Posted by: markfender | July 23, 2014

Overpowered Games

I think the best games are the ones where you’re broken.

bfg_for_realI prefer to see a big leap in power from the base statistics of a game. Exalted for instance spends most of its rules space discussing the base level of power – there are rules for disease, bleeding, and other calamities that can strike down mortal man. From your experience with other White Wolf games, you sort of know the average die pools. And then, you get to the powers section, and you realize that all that bleeding and disease stuff just doesn’t apply to you. Neither do the die limits you’re used to. It’s remarkably easy to be rolling 20+ dice in Exalted with a beginning character and you sort of realize that this is not going to be your average game.

Similarly, I recall reading the first edition of Legend of the Five Rings. After the basic die mechanic is explained, you sort of get the idea. And then the descriptions of the Schools start to destroy that baseline. One of the very first powers for the very first school (Hida Bushi) lets them ignore all damage for a turn and it ramps up from there. Every School has a ridiculous power curve that will dramatically reshape the battlefield when they’re used.

That appeals to me more than the more subtle “+1 when fighting orcs” type of game. Yes, those bonuses add up and it’s just as possible to create broken combinations in “minor bonus” situations, but it’s not the baseline. It doesn’t necessarily encourage heroics. It’s not even that I like big giant powers. It’s more for the fact that I want to be able to affect the world, and tiny bonuses in the world don’t convey that approach as well. Can’t we just start as heroes able to change the environment? Wouldn’t that be funner?

This applies to non-roleplaying games as well. Seeing how broken every unit in Warmachine is affects how you approach even your first game. You know that every unit and every jack has the potential to destroy what they touch. Even a relatively boring unit like Mechanithralls becomes a versatile tool to affect the battlefield when and where you need it (I’m not dismissing Mechanithralls by calling them “boring.” They end up in almost all my armies). It makes the tactics and strategies that much more obvious, which I think makes the game appeal to more players. If you don’t need a degree in 19th century warfare in order to understand how to exploit holes and dominate the battlefield, then I’ll end up with more opponents who saw something that appealed to them but also, more importantly, how to make that unit work for them. Even a beginning player is a threat with the tools available to them and it just makes for a more interesting game overall.

It’s easy to dismiss the accelerated power curve, but I think it’s an essential facet of the hobby. It may not appeal to everybody, but it definitely makes me pay more attention to a game when they dismiss the regular ideas of what the baseline is.

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