Power Gaming. Ever Wonder Why?

Everyone has run into one of these fine folks if you’ve been gaming long enough. Maxed out stats, homebrew half ogre race, bristling with magical firepower and self-healing.


I think we all have that one friend in our gaming group that seems to insist on his character constantly being the biggest, the baddest, and the mostest.

Something one of my kids tried to do made me think back to my high school gaming group. I had a friend who was constantly playing a half-ogre fighter assassin. His characters were always looking for that Vorpal Blade, +6 Holy Avenger or some other ridiculously overpowered weapon that would make his character the biggest thing ever.

Who wouldn’t want an intelligent Sword of Sharpness capable of throwing fireballs? Then psionics became a big thing which was quickly followed by psionics being forever banned from our game. (On the up side, there was an entire category of monsters that disappeared.) Who wouldn’t want a character that literally doesn’t need the rest of the party?

We’ll call those days “learning experiences.”

The same thing happened in college. I’d like to think I handled it slightly better back then. I had a guy that insisted on playing none other than his homebrew half ogre variant. He had to have a +3 Intelligent Flameblade or whatever other janky cool magic item came up. The incident with the cursed Girdle of Giant Strength was pretty epic, though.

Fast forward another decade and I became a big fan of crafting my own magic items. I’ve kind of gotten into the habit of saying “No,” to my players when it comes to certain things. Not everything I create for the game is meticulously balanced, but the powerful stuff usually comes with a price, aside from acquiring the item itself. I’m also super fussy about homebrew and third party material.

Homebrew and third party stuff is usually pretty cool, but not always the best fit at everyone’s table.

I imagine there is a gaming group somewhere that the GM or DM allows pretty much everything and anything regardless of the chaos that follows. Personally, it’s not my jam. I’ve started looking over character sheets a little closer. Too many 18’s and we’ll be rerolling in front of the group. Homebrew race that doesn’t line up with any pre-existing races? Nope. I design most of the really cool items from scratch to fit in closer to the characters now.

I’m not saying the archetypical power gamer isn’t welcome at my table. Yeah, cool. Go ahead. But we’re going to reign it in some. Or there’s a price to be paid in cursed, haunted, terrible, evil items. Or there’s a possibility the character might step over the line by doing something silly like summoning a Balor and then the character becomes DM property for use as a BBEG.

I think it’s also about player maturity.

I can’t speak for every player in every group. I think the older one gets, and the more gaming experience one gains, the less likely they are to want to have some massive stat monster of a character bristling with shiny magical firepower. I try to encourage more group play.

I want every character to have one or two deficiencies in their character. The drawbacks are what make characters interesting. Every class has one built in weak spot whether it’s healing, magic, or strength of arms. Is it really that much more fun to not need the party?

Hope your day is going smoothly. I appreciate your being here. Please, stay safe. See you again soon.

Author: Jeff Craigmile

I'm a tabletop role-playing game writer and designer from Des Moines, Iowa always looking for more work. I'm the father of four boys and human to three cats.

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