A few weeks ago my sunday D&D group reached 7th level and with 7th level came a whole host of new spells and abilities that gave them several brand new ways of murdering their enemies and taking their things. This also meant that the standard way of providing them with a challenging encounter didn’t quite work anymore so I had to go looking for new ways of threatening their treasure, lives and friends (in that order).
This post, I’d like to take a moment to look at challenging players in the context of their abilities, especially at higher levels. I’ll be going over when to let players revel in their power and how to properly challenge their more powerful abilities.
When you see people on the street, at a glance, only a few will ever stand out from the crowd. Be it due to their mannerisms, the way they dress or just their overall feel when compared to the bland and common background.
In RPG’s, these usually turn out to be the quest givers, special contacts or even story hooks designed to stand out so that the party has a clear sense of direction.
Aka, How to think outside of the box and get away with it.
Consider the following. The house Reyne of Castamere royally pissed off the Lannisters. They end up fighting and the last of the Reyne retreat into their main fortress known for its subterranean systems, defenses and living areas. The fort is an absolute pain to take and could sustain them for a long time. A siege could prolong the war for far too long, being costly and an assault would likely end up with high casualties and loss for the Lannister Army. Tywin Lannister knew this and ended up deciding on a third option. Close off any and all entries/exits to the fort, leaving only a small opening for the massive amounts of water from a nearby river, which he had diverted into the fort. Flooding and killing every Reyne inside, ending the war and suffering no extra loss in the process.
I think it’s safe to say that we’re all geeks here (in our own way).
Or at least, our society is now more accepting of all that is geeky.
With the rise of the internet and with people like Felicia Day, Will Wheaton, Adam Savage, Christopher Perkins or groups like ‘Penny Arcade’ appealing to a broad audience, ‘being Geek’ (or the term ‘Geek’) is now seen in a more positive light.
Hell, its become so mainstream now that people have tried distilling it into a television format (Looking at you, Big Bang Theory….). Even the typical hot girl on the internet would now openly cling to her identity as a geek. Something that the wizards and warlocks of old (70’s-90’s) could only dream of.
(I doubt Gary Gygax would have as many fan girls as George R.R. Martin.)
So we’ve talked a bit about geeks in pop culture.
But what about pop culture for geeks?
This post was inspired by a discussion I had with another GM on the topic of a player who seems to always want to either play a dragon or play something thematically close to a dragon.
I’ve had players in my groups that had similar fascinations, some with undead, some with dragons or a totally awesome character they saw in an anime or movie. And let’s be honest, we’ve all been there at some point. Hell, I had a pretty big fascination with playing a Deathknight when Exalted 2nd edition’s Abyssals supplement came out. (And can you blame me? They were both cool AND overpowered!)
So why make a post about something so common? Because there are many, many ways of dealing with it. Most GMs won’t indulge in these sorts of fantasies, citing reasons such as ‘Dragons are too powerful’ or ‘make up something original instead of playing another clone of Wolverine’ or ‘undead don’t fit into my setting’ (this one makes sense). I’ve been one of those GMs, getting snippy at players who, in my eyes, can’t come up with something original.