Impractical Applications (And That, Your Honor…)

Over the course of the week, I’ve been talking a lot about why GMs might not be interested in running combat, and how to help them find ways to enjoy it again (what can I say, if I’m going to pick a Blog Carnival topic I’m going to pick something I can write about a lot). It’s probably already abundantly clear that I have been, and am, that GM, so here’s a little take on my reasoning.

As it stands, I have a lot of reasons to avoid fighting. I could rant about the pace of combat, the loss of immersion, the difficulty of balancing for my group… but I’m not sure that’s why I’ve been actively avoiding it. I’ve had games I’ve run where I’ve enjoyed the fight, even without going to extremes like abolishing initiative to see if it helps (a particularly bad idea now, as one of my players is still getting the hang of the system).

I think, instead, that it might have to do with a time about three years ago. I was a reluctant combat-runner, but I didn’t go out of my way to avoid it–all, right, I didn’t too much. One of my players decided to try to talk me into a more active game, an effort which might have worked better coming from almost anyone else.

Remember how I mentioned that sometimes, people don’t realize how much they contribute to the problem? This was one of those cases. He had one of the most ridiculously overpowered characters in the group, contributing heavily to my difficulty in balancing encounters–and yet he could argue for ages that at least one of the other PCs was even more absurd. There was some Drama with… well, most of the group, at different points.

And then there was the mess with the stunt dice. Suffice it to say that while I had already been of the opinion that unless someone was demonstrably being unreasonable to the entire group, life was far too short to nitpick ratings in subjective mechanics, this crystallized my determination that that was the case. It wasn’t that he wasn’t getting good ratings for his spiffy actions at all, just that he and I had very different definitions of what constituted spiffy. This occasionally resulted in actual interruptions to the fight, where he would step away from the computer to cool down (or, more rarely, I would need to do the same, though I’d usually announce that if one more person started bellyaching to me about their stunt rating I was going to turn this fight around)–more often, though, it would result in me getting second opinions from the other players, slowing things down further, until I decided, heck with it. Why should I have to deal with that when I could write mysteries, conspiracies, exploration, and the occasional bout of the PCs throwing a party? (This isn’t to say that I didn’t action-orient the game later, though by the time I’d implemented it, the player was long gone.)

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