Seems a no-brainer, but it is sometimes hard to remember when you’re designing a game. The players (and by that, I mean “the people playing the game”, not “non-GM participants”) aren’t out to subvert what you do. They’ve bought your game, they’ve bought into the idea of it, they are gathered together to try to play and have fun. They are not trying to use loopholes to make the game not-fun.

I was reminded of this when reading a post over on Vincent Baker’s blog from a bit over a year ago, Reliable vs. Unreliable Currency. The post itself is not really what caught my attention, but rather the comments, Ben Lehman’s especially. He talks about sportsmanship, that magical thing that lets a group of people working towards a common goal (fun, good story), but with competing interests (their characters’ desires), not forget the former for the latter.

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Unfairness in stories, heroic stories in particular, is the point of those stories. To defeat overwhelming odds in the name of good is dramatic and interesting. Specifically though, heroes in these stories need to overcome the ways the opposition is unfairly better than them. In Tolkien’s tale, the humans fight back against huge armies of orcs by defending themselves in citadels, by gathering their own huge army, and by a neat if ill-advised metaphysical hack against the big bad.They apply their strengths to the weakest points in their opposition, and so counterbalance the unfairness they’re up against.

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