I'm trying to make rules/game so that players have as much freedom possible. My intention is to concentrate on role-playing, where stats are not that important and the new system I'm building will allow exactly that.

When I was thinking about it, it sounded really cool. Players can use their imagination as they please, can create characters as they please, can do what they please, etc. The only limitations are the current setting and the plot a bit.

I had a few test runs, and certainly there are things that need updating, but the main problem is that

The players don't use this freedom.

They can be anything and do anything, yet most of them are playing default races/classes. They get involved in story just enough so they can get to the next objective. They don't get involved in side-stories. They don't do anything out of the ordinary, which is why I though this system would be cool. I even hinted that they could do some non-ordinary actions, and once or twice even explicitly said that they can, and they didn't.

  1. Can there be too much freedom for PCs?

  2. How can I encourage them to use this freedom?

  3. Why aren't my players even trying to do anything with it?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you sure this can be answeres? It sounds like this totally depends on what your players are expecting and what you are expecting and in your test runs maybe both sides are not on the same page. Also: what's wrong with not using all the freedom? Don't your players have the choice to stick to easy to imagine standard tropes? \$\endgroup\$
    – Secespitus
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 13:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Secespitus Well, I explained to them in the begging that they have unlimited freedom, and I often repeat myself. One player is using it nicely, not exploiting etc. Others are either too afraid to try new things (they think I want them to fail) or are sticking to standard tropes. I want to see the opinion of others, as open-minded as possible. Maybe I should "restrict" them, so that they have to use unorthodox methods? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 14:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your question is "can there be too much freedom", but you seem to be mostly concerned about the issue that the players are not using their freedom. Maybe you should edit your question so it's more clear that you are interested only in this particular issue regarding player agency? \$\endgroup\$
    – kviiri
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 14:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Please don't use comments to answer the question. Several such comments have been removed. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 14:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related questions are here: 1, 2, 3, and 4. And another one \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 17:09

4 Answers 4


Talk to your players. Tell them this is what you'd envisaged when you designed the system. I had a similar problem with my homebrew and the players learned to get more creative with their solutions and goals over time when I emphasized they had more freedom than they were used to.

Or, maybe you've found yourself with an old-school party who don't actually have much interest and want a "classic" style game. Either way, communication will be key - work out what everybody wants to get from the game and adapt accordingly.

Alternatively, try and work out a situation in which they have to think outside the box.

Can there be too much freedom for PCs?

Not if you're willing to DM it - be prepared for your carefully planned encounters to be solved in one move, though!

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, I thought something like that as well, but I don't have the experience with it. I'll just either spam with "freedom" or put in impossible situations that HAVE to be solved using imagination. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 14:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Cool, just try not to force your players to use a playstyle they don't want to use. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 14:23

Freedom to do anything also implies the freedom to be ordinary, i.e., specifically, to take ordinary classes and roles. I think the titular question(1) "Make the players use unlimited freedom?" (Emphasis mine) is more than a little concerning. As a player, my back would immediately be up at the thought of the GM making me play a particular way.

There is a good possibility that you and your players want different games.

That said, what you're describing sounds very rules-light to me, almost to the point of being rules-free. I'll admit I don't quite understand how that jibes with the notion of character classes at all, though, and this might also be a part of the problem. In an RPG setting especially (and in fantasy/SF settings in particular!) rules exist as much to tell us what we can do as what we can't. If the rules are so light that the players don't know what they can do, they might very well stick to what they know.

That is a real conundrum, in my opinion, for truly rules-light systems. The only way I can see out of the dilemma is with examples-in-play, but I will admit I have not gotten this to work to my own satisfaction. (One flaw in the concept is, who do you get to serve as an example-in-play if none of your players know what you're trying to do?)

1) The title has been edited for the better since this answer was posted.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think that the experienced one is limiting himself because he is thinking in terms of classic DnD, which this is not. Also it's logical, at least to me, that if you have "unlimited freedom", you shouldn't think in terms of "can and can't", and should think about what should be done. And ofc I won't force playstyles on my players, BUT the point of the whole system is to have and use this freedom. If they don't, we can play any classic system with well defined and optimized rules... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 15:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your last sentence is so on point. When some of us were trying to craft our own RPG's in college in the 70's, that was one sticking point on a classless game we were trying to develop. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 15:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast right! It's clearly not an unsolvable problem, since different styles of games exist but it's just as clearly a very long process. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 15:12

If your players aren't used to creating their own plotlines, or defining aspects of the world themselves, it takes a while for them to get used to it. It also tends to require thinking and planning outside of game sessions, which players used to a traditional model of RPG don't tend to do. Also, it's generally easier to create new ideas within some kind of constraint that poses problems to be solved, rather than be told "you can do anything you like" and be expected to make something up from nothing.

A separate problem is that if they're used to playing as a group, and have sociable ideas like not hogging all the airtime, and making sure everyone gets to do something, they're used to spending a fair amount of their attention on that. If one of them comes up with an idea starring their character, there's a natural inhibition about putting it forward, because that's putting themselves in a privileged position.

I've found it better, running various forms of D&D and GURPS, to change the way I present scenarios. Rather than leading the party through the adventure step by step, it gives them more freedom to learn of a general problem and devise their own ways of dealing with it. You may have to guide them through learning to investigate and plan, and to the discovery that they can ask about things that should exist in the setting, but those are lessons they should only have to learn once or twice.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Will try to use your method of presentation, but some things can't be done like that. I need them in Imperial Army, and I want them to start as weaklings and progress as the story goes. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 14:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Airtight answer. I'll bookmarking this as a reminder when our group begins (we have a shared world) to call on me as DM in the fall. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 15:14

Obviously, something isn't quite right. Either your characters need more development, or they need an external stimulus.

You're trying to balance the role-playing aspect and the game aspect of the experience. By not using their freedom, your players are telling you that they want less of it. To play a role, you need a story of some kind. A story has a beginning, a middle, and an end, that is, a narrative structure.

A well-defined character has motivations. A queen, for instance, must protect her subjects. Create a threat to her realm to bring forth that motivation. Stories are about conflict, so you have to bring in antagonists to counter your protagonists.

Give the characters some kind of goal that develops them as people, not as a page of statistics. They will use their freedom in the way they move toward that goal. Right now they don't have a real goal, so they're moving aimlessly. That's not enjoyable for anybody. The first rule is to enjoy the experience.

  • \$\begingroup\$ External stimulus more likely. They have a clear goal, NPCs vary from friendly ones to nemesis types, world is developed enough. And more over, they have motivation, each of them different, for being in the party. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 14:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Some stories are neverending ... (I think they made a movie of that name once ) ... suggest you consider rephrasing that? The amount of structure in a story varies with the campaign, from pure railroad to pure sandbox, and all points in between. (Your point about conflict is spot on, so props for that). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 15:11

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