Have you ever felt like maybe you made your character too strong? Is one of your players making you feel like you have to fudge the numbers so the others can have fun? Today we look at how to manage with a powerful character at the table.
Dear DovahQueen: I’ve got something I’d love to hear your take on. So I’m in a RotRL (Rise of the Runelords) campaign, well into book 5. And my character is pretty strong in the – ideal scenario -. As a Rogue with 6 sneak attacks, he can put out a good 250 damage and smoke even a large scary demon the GM was probably eager to throw at us. It’s both unfortunate to the Gm and myself that I’m fairly system competent. Because I notice when he beefs up NPCs well beyond their normal or even advanced HP.
It’s a problem because during my non-ideal moments the character is fairly sub-par. Any will save will send him running and Rogue’s just kind of work that way. Sure I have some other ways to enable it, and I do! Sometimes it works fine… But it really started irking me a bit recently when I noticed I had one of my ideal moments, took advantage of it, basically seizing the few moments this character really gets to shine. Only to have that moment wash down the drain as the GM doubles or triples a monster’s regular HP after my 250 damage attack simply to have it standing and give everyone else a go at it.
I – get – what he’s trying to do. I totally understand he’s probably eager to throw this big hulking demon at the party and have everyone have a go at it. But it’s not like the other characters don’t get to shine, there’s whole dungeons ahead of us oftentimes. It’s just in the moment the GM seems to make the snap decision. And I’m not sure how to bring this up with him without him feeling like I’m ‘calling him out’ or ‘talking down’ at him considering my system competence (whereas the GM is fairly new.)—TheJokerPlays
Dear Joker: I know these feels far too well, my dude. I’ve never *intentionally* built a character that others feel “breaks” the game, but sometimes you just do your best and it happens, right? I’m a rogue main; my skirmisher feels utterly untouchable in my fiance’s 5th edition game, and my PFS dash-one fighter deals so much damage that I often feel bad about bringing her to the table. In this situation, I feel like there’s a few ways you could go, but most them all involve one unavoidable conclusion: we’re gonna have to figure out how to brooch the conversation with the GM.
I wanna start with the situation around your character. I get that *if* you’re more optimized than other party members, there’s going to be a power disparity that can sully the enjoyment. I’m not gonna say you are or are not min-maxed to a greater degree than the other players, but if the stars align and 250 damage falls off your blade, it’s easy to see how folks might see it that way. Is the GM falling your trap often? Consider explaining your build a bit to them—help them understand how to deal with what you’re capable of using the tactics and decisions of the adversaries rather than with a numeric hamfist. “So remember how I insta-gibbed that BBG last night? I’ve been playing a while; are you curious what I’d have done to keep that from happening? Since my character is notorious for doing this, I’ve have had the boss use a decoy to bait out that attack since they knew it was coming.” I’m a bit infamous among the groups that are used to my GMing style in that I’m utterly ruthless in dealing with the characters that dare exist in my world. You’ve mentioned Will saves not being your rogue’s strongest save. Turning you against the party via magic nonsense is always an option.
Another option you’ve got is one that I’m more mixed about. Consider nerfing your character. I hate to say that because it totally sucks and me even typing it feels dirty, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention it in the brainstorm. I don’t mean to consider taking all the wind from your sails, but 250 is a lot of cheese…and too much cheese is bad for your heart. Maybe we consider a cheese diet? Oh or better yet! Maybe we consider making a cheese spread! You spoke about how the right situation isn’t all the time, and obviously, the GM is struggling to manage with your output when it works. Can you theory craft your build a bit more so that you have an easier time settling up your “ideal situation” maybe at the cost of some total output? Can you spread the cheese around so it covers more sandwich and more situations? Then it might not be so sharp in a few rare bites. As a fellow rogue, I’m wagering that your ideal situation often involves moving less than 5 feet and doing a full attack with two weapons while flanking. Consider spreading those feats around stuff like Spring Attack so it’s easier to get into position. My rogue is a one-dagger kinda killer and has been INCREDIBLY fun darting back and forth, slashing and stabbing from cover to cover. Since the GM is already fudging math, I’d wager they’d be willing to let you fudge some feats as well if you wanted to go that route.
I don’t think that either of those are great “solutions”, but regardless, you’re gonna have to have a chat with the GM about this. Being experienced and having knowledge to impart kinda sucks, because you’re right—you have to be careful not to come off as “talking down” at him. When I don’t really know the best way to handle a conversation, or when it’s one with a lot of parts to consider, I prefer just being straight-forward in the most basal way possible. “Hey, I noticed that demon suddenly had 300 HP. Can we talk about that? It kinda bothered me cause it felt like my impact was arbitrarily lessened.” Be direct and honest without being preachy. Be open, and pick words in such a way as to encourage a two-way conversation. Sure, you could just tell him ways to be a better GM, but there’s a reason therapists don’t just tell you how to get your act together. Consider a lighter version of what they call “the Socratic method.” You’re not aiming to tell him how to run his own game; you just want to ask questions which encourage productive thought, respond appropriately, and listen. Having some options, like what’s been aforementioned, is a way of offering compromise to the discussion, but really the discussion itself is the value. It gets those involved thinking about the ways we can improve.
Give it some thought; have the conversation. Maybe the two of you can come up with some better directions still.
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