GM Misery Index: PC Abilities that Cause Headaches

May 18, 2010 | | Comments 5

As I GM I welcome the challenge of creating an entertaining, challenging campaign for my players. That said, there are some player abilities that make my GM Misery Index climb like Greece’s unemployment rate. For those that are not familiar with the “GM Misery Index” is the numerical measure of pain one must endure while running a campaign. Sometimes it is annoying players, real-life intrusions, plot disintegration or, as in today’s example, powers that make life hard for a GM.

I am sure there are literally endless powers and abilities that make a GM miserable, but I have two that induce pain just thinking about them. Flight and infravision.

I come from a “D&D” background, so flight is a mid-level ability for spell-casters in most editions. Recent editions also allow wings for some races, mostly at higher levels as well. This is wise choice because on-demand flight makes encounter design a huge hassle. Now every encounter, (barring locations where flight is not possible) requires either a flying critter or a ranged attacker. Omitting this results in the flying player facing little or no risk and my NPCs face an airborne sniper. I can tolerate it at mid to high levels in a campaign, when NPCs tend to get larger tool kits to handle airborne threats. What drives me crazy are the low-level flight PCs. “Alpha Omega” allows wings at first level for very little cost. Chasms, trapped floors and climbing encounters degenerate to “I fly up and attach a rope.” What kind of world is it if a NPC cannot threaten to throw a PC off of a building? That is just wrong.

Yes, there are ways to challenge even a flying character and I just “have to accept” what the player chooses for their PC, but that does not stop me from bemoaning flight as a PC power. Flight drives me crazy, but a close second is infravision.

Note that infravision is different from night-vision. Night-vision allows PCs vision in very low-light conditions. Helpful, but not as broken as infravision. Infravision lets you see into the infra-red spectrum, heat essentially. Here is a quick list of what infravision does to a campaign.

1. Vision in total darkness.
2. Undead-spotting “Hey, that guy is room temperature!”
3. Disguised robot spotting (see above)
4. Which button did the NPC push? Oh yeah, the one glowing bright red.
5. Hey look, I can see through the smoke!
6. Which door leads to the occupied room? The red one, of course.

You get the idea. This is only a small sample I generated in five minutes and several of them really take the wind out of an encounter. I raises my index…significantly.

This post will not make any real difference in the greater world, but it is good therapy for me. So if you have your own favorite powers that raise your “GM Misery Index,” please drop me a comment. I would love to share your pain.

Trask, The Last Tyromancer

Filed Under: rant


About the Author: Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.