Whether you’re introducing your table to a game like Scion or Exalted, or your players are about to hit 18th level in D&D, every GM should be prepared for high-powered play. When player characters attain these lofty heights, their options for managing situations expand greatly. The once-troublesome task of defeating a few bandits becomes trivial for these powerful characters, and the focus of the game changes from “how can we defeat them” to “how should we defeat them.” As we all know by now, “with great power comes great responsibility.” What we should also learn, however, is that absolute power can corrupt absolutely. Here’s a few ways a GM can foster these ethical discussions while still allowing their players to have a blast with their powerhouses.
1 . Incremental Challenges
Demigods should have demons to fight. This means introducing sufficiently powerful enemies for your players to go up against, naturally, but it also means introducing greater problems for them to solve. Instead of solving a drought experienced by a small town, have the players restore water to an entire region by matching wits with the vengeful god who’s been withholding the rains. Keep the encounters exciting and grand. Let players experience the lasting effects of their influence over the setting, and make certain that NPCs show the appropriate amount of reverence or fear when interacting with your players. Still, power begets power. Challengers should readily rise up to face your heroes, creating epic clashes high above the world or deep within it. Every superhero needs an arch-villain, after all.
2 . Incredible Experiences
In a high level game, you shouldn’t be concerned about the mundane. It’s certainly important to remind characters from whence they came, but don’t get bogged down in the minutia of everyday existence. Instead, focus your descriptive powers on injecting supernatural or superlative details into the setting. Describe amazing vistas and unreal sensations. Your characters have transcended the terrestrial and now reside amidst the ethereal; let them experience it to the fullest! Everything should be bombastic to a certain extent. Every swell of power should make characters feel their godly might. Every trip through a strange dimension or across alien terrain should be unique and captivating. One trick I like to use is synesthesia. I describe sights using flavors, and vice versa. It’s a fun trick that let’s players really experience something unique and empowering, but still relatable.
3 . Insightful Revelations
When your characters wield deific or heroic powers, the story beats should be equally as lofty. Plot reveals should be powerful and well-constructed. Betrayals should occur on a grand or cosmic scale. Entire regions should be threatened with extinction. Triumphs should be heralded through the streets of large metropolises, and characters should be raised up on high and lauded for their incredible deeds. Rewards should match the characters’ deeds, be they “tangible” within the game or intriguing plot advancements. Since “more power” does not make for a great gift to an already powerful character, make certain your rewards are varied and pleasing to your players on an individual level. At the end of a long campaign, you’ll most likely be familiar with the types of things they will enjoy.
4 . Indelible Impressions
A martial artist using her chi to soar into the sky at breakneck speeds. A god-born whose wisdom is so vast, he can solve any problem that befalls him. A sword-goddess, the power of whose blows are matched only by the strength of her convictions. These characters are the stuff of legend! If you do nothing else, let your players have fun. Let them leave impressions on your denizens that will leak into your future games. Let them shape the world that you’ve created as they go mad with power. Only by letting them experience the fullness of their characters’ potential can you help them understand the nature of power and how it applies in your setting. You might be surprised at not only how much fun they will have, but how strong of a dramatic impression such cosmic might can make.
I hope you consider running a game that gives your players a chance to be almighty. It can be an incredible experience for all involved, not the least of which would be you, the GM! Share your favorite high-powered gaming stories with us, and feel free to recommend games that let out the leash.
David Horwitz is a gamer and freelance writer with an obsession for exploring new forms of leisure. If you’re looking for an inquisitive mind and a deft hand, or just want to chat about gaming, contact him at www.davidhorwitzwrites.com/contact
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.