Ok, I get it. The GM has to suffer through players constantly picking on him, killing all his characters over and over again, so of course he's going to put up a fight.

Now for some context. We're playing Dark Heresy, and I'm playing a Crimson Guard, which is basically a tank with a giant axe. 75% of all attacks are negated, due to thick armour, and a high amount of wounds keeps him from needing healing as regularly as everyone else. On top of that, with high penetration weapons, half with abilities that effectively double their damage output, depending on the roll, he is definitely a formidable force.

The downside? The rest of the group are paying for it. While I have been spending experience on upgrading my combat ability (effectively "power levelling"), everyone else has been spreading their experience over their entire character (upgrading skills and stats, purchasing new ones etc), in the interest of role-playing, rather than just battle.

Additionally, the party level is still low, so their inability to use most equipment is seen as a disincentive. They might be able to do more damage with certain equipment, but they need to be able to hit the enemy first; so the choice to use equipment with lower damage, but a higher hit chance is chosen instead.

So when it comes to combat, the GM wants to at least have some fun, and not be creamed by one guy who immediately chops him in half. This means that the enemies need to be bigger and tougher than normal, just to have a chance to do some damage to me; but also means that the rest of the group have less of a chance of contributing.

An example of this was our last fight. The enemy had regeneration (had to "drain" power to regenerate), with a high armour value, and even higher damage output. I alone managed to survive the fight with only a few wounds remaining, while the rest of the group had burned 3 Fate Points, and used another 3 on re-rolls among them*, just to keep their characters alive. I was the only one who could deal enough damage to sufficiently wound it, while other's attacks were simply negated by the regen, or armour.

There really is an imbalance here, and I feel like while the problem might not be everyone's fault, everyone can definitely contribute to the solution.

I want to talk to the group about it, but we waste a lot of time when we discuss things, as everyone has their own opinion, so I'm just looking for some basic ideas on what each party can do to achieve less of a rift for me (the "tank"), the other players, and the GM.

*Fate points that are "used" are regained at the end of every session, whereas ones that are "burned" are lost forever. They are rare, and each player would never have more than a handful, so burning them is costly.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related, possible duplicate: What to do when your character is just too good? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 6:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie It has some insight, but the issue is the reverse. My "over-levelling" is making it harder, rather than easier, which the other question seems to be focussed on. If I change up my damage output, the enemies will either become glass cannons (just as much damage, with less health), or I won't be able to deal with the enemies at all (keep the enemies the same to do damage to me). \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 6:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Why don't the others have good weapon, too? If I remember it right you can requisition gear rather easily in dark heresy. My sage I played some time ago did not hit very often but when he hit he did damage. \$\endgroup\$
    – Umbranus
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 7:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related? : How to design combat for an overpowered character in a normal party? \$\endgroup\$
    – Sandalfoot
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 22:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ We have a lot of answers to this question and many of them aren't being well received. Please try to answer the specific question completely and to also back up your subjective comments per Good Subjective, Bad Subjective - things you have used or seen used for this exact issue. Also, don't just post an answer that's really just a duplicate of someone else's, vote them up instead. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 15:05

11 Answers 11


I only know the 1st edition of Dark Heresy but that is very prone to this problem. Armor and toughness reducing damage and the rest going to the few wounds many PCs have means you have a situation where one PC can shrug off an attack while the same attack can take out another PC.

On the other hand I had the same problem in a game of Shadowrun 3rd. I had a tanky PC who could shrug off direct hits by missile launchers while the rest were either skill monkeys or glass cannons.

I, on my part, see two options:

  1. You build another PC that is less focused on combat so there is less gap between you and the party
  2. The GM plays the bad guys in a manner that he has mooks target the party (why shoot at the tank who shrugs off the damage when you can take down his allies) while the big bads confront you.

In my case back then at least my PC did less than or equal damage as the others and was just VERY tough.

However you need to address this with the party and the GM. It would not help if you change your PC and the enemies stay the same.

Another point: When I played DH enemies often had force fields that had a chance of overloading on each hit. That gave every hit the chance to contribute because it could be the one shutting the force field down. And as long as the field was up most damage was negated. That made low damage weapons with a high rate of fire a good option for PCs who were not too much focused on combat. With a stronger second weapon for when the field was down.

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    \$\begingroup\$ #2 is effectively what I would have suggested. The GM should recognize this issue too (if he doesn't, you might need to bring it up outside the session) and create tailored scenarios where each character's archetype has an opportunity to contribute in their own way. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 7:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 Our Deathwatch GM shapes his encounters so that the two melee assault marines have a big bad to fight, and the rest of us have a couple of hordes (mooks, effectively) to deal with. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 14:17

Everybody else is not the problem, your character is: either they are geared to play in a fundamentally different game or they are massively over-powered for the game in question compared to the rest of the characters.

In the former, you seem to want to play a game where combat and min-max are the most important things. The other players and the GM clearly do not want to play that game. This is fine. Talk to them in a mature way and resolve this: make sure you blame no one, just look for a solution. Split the game? Get a new character? There are many ways to solve this: cue the same page tool to avoid these problems up front.

In the latter, your character is massively more powerful than the rest. This is not in and of itself a problem: what matters is that everyone gets equal screen-time. If that happens and the rest of the players do not care that combat is your affair, who cares? Is it actually a problem or just you perceiving it as one?

If your character really is too powerful, What to do when your character is just too good? is a good read to find out how to deal with it. You could bring some of those answers as solutions to your group.

If your group can easily go off topic: limit everyone's contribution: They get ten minutes to put their thoughts in order after you present the problem and get five to speak. You're done within a half hour, an hour max. If it goes over an hour, you cut it short and ask the GM for a ruling.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This. The question presents this as being a problem solely with the GM. It isn't, its a problem mostly with the PC with a solution that may or may not involve talking to the GM and other players \$\endgroup\$
    – Wibbs
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 9:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Wibbs, I was not trying to present it that way. If anything, I saw it as a problem with me, just as much as the GM. My character is not overly involved in general rp very much, just due to the type of character he is. He requires specifc situations to be involved to any real extent. Additionally, the games are played on weeknights, and after a long day I have trouble keeping focus during the RP, so battle is the only real part that grabs my focus properly; hence my focus on levelling my character in that manner. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 11:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, I did read the linked question (was linked as a possible dupe), but the issue is the reverse. The game we're playing is levelled to my PC's combat ability, making it a challenge for me, yet nigh impossible for the other players. The question is good, and the answers have some good insight, yet if I reduced my damage output, the enemies would still have the same damage output (my character has integrated armor, which cannog be removed) and if the GM lowered the enemies armor, we would be dealing with nothing but glass cannons. It's a bit of a tricky situation. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 11:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ben Both your comments reinforce the validity of my answer. If only combat grabs you whereas the rest of the player want RP, you and them want a different game. If the GM has to chose between an over powered character and normal characters, your character is at fault for being over-powered. None of this is hard to fix neither is it a thing you should feel bad about. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 12:42

While I haven't played Dark Heresy, this is a very common problem in superhero games (which I do have extensive experience with); Player 1 creates Black Widow and Player 2 creates the Hulk. Any opponent that would challenge the Hulk would smear Black Widow on the sidewalk, making combat balance a nightmare. (There have been attempts in recent years to create supers systems that rectify this, to varying levels of success, but it's still a problem if you allow any kind of flexibility in power selection.)

You keep referring to "the enemy" in your question, which leads me to believe that your GM is doing the extremely common "one bad guy with maybe a few minions" approach to combat, which is extremely hard to balance for precisely the reason above. I've found several methods to be very effective in dealing with this situation.

1. More enemies

Your tank is a killing machine, but he's only one man. Unless his axe is capable of splatting "seven in one blow", he can only murder one (or a small number of) opponent(s) a round - which means that a horde of fifty goblins (or any weak creature that isn't much of a threat to any one of the other party members by themselves) is still a danger to the group as a whole. This allows the other players to contribute by killing enemies as easily as your tank, as well as letting them get into combat with enemies that won't gut them where they stand. (see: the end of the first Avengers movie where the Hulk, Thor, Widow, and Hawkeye are all equally rampaging through the Chitauri mooks.) Sure, your tank may be pretty much invulnerable to these guys, but the failure state of every combat need not be "dead party".

2. More variety of enemies

The "Big Bad with his Mooks" concept fixes the problem in general, but it's not fun. Every fight becomes "the tank gets all the glory of whomping the bad guy while we're stuck on cleanup duty." This can be solved by not having the Big Bad be the only interesting opponent. Again, referencing the Avengers, the Hulk and Thor got to go up against the big flying alien creatures, which were huge and impressive and fun to stomp on but ultimately still just cannon fodder. A variety of opponents of varying skill/power levels allows not only for everyone to have an interesting battle (especially if, as mentioned above, there's enough for everyone), but naturally allows for interesting tactics as the players must figure out how to divide up their skills to effectively go after the enemy. In my old Star Wars game, for example, if one of the bad guys ignited a lightsaber the players would nod to the Jedi in the party and say, "You got this."

Which brings me to...

3. More varied combat goals

Do you remember how, at the end of The Phantom Menace the Jedi fought Darth Maul while Anakin flew against the Federation ship and Amidala led her royal guard to capture the palace while the Gungans fought in the field? This was in part to allow each character to shine in their individual roles (well, except Jar Jar), but also because the goal of the end battle required multiple conditions to be met in order to succeed. Structuring big combats in a way where the end goal isn't simply "thump the villain" goes a long way towards not only making your encounters more interesting, but also allows the GM to balance the challenges for the party in such a way that choosing the right man for each part of the job (as well as the job itself) becomes part of the strategy, and fun. Maybe your tank can hold off the rampaging Destruction Engine while the skill monkey hacks into the mainframe and the diplomancer leads all of the cannon fod- I mean, NPC allies to victory. If planned right it doesn't even require splitting the party, which is usually why such things aren't done. It's a challenge, but I've found players love these kinds of scenarios and find them very rewarding. Also, this usually means that (as I said at the end of Point 1) you're working toward some goal other than simply splatting the bad guy, which allows you to lose the fight without anyone being killed. Every encounter need not be a "win or die" scenario; sure, you didn't take any damage, but you also didn't stop the horde of goblins from kidnapping the princess because five of them snuck away while the other forty of them were suiciding against your awesomeness.

4. Two-pronged attacks

Are there ways for an enemy to be defeated other than being pounded to death? The Hulk may have gone toe to toe with the Abomination, but the Wasp flew into Bommy's ear and effectively bypassed his armor. If the GM comes up with alternate methods for players to affect the combat other than "deal damage/avoid damage", it gives added strategic elements to an encounter (coming up with said alternate methods), and rewards players for thinking outside the box. (This could also be used against you; is there a way for the GM to vary the attacks of the bad guys such that they can bypass your armor such that you're brought down to the same level as your allies? I wouldn't recommend doing this every combat, but shaking it up once in a while would be useful.)

Finally, there's no real reason why you can't simply acknowledge that your dude is better at fighting than the rest of the party, and simply go with it. Are you the best hacker? No, Player Two is. So when there's a computer, do you hack it? No, he does. Subsequently, when there's a Killbot rampaging, does he attack it? No, you do. Different roles.

In closing, I don't think anyone's at fault, and you don't need to cripple your character or do away with him because he's good at things the rest of the group isn't. It's the GM's responsibility to come up with challenges that don't all devolve into "pile on the bad guy until he's dead". Providing a variety of enemies, goals, and methods to win a battle will ensure that everyone has something to do as well as keeping combat fresh in the long run.


The underlying problem here is that, despite using the same rule set and sitting at the same table, you and your GM are playing a different game from the other players. You're maximizing combat, the GM is compensating for that, and the other players, well, aren't (they're spending their experience on RP abilities).

This needs to be resolved, or the game quits being fun for at least some of the group, and eventually, there'll be no group. One way to do that is to Google the "same page tool" to make sure everyone in the group is expecting the same from the game. It may be that you need to "be awesome" in different ways, rather than aiming strictly for combat.


Umbranus' suggestion that the GM roleplay the enemies differently to match the party better is a good one, but there's also a way that you could change the way you roleplay your character to try to resolve the problem.

Perhaps your character is a combat-focused tank because he wants to protect his friends. After that last fight where everyone survived but only by the slimmest of margins, perhaps your character should come to the realization that he can't actually protect them. Escalating only leads to more dire circumstances, and so the only way left to him is to avoid combat entirely, and get the rest of the group to do the same.


Because you optimized, you are comparatively the only combat-capable character in the group.

If your game is about combat, this will suck for most of the characters. If it isn't about combat, then it could suck for you.

You are built to have a near-veto on combat. Now, only near. Imagine if instead of fighting a single big bad, you where fighting dozens of mooks.

Your blows kill the mooks. But you can only swing so many times per round. Some of the mooks attack you -- these attacks bounce. Others attack your allies.

The combat game now becomes "how do you protect your allies". Enemy mooks will try to avoid you and go after your allies.

Your allies shots will also kill a mook each. So basically offensively you have leveled out.

If the combat has things to do that are not "shoot the enemy", your allies become key. Suppose there is a door to unlock, an NPC to keep calm, or a vehicle to drive.

Now, you can sometimes throw a big bad at the party. But the right thing to do is for you to occupy the big bad while they do something else useful in real time.

Make it so that there is too much for one combat-god to do at once, and the other characters are no longer going to feel bored or useless. Especially if they are tasks that your combat-god is incompetent at.

You can also do this serially instead of in parallel. So long as combat doesn't take too long. The DM can let your combat-god win fights quickly (when present), instead of making long drawn-out fights. Much like the social "face" character can convince people quickly, or the thief can defeat the security system.

Treat your character as having a combat veto -- the ability to veto combat based threats.

Note that it isn't a complete veto. There could be some creature that is so dangerous that it will even drop you. This should be telegraphed by your DM, to discourage you from engaging it (at least until ready). For example, fighting an army single handed is probably beyond you.

Not all problems can be solved by violence. By presenting problems that cannot be solved by violence, the other PCs get spotlight. By having some problems that you solve by violence, you get spotlight.

Do be careful that you don't start using violence as your solution to every problem. "Priest won't tell you where the chalice is? Violence!" Players (as a party and individual) have the power to reduce games to a bloodbath, where the GM either just plays a bloodbath or summarially kills your PCs. Don't use "my guy" syndrome to force violence where it isn't appropriate.


Your team composition reminds me of the 3-4 defense in American football. In it, 3 larger defensive linemen "occupy space" and the offensive line, allowing the 4 linebackers to roam freely and make more plays in space -- and the largest and most space-eating of the linemen is the nose tackle in the middle. That is your character -- able to occupy the opposition in combat, draw attention to his presence, and force people to not ignore him lest they get killed.

What this means for your team is that with you dealing with the bulk of the combat, they have an easier time going off and getting other objectives done -- but so far, your GM hasn't created other objectives. If he wants to keep everyone engaged, he needs to do so. Perhaps there are material assets to capture or destroy. Maybe a hostage needs to be rescued or an outlaw captured. Or, there's some system that needs to be hacked into or otherwise manipulated. Someone might even have to sneak into or out of somewhere. Any of these will give the rest of the party things to do while you're busy mowing down mooks and being a hassle for the opposition in combat.


If you get in a stand-up close-range fight, of course the tank takes the lead. That's why your party has a tank. Other party members should be looking at ranged weapons, magical/psi attacks, healing, or whatever else they can contribute. Or simply running and hiding until the dust settles.

Conversely, when it comes to trap detection then your tank is just going to lumber into every bear pit going. Then your rogue-type characters take the lead.

Your character is not the problem. The problem is that the other players want to play non-tank classes as if they were tanks. The result is predictable: they get creamed every time. Until they learn that staying out of close-quarters combat is the way to play their characters, they'll keep getting creamed.

Of course, if the DM is constantly setting up scenarios in which only tanks are relevant then you may need to have a word with him. It's hard to see how this is the only way forward though. Assuming we're both thinking the same thing, Dark Heresy is based on Warhammer 40K. Given enough distance to take the shot, a Guardsman with a lascannon is odds-on to nail pretty much anything short of a Greater Daemon or armoured vehicle.

Assuming they've been boosting their shooting skills in a reasonable way, of course. If they've upped their other skills but not improved that, they should expect to get nailed in combat. That's the trade-off they've made in using their XP, and they have to take the consequences. Or maybe they've not upgraded their weaponry, in which case the same applies. You run what you brung, and the lesson of the burnt Fate Points should be that you can only roleplay if your characters are still alive after the fight.

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    \$\begingroup\$ " The problem is that the other players want to play non-tank classes as if they were tanks." It really does not sound as if that's what they do. In a firefight you can choose at whom you want to shoot. There is no shoot-me-button for the tank to use. \$\endgroup\$
    – Umbranus
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 13:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ If your tank can charge and engage the boss, that's the "shoot-me-button". Meantime your teammates should be using cover, picking off any supporting enemies, and maybe rolling against their skills to fire into the melee and hit the boss not the tank. \$\endgroup\$
    – Graham
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 16:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Very few games have an aggro mechanic like MMOs. Tank as a combat role is generally not viable unless the GM plays the NPCs to make it viable. In most RPGs a "tank" is high toughness and high damage - he has no ability to control the fight. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 22:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @T.J.L. Depends on the game. Some rulesets need a roll to engage someone other than the most immediate threat. This makes total sense - faced with a charging 7-foot-tall power-armoured bloke with a huge axe a few feet away, most people won't stay cool and snipe the guy 20m behind them. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Graham
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 11:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Graham DH has no such rules in an encounter. The players attack whomever they wish, and so do the enemies. The GM controls that, and for the most part he does play fair, but sometimes it doesn't always go straightforward. There are situations where another player will just be unlucky enough to grab the wrong person's attention. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 11:54

Being the DM/GM generally means your minions get "killed lots" -- I wouldn't worry too much about that fact. What makes the game enjoyable for some players is the feeling of risk in combat, for others it is roleplay. Finding the right balance for the party as a whole is a non-trivial exercise -- but some scenarios could favor one side or the other.

It's not the player's character that is the problem, I think it's an issue for the GM. If the gaming world really is contiguous, then any adventurer or party of adventurers in that world should be able to develop a reputation.

Are you or the party known as bada$$? Well, the bad guys have brains too. The lesser bad guys are going to avoid combat if the numbers aren't in their favor. That's just common sense. And the ones who are spoiling for a fight are going to come loaded for bear. In your case, probably one particular bear, and have planned tactics to mitigate him in an encounter. With the ubertank down, or perhaps just debilitated, then the rest of the party might not be perceived as an unreasonable threat. Smart opponents might try to lure the party into tricks, traps, or tight spaces to mitigate the heavy armor and that giant axe. Or just plain "get the big guy off his feet".

Battles with NPC look-alikes (similar party, classes and/or abilities) are a great equalizer, and can lead to some of the most interesting and exciting encounters.


Pardon my ignorance, but why doesn't the rest of the party just hide during fights? If I were a navigator on a ship and there was an active fire fight, I would stay far away.

It makes narrative sense and it makes strategic sense. Maybe they can prepare by rigging up traps out of combat to stay involved, or follow via a video feed. There's nothing wrong with shifting the focus to just your character during a tense fight, though.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't see how this would be productive. It would become boring for all the other players to just wait around while they sit and hide, and I deal with the fight. They might as well go and do something else. Additionally, while they might be "under levelled" for these encounters, they can still contribute, providing the roll well enough. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 0:45

Here it is worth considering the role of a tank. Typically their primary role is to focus the attention of the enemy on them so that they take the majority of attacks rather than the rest of the party who can then focus on dealing damage, healing or other utility roles.

Clearly there are two important aspects to this the first is to be able to control the enemy so that they do not attack the rest of the party and instead focus on the tank the second is be able to take, mitigate or avoid the damage that they then dish out.

There may also be other useful secondary abilities related to immobilising, 'reeling in' or otherwise limiting the mobility or offensive options of the enemy(s) or pulling mobs of other party members.

Often the general rule is that the primary responsibility of the tank is to protect the healer at all costs and the rest of the party take responsibility for managing their own threat levels.

Generally doing damage, in itself is a very low priority for a tank, although this may be related to keeping threat on themselves many systems have specific tank-geared abilities which cause high threat but low damage.

Having said that, because tanking is a very specialist skill, its not unusual for tanks to be a bit more focused on gear and optimisation than other characters (not least because it carries quite a lot of responsibility and tends to be the first person blamed if something goes wrong).

Equally a tank needs lot of situational awareness as that have to monitor potential threats to other players and keep track of all of the enemy in fight as well as understanding the behaviour and abilities of enemies.

So being a tank is not just about being the biggest and strongest fighter on the board you also need to be able to take responsibility for managing the fight and also making sure that other players understand what you can and can't do and how to operate most effectively as part of a team.

Exactly how this works will depend on the system you are playing but it generally involve shaving a coordinated general plan for dealing with fights considering aspects such as

  • which enemy will be focused on and in what order
  • what abilities players should use in specific contexts
  • making sure other players understand the mechanics of threat and healing
  • having players make use of utility and crowd control abilities to assist in controlling the fight rather than just focusing on damage output.

In an ideal tanked fight the enemy will only hit the tank, the healer will only heal the tank and the rest of the party will kill the enemy without it ever really noticing them.

Thus a fight will normally go like this

1) Tank engages primary targets 2) any secondary targets are either collected by the tank or immobilized by other party members and then left alone 3) healer begins healing tank 4) tank builds threat on primary target 5) rest of party begin attacking primary target 6) only once primary target is eliminated secondary targets are mopped up. 7) for more complex fights you may need to cycle through this several times or indeed there may be particular hoops you need to jump through.

This also means that all party members need to be aware to the priority of specific targets and, in general, should only attack ones that the tank is focused on, unless they are able to take them out one on one. Equally great care should be taken when using AoE or indiscriminate abilities, especially early in the fight.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this answer has misunderstood the question. “Tanking” is a very specialised skill, for a very specialised game concept that this question is not talking about. The question is not describing a character that is trying to fill the “Tank role”, the character is literally extremely heavily-armored and just looks like a tank (as in the armored mobile vehicle) metaphorically. See an image. This answer also seems to be unfamiliar with Dark Heresy, referring to things like “the healer”. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 21:05

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