In a perfect world, every PC would be roughly as capable as his fellows. However through unbalanced rules, player skill or GM interference sometimes a PC gets broken.
Broken characters are just better than their fellows. Whether they are good at avoiding damage, slaughtering enemies or their magic is neigh on impossible to resist, dealing with broken PCs can cause a GM real problems.
I’ve had this problem several times in my Borderland of Adventure campaign. I’ve learnt it’s imperative when dealing with a broken PC to remember the player is invested in that character. Be open and honest about why you believe the PC is broken. Work with instead of against the player to resolve the situation so that both of you are happy.
How Did the PC Get Broken?
There are three main ways a PC gets broken:
- Player Skill: The player is really good at eking every last bonus out of a PC’s build
- GM Interference: The GM gave the player a magic item or other advantage.
- Unbalanced Rules: The PC uses rules options that are broken.
Of course, sometimes it’s a combination of reasons. For example, a player skilled at optimising may use unbalanced rules which spawns a true monstrosity.
Dealing with the PC
But what’s a GM to do? Often it is not possible to challenge a broken PC without slaughtering the rest of the group. That’s clearly not ideal. In other instances, a GM may simply not have the time to repeatedly craft challenges specifically designed for the broken PC. There are three basic solutions to the problem of a broken PC:
- In-Game Penalties: If a PC is particularly bloodthirsty or infamous, NPCs may stop dealing with him (or charge him inflated prices for their services if he appears to be wealthy). In games that do not solely focus on combat, this can be a fun solution to the problem. Alternatively, if the PC carves out a reputation as a mightier than mighty hero NPCs may continually appear to challenge him. At first this might be a fun diversion for the player, but slowly increasing the frequency (and skill) of the NPCs will gradually ratchet up the pressure on the hero.
- Adjust the Character: The good news is a broken character can often be fixed. Unless the issue is something major like a class or race, often simply swapping out a feat, changing the build of a PC’s skills or removing certain powerful items is enough to bring the PC back into line with his fellows.
- Retire the Character: A GM should never force a player to retire his beloved character, but sometimes a player will decide it’s the best thing for the party and the campaign. If you go down this route, don’t penalise the player for his sacrifice. Start his new PC with the same wealth (minus any items that caused the problem in the first place) and XP as the old one.
Help Fellow GMs
Have you had to deal with a wildly unbalanced or broken PC? How did you go about it? Let us know in the comments below and help your fellow GMs run better games!