My DM buffs monster health to compensate for any additional damage my striker does, time to reroll?

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I have to confess, I have gotten pretty good at making characters. Much better than the rest of my party. I recently started playing with a group of people I just met, and when I ask them what I should build they told me they really needed a striker.

I was hesitant, because making a really good striker is much more obvious than making a defender or leader who does their job really well. They were adamant though, so I eventually settled on a Tiefling Sorcerer (Elementalist) because I have played way too many melee characters and wanted to try them out. I gave the DM a couple options though with expected average damage and I was told anything I chose would be fine.

It was not fine, for two reasons. I do significantly (and worse- obviously) more damage than the other two people who ended up making strikers. I stopped taking feats upping my damage in favor of RP feats, so this is slowing not becoming an issue. Especially as I have been giving gentle advice to the other two strikers. Worse though is that the DM just buffs the monsters health to compensate for whatever amount of damage we end up outputting as a party.

Yes, this is terrible. It means that any resources I put towards increasing damage are completely wasted AND that the survival strategy of killing monsters faster is completely negated.

I'm at this point where I think I need to sit down with my DM and ask her to either stop buffing her monsters health or let me make a new character. Elementalists have almost zero utility, so I can't do much else to boost party survivability except do more damage. It's fine if the DM doesn't want her monsters to die quickly, but if thats the case I want to be able to contribute to party survivability in other more meaningful ways.

I guess I am trying to collect my thoughts before this confrontation. Does anyone have any helpful advice on dealing with this issue?
I have to confess, I have gotten pretty good at making characters. Much better than the rest of my party. I recently started playing with a group of people I just met, and when I ask them what I should build they told me they really needed a striker.

I was hesitant, because making a really good striker is much more obvious than making a defender or leader who does their job really well. They were adamant though, so I eventually settled on a Tiefling Sorcerer (Elementalist) because I have played way too many melee characters and wanted to try them out. I gave the DM a couple options though with expected average damage and I was told anything I chose would be fine.

It was not fine, for two reasons. I do significantly (and worse- obviously) more damage than the other two people who ended up making strikers. I stopped taking feats upping my damage in favor of RP feats, so this is slowing not becoming an issue. Especially as I have been giving gentle advice to the other two strikers. Worse though is that the DM just buffs the monsters health to compensate for whatever amount of damage we end up outputting as a party.

Yes, this is terrible. It means that any resources I put towards increasing damage are completely wasted AND that the survival strategy of killing monsters faster is completely negated.

I'm at this point where I think I need to sit down with my DM and ask her to either stop buffing her monsters health or let me make a new character. Elementalists have almost zero utility, so I can't do much else to boost party survivability except do more damage. It's fine if the DM doesn't want her monsters to die quickly, but if thats the case I want to be able to contribute to party survivability in other more meaningful ways.

I guess I am trying to collect my thoughts before this confrontation. Does anyone have any helpful advice on dealing with this issue?



First off, good on you for thinking about talking to her out of game.  Hashing out issues like this out of game is much better than the alternative.  I'd just be honest and (if you know for sure this is the case), explain your situation politely and ask her to stop buffing monster health.

I don't like to tell other people how to build or play their characters, and I don't think it's worth it to get upset that someone else at the table is dishing out more or less damage, but if the other strikers legitimately want your help with upping their damage, perhaps you can as part of this ask your DM if they can do a rebuild of their characters with your assistance.

I guess I'd also be curious about what your games are like.  Do you generally have knock-down drag-out fights where both team PC and team Monster's only goals are to kill the other guy before they kill you, or do you have a lot of alternate goals in combat (say, stop the ritual, steal the McGuffin, save the wee turtles, etc)?  Sometimes, monsters are more threatening when they actively threaten their players' goals rather than threatening them just by being big bags of HP that take a while for the party to kill.  I know one guy whose games I play in where I often find myself saying things like "crap, lets clear out these minions, they're the real threat!"

And, what exactly is the problem here with the buffed health?  Does the increased monster health mean that fights are now too hard?  Does it mean that fights are long, boring slugfests?  Does it mean your character doesn't have a chance to shine, while the controllers are being the real heroes by dishing out status effects?  Is it that you feel you should be "rewarded" with relatively easier monsters for your optimizing skill and instead of being rewarded you are being challenged?  Perhaps reflect on these questions before you talk to your DM.
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I don't thinks its wrong to be challenged, nor do I think I should be rewarded for my optimizing skill. The combats don't have any interesting mechanics or tend to be more than just flat open spaces. Combat lasts around 5 to 6 rounds. If we start doing more damage and killing things faster, she just increases the monsters health until combat once again lasts 5 to 6 rounds.

None of these items bother me particularly. If she wants to make a high RP game with weak characters I am all for it. The story has been good so far. I do, however, want clear expectations between the DM and players. If she doesn't want me to deal so much damage she should just let me know. Increasing the monsters health to negate the strikers is essentially robbing the players of meaningful choices.

So, I guess I want her to throw monsters at us without artificially buffing them. Or just throw higher level monsters at us, so we at least level quicker. Or she should just let me know if she doesn't want combat to be quicker or for us to level faster. In that case I would like to find a way to gently retire my striker so I can make a leader or defender that can focus on utility and party survivability. The elementalist doesn't have enough utility to be able to do much besides straight damage.
I don't thinks its wrong to be challenged, nor do I think I should be rewarded for my optimizing skill. The combats don't have any interesting mechanics or tend to be more than just flat open spaces. Combat lasts around 5 to 6 rounds. If we start doing more damage and killing things faster, she just increases the monsters health until combat once again lasts 5 to 6 rounds.



Is she by any chance a new DM?

For me, when I'm designing encounters, I like to make sure to include some interesting terrain.  In 4e, it seems like there's so many possible terrain effects that can be added and the system is so good at running big setpiece battles with lots of interesting terrain effects that it's a shame to have a slugfest in an empty parking lot.  Plus, I'm a fan of adding alternate goals so the monsters are threatening not just the PCs lives but something else they care about - it makes the encounters more interesting when there is an actual objective.

None of these items bother me particularly. If she wants to make a high RP game with weak characters I am all for it. The story has been good so far. I do, however, want clear expectations between the DM and players. If she doesn't want me to deal so much damage she should just let me know.



Definitely tell her this - one on one, out of game.  It's usually best to talk about expectations in advance, but if problems arise, it's a good time to do this.

Increasing the monsters health to negate the strikers is essentially robbing the players of meaningful choices. So, I guess I want her to throw monsters at us without artificially buffing them. Or just throw higher level monsters at us, so we at least level quicker.



Or more monsters would work.

As an aside, if the speed at which you level is a concern, she could always ditch the whole XP system and just tell the players to level up whenever she (or better yet, the whole table) feels it is appropriate.  Personally, I'm a fan of this whether I'm on the player or DM side of the screen - XP is nothing but unnecessary bookkeeping, and I like having level ups tied to the pace of the game (say, "congratulations, you've defeated Dark Lord Jerkwad, I think you've earned yourself a level") than some mundane accounting.

Or she should just let me know if she doesn't want combat to be quicker or for us to level faster. In that case I would like to find a way to gently retire my striker so I can make a leader or defender that can focus on utility and party survivability. The elementalist doesn't have enough utility to be able to do much besides straight damage.



Again, the only way to solve this is with out of game conversation.
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Discussion is the right choice. There are probably ways that you can do striker type damage and still have the fights work out to the length she wants. Maybe don't bring out the encounter powers and daily powers until later. Or, if you save those up to deliver a big hit on a major opponent, try spreading them out at other times. I can't really say, but be open to ideas that come out of your discussion. Good luck.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

It may be that your DM thinks that the only way to make the game fun is to make the combats challenging.  Of course, there are plenty of ways to have fun other than tough encounters.  If she's focusing too much on making the monsters tough, she might be missing opportunities for fun in other ways, and possibly creating extra work for herself.  Also, the party might then have to focus more on combat than they want, possibly missing opportunities for other types of fun.

IOW, what's wrong with combat being easy?  If it makes the players feel awesome to curbstomp the monsters, then why not have more easy combats?

Of course, you also want to be sure that you're not stealing the spotlight from other players.  Your spotlight is damage.  For others it's defense or healing or control.  Everyone should have the opportunity to be awesome at what they do best.

Also, do you enjoy being a striker that does lots of damage?  If so, make sure the DM understands this and ask her why she's trying to negate what your character is best at and what you find fun.  Once again, there's nothing wrong with everyone being awesome at what they do best.

The bottom line is communication.  Talk all this over with your DM and don't be afraid to be assertive about what you want and don't forget to do it in a spirit of compromise if what the other players want (and that includes the DM) is different.

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

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"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

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Communication, as posted above, is really the best approach. Be direct, be willing to compromise, and do it outside the context of the game.

Question: Do you happen to know if your DM is using plot-based adventure design? I find that DMs artificially inflating the threat of their monsters to compensate for specific PCs abilities is a symptom of this style of play.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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This is why its always a good idea to optimize to the same level as the rest of the party.

You are allowed to retrain every level right (i forget). Start swapping some damage boosting feats and powers for quirky ones that might do something neat. Blow some feats on an exotic weapon style or something equally useless. 


Also, talk to the DM and see if he has suggestions for how to work with you to fix this. I'm positive he noticed and wants it resolved, but buffing monster HP isn't the way to go.


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I sympathize. I had a DM in college who told us to optimize our characters to the max because it would be a death trap brutal combat with little to no RP. Everyone else was super unoptimized and he ended up dividing my damage by 10 to keep it on level with everyone else. It was super obvious to everyone and really annoying. "I do 450 damage,Ok he looks wounded. Alright, second attack hits for 445, ok you just barely drop him..." "I blast for 55, of wow great job, he drops as well". 

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I really don't like the idea of boosting the monsters HP and such just to counter a player's build.  Such things pretty much nullify the player's class and isn't fair.  Sure, boosting the hp and damage of a boss or some such is OK, but when the DM buffs everything it gets old fast.

As others above have mentioned, out of game communication is key here. 

Here are some ideas for a DM if his group has players that essentially turn normal encounters into one-shot-one-kill affairs:

Treat all monsters as minions, that way you won't get competitive if the party steamrolls team monster.  Understand that you can always make more monsters, and that sometimes the dice will go the monster's way making fights that were supposed to be super simple (for the party) into a major challenge.

Use goals that don't end in death (for either side).

For combat based scenarios:
Scatter the mobs (when it makes sense story wise) so that AOEs don't end the fight right off.

Use terrain, traps and barriers to good effect.  Even wimpy goblins that can be one shotted can be a challenge if hidden behind barricades and traps.

Have goals that have involve keeping a monster or target alive, or use a hostage situation.  For example, Princess Peach is held at knife point by thugs.  The party does enough damage to one shot any thug, but AOE's will kill the Princess too.  The party has to kill the thugs before they kill the princess.  Give the princes the ability to take 3 to 5 hits (based on number and position of thugs) before she dies.  The parties' goal is to take out the thugs or snatch her from them to safety.

Sensitive terrain:  This fight can happen on a frozen lake, ice cave, old and crumbling manor etc.  Tell the players that any damage over a certain amount will damage the area. This includes ANY damage done to a foe, so even a sword swing will have a chance to trigger an event.  Don't have a big hit collapse all the ice on the lake, but set it up that if a striker nails a foe for 100 damage, there is a 100% chance that the square the foe was in will now be a hole in the lake (Maybe 25 damage = a 25% chance of a hole).  As holes build up, the chance that adjacent squares will collapse too increases possibly imperiling a party member or even the whole party.  Give the players the option to voluntarily hedge their damage to lower amounts, but they have to call it before they hit.  Now add in a couple of bad guys that have more hp than the common thugs and you have a fun battle.

Have combats where team monster's goal is not to hurt the party but to hinder them in some way.  I had a fight where an undead general and his troops had shields of knock back where the undeads' sole goal was to knock party members into a portal.

Handwave fights that are a forgone conclusion.  Why play it out when the outcome (party ROFLSTOMPING team monster) when the game can get on to the more interesting parts?

Lastly, let the players own team monster once in a while.  That's right, let the party mop the floor with 'em.  This is vital to make the players feel their characters are significant and heroic.  Also, you will get no complaints when they do come up against a very tough challenge.
Another option is to just tone it down. I don't like to ask my own players to do that because I can bring the challenge no matter how hard they optimize, assuming it's my own design. But the truth of the matter is, just like how you can set the difficulty mode on video games, you as a player of D&D can set the difficult mode by toning down your optimization relative to the game you're playing. You'll potentially have a much easier time controlling your level of challenge that way than convincing someone else to change they way they're doing their thing. So if a direct conversation bears no fruit, turn down the volume on combat optimization in favor of something else that may interest you.

To share a related anecdote, I recently offered to run the module "Steading of the Hill Giant Chief" for some regular players of mine (they want to do them all, rotating DMs). I tell them I'm running the module straight up just to see what it's like. I mentioned that it looks significantly easier than the scenarios they're used to me designing and running. Thus, I told them, they don't have to optimize as much if they didn't want to. So I'm sure you can guess what happened next: They still showed up with optimized characters... they're entering their 9th encounter with no extended rest and recently (jokingly) inquired when they're going to get to the "hard part." *facepalm*

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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Firstly, talk to her outside of the game.  Secondly, tone it down.  Don't use all the big guns, and don't apply them in the tactically best way - then, you have them ready when you ARE in trouble, but you don't step on anybody's toes when you're not.

I'm reminded of a story about a shadowrun game, in which someone had a fairly pacifist character who avoided combat like the plague, and through an entire campaign, maybe fired a gun twice.  Then, in the culmination of the thing, the group was deep in trouble, so he borrowed someone's machine gun, and asked for a cube of d6s from the display case in the store, and for someone to take 5 of them out. Then proceeded to roll the rest for his all-out attack, saving everybody's hides in a pinch.

Maybe don't go to that extreme, but you can certainly do things like splitting your Twin Strike, not using your frees and immediates on the most optimal targets etc etc.  Tactics can make a huge difference, even with well-optimised characters.
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as a Dm I will customize my encounters to ensure they are an appropriate challenge to the party. if the monsters go down too fast or dont do enough damage to challenge the group then I will adjust them accordingly.

it benefits the players who generally enjoy challenging content, but also because it means better rewards from incredibly xp or loot as a result (ie I give a creature better gear to make it challenging and they get that gear as a reward)
..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />To share a related anecdote, I recently offered to run the module "Steading of the Hill Giant Chief" for some regular players of mine (they want to do them all, rotating DMs). I tell them I'm running the module straight up just to see what it's like. I mentioned that it looks significantly easier than the scenarios they're used to me designing and running. Thus, I told them, they don't have to optimize as much if they didn't want to. So I'm sure you can guess what happened next: They still showed up with optimized characters... they're entering their 9th encounter with no extended rest and recently (jokingly) inquired when they're going to get to the "hard part." *facepalm*



I ran the entire "Giants" campaign for my group when I took over as DM.  They're a group of hyper-optimizers, minus one player who, well, is just plain goofy in his character designs (for lack of a better way to say it.)

They pretty much roflstomped through all of them.  By the 3rd campaign I realized the only way to challenge them was to give the monsters more survivability, upping their HP. 

Adding more monsters was not the right answer, because the party has a monk, who benefits tremendously the more monsters are on the field. 
Now with the 4 campaigns done, I've moved them into my own Underdark campaign that follows the events established in the "Giants" campaign.  I am throwing encounters at them that are about 5-6 levels above them, with all monsters HP increased by 30% because it's the only way to threaten them, however I limit the xp gains to something in the range that keeps them progressing at an average pace.

(If I threw at-level encounters or even hard-at-levels, they'd steamroll them) 

I also make use of terrain elements in every single one, difficult terrain is not much of a hindrance, so I throw things that amplify damage or just do ongoing, like moss that gave them vulnerable 10 psychic while standing in it (and they were fighting monsters using psychic powers), or piranha infested waters where if they took a dive they'd take ongoing 10.

(As a DM this gives me some breathing room in planning as well, as I don't spend 4-6 hours planning for the night and have them go through my plans in 45 minutes)

In contrast, the other game I run, has about one super optimized character, my wife's rogue that is built as an alpha striker, and a friend who plays a very well built battlemind.

I think it's a good idea to have a power-gamer at every table.  They make a great resource to rely on if the other lesser-damage dealers whiff a few, and can move encounters along a little quicker (which, generally the complaint I hear about 4e is that encounters are really long.)

I can understand how a DM might be concerned with this, or the emasculating feelings that other strikers can get when compared to someone outdamaging them.

To your DM though, I offer the advice that designing your campaign to challenge or kill one player's character is the wrong move.  Such as upping those HP totals, it compensates for your character but punishes the others.  If there's just one power-player at the table, I'd just keep on keeping on without changing much, because all it takes are a few bad rolls for everything to go south all of a sudden, and if you're overpowering your encounters expecting the party to be challenged, you might suddenly find yourself adding a +1 to your DM TPK count.


I ran the entire "Giants" campaign for my group when I took over as DM.  They're a group of hyper-optimizers, minus one player who, well, is just plain goofy in his character designs (for lack of a better way to say it.)

They pretty much roflstomped through all of them.  By the 3rd campaign I realized the only way to challenge them was to give the monsters more survivability, upping their HP. 

Adding more monsters was not the right answer, because the party has a monk, who benefits tremendously the more monsters are on the field. 
Now with the 4 campaigns done, I've moved them into my own Underdark campaign that follows the events established in the "Giants" campaign.  I am throwing encounters at them that are about 5-6 levels above them, with all monsters HP increased by 30% because it's the only way to threaten them, however I limit the xp gains to something in the range that keeps them progressing at an average pace.



Thankfully, the last session of this module is this week. They've cleared the top level and much of the lower level. I think once they rescue the dwarves, slay the fire giant, and find that hidden temple, there's nothing much left to see. Everything else is just not that important. I'm glad to be done with it. It wasn't very great in my opinion and I wasn't willing to put any additional effort into making it better, preferring to work on adventures from scratch instead. This was my first module in a long while and it will be my last, I think.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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