Your Characters?

In doing Character Creation for a friends new game last Saturday, I got to thinking about this. I, and a couple other people at the table, when given a choice of stat lines to go for got eager for stat lines that had some clear big numbers, but also some low numbers. Others tried to avoid those stats, but weren'y shy about building in other flaws to their characters through RP choices or how they built up their characters.

Do you have one you fall into?

I want to say I like mechanical flaws. I'm excited about my new character with a 4 charisma, and all the problems that could cause as I try to be social or sociable with said character. At the same time though, I'd be lying if I said that has always been the case.

In L5R for example some of my favorite flaws are ones like 'Driven', 'Haunted', and others along those lines. These flaws have no mechanical consequences to them in particular, but they are strong with narrative implications. I suppose - in a sense - driven has a mechanical component but more in the sense it says there is nothing you won't do to accomplish your goal.

If I'm being honest there is something fun about mechanical flaws and the trouble they can cause, but I also learned to GM when more adversarial GMing was the norm and so my instincts are also wary of it.

How about you?


  1. Mechanical, but not in the sense you mean.

    D&D doesn't reward playing with flaws, in any inherent way. You're right to be wary of them because there are only downsides to them. The expected way to play with a flaw is to avoid its downsides at all costs so that, ideally, they never come into play. There are well-established ways of doing that for most common D&D flaws.

    "Roleplayed" flaws are no better. Both kinds of flaws /can/ be rewarding to play, but that's not the way to bet.

    Only in more modern games have flaws been worth having. In Fate, in theory, having flaws and deliberately causing them to matter is actually optimal play, because it earns one points to power-up one's character later. Ideally, players see the fun in that and play to the flaws even without reward at which point they might be ready to do the same in other games.

    1. While I do love Fate and the idea of incentivizing players for bringing up their flaws, I'm not sure how much it will teach people looking for optimal play in games where you are not incentivized in play to bring up flaws.

      That said, the theme in more modern games of embracing character flaws and encouraging their play is a good one. And one I wholeheartedly endorse!

    2. Well, it won't work for everyone of course, but I'm told that some people who are really into Fate stop bothering with the fate point economy after a while, because they are just in the habit of playing in a way that allows interesting trouble to arise, rather than having to always keep it from happening or putting it out immediately.

      I don't profess to being a fantastic player, but one thing I've learned, in part by playing things like Fate and Dungeon World, is that trouble tends to be more fun than safety. Figuring out a trap or an enemy plan can be cool, but having the trap or plan work, at least partially, can easily be even cooler. If the heroes in stories didn't make mistakes on a regular basis, both they and the villains would be less cool. And, frankly, even the Fate economy can't bring about those mistakes on a regular basis. Ultimately, the players have to want them to come about and help make them come about.