The Power Gamer: I read about them all the time. For most of my life, I have been lucky to avoid them. The last two store games I have joined, I have encountered them. Now, it feels like they are everywhere.
In both encounters, they had these insane builds making their characters powerful beyond their level. They both had unique custom magic items that were broken. More importantly, both these two young men had the same air about them.
They played the same way. They wanted to kill everything, never take damage, and argue DM rulings. Their idea of role-playing was to boast how powerful they were. Every role-playing moment was short lived as they started combat almost immediately.
And in both cases, I had the same response.
I turned my characters into a coward. I refused to help in battle. My time was spent trying to make every encounter into a role-playing one.
Even in combat, I would role play. My turns were used by running around trying to talk the monsters into surrendering or retreating. In some cases, I would be apologizing for the attack on the other party members. I would be responding to the horrors that I saw. I never made an attack.
Perhaps my position is the immature one. After all, I am the outsider joining “their” games. In both occasions, the DM found my activities refreshing. The other players started to get involved with my role-playing. And in both cases, the Power Gamer tried hard to turn it back into a wargame.
And I want to point out, with the Power Gamer entirely in charge of the party my lack of participation changed nothing. Every fight was easy for them. My involvement would have meant nothing. Perhaps they would have taken 5 less damage. To me, whatever. But to them, it pissed them off. It feels like 5 HP loss is losing to them.
As an experienced GM, I feel I just put a stop to them right away.
One way is I remove multi-classing and feats from the game. Both of these are the primary source of their power increase. They are looking for micro-imbalances in the game to exploit. In combination, these imbalances can become monstrous. One of them was making the two hand-crossbow attacks. While most of the other characters were +6 to hit with 1 attack, he was +8 with 2 strikes. I am not sure how, but he was rolling 4 dice for damage.
Another way I limited them is to make everyone use a point buy. Both of these Power Gamers had 1 in a million stats. It’s amazing how half of all characters out there are a 1 in a million shot on stats. I have made a few of these characters in my youth. Now it is all point buys.
Lastly, I don’t argue the rules during play. I make my rulings, I will hear a moment of a case against it, and them tell them to talk to me afterward. In one of the games, I played there was at least a 10-minute argument over a ruling. The GM changed his verdict even after more than half the table said he was right (me including). It was clear the Power Gamer wasn’t going to stop until he got his ruling.
One thing I have always done when I GM is to put in the occasional suicidal encounter. I try to make it evident. The purpose is that it forces them to run away or find another way out. In this way, in the back of their minds, they are always looking and judging if they can take a fight.
I had players complain about this idea.
He asked, “Why would you ever have a fight we couldn’t win?”
To which I asked, “Why did you think that was a fight?”
One time, I described basically Godzilla attacking and everyone running away. A 3rd level character ran up and struck it. Godzilla stomped on him, and he was dead. The player was shocked.
This might be a bit off topic, but I notice that in RPG there is little role-playing the epic escape. Almost all action movies, there are times the Hero is trying to flee from overwhelming odds. There is this mentality that every encounter should be a fight, and the Adventurers should win it.
I think removing the Heroic escape from the game is denying another exciting way to interact with the world as a player and GM. And it is a perfect trap for the Power Gamer placed in the story.
As a Player, my goal with Power Gamers is to show the other players at the table that there is another way to play. I doubt anything I do or will change the Power Gamer’s minds. To me, the battle is to reach the rest of the table. If the other players become more interested in playing the full game, and not just combat, then I think the Power Gamer will leave.
What I am not interested in is trying to compete with them. I have no interest in playing the Power Gamer’s game. In my years, I have played some powerful characters. But I never got there by power gaming.
I know I am not alone in how much I find the Power Gamer destructive to playing an RPG. I would really like more input and advice on how to deal with them as both a GM and player. Anyone with some ideas, please commit or email.
I plan to update this in the future!