Balancing PC power and limitations



Apr 30, 2004 8:40:20
This thread is based on something I read i Havard's earlier about making a mage of the Seven Secret Crafts in Glantri a Prestige Class. I will have to come back to that some other time, because I disagree :D

But it made me think about something else:
How to balance giving the PC's power and placing limitations on them. I have been DMing since 1990 and in my games there are two types of power and two types of limitations.

The first are based on game mechanics and the second are based strictly on roleplaying.

E.g. A character gaining the ability to cast a 6-die fireball once a day gains game mechanic power, while another character gaining a contact in the government who owes him a favour is roleplaying power.

E.g. A character cursed with a -4 on str is a game mechanic limitation while a character who has to follow a strict ethos of alway helping others is a roleplaying limitation.

Now, what I wanted to ask is this: How do you balance these two types of powers and limitations? Should it always be a trade-off of the same type (e.g. a -4 str for a fireball once a day?) or is it okay to give game mechanic power in return for a roleplaying limitation? (IMO a fine example of this is the old 2E AD&D Cavalier Fighter Kit from Fighter's Handbook).

I realize that "bad" roleplayers might just take the bonuses and ignore the disadvantages if they are only based on roleplay. (and a bad DM is one who lets them get away with it).

But what do you think? And if you use roleplaying limitations as a tool in your play, how do you "enforce" these limitations?

:-) Jesper