Too Much Of A Good Thing
So, your players have stormed the keep, invaded the corporate facility, invaded the lich’s tomb, or whatever lair their target resides in. They fight past all of the traps and henchmen their foe can throw at them. Finally, after struggling through (sometimes literal) hell, the prize is theirs. The day is theirs. Rewards await them, and they are rightfully earned. Now what? Now you, the Gamemaster are expected to shell out all of those wonderful prizes you have been promising them since the start of the adventure. The epic magical weapons, the gold, the titles, all of it. Now you are faced with a terrifying realization; these player characters have become much more powerful than you have expected. They get better gear, more powerful items, new toys galore, and now they are ready for more. What do you do now?
Well, you have a few options. Obviously, there is the art of the finale; telling your players that the game is over and it is time to make new characters. It works, admittedly, but this is the cheapest answer. What was the point of promising your characters all of that wonderful new stuff if you were never intending to let them use it? Sure, all campaigns come to an end at sometime, but if you are only using this as a way of not having to deal with strong player characters, then you are depriving your players the fun of high-level, high-powered play. Use this option at your own peril.
There is also the option of using the Metroid method, which is when you take away all of your characters’ new abilities and items before each major campaign. Again, this works, but like the above example, it can (and often will) frustrate your players. They work hard for all of those wonderful toys, after all, and if you are just going to take them all away from them, why give them out in the first place? Personally, I find this to be simply a case of having a lazy or very inexperienced Gamemaster. Sure, occasionally stripping your characters of some of their abilities can add challenge, but to do so completely every time they gain more power than you expected them to, it becomes a case of cheating them out of their own character’s earnings.
So what is the best answer? Simply put, the best solution is to do nothing. You allowed them to have these new gadgets and gizmos, now let them make use of them. Yes, this means more work for you, Mr. Gamemaster, but that comes with the job. Scale up. Go outside of your comfort zone. Sure, you can throw goblins and bandits at your players all day. Well, now try making them face a dragon, a demon, or something even more terrifying. Make them need their new abilities, titles, and gear. Make them feel like what came before was a precursor to what is coming next, because it is. That is how life works, after all, so why should it not be how the life of the game works too?
Powerful players can be very intimidating to a Gamemaster who is not prepared to offer an adequate challenge them, but do not let that discourage you from letting your players enjoy the fruits of all of their labors. Give them that freedom, let them feel like the epic heroes they seek to be. Trust me, itâ€™s worth it.
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