Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Gating Player Options

I know that many RPG players think that restricting character choices is somehow the fantasy equivalent of joining ISIS, but I really have gotten a lot of mileage from restricting either race or class in my games.

Consider The Lord of the Rings. All of the initial PCs were halflings. Then when they got to the next village, the GM added a new race/class option with human ranger and Aragorn joined the party. By the time they got through the introductory adventure and got to the Council of Elrond, all the "good race" options were on the table. Suddenly, additional players could choose dwarves, elves, magic-users, etc. 

This formula created a special feeling. It created a sense of small-town folk exploring a larger world.

I argue to maintain this sort of feeling, the GM should consider restricting options that are outside of a core collection of themed races/classes. The GM might make additional character options available based on the story choices made in the game.

  • In a game about dwarves reclaiming their lost homeland, all players must begin by playing dwarves. If they make an alliance with the deep gnomes, a new avenue of character options opens up. 
  • In a game set in a low-magic world, no magic-using classes are initially on the table. Once a PC finds a mysterious tome, however, cross-classing into wizard becomes available. 
A few games follow this formula de facto: both The One Ring RPG and Beyond the Wall have a small selection of character options in the core book. This sets a very specific tone. If the GM chooses to add supplementary material, it feels supplementary.

Of course, this can be done even with D&D 5E. Players shouldn't show up at the table expecting to use every Unearthed Arcana class, every optional rule, or every race from Volo's. If you want unusual races like gnomes or tieflings to actually feel unusual, take those off of the table until a story point unlocks them.

Ultimately, the fewer mechanical aspects that players can use to define their character, the more story-based aspects a player will have to use to make their character feel unique.


  1. A very interesting take. I'll have to take a prod at Beyond the Wall, it has been flitting about on my radar for a while now.

    I've only ever used a gated player option once before. Had someone ally with / retire in the city of the Gemstone People, and then took a Gemstone to be their next character. Died that very next session. It was quite sad, and wonderfully OSR

  2. I want to thank Dr Emu a very powerful spell caster who help me to bring my husband back to me, few month ago i have a serious problem with my husband, to the extend that he left the house, and he started dating another woman and he stayed with the woman, i tried all i can to bring him back, but all my effort was useless until the day my friend came to my house and i told her every thing that had happened between me and my husband, then she told me of a powerful spell caster who help her when she was in the same problem I then contact Dr Emu and told him every thing and he told me not to worry my self again that my husband will come back to me after he has cast a spell on him, i thought it was a joke, after he had finish casting the spell, he told me that he had just finish casting the spell, to my greatest surprise within 48 hours, my husband really came back begging me to forgive him, if you need his help you can contact him with via email: or add him up on his whatsapp +2347012841542 is willing to help any body that need his help.
    For more details about Dr Emu visit his Website: