Gaming My Way

04 Sep

The Allure of High Powered Epic Games

My friends know I love to run high powered games, and if you’ve been reading for awhile, it’s likely you’ve picked up on this too. So now the question is, what’s so appealing about these games, and what draws me back to them?

There are three main things I like about high powered games.

1) I like seeing the players succeed, and more options and power makes them more likely to do so.

This is a double edged sword, as it’s also important to provide appropriate challenge to the players if they’re going to feel like they’ve accomplished something. However, having options is always fun, and being more powerful tends to give you more options in many rpgs. Furthermore, if they have more options, I can give my villains more options, which means I can bring the campaign in many more directions, which is more fun for me, as well as players who enjoy dragging a campaign in their own direction.

2) My introduction to fantasy and D&D, not counting the Lord of the Rings, were Dragonlance and the Forgotten Realms.

Both of these series have stories involving heroes (and villains) who are willing to stand up to the gods themselves in order to protect what they believe in. Not to mention the dragons, armies, and other such threats a small band of adventurers encounter along the way. And these are almost always the stories that stand out to me, as long as the characters are portrayed well and I can relate to them. Of course, there are many other brilliant tales out there, but I have a soft spot for the stories I started out on, and they color my campaigns quite a bit. These stories got me interested on things happening on a grand scale, and so my vision when I start creating worlds tends to take on a similar scope.

3) It’s a challenge.

As I alluded to in point one, giving the players too much power can in fact make the game too easy. Furthermore, there are other challenges to worry about, such as pacing and keeping the game moving. In regards to keeping the game challenging for the players, it’s really a matter of experimentation, and it’s fun to find what works and what doesn’t, then to refine my technique. Finding ways to mix it up with one powerful enemy as opposed to multiple weaker enemies is also interesting, and at higher levels can be challenging since players have so many options and can keep going for a good long while. This challenge is mentally stimulating, and keeps me more heavily involved in the game.

The challenge of pacing is one I’m still working on in my high powered games. I’ve actually made combat an infrequent occurrence (unless the PCs actively pursue it) in favor of more roleplaying encounters. I almost never use random encounters, because the fact is, high level combat is slow out of game, and can sometimes take an entire session (4-6 hours for my group) for a difficult series of encounters. Easy encounters usually just aren’t worth mentioning to the party in most high level games, as they mow it down in about a round. So now, one of major challenges is to find a way to speed up combat in games with powerful characters. After that, I’ll need to learn how to set the bar even higher so I can run games of power that people so far claim it isn’t possible to do effectively. So far, I agree, but I intend to find a way to make it work eventually. Also, finding a way to fit in random encounters in a way that doesn’t seem arbitrary will be another good step to take after that.

Out of combat, having powerful characters can actually be a boon for pacing. With powerful characters, players are more likely to just do what they want, and worry about the consequences later. This means they make decisions more quickly, and we get back to playing rather than have everyone debate the best course of action.

So those are my thoughts at the moment on what makes a high powered game fun. Let me know if you have your own ideas on this… and yes, I recognize that there are other ways to play, and do enjoy experimenting with those as well.

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