Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Glitterboy Effect

Today we played Mike's viking-themed AD&D 2nd edition game.
As we've been playing this game, I've noticed something that I call "The Glitterboy Effect."

Let me interject here that character creation in Mike's game is point-buy, and that I am the only person in the group who doesn't have 18 strength. Characters who drop 18 in strength were previously allowed to roll their exceptional strength randomly. This has also been changed; now Mike charges an additional point for every 10 points of percentile strength, but characters made under the original rules are grandfather claused.

During combat, if my character hits, he does usually 5-8 points of damage with his broadsword. Other characters in the party, particularly our strength 18/93 specialized two weapon fighter, dish out damage in the 20's or 30's each round.
We had another PC who threw a dagger for 13 damage. That's more from her dagger than I can possibly do with my broadsword in one round.

Mike, our intrepid GM, has us fighting twenty orcs at a time. We also tangled with seven 4 Hit Die wolves and a pack of boars that are able to dish our a dozen damage on a good hit. We are first level. (At least, we were at the start of the session today) I think I dropped into negative hit points three times.

We have here what I call the Glitterboy Effect. If you're not familiar with RIFTS, here's the the same party in RIFTS you can have: a guy in a huge robot powersuit (Glitterboy), a guy with science skills (Rogue Scientist), a D&D style thief with tech skills (City Rat), and a guy with low level magic and psi (Mystic)
The scientist has a sidearm that does 2d6 damage. The Glitterboy has a cannon that does 3d6x100.

The GM has a difficult time creating combats. Any foes that will challenge the Glitterboy will make mulch out of the other characters. Any enemies that would prove challenging to the other three are instantly blasted out of existence by the Glitterboy. Yes, I know combat isn't the point of the other three classes. Yes, I know there will be certain situations where the ability to read makes the Rogue Scientist the hero of the story. A foe who can be dealt with my magic can only be defeated by the Mystic. Yes, yes yes....but what about run-of-the-mill combat? What about when the party gets ambushed or surprised by a random encounter?

I've blogged about this before, but the solution continues to elude me. I know Mike is also challenged by the power levels of the characters. He wants to make things challenging for the mighty warriors in the party, but at the same time, I often feel my character is completely out of his league in any combat we enter. Our poor cleric seems to be in the same boat.

Mike has tuned up the experience in the game as well. I started 1st level today, and I ended the session 3rd. I am a stone's throw from 4th and will certainly level next time.

I also had the chance to skim the original slim little Traveller books at Mindy's today. My experience running Traveller (Mongoose edition) left me with a sour taste for the game, but it appears that the older iterations might have curbed some of my problems with the game.

...hmm, me liking an older version of a game better. Imagine that!

More on Traveller some other time when I don't have to get up in six and a half hours.


  1. I'd be Very interested how others have handled this situation. One thought occurred to me. Drop percentile strength. Or perhaps go back to completely rolled up characters. This could get ridiculous real quick. And why are they super-powered in my game versus Mindy's game. Very similar rules and same system.

  2. Assuming you want solutions to GBE, rather than how to avoid it. First it's hard. There's a reason why powercreep sucks. But, it usually boils down to raw damage. So, make raw damage be the answer less often. Immunities, opponents affected only by foo(water, sunlight, music, etc), swarms that take at most 1hp of damage per "swing", something similar for super large/mystic creatueres (dragons, devils, demons, etc). Creatures that Attack in dreams. Basically foes that must be defeated by means other than streams of hit points.

  3. I do want solutions. I suppose I need to just be innovative about combats and dangerous situations. In any campaign with such a huge disparity in combat prowess between PCs, I guess expecting the tried-and-true method of encounter creation just isn't going to cut it. Of course, the "weed whacker" character should still get plenty of chances to rock out with his huge damage output; players in those situations shouldn't be punished for making powerful characters any more than other players should be punished for not doing so.

    ...unless, of course, the GM said that this was going to be a heavy combat campaign (or a low combat one or an underwater one or whatever...) That, however, is a whole other problem and a whole other post...

  4. "GBE" or "power creep" or whatever you want to call it is a product of poor game design (unless your intention is to create a gonzo, over-the-top munch-fest, in which case it is GOOD game design). I only know of three possible remedies:

    a) play a different game
    b) accept the game as is and change your character concept
    c) house rule the hell out of the game with strict limitations

    Since #1 is probably not viable (you want to play with these folks) and #3 is the DM's purview (and he's already shown himself to allow the gonzo), you are only really left with option #2. However, there are two different ways to approach the situation:

    EASY: Make a new character and maximize it in the same way as your fellows (man-up for the gonzon in other words). If your intention all along was to to play a heroic ranger fighty-dude, this is the only thing you can do, given the game/players/DM that you have. You are NOT going to get to be Joe Moderate in combat, at least if your DM is worth his salt...because the combats have to be scaled to the best fighters in the group. Otherwise the game becomes a contrived farce and/or cakewalk.

    HARD: Take a good hard look at the character you've created. He is NOT a combat-ready fighty-dude as written, because of the relative scale of the combat-dudes in your party. Your only recourse (besides reroll a new character) is to re-conceptualize your character's role in the party...and then pro-actively push hard for it.

    Your character can take the role as the leader/negotiator of the party for example. Don't allow the other players to jump right into combat, but try to interact with NPC creatures encountered. Take a non-violent approach whenever possible; after all, your character is not made for violent combat. Be a peacekeeper, build alliances, work to avoid conflict. Take the initiative and and think as if you were in the shoes of your character (a clever, non-fighty guy).

    Yes, this might piss off your compatriots who want to fight everything: fuck 'em, You are responsible for your own fun, and that means getting a chance to be in the spotlight at times, too. And since they've made it abundantly clear that they want to be combat monsters (by their chargen gen coices) you need to be responsible for your own role in the party. Don't count on the DM to throw a wimpy monster or two into every encounter just so you have "something to fight!"

    On the other hand, if you're really not into role-playing encounters with NPCs (monster or otherwise) you can act as a "stealthy ranger" scouting ahead for the party and reporting back what you find, then leaving the antagonists for your fellows to fight. Yes, you will nbe relegated to a "stay in the back of the party" role during encounters themselves, but you can do some things besides "plink with arrows;" say, scout any treasure/valuables or rescue prisoners/hostages while your party busies themselves with the wet-work.

    Just by the way, is Mike (your DM) the same guy who ran the Rifts game you had issues with a while back?

  5. JB- No, Mike did not run RIFTS; he played in it with me. He played one of the characters who perpetually felt like they had brought a switchblade to a tank fight.

    I also think you might be confusing our Sunday group's two campaigns. Mindy is running the game where I play a ranger, and it is pretty much classic Greyhawk kinda D&D. In that game, I'm a heavy hitter and I think my character has about 50% of the entire party's hit point total.

    Mike is running the Viking-themed AD&D game, and in that I play a Skald. (sort of a druidy bard who is all chanting and no reading) I have tried to maximize my strengths by being the party spokesperson and using my bardic abilities to buffer up the party whenever possible. However, that only goes so far when we get charged by a dozen rabid boars.
    Of course, I just learned how to cast druid spells, so perhaps the Skald in this campaign is just one of those classes that are rough to play at low levels.

    ...oh, and I'd hardly call GBE power "creep." The sheer numerical disparity in power level is more like power got-on-a-bullet-train then power creep. :D