Anytime we have new source material coming out, it’s inevitable that we’re going to want to use some of the new content. Today we look at some of the best ways to talk to your GM about incorporating unfamiliar concepts into your character.
Dear DovahQueen: I want to play a class that the GM isn’t familiar with from a book they don’t own, so they don’t want to allow me to use that class or those options. What can I do about it?—Lipstick Warrior
Dear Stiplick Warrior: Hmmm…Maybe nothing, maybe a lot. On one hand, the GM’s words aren’t just law, they’re also the physical rules of nature that binds all of existence together. If they deem that Occultist just doesn’t make sense in their universe, you kinda just have to bite the bullet and play a Wizard with spooky-themed spells. The keywords there are “If they deem,” because most any reasonable gamemaster is going to at least listen to you plead your case. That’s where we have to focus your attention—on making the case in the most convincing way possible without being so frustrating that we cause them to “dig in” against the class.
I think that the most important part of this whole conversation is going to be how you broach the topic. People tend to be more receptive to new ideas when they’re introduced in the form of two-way conversation rather than when it feels one-way; consider leading with a respectful question like “Hey, I have this really cool idea for a character that works best as a Spiritualist. Would you be willing to consider letting me play a class from Occult Adventures?” Granted, at this point, we had already known that they weren’t familiar with either the class or book, but it’s important to begin these things in a manner that encourages the open discussion. If your GM begins and ends their response with “no,” then its tough nuggies I guess. Some people are stubborn and unreceptive to new ideas. All you can really do with a GM like that is have as fun as possible within the guidelines of their rules. Try to think of it like a challenge or a puzzle.
I’d be willing to bet, though, that most GMs aren’t going to instantly shut down any sparks of creativity, and really, when they’re hesitant to allow something new, it’s because they don’t have first-hand knowledge that its not going to break their game. I feel like that’s something we can all appreciate. While you are in the act of pleading your case, I think you have two things you should focus on. One is concept: “This class is so cool because of X and Y! You’ll love the way it does Z thing too!” You can’t sell anything to anyone without garnering some amount of interest. Ham it up! Make it something they *want* in their game. The other area to focus on is accessibility: “If you’d like, you can borrow my copy of the book. Or I can print out the rules for the class and you can look it over.” If you have a lot of faith in your GM’s ability to read rules and understand their balance, getting the material in their hands with as little effort on their part will go a long, long way. If you don’t believe that they can adequately preview the book without instantly coming to the conclusion that its busted, consider instead demonstrating some of the core class features in relation to more basal material. “So like, how a level 1 Ranger with a bow might attack at +5 against AC for 1d10 damage, the level 1 Kineticist might throw some fire at +3 against touch AC for 1d6+2.” Not everyone is a game designer, and some people kinda just instantly see the worst in anything new. A quick, comparative demonstration might be the best way to introduce the material.
And that’s it. That’s just about all you can do. Have the conversation, be respectful, listen to the feedback, and welcome questions. Sometimes we can get so focused on our own ideas, we forget that our favorite TTRPGs are social games for playing with other people. If you feel like your GM isn’t giving you a fair shake, there’s very little for it. After a certain point, the question is no longer how you can play the thing. It becomes whether or not you’re having fun playing with this person/these people. If that becomes the case, think it over, sleep on it, and write me again if it doesn’t work out. Good luck.
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