Welcome back to my entropic cosm of terror where we pierce the veil of this illusion of benevolence and accommodation that's the current trend in RPGs and put the MASTER back into Game Master. Being a GM is akin to being a Greek God, the players being the mortals subject to your whims and cruelty. If you are a player reading this blog, check your sanity at the door as you discover that you are but mere puppets dancing to the mad tune of your GM.
This week I'd like to shine the light on the topic of asymmetric challenges. What happens when you get one or two min-maxers at your table is a topic of some concern for many GMs. This is because the twinkers often super-optimise their characters to be combat fiends dwarfing the non-optimisers like a boot to an ant. Oblivious or just unconcerned with the disruption they cause to the balance of encounters for their group, these players are a cancer to long-running campaigns. If you were a bleeding heart GM, you'd try and rehabilitate these players. But that's not why you're here. Time to drop some divine retribution on their munchkin souls and deliver them screaming into the consuming maw that is your black heart.
To edify, many run-of-the-mill RPG encounters are written as straightforward “beat X monster” or “solve Y puzzle/mystery” and the more rare “deal with Z social situation.” Players are given these challenges for their characters and they just straight-up attack them head on. This is okay albeit incredibly boring for the savvy GM, but min-maxers eat this kind of stuff for breakfast and crap the half-digested excrement of the challenge onto the rest of the party. In order to both alleviate tedium of staid encounter archetypes and to wreck a munchkin's day, God Mode GMs use encounters that are horribly unbalanced on the surface (hence asymmetric). The more unfair the challenge is to a straightforward approach the better. Seriously, you're not GMing to just hand players easy victory and mad lewt. If you are, you're reading the wrong blog.
Now if you just made stuff straight up unfair, then you're really wrecking all of your players instead of just the obstinate few whom you desire to crush. No, the key to accomplishing the objective is to make the headlong tackling of the encounter punish the optimisers by rendering their twinked out abilities futile in the face of opposition. However, you also create some unconventional paths to success that play to the things the other more reasonable players have done with their characters. Who knew that the uncompromising delegations from the two warring nations at the peace summit both share a love of nihilistic haiku. Good thing your RP-focused player's warrior-poet happens to have skill at clever wordplay and mad rhymes. While they normally would not be able to reach an accord, their shared appreciation of the RP PC's Nietzschean verses have brought them to common ground. Stick it to the power-gamer while rewarding balanced and characterful PCs. Story win.
With that, I must bring this installment to a close. Would you like to see this expanded upon in future weeks? What other areas of Games Mastering would you like tips on? Questions? Compliments? Non-sequitur megalomania? Leave it in the comments below!