Rules: Tell More More About "Balance In All Things ..."
Characters must display weaknesses and encounter obstacles,
at least equal to their strengths, to maintain balanced roleplaying.
Freeform is about challenges, not superheroes.
If yew run around solving everything,
other players will hate yew.
( That means, among other things, no "Magick Bags"! )
The Zero-Sum Rule
Power not only corrupts; it seduces, especially in a FreeForm environment. It is far too easy to create characters or creatures or devices of such magnitude of ability and influence that game balance is completely destroyed. The Rules of any game must maintain the game's stability; in our FreeForm game, the Zero Sum Rule helps to serve this purpose.
This is the wordiest of our Rules ... but it is a single, simple concept.
- THE RULE: Any positive aspect introduced into the game must have an equal and opposite negative aspect. If your character enjoys a great power, he must have an equally great weakness; and if your character can tap into great energies, he must pay an equally great price for their use. Most importantly, the negative aspect must manifest itself in the game at least as much as the positive aspect does (in other words, to offset a power that is used regularly, you cannot claim a weakness that is rarely if ever felt).
- BALANCE vs. CANCELLATION: The Zero Sum Rule is not intended to cancel out powers with weaknesses that directly counter them; that would defeat the whole purpose of having powers in the first place!
- INFINITY AND NEGATIVE INFINITY: All power must be finite -- measurably so. Incomprehensibly vast powers simply cannot be tolerated, no matter what counterbalances might be in effect. But, to say that a power is "limited" does not in itself satisy the Zero Sum Rule; there must be some negative counterbalance, not just a limit.
- UP-FRONT ACCOUNTABILITY: All negatives relied upon to satisfy the Zero-Sum Rule must be posted up-front in the game, either as soon as a corresponding power is used, or before-hand, on a character sheet or in play. No hidden or secret weaknesses satisy the Zero-Sum Rule. However, all players are free to introduce more weaknesses than are necessary to counterbalance their powers; any character may be "over-weak" -- and often such characters are far more fun to play in terms of challenges and triumphs.
- THE ARBITRATION: It is initially up to each individual player to define both his powers and his weaknesses. The Honor System assumes that the player will create a suitable balance, and all players are free to introduce whatever powers and weaknesses as they see fit. There are no "points" or numerical measurements involved; common sense must prevail in determining whether a given power is sufficiently balanced by a given weakness. Also, it is not necessary to have a strict one-to-one accounting of powers and weaknesses; if you give your character three or four reasonable powers, you might offset them with one or two extra-strong weaknesses, or five or six moderate weaknesses, as long as the manifestation of these weaknesses balances the powers -- of course, the more such discrepancy a player relies on, the greater the chances of losing his Zero-Sum balance, which can lead to an intervention in play to restore balance, for it is the ultimate decision of the moderators as to whether any character or creature or device is in compliance with the Zero-Sum Rule. The moderators reserve the right to request and suggest whatever adjustments are necessary to maintain game balance.
- "FATIGUE": Becoming tired after using a power, being able to use a power only once per time period, or using energy sources that deplete after a certain number of uses of a power, do not effectively create balance for a power. It rarely if ever fails to play out as more than a simple skipping-over of the fatigue, such as "Hax is tired for the rest of the day. Then, the next morning, he feels better ..." Also, if an ability is limited only by its energy source, that balance is lost when a new and better energy source presents itself, which is usually the case. When you are creating an ability for your character, do not try to assume Zero-Sum compliance by "limiting" the power.
The Zero-Sum Rule has caused some controversy; but most experienced roleplayers will embrace and agree with it, and would abide by it anyway, of their own accord ... for it is well understood that the unrestrained exercise of power ("munchkinism" or powergaming) appeals only to poor or misguided players, and that truly enriching and rewarding roleplaying thrives on the overcoming of personal obstacles and limitations. If you do not understand this Rule, just try to abide by it, and you will learn something about roleplaying in general.