dealing with one SUPER-character?

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So I’ve got my first stint as a GM coming up this weekend and, looking at the preregistration for the event, I’m looking at a group of three 1st level characters and one 4th level character. I’m a bit nervous about how to balance the encounters for this group. The 4th level striker could easily wipe out anything that would challenge the others, while they would die in droves against anything that could challenge the striker.

Since there are only four players (so far), my first thought is to run the lower tier but adapted to 6 players. Is that fair and reasonable?
I'd ask the 4th level character to make up a new 1st level character for the event. With new-ish players, balancing out the level gap would be hard.
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4/1/1/1 is not a significant change from 2/2/2/2...
Play it on low-tier. Modify for 4 players.

Direct most of your attacks (when possible) at the 4th level character.

Fun will be had by all!

Dan Anderson @EpicUthrac
Total Confusion www.totalcon.com
LFR Calimshan Writing Director
LFR Epic Writing Director

LFR Myth Drannor Writing Director

I'd ask the 4th level character to make up a new 1st level character for the event.

I'd do the same thing - Tell Mr. 4th-level to make a new character. It takes five minutes in 4th Edition. Then, remind him to add it to his RPGA character tracker before the game gets reported...
-------- Don (Greyson) -------- Non-smoker, White, Non-golfer, U.S. American
What's the big deal? He'll have 2 extra powers (1 encounter, 1 utility), +2 to his skills and 2 extra feats. I guess its reasonable to assume a +1 or +2 weapon and armor. He'll also have around 50% more hp.

I'd say that you could play it as if the 4th level was 2 characters, and that should provide sufficient challenge. Note that it'll be pretty obvious that the 4th level character is more dangerous to the enemies, so he'll be an obvious target ("boss, whodya think I should attack" "hit the guy with the glowing dagger and armor")

Just be upfront with what you're going to do - make sure the party and especially the guy playing the high level aware that he's going to be a target a bit more often just to keep things spicy for everyone.
I'd do the same thing - Tell Mr. 4th-level to make a new character. It takes five minutes in 4th Edition. Then, remind him to add it to his RPGA character tracker before the game gets reported...

Ask, don't tell.

His 4th level character is perfectly legal for a 1-4 mod.

Keep in mind that low-tier generally targets 5 2nd-level characters. Your other characters will be glad to have him around!

Dan Anderson @EpicUthrac
Total Confusion www.totalcon.com
LFR Calimshan Writing Director
LFR Epic Writing Director

LFR Myth Drannor Writing Director

Here's the problem with a lot of the suggestions. Unless the 4th level character is a melee striker, he will not be the one taking the brunt of the more and better monsters. The first level defenders and leaders will be doing that. So, they're getting the doubly hosed. First, there is a 4th level character who'll be getting proportionally more kills and more glory. Second, they are taking more damage and having more difficulty because the fourth level guy is there.

I would say run it as written. Both the character and party are perfectly legal for the RPGA event. And even with the 4th level character, the party is not particularly strong for a low tier event. Yes, a 4th level character is better than a first level character. But a party of four first level characters is a weak party to begin with. The 4th level character should draw more aggro as is appropriate because he is a proportionally greater percentage of the party's offense. But, even if he goes from +6 to +10 to hit by virtue of being 4th level and is doing 2d10+6+1d6 damage per round instead of 2d10+2+1d6, he will still not be so much more powerful that the other characters' contributions are meaningless. Having four 2nd level characters--much less 5 end level characters with magic weapons--would be a noticeably stronger party.
Here's the problem with a lot of the suggestions. Unless the 4th level character is a melee striker, he will not be the one taking the brunt of the more and better monsters. The first level defenders and leaders will be doing that. So, they're getting the doubly hosed. First, there is a 4th level character who'll be getting proportionally more kills and more glory. Second, they are taking more damage and having more difficulty because the fourth level guy is there.

I would say run it as written. Both the character and party are perfectly legal for the RPGA event. And even with the 4th level character, the party is not particularly strong for a low tier event. Yes, a 4th level character is better than a first level character. But a party of four first level characters is a weak party to begin with. The 4th level character should draw more aggro as is appropriate because he is a proportionally greater percentage of the party's offense. But, even if he goes from +6 to +10 to hit by virtue of being 4th level and is doing 2d10+6+1d6 damage per round instead of 2d10+2+1d6, he will still not be so much more powerful that the other characters' contributions are meaningless. Having four 2nd level characters--much less 5 end level characters with magic weapons--would be a noticeably stronger party.

How exactly could the party be taking MORE damage by virtue of having a higher level ally? If anything they'd be taking less and be having a slightly EASIER time do to him taking targets out a little quicker. It'd be WORSE for hte party to have him make a 1st level character and have them try and go through as 4 1's then 3 1's and a 4....
So I’ve got my first stint as a GM coming up this weekend and, looking at the preregistration for the event, I’m looking at a group of three 1st level characters and one 4th level character. I’m a bit nervous about how to balance the encounters for this group. The 4th level striker could easily wipe out anything that would challenge the others, while they would die in droves against anything that could challenge the striker.

Since there are only four players (so far), my first thought is to run the lower tier but adapted to 6 players. Is that fair and reasonable?

You have no problem. The 4th level character is legal for that mod. You should run it at low level adjusted for 4 characters. That is all.

Enjoy!
Most likely, if you run it as written, adjusted for 4 characters, it will be fine. It is harder in 4E for one character to fill in other roles on the team than in previous versions of D&D. Just balance your attention among the players.

I would, if reasonable, focus a bit more of the attacks on the 4th level character, but by no means the majority. Rationalize it on the basis, deal with the opponent who causes you the most damage first. A 4th level striker in a group of 1st level characters will likely be dealing the most damager. This lets the lower level defenders shine by preventing bad guys from getting to him (maybe).

Keith
Keith Hoffman LFR Writing Director for Waterdeep
A large portion of what the 4th level character is bringing to the table that he wouldn't as a 1st level is HP and defenses. His damage will only be mildly increased. If your goal is to challenge the party it's probably best to play the normally proscribed scaling (low tier, scale for 4 players) and target the high level striker as little as plausible. If you deny them the benefit of his +15 hp, +3-4 hp per surge, and +2-4 in defenses by targetting the weaker members they will still be pressed on the defensive side, while his +2-4 in attack mod and +0-2 in damage and one extra encounter power won't tear up your bad guys all that much faster.

The difference between a level 1 and a level 4 in 4e is much less than it was in earlier editions.
Keep in mind that bad guys generally don't WANT to attack defenders. The defender's job (role, if you will) is to keep the bad guys off the softer guys with the high damage output. Conversely, the bad guys job is to get TO the squishies. Sometimes that means going through the defender (beating him down), but more often, especially in a situation like this, it means going around him (avoiding or just plain ignoring him).

Really, you have nothing to worry about, like a lot of people said. Run it low tier, adjusted for four players. Wait 'til you get a feel for the system as it's written before you worry about modifying stuff.
Since there are only four players (so far), my first thought is to run the lower tier but adapted to 6 players. Is that fair and reasonable?

A needlefang drake swarm fixes everything. One or two of those improves every module!
They would be taking more damage because the DM upped the difficulty in order to accomodate a character who would not be the brunt of attacks.

If the DM runs as written, then I agree, it's better for the party to have the level 4 than the level 1 character.

How exactly could the party be taking MORE damage by virtue of having a higher level ally? If anything they'd be taking less and be having a slightly EASIER time do to him taking targets out a little quicker. It'd be WORSE for hte party to have him make a 1st level character and have them try and go through as 4 1's then 3 1's and a 4....

They would be taking more damage because the DM upped the difficulty in order to accomodate a character who would not be the brunt of attacks.

If the DM runs as written, then I agree, it's better for the party to have the level 4 than the level 1 character.

Ah, ok. It wasn't clear to me which side you were arguing from. That makes more sense, :P
DM Empowerment, well sort of. Add it into the storyline if possible that the one who hired the adventurers or brought them to the "adventure" in question is the 4th level PC, or that he was hired by the main adventure giver to get 3 more guys to do a job etc, maybe he hired lower level guys for it becuase he thinks one or two won't make it back getting him a bigger split (if that's his thing) or maybe he wants to mentor some younger guys like someone he once ran with did for him, talk to the guy and work it into the story why he's stronger and more advanced than the rest. I bet you'll have more fun that way and so will the players than if you ask him to play something he doesn't want to play. Find out what story rewards the guy has that may allow you to factor this in as well, like maybe he owes someone a favor or is doing a favor for a contact in one of his story rewards etc.

If he's done Dale1-1 maybe one of the Nenthyn siblings asked him to scout out some talent for them and at the end refer them to Dale1-1.
Blah blah blah
What in the world are you talking about? The 4th level character is only barely better then the 1st level party members.

He's got 2 more feats (1 more then a 1st level human if the rogue isn't one), another encounter power and more then likely a +2-4 better to hit modifier, 15 more hit points and +2 to defenses. Hardly balance shattering differences.

Considering how situational the rogue's striker style damage is on top of everything else I'd say it's a bit of a stretch to have to "deal" with them differently then anyone else.
I really do not see what the big deal is. The adventure is written for 1st through 4th level characters. Play it as is.
There is no need for him to make a new character. (and you shouldn't force him to anyway)

So what if he has a few extra HP and a few powers. there is really not too much difference in damage output from a 1st to a 4th level.
I would never tell a player to make a new character, but it sounds like I should just otherwise run things as is and trust that the system will balance itself out.

Thanks for all the advice, everybody.
Add another voice to the 'play as-is' crowd.

We had a similar game a while back - my warlock was third level, and the rest of the party were brand new level 1 characters. I was a little better than the other characters, but not so's you'd notice, really. Every character had their moment in the sun, and being a couple of levels higher certainly didn't cause my character to dominate proceedings.
My 4th level Fighter can beat ANY low tier 1-4 by himself with 2-4 potions on hand.

The adventure will be a success. The low level players get a shiney item, 400 or so XP, and a few gold coins. Run it at low level, the level 4 will either have more fun, shining bright, or less fun, because he kills things quickly.

Change nothing, and have a great time sir.

And, don't get me started on how bard my level 3 warlock would destroy a low tier game by himself = D
My 4th level Fighter can beat ANY low tier 1-4 by himself with 2-4 potions on hand.

Then your DM is doing it wrong. It should be no problem killing any single character within an encounter or two.
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The after-action report:

We had four players and, in addition to the level 4 ranger, one of the players chose to play a level 3 cleric. Thus empowered, the group chose to play the upper-tier version and wound up failing the overall quest.

For the most part, they all did really well at each encounter, but wound up using too many resources during the penultimate battle and fizzled out during the fight with the big bad at the end.

At the same time, I never felt like the level 3 or 4 characters were overshadowing the lower-level ones or that the junior characters were not contributing to the team's success. When the group was challenged, they all were challenged, and when they overcame, they had all contributed to it.
Then your DM is doing it wrong. It should be no problem killing any single character within an encounter or two.

It is a problem hitting 24 AC and powering through 50 or more HP on a single character at low tier. Add in his +2 vicious weapon with his incredible +12 to attack, and he can realistically hit ANYthing in a low tier with a roll of 7.

Between Comeback Strike, sweeping blow, covering attack, and Warrior's Surge (orc racial) and my boundless endurance stance should I decide to stay bloodied, I can secondwind, and self surge one additional time per encounter AND two additional daily heals.

All the maps have terrain, and it isn't that hard for a high strength character to use a Throwing Shield to kill enemies as you move away.

If anything my warrior is indeed built to own low tier 1-4 modules. Add a single Leader and we'll duo high tier ok?
It is a problem hitting 24 AC and powering through 50 or more HP on a single character at low tier. Add in his +2 vicious weapon with his incredible +12 to attack, and he can realistically hit ANYthing in a low tier with a roll of 7.

Between Comeback Strike, sweeping blow, covering attack, and Warrior's Surge (orc racial) and my boundless endurance stance should I decide to stay bloodied, I can secondwind, and self surge one additional time per encounter AND two additional daily heals.

All the maps have terrain, and it isn't that hard for a high strength character to use a Throwing Shield to kill enemies as you move away.

If anything my warrior is indeed built to own low tier 1-4 modules. Add a single Leader and we'll duo high tier ok?

Sorry, you don't have 4 unhittable defenses and your healing may be decent but not unlimited.

Also your throwing shield is going to be only +7 vs AC at it's best for 1d8+5 damage, if you have a 20 strength, so skirmishers and artillery that play smart will make you run all over the place to engage them.

A level 4 may have a good shot of clearing an encounter or two but not all of them, skill challenges will give you some trouble as well, and failing one of those is partial failure of the mod =)

I wonder what mod has the throwing shield in it, I may have to do that one on my battle cleric.
Blah blah blah
Sorry, you don't have 4 unhittable defenses and your healing may be decent but not unlimited.

Also your throwing shield is going to be only +7 vs AC at it's best for 1d8+5 damage, if you have a 20 strength, so skirmishers and artillery that play smart will make you run all over the place to engage them.

A level 4 may have a good shot of clearing an encounter or two but not all of them, skill challenges will give you some trouble as well, and failing one of those is partial failure of the mod =)

I wonder what mod has the throwing shield in it, I may have to do that one on my battle cleric.

At 4th level my throwing Shield is +9 to hit. +10 if you allow the One Handed +1 bonus to apply. For 1d8+5. AC 24, Fort 21, Ref 19, will 16. Low tier those are pretty hard to hit. And, anything targeting will gets 12 squares of charge movement to close.
Sure, AC 24 isn't easy to hit. But there are lots of monsters in the low tier with +7 or +8 to hit, so in an average encounter you are still going to get hit at least once or twice a round, especially if you factor in all the flanking that a decent DM will get. So each combat round you will be taking 5-10 HP damage, not counting the occasional Crit against you.

Added to that, all it takes is a single enemy with a blinding attack, or a stun, or flyby or grapple and your odds don't look very good. After all, what use are healing potions if you spend half your time dazed?
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Sure, AC 24 isn't easy to hit. But there are lots of monsters in the low tier with +7 or +8 to hit, so in an average encounter you are still going to get hit at least once or twice a round, especially if you factor in all the flanking that a decent DM will get. So each combat round you will be taking 5-10 HP damage, not counting the occasional Crit against you.

Added to that, all it takes is a single enemy with a blinding attack, or a stun, or flyby or grapple and your odds don't look very good. After all, what use are healing potions if you spend half your time dazed?

Possibly, the sad truth is a level 1 dwarven Fighter, Battlerager Vigor build can destroy a high tier by himself.
Possibly, the sad truth is a level 1 dwarven Fighter, Battlerager Vigor build can destroy a high tier by himself.

And have you actually done this or is this all hypothetical?
How do you get to +9 with the shield?

Strength: +5
Level: +2

...What am I missing?
I believe the shield attack is strength +2 vs AC.

5 str
2 level
2 base
I have seen far more impressive characters.

Let's not make this a character pi$$ing contest. I could easily kill that PC if I wanted to as a DM.
Of course you could. You could DM empower in ten Balors.

If you could kill said PC with any given mod as presented is another story.

I have seen quite a few characters that could solo most of the 1-4 mods out there.
DM empowerment has nothing to do with it. It is not a super PC.

My Level 4 Paladin has:

AC 25
HP: 46
Has +11 to hit
Has: 10 surges and a fair few ways to heal itself
+12 diplomacy (+16 for an encounter with astral speech)

And has taken over 130 damage in ONE fight before. Said Super PC is not exactly special, it just has Str 20 which is +1 to hit at the expense of sucking in a Skill challenge. Also many monsters with decent Flanking will be hitting you nearly 50% of the time.

I have beaten down many 4th level PCs that had similar attributes. A few ShadowHunter bats alone and the odd Hexer and you'd be stuffed.
I have seen quite a few characters that could solo most of the 1-4 mods out there.

You keep saying these things but the more I hear, the more I have to question the quality of the DMs you play under. It must be really depressing to have the games run by someone with so little tactical imagination. As a DM who has run everything available at the 1-4 level I can honestly say that there is not a single mod where I would be confident of *any* single 4th level character getting through (and I follow the optimization board). There's one or two where they would have a chance if the dice rolled well but that's it. On the other hand, there are at least a half dozen mods where I would happily put money down on the character's demise if run (as written) by a good DM.

It's not a question of the quality of the character or the skills and knowledge of the player playing it. The math simply does not allow for what you are suggesting as log as the game is run properly.
This little signature is my official and insignificant protest to the (not so new now) community redesign. The layout is lousy. The colour scheme burns the eyes. The wiki is a crippled monstrosity. So many posters have abandoned this site that some major forums are going days without posts. The 4e General Discussion board regularly has posts on the front page from two or even three days ago. This is pathetic. Since I have to assume Wizards has a vested interest in an active community I wish someone in charge would fix this mess.
The other day we played Akan1-1 on high tier with a group, I don't think our DM rolled higher than a 6 on an attack for 90% of the game, I got hit a grand total of 4 times the entire game on my rogue, and I know that was just luck because the first two times I did get hit took me down to half my health in the first round of the first fight, now I only have a 21 AC but still, that's not terrible, the other two hits I took were freaking OA's vs my 24 ac vs OAs. I know that surviving a large number of attacks is mostly about luck, you can't claim to have some special way of being that lucky that you can reliable drop an entire encounter worth of critters and take all the attacks they are dishing at you without being hit enough to drop you. I just can't believe it.

on a side note sometimes it sucks to go first before the monsters who in turn go before the rest of your party =) When you take the first one you attack down to 1/4 hp on your first shot his friends tend to think "that guy sure looks threatening!" and it's suddenly concentrate all firepower on that dark skinned elf who threw a dagger in greezle's eye! Or god forbid you actually crit and drop a non-minion on your opener, I think if that happens and there are more of them standing I'll just drop a globe of darkness and move a square.
Blah blah blah
And have you actually done this or is this all hypothetical?

Its hypothetical, there is a nice long thread on battleragers:

http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=1115525

To sum it up it consists almost entirely of two types of posts-
1. I think battleragers are SO hypothetically overpowered they shouldn't be allowed to exist.
2. I actually tried out a battlerager and it was decent, but certainly not unkillable.
Its hypothetical, there is a nice long thread on battleragers:

http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=1115525

To sum it up it consists almost entirely of two types of posts-
1. I think battleragers are SO hypothetically overpowered they shouldn't be allowed to exist.
2. I actually tried out a battlerager and it was decent, but certainly not unkillable.

You can't say that it's all hypothetical yet. Players have always and will always claim that their pet PCs are decent but not overpowered. (Back in the day, I remember players seriously explaining how their Divine Metamagic Persistent Spell characters with nightsticks were not overpowered with exactly the same kind of testimony. I might have tried to argue that wraithstrike was not broken myself once based on the first few mods I played with the spell (though I did come to the conclusion that the game would be better off without it after a few more games)).

I'll believe that it's hypothetical when I or a judge whose skill I respect runs a tough mod for a skilled player with a well-constructed battlerager and it is demonstrated to not be overpowered. Until then, I'll base expectations off of math and theory in preference to players with a vested interest in their own conclusions. I'll also take with a grain of salt the claims of DMs that any particular character was fine or was overpowered. I know and have played with DMs who couldn't fight their way out of a wet paper bag with a tarrasque and players who could get pun pun killed in the first round of combat with a softball DM while playing down. Thus play of any one character at any one table is not good evidence of how a character actually works.
I'll believe that it's hypothetical when I or a judge whose skill I respect runs a tough mod for a skilled player with a well-constructed battlerager and it is demonstrated to not be overpowered.

I consider myself to fall into both your player and judge requirements, as well as others I know that have run and ran for battleragers. I make my judgement having witnessed them in action from both sides of the screen, but I very well understand that you want to see them in action yourself to pass judgement.


1. I believe a few of the LFR mods are very softball and are easy enough for a level 4 to solo the high level version of them. In fact the high level version of some mods seem significantly easier than the low level version of some mods.
2. I believe any player that believes that a character can solo any 1-4 mods has either has bad DMs or hasn't played the right mods.
I consider myself to fall into both your player and judge requirements, as well as others I know that have run and ran for battleragers. I make my judgement having witnessed them in action from both sides of the screen, but I very well understand that you want to see them in action yourself to pass judgement.


1. I believe a few of the LFR mods are very softball and are easy enough for a level 4 to solo the high level version of them. In fact the high level version of some mods seem significantly easier than the low level version of some mods.
2. I believe any player that believes that a character can solo any 1-4 mods has either has bad DMs or hasn't played the right mods.

CORM 1-1 is incredibly easy. ANY level 4 should be able to solo the low tier of that mod. If you can't it's because you couldn't make the dc13 and 13 skill challenge DC's to get the bonus' needed for the final encounter.

I recently had our LFR organizer run my level 4 fighter through that mod, and yes, I trounced it. I had to fight smart and be wary of being surrounded, but I did manage to trounce it. I came near to death only twice, and a potion + second Wind solved the whole thing.

As a second test I had my level 4 warlock run through Temple of the Fey Wild... and well I think I got as low a 22 HP once. Of course all those temp HP that the infernal build can get you helped alot.

Anyway, peace guys.