Monday, March 14, 2011

Bad Guy “Levels”

There comes a point in any campaign world where it isn’t OK to just keep making the bad guys bigger and tougher. A couple posts ago we talked about experience. Fortunately, in Legend Quest, you can customize your character, so there are circumstances where a 600 point deadly knight can easily overwhelm a 1000 point adventurer. This mainly comes when the adventurer is more of a jack of all trades, while the bad guy can be straight melee. But what about a 1,000 point character? Where did 1,000 point characters get to be so tough? They’re either 100 years old or they’ve been in a LOT of nasty scraps. How do guys like that “fly under the radar”? The point is, whether you’re using character points or levels, how did the guy with the huge experience get to be the guy with the huge experience. And assuming he did, wouldn’t the player characters know about him?
Not that I haven’t done it myself, but I always feel wrong about a mission where you go into the desert and fight a huge number of really experienced desert nomads. How did they get to be so good out in the desert where no one really knows of their existence. Now, if your game rewards you for challenges and not necessarily for actually killing people, then you can say they have overcome great challenges out in the desert, but what challenges? Staying alive is a big challenge and can teach a lot, but not how to wield a sword. Are there horrible sand eating desert monsters out there that need to be killed? If not, it’s not like they were fighting off all the other people in the desert - Tons of people don’t live in the desert (we’re not talking about LA here).
I’m not just arguing about experience methods here. I’m encouraging GMs across the industry to try and have some reasonable explanation for where all the really high level bad guys come from. Other worlds or hells are always good, but no tactic can be used over and over. Any really powerful creature that can be created through magic is good. Veterans of major wars are fine, but they should likely be known - maybe not individually, but “The Greenwood Company” from the six year satyr war. If powerful bad guys are coming into the area from distant lands, why?
This argument also encourages my on-going theme of “permanent enemies”, you know, those enemies who keep escaping and coming back again. Where did the bad guy get all that experience? From fighting the player characters over and over again.
One last point - as they have said on “White Collar”: No reputation is the best reputation. Certain bad guys only survive to be powerful because they are secretive. OK, that’s fine for the rogues and assassins, and maybe even the necromancers, but not for the rest of them. I hate arguing both sides of an argument!

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