Game Design Blag 1: The Errol Flynn Rule
So I adminned a forum designed for people to chat about and help each other with game designs and GMing for a while. It’s more or less defunct because nobody but me really used it. But I figured I’d transfer over a few of my posts about how I like to play/run/design. These posts will be somewhat biased toward chat-based play, but are often applicable to tabletop as well.
First up, The Errol Flynn Rule:
Whatever system you use, consider granting a bonus whenever a player-character tries something new, different, clever, or crazy (or any combination thereof).
All too often when a player suggests some crazy action or plan, the gamemaster feels compelled to penalize them based on the apparent difficulty of doing something besides the standard “I attack the guy on the left”. I know I’ve hit that wall many times, and always felt cheated out of the opportunity to be awesome, whether I just backed down and took a standard action, or went for it and failed due to a penalty to my roll. “What? You want to slide under the table and kick it up in the air so it blocks the crossbow bolts? Uh, okay, roll at -5”. *sigh*, “Nevermind, I just attack the guy on the left.”
So, new rule, for any game that doesn’t already have something like it, and the new rule is this: Whenever a PC tries something that seems crazy, “I want to leap onto the handrail beside the stairs and slide down it, so I get to the bottom in time to tackle the Vizier before he escapes!” or clever, “I fill a satchel with blackpowder and use my dagger to fix it to the ceiling and then wait for the guard with the torch to pass under it!”, or even just something different than what they did last round (in a super crunchy situation like a 4th Edition combat), “Okay, I’m going to use the ice breath spell instead of the fireball this time, even though it doesn’t do as much damage, it might slow him down enough for you to backstab him”, then the PC gets a bonus to their action, using whatever method your game has.
The point is to reward imagination, creativity, engagement with the setting, good description, and just plain fun. Any player would get bored if their turn every round consists of “okay, now I attack that other guy” and a diceroll, and your fellow players are likely to get bored with it too.
So liven things up with some maneuvers that are so crazy they just might work. Swing from a chandelier, slide down a mainsail, roll a barrel down the staircase, and make old Errol Flynn proud.