Look at the portrait above and what do you see?
Powerful warrior, strong magical armor (+4), a spear that can penetrate
even the oldest of dragon hides (+3 keen), strong (18 strength),
tough (17 constitution), fast (16 dexterity), intelligent (14 intelligence),
overall very powerful. 10 orcs... not a problem, 10 ogres... not
a problem, pashaa its just Vrock demon. Evil stands no chance vs
him! So what's wrong with this picture to most gamers? Nothing.
But I ask you is there that much enjoyment in playing this PC?
Do you really have fun with this character? What defines him, his
stats or his personality? How can you know if playing this character
is really that fun until you attempt the other side of possibilities,
playing a weak character.
I came to the realization that the most enjoyment I attained from
playing a character is when he was not the strongest, nor the smartest,
nor the fastest. I was so used to the character above, although
not as tough, that I forgot what a real challenge was. I first experienced
it when we started a new set of characters for a major campaign
and was blessed with these statistics: 9, 9, 14, 7, 13,10. After
3 sets of 4d6 this was the best result. What could I possibly do
with this? Who could I make? I was sadly disappointed but I played
these rolls and made a cleric/magic user (in 2E days mind you).
I am sure many of you think "why the hell would you want to
play that PC?" I did because that's what I rolled in 3 sets,
so be it. Turns out the character was the most enjoyable one I ever
This PC presented the most challenges to overcome. I had to rethink
how I approached monsters, cast spells, and involved myself in situations
where death loomed around every corner of my 9 constitution. When
I gained a level it was an incredible accomplishment of survival
and strategy. Because I was not tough the game now was a real challenge
and a lot more fun.
Playing the weaker PC also brings back balance to the game. Monsters
of equal level have meaning. Usually battles are even and take time
to resolve. One lucky blow or one failed save does not doom the
PCs or monsters to a quick demise. When PCs are overpowered their
opponents are equally overpowered and this creates what I call a
10/1 scenario. Where both character and villain are 10 on attack
and 1 on defense. Any one luck event can completely turn the tables
on the PCs or make quick work of the monster. It is unbalancing.
Magic items can also do this in a campaign. Keeping a low magic
item campaign makes the game stay balanced and keeps the PCs hungry
for accomplishments. Seeing the 5th +3 sword at 6th level is a commodity
to be sold and exchange for that +4 sword in the shop window. Seeing
the 1st +1 sword at 6th level is a holy relic to be protected and
only used in times of great need vs evil.
Now I know there are many that just love power gaming and playing
super characters. They love the slaughter and mayhem of claiming
they killed a Balor at 8th level with their bare hands. My suggestions
to DMs and players is to give normalizing PCs a shot. Don't min
max your PCs just for the sake of it. DMs, create campaigns that
require skill sets to overcome obstacles not BAB. Keep the magic
items and gold low. Players should find the campaign more challenging
on an even 5/5 scale. DMs will enjoy themselves more because now
they can throw a mental challenge to the PCs without commiting incredible
monsters that in one good roll can destroy the party. This situation
creates players screaming foul and DMs claiming "I got lucky".
Also DMs won't be sour after a 2 hour preparation time only to have
their elaborate challenge destroyed in 2 rounds of a warrior sword.
As a DM nothing says you did a good job as watching player's combined
reactions of terror and relief after a good challenge is done.
For characters roll 2 sets of 6x 4d6 and keep the best results.
Players can't lower certain scores to make others higher.
Roll 1 set of 7x 4d6 and keep the best 6 results. Players can't
lower certain scores to make others higher.
Limit the magic item power level to +1 for every 5 levels the PCs
Limit permanent magic items to the PCs as to the square root of
their combined levels.
Non-permanent magic items to 1 or 2 per character. This includes
potions and scrolls.
Place enough gold in the campaign to allow characters to buy most,
but not all things they need. By this I mean armor, good weapons,
food, clothes, tools, lodging. Not magic items.
Makes potions and scrolls expensive. They are magical so why would
they be cheap.
Buying permanent magic items are out of the question. They are