Scott Hardie | February 22, 2004
I need to voice some frustration. This is about a friend of mine who I enjoy having as a fellow gamer, so I don't want to speak ill about him, but he's increasingly becoming a munchkin in the group, and munchkins are problems.

For the uninitiated, the term refers to a power gamer. This player is typically interested in amassing as much combat proficiency as possible, and using it as often as possible. When the group gets into a fight with a trio of enemies that have 15 hit points each, the munchkin is the one unleashing five attacks of 100 damage each. (In a word: Overkill.) What makes a munchkin so frustrating is that it takes away from the other players the ability to be effective in battle. We may as well sit back and wait while they do everything for us, and that's no fun. The only way to get some action ourselves is to build our own characters up to such extreme levels, which makes the game imbalanced. (Many groups just expel their munchkins; we're not going to do that because we like the guy.)

For the past few months, our group has been preparing to embark on a new fantasy campaign. I put a great deal of planning into my character, fine-tuning his personality and writing out a lengthy backstory. I rarely play the warrior type, but I wanted to have one great combat advantage this time, so that I could still be involved in battle in some significant way. So, I designed my character to be able to inflict Massive Damage (it's a real attribute from the rulebook) at the maximum level. When he hits, he does a tremendous amount of damage. To balance this in the game, I designed several weaknesses to make sure he would not hit often: He never attacks on the first round, he cannot attack certain foes, he freezes up frequently and misses a round or two, et cetera. I'd still be uninvolved often in battle, but at least my overall contribution would be significant. I had designed this carefully, and gotten the GM's approval that it was all right. I was very much looking forward to playing this.

I should have remembered the munchkin in the group. When we officially designed our characters last night (stats on paper instead of concepts in mind), he gave his character Massive Damage at the maximum level as well, and he took Extra Attacks so he can inflict the damage repeatedly, and he has no combat disadvantages whatsoever. He took a whole lot of other powers as well (Flight, Invisibility, Teleport, Pocket Dimension), and those are just silly, and I have a feeling the GM may limit them. The player knew they were silly, but he had an overabundance of points to spend. I don't mind that other stuff. But I do mind that after I had very carefully crafted my character to make sure he balanced out his one big advantage in battle, here comes a character whose advantages exceed even my own and who is not balanced to compensate. It takes mine and sort of knocks it into the junk bin as a useless character. When you're trying to contribute to a group, and you're good at only one thing in particular, why bother when there's someone else who is great at it?

To make matters worse, the GM did the math and realized how much damage would be inflicted by us per battle (much more than needed), and imposed a cap on Massive Damage, halving its effectiveness. The one good thing I really wanted my character to have, got taken away from me because somebody else was abusing the numbers. (With his Extra Attacks, he could inflict that high damage multiple times each round. Why penalize both of us for that?) I know that my character was also very powerful, more so than the game should have had, but my combat limitations were not calculated into the math, and besides, didn't I get all of this approved before I put my pencil to the paper?

For months I'd been looking forward to this game with zeal, but after one night of it (and we barely even played), I'm not certain if it's going to be much fun after all. None of us was happy after the game last night, and we talked about it for a while; I voiced my issue with my character's main advantage being diminished, and the munchkin acknowledged that he was too powerful. It's up to the GM now to strike a balance for us. Am I wrong to want something (Massive Damage) that I would deny to another player (because he doesn't have disadvantages to "pay" for it)? The other player didn't break any rules, and yet his power level is so excessive that the game is rendered almost unplayable as it is. This group has a lot more planning to do.

Kris Weberg | February 22, 2004
How are the other players responding to this guy's munchkinism?

Alternately, perhaps the DM could be convinced to run a less battle-intensive campaign, though I realize that's more a case of avoiding the problem (and perhaps limiting everyone's EXP gains) rather than dealing with it.

How the guy get so many more points than the rest of you? Or did he just dump all his points into battle attributes?

Scott Hardie | February 23, 2004
We haven't really discussed it as a group, so I don't know what the others think about it. I'm reluctant to bring it up because I don't want to seem like we're ganging up on the guy, or talking about him behind his back (which is what I'm doing here I guess). We've all played with really intolerable munchkins before, and I've quit groups because of those, so we know this guy's not that bad. There's a difference between a player diminishing your fun and completely preventing your fun.

We all started with the same number of points. He got those superhero-like abilities by taking them all at level one. I don't think he wanted them; this GM is new to the system and gave us way too many points. (We started with 100 points each; the Weekly Curiosity characters are in the same system and started with 15 each, and they're quite the little powerhouses themselves.) The munchkin took his combat abilities first, then spent the excess of points on the super-abilities. I spent my excess of points on a minor reincarnation ability and higher stats, neither of which I need either. That's where I think the changes will come.

Matthew Preston | February 23, 2004
From the looks of things, it may be the system that needs work. Most munchkins I've come across can be handled by GM-NPC's or by creating situations where the uber-powerful are rendered common. The systems I've ran always had tasks or characters that were more powerful than any munchkin could acheive. Maybe you should be discussing making the game difficulty level higher, rather than limiting the character's ability. It may make the game more fun for all. (Just thoughts and suggestions, although I am not too familiar with the BESM system).

Scott Hardie | February 23, 2004
Could be. I generally prefer low-powered games with an emphasis on character personality and interaction, not battle (read: FIN). High-powered games turn into a competition: Player vs. player to develop the most badass PC possible, and players vs. GM whenever the dice come out. The characters don't get into combat, they get into all-out war.

Anna Gregoline | February 23, 2004
Can't say I can help with this, but I can say I love the word, "Munchkinism."

Denise Sawicki | February 23, 2004
I thought the thread was going to be about "The Littlest Groom" or some such thing

Anna Gregoline | February 23, 2004
I thought it was going to be about Dunkin' Donuts.

John E Gunter | February 24, 2004
Well, being the GM of the game, I feel I must comment as well. Yes, Scott is very right in that I gave the players way to many points. He's also right that this is the first time I'm using this system, so even with all my experience as a GM, I'm very much a novice with it.

Even though BESM uses the Tri-Stat system, this is dX, which is a little different than BESM. Not wanting to discuss the system mechanics, let me just say that dX was designed sometime after Silver Age Sentinels, which is a superhero game system.

I can see the superhero influence in the system, and the 100 points d8 system really doesn't work for a fantasy hero game. Maybe a fantasy superhero game, but that's not the campaign I'm looking for, at least not at the beginning.

Part of why I allowed the characters to have so many points was from comparing the dX system with other game systems that I have used in the past. The other reason was due to the costs of the racial packages that I created for the game. I wanted to make sure the players could buy a racial package and then have enough points to modify the character to what they wanted.

Boy was I mistaken to allow them to have anywhere near that many points! That's why I'm changing the game level severely, we're going to be playing a much more limited power level game, and I'm hoping this will change alot of what is available.

One of the other problems was I changed my mind about how I was going to handle certain things, which allowed the power level to get out of control. I have found no problem with playing high powered characters if it fits the campaign, but great care must be taken, or you get the kind of problems we had with the session.

One thing I've got to stress to you Scott, is that we are on a 3 game playtest as it were for the game. I'm hoping the players will stay with it as I tweek the game to get what I'm looking at, but realize that I have no problems with altering the power level to get what I'm looking at for the campaign.

Though I'm not completely sure I've fixed the issue with the power level at the moment, won't be completely sure until I see what you players do with your characters, but hopefully, I've managed to correct the problem. Also, though I hate being heavy handed with a munchkin character, I will deal with that issue if need be. Either through making sure the player in question is not interpreting the rules differently that I am or bending them in a way I don't want.

Not wanting to sound like I'm some kind of control freak GM, I very much want to maintain control of my game and have no problems doing what needs to be done to make it enjoyable to all players. We've had discussions before about what you guys are looking for in the game, and I'd like to think I've always done what's needed to give you what you want.

I also understand where you're coming from as far as your frustration, remember, I'm the GM and I want to make the game challenging for everyone, but not so unbalanced that the monsters that will take out the munchkin will be completely invincible to the other players. So hopefully, we'll get what we need with the new power level. If not, I'll just re-evaluate what we've got and change it from there.

John

Scott Hardie | February 24, 2004
Glad to hear it. A switch to a D8 system, 60 starting points, is just what we need.

We've had talks in the past about how dX/BESM separate the skill points from the main pool of points, with GURPS and other systems don't do. Presumably, the reason is to make players spend some of their points on skills, without spending too many. Why not create a separate pool of combat points for the same purpose? It would guarantee that everyone in the group had some combat power, without too much.


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