561 – Monster Soup • 03


I saved this for the Friday blog because it’s awesome, and I wanted you to have all weekend with it. This is an article I cadged out of my friend and fellow gamer Lloyd Brown, who among other things is responsible for much of the World of Kalamar campaign setting by Kenzer and Co. Enjoy!

Introduction to “Power Levels”, by Lloyd Brown :

I’ve been playing RPGs since 7th grade. That means 1980. A friend tried to run us through The Isle of Dread, and he kept reading the non-boxed text to us, so another friend told him he was screwing up and took over.

Like many other players, I was hooked on it.

Unlike many other players, I immediately started creating my own adventure and ran my next session. I was far more interested in that side of the screen. I liked the GM’s ability to inspire awe, wonder, and thrill in the players.

I had no idea what I was doing. I made up the “to hit” numbers and the hit points, since I hadn’t even seen a rulebook yet. I had vampires with 16 hit points and a dungeon half full of Lawful monsters. The place was littered with high-level magic items. It was a disaster.

Or, it would have been if my gaming standards had been higher.

I ended up running it for a single player, because my venue was a school bus on the way to a field trip, and my competition for my players was the Truth-or-Dare game going on in the back seat with Joan Porter and her amazing, uh, features. That one player had a good enough time, though, so I was happy. He was also the one who snatched the published adventure from the other guy, so he would certainly have let me know if my stuff wasn’t up to par.

I got better over time. Buying books helped. Even if each one helped only a little bit, I built a huge gaming collection, even before I bought a game store. The accumulation of gaming material was excellent. If I needed a map, I could search my collection of Dungeon magazines. Needed an NPC?  I had plenty of stat blocks and backgrounds.

Then I started writing. I went straight to the top for my first article—Dragon Magazine. I sold my first article in issue 229 and then promptly sold almost 20 more. I was, for a while, Dragon’s most prolific contributor. They even broke their “one article per author per month” policy for me. They had to, or they wouldn’t have ever caught up the backlog. Sixty articles or so and 6 books later, I’ve written on just about every topic I can imagine.

Writing really helped me focus. I had to know my topic well enough to sell it to the pros. It also helped me gather information. I had to know what was on the market if I wanted to sell. I couldn’t exactly sell an article on something that contradicted something TSR had just published. Likewise, I had a better chance of selling something if it complemented recent material.

Experience helped more. I ran often, because I usually had to recruit my own players. My actual play time was pretty slim for many years. I ran games for friends, family, co-workers…people caught in elevators if I had the chance. I had more game material than I could ever run.

If all my books and experience and articles helped me improve, then buying the game store was like finding a vorpal sword. I suddenly had one of the most enviable networks available. I had my pick of games; everybody wanted the “prestige” of having the game store owner in their game.I had a ton of new games I could play. I had literally hundreds of players and GMs who like nothing better than to share their experience with me for as long as I would listen.

I learned tips, tricks, techniques, and shortcuts as fast as I could hear them. Some of them were not helpful. Some were extraordinary. Many of them reinforced tricks I had already picked up. I played under some excellent game masters, learning what made them good and adding their skills to my toolbox.

Anyway, this allegedly brief intro leads to this: Kevin mentioned the idea of some gaming advice-related content for his site, and I’m always happy to share what’s worked for me with other players. I don’t have a monopoly on gaming skill or experience, but I do have a good combination of brains and practice. If a specific piece doesn’t help, I’ll try to at least make the reading interesting. With luck, you’ll get something out of the content and I’ll try not to let the delivery put you to sleep.

Power Levels

Character level is one measure of an adventuring group’s effectiveness. In fact, for some games, it’s the only measure mentioned in the books. When they recommend what monsters or traps you should use when creating encounters, they always compare the threats to the party’s level.

That’s kind of like determining someone’s academic knowledge only by their age. Age matters, but grade, school, background, and study habits matter, too.

It’s important to know what kind of threat your players and their characters are capable of putting together. If your encounters are too easy, you risk boring your players. If they’re too hard, you’ll frustrate them (or worse, kill them all off). To be an effective GM, you have to know how to create an encounter that has just the right threat for your needs.

Experience matters. Are your players first-timers, old veterans, or somewhere in between?  Usually, the most effective players are those who are both familiar with the conventions and the rules of the game. Call of Cthulhu players, for example, know not to start reading strange texts out loud, while a D&D player who picks up CoC for the first time often makes the mistake of summoning something, only to find out later that summoning and controlling spells in CoC are two different things.

New players tend to be unaware of all of their options.  Card-floppers quickly learn a simple mathematical formula that RPG players should know.  It goes “options = power.” Limited options means limited effectiveness.

Gear matters.  If you are stingy with the equipment, that can be okay, as long as you’re keeping the encounters appropriate. If you start to scale the encounters up with level faster than you let the characters scale their gear, they’ll have difficulty. They’ll be hit too often, they’ll take a lot of damage, and they’ll have difficulty dealing with terrain obstacles or other adventuring hazards.

If, on the other hand, you let players gain too powerful equipment, they might become too powerful in too short a time, making it difficult for you to judge how much power they’ve gained. Powerful equipment includes not only a magic item that grants high bonuses but one with open-ended strategic options.

A powerful gear selection might not be a girdle of giant strength on the fighter.  When I’m min-maxing a character, I’d rather spend my money on a dozen small items than one big one. It’s often far more cost-efficient that way, allowing me to gain a large number of bonuses that I can leverage in different situations. It also allows me to fly under a GM’s radar, so to speak, gaining small edges in movement, attack, defense, and maneuverability, rather than a single gimmick that certain encounters might nerf entirely. Beware of similar strengths—or liabilities—among your players.

The party balance affects your group’s combat-effectiveness.  If you have four D&D players, each one following one of the different roles, they’ll be more effective than if the same players were playing three strikers and a leader. They’ll have a good mix of damage, survivability and versatility that will enable them to survive and defeat the variety of challenges you’ll throw at them over the course of a campaign.

Similarly, cooperation matters. Players who work together make their party better. In D&D, the rogue’s sneak attack is a critical point. If the other players create opportunities for the rogue to make sneaky attacks, the party gains. If each player looks out for himself only, or if they actively work against each other, they won’t easily defeat the challenge at hand.

Character build options matter. If your players build for roleplaying reasons rather than looking at the numbers involved, they’re probably not going to be as optimized as they could be. If they use a calculator when making feat and paragon path choices, they might be pretty tough.

Player motivation matters. I know some players whose character background section says “Orphan. Angry.” and leaves the rest blank. Their power progression is already planned out to 30th level, though. If you have players who want to win, to beat you, then they’ll try very hard to out-build and out-play the monsters at every turn.

The trickiest factor to judge is player skill. People who want to play well tend to, but even hardcore character actors can make good decisions in combat (in fact, some of the deadliest players can be those who disguise their intense tactical skill and character building with a heavy layer of dramatic character background and in-character dialogue at the table). Do your players position their figures well on the battlefield? Do they look for situational bonuses to attacks? Do they avoid the simple mistakes? Do they utilize their options effectively?  The difference between game play and great game play can be worth several levels.

Consider each of these factors and weigh your players’ ability. Are they average, below average, or above average?  If they’re under-equipped for their level, mentally subtract a level when creating your encounters. If the characters are well-built, you might consider them to be a level higher than standard.  Count one level up or down for player experience.

I’ve had groups who plowed through encounters scaled for characters four or five levels higher than them. I’ve seen players have trouble with “easy” encounters of their level. Don’t get too caught up in formulas that tell you what your players can handle without taking into consideration any of the factors that really determine how good they are. Level is just one factor among many. Knowing what your group can handle reduces your guesswork and helps you determine the right challenge for the most enjoyable encounters.

37 Responses to 561 – Monster Soup • 03

  1. — New players tend to be unaware of all of their options. Card-floppers quickly learn a simple mathematical formula that RPG players should know. It goes “options = power.” Limited options means limited effectiveness. —

    I think this is one of the reasons I’ve always gravitated towards Jack-of-All-Trades classes. Rogues and Rangers being my top two favorites. I love the stealth aspect of each class. Both have some ability to do spells. Each can wear armor of some sort, so they aren’t horrible in a fight. Either one can be quite capable with a bow if I want to be party support. No matter how you play them, these two classes have, what I would consider, the most options of all classes in terms of play style and capability.

    As an aside, I’ve never played a “card flopper” game. And I’ve been playing DnD since I got my first “red box” basic set (and quickly got the “blue box”, too).

      • That would be pretty cool. I’d even try that in DDO or the like but I don’t think the online MMORPG’s have that kind of versatility to them since the majority of players seem to be all “hulk smash!” and stuff like that.

      • Seriously? It ends up being a one-sided bloodbath frequently, and you won’t know which until it happens. A little bit of stealth is good for everybody though.

        • I will say that DDO has really surprised me. Most MMOs I’ve played were full of idiots, super elite assholes, PKers (in games where that applies) and just plain not fun.

          DDO seems to be quite different. Maybe it is mostly actual D&D players who play, or the people there just have a higher intelligence and are nicer people. I’ve had good luck finding people to party up with and people answer even the noobiest of questions. (like how I couldn’t figure out initially how to target the undead with my healing spells)

          I might even drop some money on it when I get a new job and see what special stuff you can get with these turbine points. (I’ve played other games like that and I have rarely had to spend more than 20ish dollars to get what I want)

          • The other players have been AWESOME so far about answering my stupid questions.

            You can always click on the little Turbine button and check out the store, even without any points.

  2. I made a party be all stealth classes at the beginning. They were in the City of the Invincible Overlord in jail and they all had to break out. Of course this party was an evil party. They had many wonderful and interesting adventures.

  3. Monsters can go the same way. A group of kobolds, all lined up with weapons ready, can be mowed thru pretty easy. The same group hideing in the bushes with sligns and several escape routes can whittle down even a high level party.

    Same way, a fairly low level group with good tactics can take down foes with a far higher Challenge Rateing.

  4. My current GMs made sure combat was now divided in two types:
    – those we are supposed to win : we will win them no matter our numbers, our skill or our equipement
    – those we are supposed to lose : a fully operationnal death star in our group would not change anything

    It is seriously depressing. I am not an unconditional fan of combat I can perfectly do without …. if the plot is not an uninteresting perfect railroad which, I am sad to say, it often is.

    Because of that, when I am GM, I do all my rolls now in front of my players… but I do plan for their possible failure so that if things go grim, they will have a chance to escape/be captured/be left for dead/be rescued/etc. Only suicidal or too-stupid-to-survive characters usually die. I found out that losing all their money/possessions/beautiful face is enough threat for them to not think I am being unfairly nice on them… Likewise I must prepare if they decide they don’t like the look of the plot-critical NPC…

    I guess it boils down to the character enjoying a minimum of liberty. It can be either in combat with balanced fights that can go one way or another or in the intricate plot which can solved different way…. preferrably both !

    • I like it better when the players win, but you do have to be more creative in showing the successes of the bad guys.

      What I REALLY like is when the bad guys have the players at an extremely unfair disadvantage, when I have set up the fight specifically to beat the players and teach ’em a lesson, and then they pull some genius crap outta their ass that I never saw coming and upset my whole applecart. I LOVE moments like that. Everyone walks away happy and I get to feel good for their accomplishment.

      • I really wish the fights were not as pre-determined in the games I play in. I remember, at the end of a campaign, I had a character who became… god-like. Do you think all his preparation and might could change the fate the GM had decided for the final fight ? Not an inch did he bulge, despite the entire thing becoming more and more non-sensical by the minute.

        One of the well-known tools of our rail-roading gms are what I call “paratroopers” : hordes of NPC appearing out of nowhere to capture/coerce the players. Only once did I escape them and saved the situation with courage, quick-thinking, luck, a thick hide and a couple of powder kegs. The result ? Allright the paratroopers were scattered and our group uncaptured but the GM decided that our friendly faction that my character worked for often and for important missions, was now convinced that my character was a demon to have succeeded and now hated him.

        Oh yeah … they make sure we know combat : those we are supposed to win and those we are supposed to lose 😉

        • I don’t know how you can do it.
          I had such a “GM” once (to me, they’re not worthy of the name). He didn’t stop at that, though, as his “games” also included (among others) regular castration of male characters, one player, in which he saw himself (and the only one not to get castrated) being a lot more powerful than others (like a terminator vs humans), dungeons designed to make that one player more powerful, and exponential progresson (so his avatar would be stronger, and become stronger faster…), and a lot of fantasms about group sex/phallic dungeons/NPCs nymfomaniacs.
          He nearly disgusted me of RPGs. We stopped playing with him, a decision I never regretted.

          • Lloyd (of the article above) ran a great campaign for us a few years ago which culminated in the group taking on the god that the cultists we had been battling against were attempting to bring to earth. He was on his way, and our goal was intercept him before he reached our world. The night had been set up with all kinds of horrible extra-planar terrain features and scads of lesser foes surrounding the Big Bad… so Lena came up with the brilliant idea of actually summoning the god straight to us. If we lost the fight the stakes were the same, but this way we could prepare the terrain. Getting summoned was what the god wanted all along, so he was more or less obligated to accept our invitation… whereupon we kicked the divine snot out of him with a relative minimum of fuss. (He was also not yet up to full power.)

            It made a happy memory that we still (obviously) talk about now.

  5. I DM every friday and when I do combat I usually stack the odds in the party’s favour, but if things go wrong I don’t hide it.

    I had one character do more damage to himself (7) than the end boss (0) because of my critical fumble chart. It was kind of hilarious, really.

    To be fair, my game is very heavily super-hero flavoured, which changes quite a bit. That heroic disposition is a big factor, and NONE of them are number crunchers. At all. AT ALL.

    So I made their characters for them (with them their for their input and just offered input on what would work better and the like), which made it really easy to make encounters for. I must say that.

    • I have a few players like that, mixed with some normal players and at least crunchier type. I kind of like the variety. There is one player that I more or less discount when it comes to making combat encounters, not because they won’t be involved, but because they won’t generally be effective. The neat part about doing it this way is that every once in a while the player will step up, and since I haven’t considered them at all designing the encounter, that player who is the weakest at the table can really save the day.

  6. Man, I need to play a campaign with somebody who knows what they are doing. 4e is fun, but when all my friends are used to AD&D (including myself) things can get confusing. I read the dm guide, but that didn’t really help that much. I also seem to be stuck as DM for everything now. I suppose thats what I get for being the only one with the books… I have never played with a board or REAL minies, so my battles tend to be just standing there trading blows. Part of not knowing what I’m doing, is that I pretty much make up the rules as I go along. Of course that can be quite entertaining, and I’ve always been a layed back DM. If my players can think it up and make the roll, they can do it (a racoon peeing on the triggers for traps to show where they are is proof of that). Anybody ever heard of two DM’s? If I’m stuck as DM for all time, I would like to concentrate on the story and delegate the battles to someone else.

    • Yes! I have absolutely seen tables where one guy is the DM, and the other guy plays all the monsters and select NPCs. If you get the right “co-DM”, it can work out really well.

      As for your difficulty, I would genuinely suggest running some pre-made adventures, even if you normally shy away from that sort of thing. The new adventures are VERY well explained in the way the rules work and how you are to handle the material, and after a couple of those you should be ready to DM anything.

        • None of the games I have ever played in used boards and minis. Usually if we want a representation of where PCs and monsters are the dm draws out a small representation of the location on a scrap piece of paper and and we used pennies marked with the initials of our characters and other coins, tiny balls of paper, whatever was small enough to represent monsters.

          One resourceful DM actually had a small chalkboard for doing that without wasting paper.

  7. Am I the only person here who is waiting for an opportunity to mount the D&D character class and level concepts on an altar and sacrifice them to the gods of worthwhile content? Call me a contrarian (I am), call me a weirdo (I’m not rich enough to be eccentric), but I will defy you to disagree with this statement:
    RPGs ultimately are about the puzzles, the combat tactics, the unusual or impossible things you see, be and do, the characters, the roleplaying, the funny situations and the combined story they make. Rewarding people for crunching spreadsheets of the game’s stats is at best something undesirable and at worst a sociopathic, fun-killing disgrace. Don’t get me wrong, having played Ars Magica I’m not saying I’m not guilty myself, nor do I disagree that a spreadsheet of your castle’s supplies and personnel can be interesting and useful to a game. But really… spreadsheets of the stats? Stats are a necessary evil!

    • Sorry dude, but (and you knew I would) I totally disagree with your basic premise.

      RPGs are about whatever you want them to be about. If your players enjoy the number crunching, them let them do it. If they enjoy the “the puzzles, the combat tactics, the unusual or impossible things you see, be and do, the characters, the roleplaying, the funny situations and the combined story they make”, then let them do that. The only thing that’s important is that everyone is having a good time. By it’s nature, the game is already going to be a different experience for each player anyway.

      • I agree with you both. I almost always GM when we play (our group broke up some months ago for various job-related reasons. We haven’t played since) and for me level only slightly ever comes into it. But then we don’t really play D&D. We started playing Warhammer, then went to Deadlands then were starting a Star Wars game when things broke up. Only Star Wars had “levels” to speak of, but it basically runs on the 3rd ed. D&D rules so no surprise there really. Warhammer uses careers, and Deadlands just allows you to spend your xp to raise your stats, so no real levels just better stats as you go along. Anyway, in our games we never really had any number crunchers, but it wasn’t about that for us. It was about getting together, eating a big pot of spaghetti my wife would make (sometimes) and having them try to figure out what kind of sickos were funding a necromancer to create a brothel for necrophiliacs who wanted a little more squirm out of their fuckbuddies. One of my more original ideas I thought. Only time numbers came into it was in combat, and even then I was willing to let things slide a bit, because as Kevin often points out, the fun is what matters. If sitting around arguing about numbers is ruining the game I would invariable tell the players to shut up, roll the dice and trust in my judgement to make it fun. Because that’s what mattered. More often than not I would end up giving out xp not for the amount of damage you did to the baddies, or how well you rolled or whatever. I would give out xp for making the rest of the group laugh so hard we had to take a two minute break to get our breath back. So long as it had to do with the game, having fun and making others have fun always netted you more in game reward.

      • Regarding your opening parenthetical: I’m trying to refine my own thoughts on the topic, you seemed like a likely collaborator to hack out the other side, yes. Lately my opinions have been strongly shaped by people thanking me for turning them on to FUDGE and such for freeing them from D&D shackles, and I’m trying to explore the other side since I know well that any firmly held opinion in practice tends to mean a point at which one stops thinking and listening. Thank you for your help.

        On the face your, “No, it’s whatever’s fun,” argument is hard to argue with for good reason, fun is fun. My main point of difference would have to be that I believe that rules crunching is hard work which is as a rule worthwhile only upon strict necessity because the rules are inadequate for serving balance and fun or rules development is needed to support gaming experiments and other content inadequately supported by the available rules. From my own experience having played games, ran games and developed house rules I’d have to say that it’s an awful lot like writing rules and regulations for other systems like companies, departments and committees: Nitpicky work that easily drops unexpected depths and breadths of grief on you when you make a mistake or oversight, or even just because you got it right and someone wanted you to make a particular mistake or oversight. Aside from playing games of Nomic and such, or deliberately working to enable a new game concept, can you point to other examples of rulehacking that are enjoyable? Either way, can you make a case for rulehacking being enjoyable other than letting people do what they apparently want to do?

        A separate and stronger point is the case of the rules lawyer sucking the fun out of everything for everyone else: One player completely dominating things because they spreadsheeted and lawyered their way into subverting the rules is an abuse of the dispute-resolution process to disempower someone else (or everyone else). I think cleverness in exploiting the situation or organizing your resources is praiseworthy but hacking AC handling in the system to try and make unrealistic things happen makes me reinterpret the rules towards a goal of play-balance and improved realism generally.
        Bluntly, I dislike metagaming and generally try to prevent it being wielded as a weapon against the unprepared. Do you disagree that this is a reasonable opinion and goal?

        • Not really.

          It looks to me like you are trying to state “This is what is fun and this is what you will enjoy about the game.” Knowing you as I do, I rather feel that this untenable position is likely to be bait rather than a heartfelt position, but I’ll play along.

          As my examples, I will pick 3 different players out of my own current game. The first (Player A) would prefer never to see a character sheet. It’s just something to forget on the way to the game. A doesn’t much care about the fighting, and is mostly there to create what they feel are funny situations in the game, and collect monetary and political status for their character.

          B, on the other hand, is a real tactical thinker, and only comes alive when the group is facing violent enemies. For B, a table full of role playing possibility is a table full of hard work, it isn’t what they really like, or what they want to do. The chess aspect is what comes naturally, not the make-believe.

          C is a much more rounded player, who digs both the combat and the role play. But C will spend hours making up a character, or just planning their level advances. Now since there is clearly no need to do this… C is very bright and could capably role-play a broom handle if asked… I am left to conclude that C does this because they think it’s fun, and not work at all. (Also because we’ve discussed it.)

          As for me, I keep these three — and the rest besides — happy not by furious work and meticulous planning and studiously poring over reams of notes and rules to tease out the means to defeat my players in their own bailiwicks, but rather by keeping a normal variety of flavors in my game that allows each a chance to excel in the area that they like most.

          One other thing that you mentioned that’s a little separate from this is the subject of Rules Lawyering. Basically what this boils down to is whether or not you allow obnoxious behavior at your table, and if it’s going on, is the result of the DM setting inappropriate expectations rather than having a problem player or two. Whenever I begin a new game I inform all of my players that I hold the rules in medium regard at best, and will override anything I don’t think makes sense. This works for and against them as they can always point out something nonsensical of their own, but we aren’t going to argue over it. My job is to keep the game moving and keep the mood up, which isn’t served by silly bickering. On the one occasion where a player’s style simply did not mesh they left the group, no hard feelings and everyone is still friends today.

          I try and play the world relatively straight. The campaign IS the straight man in the relationship. If the players want to get all crazy and be goofy and unrealistic (or even min-maxy) with their characters, I’m not going to tell them no. It’s their fantasy too.

          • So suspicious Kevin, have I really earned that?

            Let me see if I grasp your essential point by trying to distill it:
            A game as you approach it is as much or more made up of individual activities and individual-targeted events and content bits as it is a general collaborative and group activity, with individual interactions between gamemaster and player or different players with each other necessarily taking very different characters for an inescapably varied group of player types. In light of this fact of varied player interests, which you say include non-degenerate (ruleslawyering) interests in the contest resolution systems, you see the role of the gamemaster as evening out the jagged edges between someone who’s out to make jokes in the world and between his friends and the dude whose workplace castration leads them to try and turn their character stats into a god-emperor-conqueror-champion-casanova without actually managing to construct a persona-character for that.
            I think our game concepts as we describe them may be a bit at-odds but I think our executions have similar content since you have described a very similar treatment of lawyering to mine. If I’m right about this our point of difference, which as much a point of opinion as anything, is that I take the rules as a means of resolving conflict instead of worthwhile content in their own right after bad experiences where I suddenly felt the need to blurt out, “Why are we spending an entire session charting stat progression for elder wizards again?” during my Ars Magica experience.

          • So by “distill” you mean “complicate”?

            I’m not there to smooth rough edges. I’m there to give my friends an excuse to visit. Despite our “differences,” everyone already gets along and if we didn’t game we’d likely try and find some other excuse to hang out. They’re all adults and don’t need me telling them what is and isn’t an appropriate context for their fantasy. I respect them all as people and don’t try to impose my vision of what the game ought to be on them.

            It’s just about having fun. That’s all. Any more and you’re over thinking it.

          • Mmm, I guess my perspective is just more shaped by having to deal with munchkins and a, “Never do that again!” conclusion from my Ars Magica statbuilding exercises. It doesn’t sound like your group is in danger of such things though.

  8. Reminds me of the time my adventuring group came across a gathering of small woodland creatures acting strangely. Being a gnome druid, I used my speak with animals ability to ask them what was up. We were supposed to help them get uncorrupted, but our rogue got bored and attacked them head on. He rolled three 1’s in a row. We made him wait 2 weeks before we rez’d him.

    Then there was the time we were running away from some undead who totally outclassed us, and he decided it would be safest to cut open his dying horse and hide inside (a la Star Wars.) I really wish I was making this up.

    • I know your pain.
      In my early days of playing CP2020 with players whose concept of shared fun was severely lacking there was one particular occurrence that comes to mind: The player party was a security team (and its support) on the top of a less-established corporation they’d just signed up as employees with. A competitor was dropping two aerodynes with suits on the roof landing pads to go over legal contracts with our guys. One player, whose motivations were often inscrutable and whose minmaxing legendary, used his twin cyberarms and impressive neural rewiring to fire two antiair missiles at once and blow up both transports as they were making their landing approaches. The wreckage washes around him in a movie-worthy display, and in that wreckage we see the remnants of combat troopers and not the lawyers, beancounters and overly-manicured suits we were led to expect.
      Did this player have one of his near-psychic insights and realize what the GM was doing? Was he just being some combination of jerk, loony and munchkin and trying to derail what he thought was going to end up being an adventure he didn’t want to play in? Was the GM being a jerk for trying to drop two dozen armed soldiers on us after trying to make this seem a non-combat situation, or was this justified since the PC balance was combat-favourable? I haven’t decided my opinions on any of this aside from that I was gaming with jerks who weren’t very good at shared fun.

      • I guess I’m lucky to have never really played with people like that. They generally all agree with one another that no matter how outclassed, out-gunned or out-manned they will always fight to the last then simply role up new characters for those who died gloriously in battle. I’ve had to start keeping them alive but making them regret that fact. Like losing a limb instead of dying, or being chained up and thrown into a galley headed to gods know where as a slave. Anything to realize that glorious battle is not always the solution, even if it is totally bad ass when you actually win.

        • Some players do not actually see escape options even when you have included them. Try including a scroll of mass teleport (to a specially prepared location) in with their treasure. Having an immediate and easy means of bugging out when necessary might help them take the option.

      • I never had players who tried to litterally blow up one of my scenarios. That must be a nice hate-hate relationship between GM and players 😉

        About shared fun, my current GMs try to give something to all players. Try … yes because everybody but one-two players get breadcrumbs. The problem is that they are too obvious breadcrumbs (a character is ignored all the game, one action is thrown directly in his lap and finally this *exclusive content” is ompletey useless/uninteresting/leads nowhere). Sure it is better than nothing, but the good thing would be to have a scenario that someone else can have fun in beside the heroine of the campaign…

        • I’m sorry to say this, but this is often the fault of the players. The more passive the player, the less they will get out of anything the DM provides, and will always be overshadowed by the more dynamic players. An active player will take a stray comment by a cheese seller on the street and construct the party’s next adventure… all centered on themselves, naturally — while a passive player can be put in line for the throne with assassins and mistresses and armies and battles… and get almost nothing out of it. And who is going to get blamed? The poor DM.