Dealing With High Level Characters

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0824

My Demonplague campaign has been on hiatus over the summer. I’ve now resumed prepping Season III and am giving thought to how I’ll challenge the PCs, who are now at level 10.

Here’s three ideas on how I can challenge the Hobos that might work in your campaign too.

Add More NPCs

High level is where poor campaign development bites you in glutes. If the PCs have not forged a relationship with the milieu, they’ll have little emotional connection to the thing you introduce that’s bigger than themselves.

Fortunately, it’s never too late to add NPCs. As the PCs will be more powerful than 99% of the population, there should be plenty of opportunities for players to become protectors, heroes, and problem solvers.

I don’t know about you, but targeting friends and family is old news with my group. So I want NPCs whose game value becomes based on respect, resources, and roleplay. This will require nurturing. Players need time to get to know and trust or value NPCs.

So start adding at least one interesting new recurring NPC every game session.

Have Foes Gather Information

What edge could foes get with the right information, and how could foes come by that information?

As characters bolster weaknesses and gain amazing abilities, foes must become smarter. Attacks and counterattacks must become more precise to have effect.

Therefore, foes need to learn what devastating attacks the PCs have so they can plan mitigations.

Foes also need to learn PC weaknesses so they can plot effectively.

The best attacks come from understanding party habits. Where have the characters become lazy? What assumptions have they begun to make? What paranoias have they developed? Discover their blind spots.

I enjoy musing how certain foes would go about gathering information on the PCs. Different foes would use different tactics. These details translate well into Loopy Plans, world details, and encounter hooks.

Aim To Weaken

We’re after tension now. Losing a character who’s come so far really sucks. Depending on your game system, killing a PC takes quite a lot of force, and bringing such force to bear often breaks disbelief after awhile.

However, if a PC becomes a bit vulnerable, the player gets a thrill. Death not required.

And the best vulnerability is one that surprises the player.

Ask for copies of all character sheets. Look for the low saves, the undefended energy types, the personality flaws.

Also look at prized possessions you can steal or mar, curses you can lay that foil a player’s pride, and roleplaying situations that weaken the character’s confidence.

What Do You Do to Challenge High-Level Characters?

Your game’s stakes have to be bigger than the fighter’s 200 hit points.

You can hit the PCs in their character sheets. But I think the best approach is to hit them in their milieu. How about you? How do you effectively challenge high-level characters?