At the Edmonton Con, we had a fellow, Otis, approach our table who was bemoaning the way his players took advantage of him. I will give an example. Instead of drinking a healing potion to heal, Otis explained that the player was always trying something completely out of left field, something unexpected. "What if I just use a little of the healing potion on my wound, rubbing it in with my hand. Will that do anything?"
Whereupon Otis looked heavenward in dissatisfaction, sighed (I'm really not making this up) and told us, "I don't know what to do when he says stuff like this. I wish he'd just use the potion. I have to say something like, 'Okay, if you roll a 1 on a d20, it like heals three points of damage.' And then the player rolls a 1! I hate this stuff!"
Um. Yeah. I tried to explain to him that he was only enabling the player by offering a chance of success. the actual answer is, "No, it does nothing." Park Place costs $350. It doesn't cost $325 if you roll a seven when you land there, it doesn't cost $310 if you're wearing a green shirt, it doesn't cost $290 if the player on your left thinks that's "fair." The cost is, was, always will be, $350.
Otis, poor fellow, proved inconsolable. We never were able to make him see that his players were taking advantage of him by trying to end-run the rules or that he was encouraging their behavior by constantly finding ways to fan-service them.
Fan-service sucks. I just had a long conversation with my future son-in-law regarding "gold rounds" in the online game, World of Tanks. These are special shells that players can buy that are effectively breaking the game . . . but when haven't we watched profit-mongering by game designers destroy a game by feeding those who have the money to pay in? We've seen this pattern for decades now: a great game appears, it seems to reward effort and adaptation with opportunity and benefits . . . and then someone else can step in with money and side-step working at the game by purchasing a super-mega-killer-death-action sword and within a year, poof! No game.
It's presumed that this is a video-game problem but no, it's actually a game problem. If you're unsure about this, ask someone's opinion about the designated hitter's presence in the American vs. National baseball leagues. This is a rule adopted 43 years ago, in 1973; debate continues. If that isn't enough for you, have someone who understands the in-field fly rule explain it for you . . . and then have them explain satisfactorily why the rule exists at all (please, if you have an answer for this, write it on another blog).
New rules break games - and this includes a rule made up on the fly, designed to spontaneously satisfy a player's momentary ill-thought innovation. I'm a great fan of innovation: when Ned Cuthbert stole a base in 1863 or 1865, that was the right kind of innovation - he wasn't breaking a rule and he didn't need one to be made for him. When the Oakland A's chose not to steal bases because they were statistically viable, that was the right kind of innovation too. I applaud players who try to innovate inside the rules. I crush players who try to do it outside.
I'm sure Otis, however, is not alone. I'm sure there are many caught in the same trap, who don't see that they are themselves the architects of their own misfortune.