In my last article, I talked about the various types of power and how you could use them to accentuate a PC’s presence in a game or abuse them to undermine the role of the same PC. This time around I’m going to go down the more controversial path and talk about power amongst the players at the table. I’m pretty sure this is going to push a few people’s buttons, but we have to be honest and admit that gaming tables are not a balanced nirvana where all things are equal. There are always imbalances, and I would argue that we can model some of them on different levels of power at the table. So take a deep breath, read charitably, and here we go…
Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts. Perhaps the fear of a loss of power. —John Steinbeck
Following on from the surprising popularity of my article on Player Character Commanding Officers, an article that dipped its toe into the murky waters where management theory and gaming intermingle, I thought it might be fun to do a couple of follow-up articles. Let’s examine ways that the things you learned in GCSE Business Studies might be helpful as a framework to think about gaming activities!
This first piece looks at power – what it is, where it comes from, and how we can examine it around the gaming table, both in-character and out-of-character. It’s inspired by some comments from @NarrativeEscapes, one of my wonderful gaming group. I would recommend checking out his website and youtube channel.
The issue of one PC having authority over another has been something that has perpetuated through RPGs for decades. When I first created Duty & Honour, over a decade ago, it was something that was cited as a facet of the genre that would make it a bad game; something that could only end in disaster. With the recent success of Star Trek Adventures, there are once again GMs wondering whether a table can handle those fateful words “That’s an order!”
One of the things that has inadvertently evolved from our playtest campaign is a willingness to really deep dive into the core mechanics and structures of the game and question them. We have already had a long, hard and testing look at the Mission system and worked it into a state where it seems fair, balanced and pays off well. It isn’t radically different from the original, but it does what it is meant to do, better. This session solved one of these questions – skirmishes – and raised another one – skills.
I have a confession: I have always found writing adventures for Duty & Honour to be a difficult task. I just find it exceptionally difficult to codify onto paper the way I run games as a GM. My table tends to be very collaborative in terms of player input and reactive to elements of the story that emerge in play. So any ‘script’ to follow is rendered almost null and void in the first hour of play as the game careens off into its own trajectory. This has lead me to think long and hard about how to create adventures for the game that reflect the play style that it is designed around whilst also giving GMs a chance to have some structure to follow if they need it.