Advancement is cool, advancement is fun. Gaining levels, new powers, and magic items is one of the most enjoyable parts of the game. However, the price of all these new powers is a trend to be less creative on the players’ parts. It takes a very clever GM indeed to keep high level players challenged and creative.
While there are many fine solutions to keeping your high level players occupied, this article will only cover the solutions offered by a friend of mine. These solutions have no correlation whatsoever to what I’d do in a similar situation, which would probably be to a) chuckle evilly, and b) roll a lot of dice.
1. Switch Settings: If the players are forced to enter a land or realm where their powers and skills are dampened, it could give you enough time to get a feel for the game again and regain the flow. It also allows your players to be a little more creative and try quirky strategies like they always used to when they were at lower levels. Magic items might cease to work, spells and powers cease to function, and it’s possible that player’s characters may even forget some of their most useful abilities and skills for a while. As you get back into the flow of the game you can start to phase back in all their powers, potions, and items.
2. Equally Equipped Enemies: You can also land your heroes with a group of opponents who are equally decked out with magical gear. This tends to create more of an aggravated explosion than anything else (I find). It might be preferable to just let thieves steal all of their items.
3. The ol’ 4-for-1 Dice Trick: Instead of adding all the modifiers, rolling all the dice, and making an informed decision; you can always just fake rolling 1d6 and give all the players the same result based on that one roll. For example: “Okay, I rolled a 2 for your group, guys. The troll clobbers all of you like the Rock and then does a pile-driver on the mage. You all take 20d6 damage…Yeah, you too, Mike. I don’t care if you were 200 ft. away in a pillbox with your crossbow.”
Well, I think that about covers that. Please keep in mind that the above was a friend’s idea and the below was mine. That way, you can direct the appropriate ridicule to each of us individually. Thank you.
Winterizing your RPGs
With Christmas just around the bend, you’ll probably be wondering just how you can make your RPGs feel like Christmas without actually losing the flow of your game. Have no fear! I have compiled a list of thoroughly useless ‘Christmas’ themed items for your perusal below. Instead of actually being creative yourself, you can feel free to steal them all and use anything you want in your own games to get that Christmas Feel.
1. Snow: Obviously, if you’re running a Christmas-themed adventure there should be snow. Just like if you were running a Thanksgiving adventure you’d put in a turkey (who runs Thanksgiving adventures, honestly?). Legitimate use of this: the party must hunt a feral beast in the far north of the campaign world. Stupid use of this: the party’s Hawaiian island comes under the siege of frost giants who cause it to snow for no apparent reason.
2. Elves and Dwarves: It should go without saying that you should include Elves and Dwarves in your Christmas-themed adventure. Not only are they traditionally suited to the genre, but your players will have no ends of fun cracking jokes about them. The dwarves have the suitable beards, and the elves have the correct name.
3. Sleighs and Reindeer: This should be relatively easy to work in. If the party is already going up north it should be a simple matter for an old chubby guy in a red suit to say, “Your horses will freeze, you’ll need some of these babies. Also, you’ll need a sleigh. 5,000 gp, please.”
4. Snow Men: I’m thinking the kind that kill you. Probably like the abominable snowman. Regular happy snow men don’t usually aid in adventures much unless it’s as a very bad joke. Stuff that wants to kill you, on the other hand, is usually well-received by the players.
5. Presents: The obvious solution is to just hand your players 100 dollar bills for participating in the game and wish them Merry Christmas (or some other festive greeting like ‘Ave!”). For GMs will less money than time, you can make a Christmasy map for them as a handout. For GMs with no time or money (all of us, really) you can just have some NPC give something to the PCs as a gift.
6. Christmas Weaponry: The first question in the powergamer’s mind when hearing ‘Christmas Adventure’ will be what they can loot from Santa’s Workshop or some equivalent. The promise of jingle bell grenades, holly potions, and wreaths of invulnerability will do loads to enhance the Christmas spirit for the powergamers. Popular weapons for the bad guys can include: flamethrowers, killer snow men, killer trees, and masses of wrapping paper enchanted to suffocate you.
7. Music: Don’t bother, it’ll just make any player currently working in retail insane. Instead, try to include the Grinch or someone else of much Christmas merit who can potentially sneak into the party’s fortress and wreak havoc as he steals everything undetected except by that little girl who he lies to.
8. Shopping Sales: It’s a possibility that the party could find a rare, teleporting magical bazar which shows up once every hundred years to offer discount pricing on magic items. The only problem is that about a million flying carpets have crowded out the parking lot and all the other wizards are shoving to get the last wand of mega-death. Training your ‘auctioneer’ voice and shoving the players a few times while yelling might enhance the ‘commercial’ spirit of Boxing Day.
9. Christmas: I’d personally avoid using actual real Christmas stuff in your adventure. This would be similar to a recommendation not to use real-life people as NPCs in your adventure. Not only might some people object, but you would probably be better off celebrating with your family, anyway. If you’re going to play an RPG in the festive season, you might as well ham it up and make fun of Frosty the Snowman instead.
10. Have the Players Freeze to Death: Hardly anything beats that warm feeling of satisfaction you get when you inform the whole party they’re starving to death, out of water, and freezing to death. Having them drop cool items from frozen fingers, go delusional, or fall over repeatedly is also great fun. If they actually prepared for the cold weather, you can always hit them with one of those unpredictable and often lethal winter storms you’re so fond of. If they build igloos, they’ll probably be immune to this because they actually do work.
11. Skating: Having at least one scene with everyone on skates on some large ice surface is usually amusing. Feel free to throw in half-pipes and jumps as well. Bad guys who can freeze anything they point their ray guns at could be interesting, too, especially in a warm climate where they’re freezing all the local landmarks and all the locals too.
12. Food: This should be relatively easy to implement. Just have the players invited or imprisoned by anyone and forced to eat truffles, chocolates, and Christmas oranges. Punch is optional but should also cause temporary amnesia or something else magical and amusing.
13. Druids: If you want to be all historical, you could have the party ambushed by crazed druids who want to sacrifice them to the Gods so that the winter will be abolished and the people can get back to planting and harvest. I’m not sure this is a particularly good idea, especially for the druids.
14. Ghosts: Having the party visited by three ghosts (all of whom want to kill them) could be an interesting twist. Instead of trying to get them to change their greedy ways (practically impossible) the ghosts simply get nastier and nastier as they attempt to bump the party off. Having the ghosts out to an apple dunking competition may temper their ire.
15. Scrooge: Having a 20th level wizard version of Scrooge foreclose on all the party’s property could be interesting; probably because they owe him nothing in the first place.
16. Family Gatherings: After or during the adventure you could potentially have the party required to meet their entire extended family. Not only would this be painful and embarrassing, it would probably be no fun to role-play and all your players might quit. If you like this idea, you could also have the mother-in-laws follow the party around for the entire adventure and berate and ridicule them about every tiny action they make. This is, of course, optional and doesn’t reflect in the slightest what an actual mother-in-law would do in the same position. Players also probably have access to nifty means of escape such as flight, teleportation, and invisibility. See the above portion of the article for advice on how to remedy this.
I hope you enjoyed the Christmas 2012 edition of this column. My household is currently under mass siege and I have absolutely no time for writing this article. Its very existence is a surprising paradox. I’d like to apologize in advance for any typos or omissions. I don’t have the time to correct more than a dozen times. Merry Christmas and Happy 2013 Everyone!