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One of the players in my game is the most fervent powergamer I've ever met. I know it's how he gets enjoyment from the game, and so far it doesn't intrude on the other players' enjoyment, so I've allowed it for the most part. Unless the loophole he finds is either explicitly disallowed, or would seriously break the game (either mechanically or thematically), I've let him use loopholes and combos to his heart's content.

However, whenever he makes a new character (especially a combat monster), it's difficult to plan around as the GM. I know that I could hard counter any of his characters by making an enemy or an encounter specifically designed around his current character, but that would be pretty noticeable and would take away from his enjoyment of the game without adding anything else.

So how can I provide a challenge to my powergamer or otherwise upset his expectations without taking away his enjoyment of the game or designing something specifically to counter him?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is hardly an answer but the DM guide has some excellent insight on the kinds of gamers and the experiences you should give them to keep them engaged. Its one of the first chapters. Id check that out if I were you. Anyone is welcome to reference this too \$\endgroup\$ – Nemenia Apr 12 '16 at 0:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nemenia This is a system-agnostic question - where do I get a DM guide that covers every system? \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Apr 12 '16 at 0:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you confirmed that he wants to be challenged? Being challenged by an equal may not actually be what the player wants—another possible motive is to dominate in the chosen domain(s). (Compare fiero and agon metagame rewards, and check out ludus meanwhile.) If you assume that equal challenge is wanted before confirming his idea of fun with him, you may get good challenge advice, but end up ruining his fun. Can you confirm that? Or if you already have, add it to your question? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 12 '16 at 0:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ This isn't really a system-agnostic question - many systems have specific methods for dealing with this problem, and in an even larger number this question simply makes no sense. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Apr 12 '16 at 0:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to rpg.se! This looks a lot like How to Handle a Powergamer / Munchkin, which got closed for being far too broad to usefully answer. Editing your question to include the kinds of details SevenSidedDie is asking for, and what solutions you've already tried, would help us provide answers that are actionably useful for your particular situation. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Apr 12 '16 at 1:10
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A highly optimised character is, almost by definition, highly optimised for one thing only and sub-optimal for everything else.

If this is a character optimised for melee combat then make sure your game includes this, ranged combat, social interaction, puzzle solving and exploration in equal parts. Your power gamer gets his time to shine but falls into the background in the other areas; allowing everyone else their moment too.

As you say, deliberately targeting his weaknesses would be despicable, nasty and mean-spirited on the part of a game master. However, you have villains in you game, right? Villains are allowed to be despicable, nasty and mean-spirited; that's sort of what makes them a villain. A recurring villain who has suffered at the hands of the party would naturally gather intelligence about their modus operandi and take steps to target each party member's weaknesses and mitigate their strengths before returning for revenge

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Let him glory in it! Just plan a few steps ahead, so it gets challenging after he's gotten to enjoy using his toys. Plan to let the PC have his glory, yet face even more or greater challenges. Instead of foiling his plans, plan for the things he's enjoying figuring how to make powerful, work and succeed in ways that will be fun and satisfying for him, but plan for what happens after that, and/or have challenges that are tests of just how far his powerful designs can go. That way he has fun, and yet you remain prepared and having interesting content.

This is a pretty common wish, as it goes hand in hand with much heroic action fiction and computer games, where the main theme is often that the main character is super skilled and beats the crap out of lots of people. If you want ideas or inspiration, check out such action films and games. (e.g. James Bond theme: "Nobody does it better, makes me feel bad for the rest..." which brings us to the next point...)

And, of course, try to do the same for the other players. Figure out what they want, how it's different from what the power gamer wants, and have content to keep them interested too.

Pitfalls can come up when his loopholes actually break the system or are bad rulings, and when other players also want to be powerful fighters, but don't know the tricks and so they have to be not nearly as powerful.

One thing that may work for the second issue, is to see if the power gamer likes it so much that he's willing to share and conspire with his ally players to make their players also have "cool" optimizations and tricks.

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