Sep 8, 2011

Posted by in All The Galaxy's A Stage | 8 Comments

All The Galaxy’s A Stage: God-Modding And Powergaming

All The Galaxy’s A Stage is a regular column at Ask A Jedi with some lofty, creative goals.  On one hand, we will be discussing and exploring meaningful topics to support the role-play experience and community.  On the other hand, we also want to introduce the casual Role-Player to the writing-acting experience that can add so much more to an MMORPG like Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Share your perspectives and experience as we co-create magical story in that galaxy far, far away!

For those that are newer to the Role-Play experience I thought I’d introduce a couple of dirty words in the world of RP.  Newcomers will undoutedly bump into the terms god-modding and powergaming before long.  And some of the more seasoned RP veterans will tell you that these concepts still crop up from time to time.

This blaster is now the ultimate power in the universe!

This station is now the ultimate power in the universe!

Simply put, god-modding is where a player portrays their character as (or close to) being or having the ultimate power in the universe.  God-modded characters generally can’t be hit or killed.  However, in my experience god-modding is more sinister than simply looking like a spoiled 6 year old wanting to get their own way at their birthday party.  Not only does it take away from the fun of RP but has the potential to impact others in a more serious way as well.

God-modding gets very ugly when this behaviour results in role-play that infringes on something I like to call character soverignty.  Character soverignty is quite simple – you own your character.  No one should be portraying or killing your character without your permission.  And so when the ultimate power in the universe starts emoting your character’s demise in a scene without your permission this really is the poorest of poor RP form.

As one of the officers for an RP guild I’ve taken the time to write up an explanation for why god-modding is so bad for RP.  “The underlying interest around not having super-hero and uber-powered characters comes from not wanting a situation where a character continually dominates scenes and saves the day, because they have all the powers needed to overcome challenges. This is shallow from a story perspective. Adversity and angst are key to role play (in our humble opinion). RP is not about winning the battle but crafting a story together.”

The coaching moment with respect to god-modding is simple; to avoid the slippery path to the dark-side of god-modding create a character with both strengths and flaws.  Don’t try and dominate RP.  Enjoy the shared experience and be one of the many actors on the stage.  You’ll have your moment centre stage but don’t get struck by the lights and crave it to the point that others don’t get a chance to shine too.

I suggest we use it!

Powergaming is a concept that is related to god-modding (in that it’s striving for power) but is about trying to make the most powerful character possible within the rules.  This is also referred to as min-maxing.

From an OOC perspective creating a powerful character is encouraged.  After all, many RPers want to enjoy PvE and/or PvP, and thrive in end-game.  However, the good news is that game designers often strive to balance out character stats.  You can choose skills and equipment that are most likely to enhance the game experience, and game design will ideally make sure you don’t imbalance your character within the game.

Powergaming outside MMO game-design can come down to how a player has written their character up.  This is particularly relevent for forum RP where there are no enforced common rulesets.  For example, a player could create a Jedi that is a master of Shien, Ataru, Juyo, and 40+ Force Powers and argue the feasibility of such a build.  But others would likely contend that such an imbalance of power is poor form and powergaming.

However, for a Role-Player in an MMO there can be an IC challenge where the character concept is ignored in order to maximize OOC game benefits.  If I’ve been portraying a Jedi with a certain dress style for example, changing said style without an IC reason is a subtle form of powergaming.   Making the effort to justify that switch to a new outfit or taking on a new skill can, and should IMO, be undertaken.

Crew Skills may also represent a challenge.  For example, you may want to take on a crafting skill but what if your character is technophobe?  How do you reconcile that?  One approach for an RPer in such a situation is to role-play with others in getting the equipment they need.  Your Jedi might not be much of a crafter, but if they’re an archeologist then a number of RP scenes could flow from trading, and sharing stories of how a certain rare artifact was found.  In my experience there’s lots of potential for inspired RP that can come from an MMO game system.

That said, in an MMO equipment does come and go through the leveling process.  Choices for an RPer include intense stints of OOC leveling to get to the point where they have access to the feature or equipment they want.  I remember doing this for a character in LotRO to get the appearence tab at level 20.  Or they can spend some time working out the reason for changes.  After all, the cool looking gear and other MMO systems or features  (at least in my experience) generally comes with higher levels. Want to RP with your guildes on your starship?  Well, I believe you’re going to need to get your character to level 15.  Leveling is inevitable for a role-player in an MMORPG if they want access to all the game for RP purposes.

Wrapping Up

My advice when it comes to powergaming is to enjoy the OOC game but not at the expense of your character’s IC concept.  Look for a balanced character sheet.  Do some research.  Get feedback.  Use RP to compensate for gaps in your character’s skill set.  In short, so long as you’re trying to find balance you should be fine.

In the next column I am going to more deeply explore the concept of emoting in RP.  Until then please join in the conversation below and share your thoughts on god-modding and powergaming.  What would you advise?  How have you dealt with this sort of behaviour in the past?

  1. Interesting article. It’s making me think about writing a character sheet / biography for my main, but I’m not sure I’ll have the time (also, I’m lazy).

    • That’s one of the finest compliments you could have paid! :D It’s always been my hope with this column to help people gain insights into role-playing.

      As an aside, there’s an older article written specifically around writing character backgrounds here.

      • I played a few MMO’s myself so far, from guild wars to WOW to LOTRO. In all of those games I wanted to do some RP but I never really got the thing for it. BUT for swtor that is a whole other story, I my dull moments (moments i work but don’t wanna work but just wanna pass the time) I come up with stories for my character, what are his defining charistics (sorry for my bad english) and a whole background story etc. But I will be totally new to the scene of RP, do you guys know a place where i can find help or a guide into RP?

        Thanks loads for everything (in advance)

        Luc

        • If you click on the link in my previous comment (marked here) that’ll take you to an article on creating a background. I’d also direct you to http://www.swtor-rp.com

          They’ve got a lot of very experienced and helpful RPers that would be delighted to help out. And as an aside, I don’t think you’re going to be alone. I foresee many players who’ve never RPed, playing the story of SWTOR, caring about their character, and wondering how they can do more of that. And it really comes down to connecting with others doing the same thing. And that my friend is why I write this column – for people just such as yourself.

          Welcome aboard and may the Force be with you! :D

  2. Sindol Sei says:

    Good stuff, Sa!

  3. “If I’ve been portraying a Jedi with a certain dress style for example, changing said style without an IC reason is a subtle form of powergaming. Making the effort to justify that switch to a new outfit or taking on a new skill can, and should IMO, be undertaken.” Conceptually, I agree entirely. But as you later note, there are often periods where no attire appropriate to your character is available. This is one of the main reasons many role-players have “RP” sets of equipment, though I find this system cumbersome.

    Practically speaking, trying to justify the story behind each new piece of equipment could become unwieldy. I would only think it necessary if the new item was, say, a new lightsaber, or a cloak. Basically, items that are significant in the universe or immediately evident.

    Another great column, Sarkey.

    • And I agree with your rebuttal. In the end, I used the word ‘subtle’ for describing the form of powergaming because the reality is, MMO progression and the impact to OOC playstyle really can be a hindrance. And with the pace of change it’s not always practical.

      Truth be told, I know I have, and I suspect I will, smudge this line. However, in my mind was the perspective of the truly hardcore RPer. I’ve met some RPers to whom the idea of practicality in RP given the game mechanics is like politics without the special interests, just not done.

  4. I tend to think of godmodding and power gaming as very different things. God mode is easy to fix. Just remember the other character you’re interacting with is the property of his or her player. You can’t pose for that player. You can only suggest what your character’s intent is. Godmodding, for me, isn’t so much the player who won’t ever let himself get shot, that’s just bad roleplaying, but the player who’ll pose not only that he shoots but he hits whomever he’s aiming at. And, along those lines, even little god mode moves like posing another player character looks at him in a certain way.

    You’ll see this very often in character descriptions too! “When you look at Darth Poodoopants you feel a shiver of terror run up your spine.” No, I don’t think my character really does. “Tammy Twi’lek is the most gorgeous dancer your character has ever seen.” How do you know? Are you…god? Probably not but certainly godmodding. One easy fix is adding words like “might” or “perhaps” or “some” into these kinds of lines. “some might feel a shiver of terror run up their spines” or “perhaps the most gorgeous.” There are better ways of getting the idea across but this keeps it from being blatant godmodding of another player’s character.

    Powergaming is almost irrelevant in MMOs. We’re all going to, to the degree we care about the mechanical aspects of a MMO, be powergaming. This isn’t a tabletop game or MUSH where there’s a DM/Storyteller that’s going to tailor adventures to suit or even reward characters that are deliberately less than optimally built. But since we’re roleplayers we’re often going to have flawed, in some ways, characters as concepts we want to put forward. So, usually, we set our OOC game stats aside when roleplaying. That’s Caesar’s stuff. It’s got nothing to do with our craft. The only time you’ll usually see the twain meet is when PvP crops up. And then arguments start about how one should PvP. And so on….but for those of us who don’t often PvP it’s really a non-issue.

    (As requested. :) )

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