However, there is a test I'd suggest we all put our characters through. I call it the "naked in prison" test.
|The name is pretty self-explanatory, really.|
How Well Do You Do Without Your Toys?
As I said way back in The 4 Major Flaws of Character Building, one of the most common mistakes players make is to assume they'll have all the necessary toys to make their concept function at all times. This might be one of the only old school things about my gaming experience, but I always expect the DM to screw with my necessities as soon as they recognize I need those tools in order to properly function.
Call it unfair, against the spirit of the game, or hitting below the belt, I call it a perfectly legitimate strategy. And if I'm trying my best to hamstring the monsters, why shouldn't I expect the monsters to play that same dirty game right back at me?
Put another way, if I build an armored tank, I expect at least one enemy to sunder my shield. If I play a wizard, I am always waiting for the moment I'm told to make a Reflex save for my spellbook. If I have a barbarian specialized in great ax fighting, it's only a matter of time before an enemy takes the field with a tricked-out version of shatter to ruin my day. Or, at the very least, I expect to be ambushed in the middle of the night, or to wake up in prison after someone took us all by surprise.
|It was why, for the longest time, I would never specialize in a single weapon.|
It goes without saying that every character is more effective with their ideal choice of gear and tools. The question you need to ask, though, is how easy are your tools to take away from you? Not using sneaky, DM-ex-machina, hand-wavey stuff, but just with the standard rules in the game itself?
Put another way, how big is the chink in your armor?
We Are A Lot More Vulnerable Than We Think
It is remarkable how vulnerable most of our character concepts are. We're just lucky that our DMs are either not mean enough, or devious enough, to pick us apart piece by piece.
|If your PCs are giving you grief, here are a few suggestions to keep in mind.|
Wizards and clerics are powerful character options. But what happens if your bonded item/holy symbol is stolen or sundered? Or if someone just yanks it out of your grasp? Which spells can you no longer cast with your focus component missing? What do you do if your spellbook is destroyed or stolen, or your spell components are taken away from you? There are ways around these problems, like the Eschew Materials feat, making sure you have backups for spellbooks and components, and taking traits like Birthmark, which give you a holy symbol that's part of your body... but if you don't prepare, it's easy to get caught with your pants down.
The same is true for non-casters as well. What do you do if your sword and board fighter finds he's been stripped of his weapons in hostile territory? Or, perish the thought, you get ambushed by a rust monster? What happens to the ranger when his bow is smashed, or he runs out of arrows? Well, you need to have a backup plan. From improvised weapons to teamwork and ambush tactics, your success can often depend on how creative you get when your primary options are taken away, or simply do not work for the task at hand.
It's true that if you have 10 rounds to cast all your buffs before the combat starts, you're wearing your ideal armor, you have your ideal weapon, and you are in an environment that doesn't give you any penalties, of course your characters are going to carry the day. But you need to ask what happens when you don't have all those things in your favor. Or when it's exactly the opposite. When you're ambushed without any prep time, when you don't have your armor because you were sleeping, or you've lost important pieces of your artillery... what will you do then?
Because you don't have the time or the resources to limp back to town, take a week of bed rest, imprint a new familiar, buy a new spellbook, and custom make a new suit of armor. The cult is summing the Old Ones now, and it's your time to shine whether you have your best toys on hand or not. So be prepared.
That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday. Hopefully it gave everyone, players and DMs alike, some food for thought. If you want to make sure you don't miss any of my releases, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. And, if you'd like to help support Improved Initiative, head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron. $1 a month makes a big difference, and it gets you some sweet swag to call your own.