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Background

I run a Live Action Role-Playing game on a monthly basis (from March through November) for anywhere from 10-30 PCs (with 3 other Plot members and anywhere from 0-10 NPCs). The majority of these PCs do not take extreme efforts to increase their own power-levels. There are some methods in our game via which a character can do so:

  • Magic Items
  • Transforms (which only enhance you on higher statted modules)
  • Golems (which are expensive, last 5 days, convey their enhancements constantly, and cause you to immediately resurrect when you would otherwise have 6 minutes to be healed)
  • Curses of Transformation (these normally turn you into a "bad guy" as a side effect: an example would be a werewolf)
  • Infections (these normally turn you into a "bad guy" as a side effect, but you retain your own memories and skills)

One of the characters has chosen to take advantage of every available method to increase his own power: he is working for the bad guys (and has an infection), he has a transform, he has several magic items, and he casts a golem on himself every event.

I am generally satisfied with where the challenge level of the game is for him, and I am satisfied with where the challenge level of the game is for the other players. The issue arises when he and the other players are involved in combat together, as unless I have something very compelling distracting him, he is able to overcome challenges intended for other adventurers in a fraction of the time it would take them.

There is also the good chance that he, alone, could kill the entire town. When I try to present one big bad and multiple cronies, the other characters leave him to fight the big bad alone; when I presented several powerful monsters (that were statted for them) simultaneously they hid until he had taken all of them out.

Research and Other Attempts

Some other chapters that run the same LARP we do have instituted a rule that prevents you from having more than one "Alteration" in effect at a time. I considered that but received a significant amount of push-back from the affected player regarding the amount of time and effort he had invested in a particular play-style that would be negated by this change. The option that is currently on the table is to limit him to 1 Alteration in "Town," 2 Alterations on open modules, and an unlimited number of Alterations in closed modules. I also considered limiting him to 1/2/UNL active templates, and having weaker versions of the inactive templates.

That raises another issue. Should he be able to determine which Alteration is active at a given time, or should that order be chosen by us? Currently, you can't just step out of a golem, and they have the most significant disadvantage for him.

I have attempted to build encounters with multiple types of obstacles - some targeted at him and some targeted at other players. I have found that I am not very good at this.

Increasing the amount of role-play or tactical obstacles seems like the wrong approach, as he is in some cases, more capable than most of the rest of our players in those regards.

Question

What is the best, effective way to prevent a player's power from unduly affecting the fun and success of other players?

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Ok, first of all I'd like to say that making characters like this is one of the main reasons I role play, so I'll be trying to come at this from both sides where possible.

The first problem is the power divide.
The best way I've found of dealing with this is with making time the biggest problem.
Unless they have some way of manipulating time it is usually the most limited resource, as everything else can be gained given enough time.
If there is too much for him to handle then he will have to decide which things he wants to deal with personally and that will limit the occurrence of the problem situations of making combat encounters for everyone.

The next issue would be fame.
If he is so powerful then antagonists will start to hear about him and will start factoring him in when they plan.
You said he is taking advantage of an "Infection" in a way that it wasn't designed to be used.
A smart antagonist that knows a werewolf is coming to get him will hide during the full moon, or better yet, have wolfsbane.
Your antagonist can do interesting things like weakening, disabling, curing or more interestingly mutating your player.
This has the side benefit for a player that pays attention of showing that you are trying for them, catering to what they do so that they have a more interesting game.
The important thing is to not just surprise them with something permanently disabling as them they will just feel like they are being targeted.

If you must use rules then try to work out something works for both sides and is creative.
As you said, he's worked hard to get where he is, probably put a lot of time into a character that he really likes.
If you can, change the powerbase to something that works rather than just removing it from him. Also, do it with a story so that it doesn't break the immersion of your game.
For example have the players destroy an ancient artifact that was what was allowing all his powers to work together normally. As a side effect the powers, now in conflict within him, cause him to be luckier and so he gets a greater income or people become strangely attracted to him, causing him to have more helpers and influence in your area.

To directly answer the final question, either separate the objectives so that it is rare that he dominates and is ok when he does or create situations to bring him in line with others when it happens so that there is no divide.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 Welcome back! I remember your ungodly (literally... ::mutter::) powerful character from our larp. Good answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Feb 8 '12 at 4:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ I like the direction of this answer. I think I will try a combination of some of the suggestions here for this season and then move towards making him a properly defined enemy if that does not help. \$\endgroup\$ – corvec Feb 9 '12 at 2:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am unsure why the destruction of such an artifact could cause him to be luckier, though. Care to elaborate? \$\endgroup\$ – corvec Feb 9 '12 at 2:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's hard to say without knowing your setting but if you think of magic like a different form of science and the artifact is the thing keeping all those "Infections", curses, etc from reacting to each other, then when it is gone and they do react there is no telling what will come of it. \$\endgroup\$ – Reborne Feb 10 '12 at 4:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ The main thought though was to suggest being creative in using story to change rules and that power isn't all about combat. \$\endgroup\$ – Reborne Feb 10 '12 at 4:11
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Ask him nicely, make him an NPC/GM, and if those two things don't work, ask him to leave

This isn't an in-game problem. This is a player problem. The first approach is "I commend you on your ingenuity, but your current player is making the game less fun for everyone. Shall we work on a way of making him an NPC (that you can play on occasion) but statting up a more limited character for yourself?)

The way you work the "friendly approach" is you commend him on winning the game (quite literally) and then work with him to figure out how to bring the game back into balance.

Another option is to promote him to GM or BBEG or what have you. Again, congratulate him on winning, and, just like in vegas, say that "he's broken the bank." Then coop him into your game as someone who knows the rules so thoroughly as to be an excellent GM, rules-resource, and BBEG NPC.

If that doesn't work, ask him to leave. Fixing things "in game" doesn't solve the problem, and poison players just ruin the game for everyone.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Asking him to leave isn't an option as he is a Chapter Owner. He is not interested in a permanent Plot or NPC position, but I have considered making his character a local NPC. The main issue with making him an NPC is that NERO characters are able to travel to other chapters(which he does, frequently), and as an NPC (unless I pulled some shenanigans) he would lose that ability. \$\endgroup\$ – corvec Feb 8 '12 at 2:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ He has, however, been agreeable to certain types/degrees of nerfing - so long as it does not defeat the purpose of his character concept. \$\endgroup\$ – corvec Feb 8 '12 at 2:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah. Then yeah, asking him nicely and telling him that he "wins" is about it. And... basically asking him to reserve his OP character for when it goes visiting? Will need to ponder... I recommend editing that into your question. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Feb 8 '12 at 2:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's the main thing. Because of how we stat vs. how some other chapters stat (namely, they don't allow his Infection and they don't allow multiple Alterations), he is nowhere near as powerful in other places as he is at our chapter. That said, the reason he has the Infection is central to a major campaign plot, wherein he was, for a time, undercover among the PCs and leaking information to the bad guys. Now that he's no longer undercover, he is still leaking information to them. He just managed to convince the PCs that they're not bad guys. \$\endgroup\$ – corvec Feb 8 '12 at 2:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am thinking that I should force them back into a conflict state, as the "Infection" that he has was not intended to be used by a player in the way he is using it. Then, he would lose the benefit of the part of his template that is the most powerful in combination with others OR he would cement his status as a bad guy. In case it's not clear, I like to have in-game explanations for changes in the meta, even if those changes are negotiated on an out of game level. \$\endgroup\$ – corvec Feb 8 '12 at 2:25
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To take a piece from Reborne's answer.. On time.

One of the things mentioned in the 3.5 book "Heroes of Battle" is that it should never turn into a hack and slash melee. If the powerful fighter is up front basically shoveling aside huge swathes of goblins, then there's more that can be done. If one side has a tenth level fighter, than the other probably has a trio of ettins where the fighter would be more useful.

It seems to me the easiest implementation of this would be to design encounters to handle in two parts. One 'impossible' encounter for him to go after (like the anime character who takes out a whole battalion of enemies on his own) and another encounter that is time sensitive but far away. For instance, an army is rushing the town and at the same time the signal lights are up on the horizon, one detachment must stay and keep the town alive and the other must go and be reinforcements far away. Even though the party would be continually split up, it's how I've seen it done effectively.

Holding it to be a problem with the character designer itself is arguable, but in any system where you have any kind of rules you are bound to find synergy. I've broken a homebrew system before by capitalizing on one and the designer was not irritated, he was happy that I showed him where it needed fixing. 3.5 is nerfable with very few books and from what I've seen Pathfinder is also. It does take a lot of delving and research to find these loopholes and shouldn't be punishable, but I understand how much of a strain it can put onto a DM. Indeed, when I ask my friend who taught me 3.5 to help me playtest a monster, I specify in asking for a typical balanced party.

Such a character definitely breaks the bank so to speak, and has 'won the game.' I agree. This means they can be stretched thinner than the other players. Think of the anime "Berserk." When they had the main character with them, troops were much safer. This guy made the equivalent of Guts in the system provided.

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If you want to change anything, change the whole system

Answering this question (almost 5 years since it has been asked!) from my own LARP experience, you don't nerf one particular game-breaking player, you change the entire system or change nothing.

  1. This player invested a lot of effort in his current power, and will not like if you take it from him.
  2. Moreover, if you do, he will just be able to obtain it again -- or a similar thing. He is just the one who quickly accumulates power, and he will do it again and again.
  3. Even if you nerf him, there is still a hole in the balance. If one player did it, someone else it theoretically able to do the same or a similar thing again, which you, for sure, don't want.
  4. Players don't like it when the GM has a personal approach to anyone, be it favouring or creating more trouble for him. It feels especially unpleasant if the whole plot twists around one single player just beacause GM said so.

How does one change the system?

  1. Be honest. Tell everyone that there is a gap in the balance that needs to get closed, and that's the reason for you to make changes.

  2. Calculate every possible combination that makes sense and find the most overpowered "builds" if they exist. Also simply calculate what happens if a player obtains everything that is possible to obtain. Nerf things that are too powerful, make some of the most powerful things incompatible or limitedly compatible. For example, if you can be a vampire and a werewolf in your world, forbid to go both at the same time, or forbid using both powers at the same time (like it's done in World of Darkness).

In LARP in Russia the most typical powers a character may get are: - Health boost - Damage boost - Immunity to something

All of them are typically limited -- damage and HP are capped, and you typically can't defend from everything. For example, your HP cannot exceed 8, damage cannot exceed 3, and you can only become immune to firearms, but still vulnerable to melee damage.

  1. After you try to fix things yourself, invite some players (including this problem one) to test the new system and find all the possible combos of minmaxing, obtaining magic items etc. It's very possible that something you missed will be found out. If they find out something powerful that needs fixing, reward them.

  2. You may also want to make sure that both "sides" get roughly equal mechanical power -- so, for example, if he decides to rage out and go on a rampage, there is something to stop him.

However, you probably don't really need to change anything in mechanics

As said already by others, you could just make a challenge for the whole group by splitting it's attention. For example, there are 3 different groups of bad guys that need to be fought in 3 different places at the same time.

Or you may make encounters where his bonuses don't really make much sense. For example, make a challenge for players' real life agility or intelligence rather than in-game mechanics. After all, it's LARP, not tabletop, so use your advantages.

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