Problematic Powers
June 3, 2014

Problematic Powers

There are various abilities found in tabletop role-playing games that will often cause a Gamemaster more than a few headaches. These abilities can often turn what would be a challenging encounter into something that can just be breezed through or, if not given consideration, could derail entire campaigns. This is not meant to be a list of things you should ban from your game, but merely a few character abilities you need to keep in mind if any of the player characters manage to acquire them.

So, with that said, I present what I find to be the top five problematic powers in gaming.

5) Summoning

The ability to call upon otherworldly creatures to do your bidding may seem like an odd choice for this list as the summoner is a classic mystic archetype, but it is on here because in many games it tends to be hard to manage. In essence, what this power does is give one player several turns in which they get to act as well as – in some cases – gives one player many different characters, turning them into a party in and of themselves. Many games have worked to balance this, but this can still be unbalancing at times.

4) Flight

The most desired of all superpowers, the ability to fly is something that opens up a host of new options for your players and if the Gamemaster does not keep that in mind will find many of their terrain challenges overcome with ease. No longer do high walls or things like that pose any problem to your player characters when they can simply fly over them.

3) Telepathy

The ability to read minds is a very useful power, questionable ethic regarding it aside, and with it there are few secrets that can be kept from your players. If player characters have the ability to look into someone’s head and come to know what they know, it can be really hard to run any sort of mystery in your game. This is also a power not easily countered by circumstance, so if something prevents it from working the player knows that this was put in place specifically for them.

2) Teleportation

Like flight, teleportation – the ability to move from place to place in the blink of an eye – gives player characters an easy way through most physical obstructions, as well as distance, and even escape from imprisonment. How do you trap something that can disappear at will? Travel may no longer become an issue for them as they may possess the power to travel anywhere in the world, or maybe even beyond, with a mere thought. Often limited in scope (you can only teleport to place you have been, places you can see, etc) this power is often one of the most difficult for a Gamemaster to cope with.

And finally, the number one power I find to be the most problematic:

1) Divination

In short, these are powers that allow characters to commune with the gods, see into the future, or simply ask the Gamemaster to answer questions for them. Though often cryptic, this power will often eliminate much of the mystery a Gamemaster has been building up in the game. Imagine if detectives from CSI could just look at the body and ask, “Who did this?” and suddenly know the answer.

While these powers may certainly cause problems, they can all be worked with if Gamemasters plan ahead and anticipate their use. If you know a character can fly or see into the future or whatever, plan for that. Note that this does not mean counter. If your player characters have these powers, it means they have earned them. Do not take that away from them. On the contrary, let them use them. Make these powers seem important, or even crucial to overcoming whatever challenges you have set before them. The game is about having fun, after all, not seeing if you can beat your players in a game of imagination.

Thanks for reading and, as always, I wish you all good gaming.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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