So one thing I’ve noticed in running several sessions of DW is that moderate-to-high level spellcasting PCs are…

So one thing I’ve noticed in running several sessions of DW is that moderate-to-high level spellcasting PCs are…

So one thing I’ve noticed in running several sessions of DW is that moderate-to-high level spellcasting PCs are brutal about taking down solo threats. Between Charm Person, Sleep, Polymorph and Hold Person, it’s like you’re one 7+ from instantly incapacitating even the most dangerous of bad guys. And I mean, yeah, I could just always make sure every villain is part of a group, but that seems like an unfortunate dramatic compromise to me… I like final bosses, y’know?

Any thoughts on the matter? How do you, as a GM, both be a fan of the characters while still filling their lives with adventure in the face of such capabilities? (I have some ideas but I’m interested in hearing what others have to say regarding it.)

24 thoughts on “So one thing I’ve noticed in running several sessions of DW is that moderate-to-high level spellcasting PCs are…”

  1. If your big bads are political leaders, simply killing them doesn’t shut down their faction – it only creates room for a new unknown leadership to arise.

    If you have two competing factions, the leaders of both might not be bad people. You may have different goals but it’s not about killing them.

    Maybe the boss is an old hero who doesn’t want to pass on the torch of leadership. How to do this gently?

  2. It would be plausible in my mind for a capable villain to have several lieutenants surrounding him/her. So have the big bad plus three or four lackeys that are not as strong, but are tough to handle. It also makes the battle more interesting than the standard “group of Heroes vs single uber guy,” and can add a little more realism to the game.

    If it is spells you are worried about, have the big bad or a lackey close by be able to counter spell, just like the wizard can. This can lead to an epic spell slinging duel between two magic users while the other fighters deal out some close range damage or pick them of from a distance. The point is to create a legit reason as to why the spell caster can’t just “win” the battle for the group while still making that character feel awesome.

  3. Urban adventures! Or think about the problems that exist in the real world. How could you solve them, even with magic? Say you have a friend imprisoned in North Korea; what do you do? Or maybe there’s a zombie plague spreading. I have a lot of luck when I give the players problems where I honestly have no idea what they can possibly do about them.

  4. Consequences. Maybe something like:

    Do you know who I am

    When you incapacitate a leader of a faction, pick 2.

    – your position is severely compromised so you are exposed to danger

    – the faction detects the attack on their leader and is now on high alert looking for the culprits

    – you left traces of your presence so the faction know it was you.

  5. I see no reason why boss’s wouldn’t have planned protections and contingencies. Your Bosses could have protective spells, traps, minions, henchmen  and back up plans such as ways to return from death or flee to safety.  Henchmen can present their own dangers, and their own spells.

    You can also create reasons the Villain can’t be outright killed or imprisoned. Political reasons (it might cause war?), magic (he’s immortal) or something at stake (Captive prisoners).

    Also I would find ways to complicate the useful spells against a boss. The hold spell might just catch him momentarily rather then trap him long term. This might be because of a pact he made with evil gods, a protective ward or just because he is special (he is a boss after all). Perhaps give him a move to break free from Spells.

    Hope some of this helps. I can elaborate more if you like 😀    

  6. Immunity to magic basically takes the Wizard out of the fight entirely though, Johnstone Metzger.

    Also, what Ben should really be concerned with is the bard that can give the Pally’s sword or the Wiz’s Fireball +2d4 damage. Doesn’t sound like much, but FUCK does that shit add up over two or three rounds.

  7. The Big Bad has a ring that transfers the damage the PCs are heaping on him to statue or painting in a hidden locale. Or if you really want to have fun with your players, the ring transfers that damage to a person or persons wearing the mate(s) of said ring, and the Big Bad could well have gifted the mate(s) to a PCs spouse, child or parent. Then after they defeat the Big Bad they have to go on a quest to wrench their loved one from Death’s icy grasp.

  8. Yeah I remember this armor from the Book of Vile Darkness which had chains dangling off of it, and each chain was attached to a magically locked collar which transfers damage from the armor wearer to the collar wearer(s). Naturally the big bad has kidnapped village children in the collars.

  9. The Mad Duke has been kidnapping young men from the various holds and villages.

    Though his forces spread rumors about these men being rebels and enemies of the state this claim rings hollow as more and more men are taken from farther ranging holds.

    Investigation both mundane and magical reveals that each of these men bear a minor similarity to the Mad Duke be it eye color, their nose, their cheek bones or something more obscure.

    As the heroes dig deeper they find the arcane laboratories of the Mad Dukes twisted warlocks, each filled with the broken bodies of missing men their faces carved and changed to look like the Duke.

    Each corpse bears wounds and scars from the attacks made against the Duke by the heroes and other rebels.

    The party Wizard determines that to harm the Duke they must destroy the magical ritual that makes the Duke immortal or else exhaust his supply or tortured duplicates.

    Of course one or more of the party members has a family member in the Mad Dukes clutches.

  10. Let the big bad know something that the PCs want to know. When it becomes clear that BB is going to be killed, s/he says “If you kill me, you will never know where to find the lost treasure of Stuffnthings.”

  11. Custom moves to represent the badassery of your NPCs.

    Johnstone Metzger did something like this in a way-back version of AW, I think, where one of his NPCs had some kind of psychic-backlash thing and if I tried to Brainer him, I was more likely to go all scanners on myself.

  12. If the PC’s powers are known things, a smart badass villain will try to have safeguards. Smart PCs will try to overcome safeguards. Smart villain will try to counter (and so on). If the powers are esoteric, the smart badass villain gets owned.

  13. If you make a dude immune to things, you of course have to include weaknesses. This gives the PCs two options: investigate the villain’s backstory until they find those weaknesses (hellooooo Ravenloft!), or they get into a fight and throw things at him until something sticks, hoping they can defend themselves from counterattacks for long enough. Which sounds like a big boss fight to me?

  14. More broadly, I can easily imagine fictional positioning that makes a fighter’s weapon of little to no value. Any examples that make the One Big Spell similarly untenable?

    Something about great cosmic power and a knife between the shoulder blades comes to mind…

  15. well, you can’t really do this more than once without being a dick, but a smart villain might have some ability to item that will nullify the first spell to hit him.

  16. Right now I’m considering the idea of a mage who has a couple badass ongoing spells, and when you hit him with nasty magic he very visibly disrupts one of them to counter it… so you might not polymorph him into an adorable baby panda, but at least you’ve gotten rid of the CROWN OF FLAMES or whatnot.

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