Share your tabletop stories of powergaming

Powergaming is the controversially unscrupulous practice of taking a a somewhat unbalanced aspect of a game and exploiting it. What this often does is to drastically narrow the scope of the game- once people start powergaming, the only defense is to powergame yourself in a way that counters them. What this results in is people that always use the same ‘units’, strategies, build orders, etc. In short, I hate it because it is BORING.

A great example of Powergaming is in the Tabletop game Warhammer 40,000. In Warhammer 40k, you have an ‘army’ which you have to build under a ‘force organization chart’. What this means is that you can only have so many units of Troops, Heavy Assault, Fast Attack, Elites, and HQ. Troops are grunts, Heavy Assault are the artillery/shooty stuff, and so forth. In general, investing your battle ‘points’ in a little of everything gives you a potentially versatile army no matter what race you are fielding. A lot of races also have factions which let you take more of a certain unit (because of their tactics or abundance). But what do people do? Powergame!

Often powergaming boils down to having maybe 10 models on the board, kitted out to the point where each is nigh-invincible, cutting a swath through the opposition. Lately it seems like one of the more potentially powergamer-friendly armies is the Necrons (big surprise they’re almost as popular as space marines now :rolleyes: ). All their guns can potentially wound, regardless of toughness, and all of their guns/most of their melee attacks can potentially thrash vehicles regardless of Armor Value. The reason I dislike these types of armies so much is because it forces you to build an ‘anti-necron’ army- they are very broken. And it is worse when a powergamer takes a broken army and fields something of the order of 2 Monoliths and a C’tan plus the minimum complement of troops/HQ.

This was most likely the result of a GM not knowing how to properly adjudicate a spell, but it went like this:

In a recent D&D 3.5 game, an 18th level Druid cast the Holly Berry spell (not overly familiar with it, so I’ll just cut to the chase). It’s supposed to create a handful of berries that you can either pelt the bad guys with for moderate amounts of damage, or leave them behind and set them off like mines when the bad guys are nearby. The druid cast the spell five times and put five handfuls of berries into a sack. He then got right up next to the bad guy, dropped the bag, ran away, set the berries off, and did over 500 points of damage. Save to half.


I must admit to some power-gamer tendencies - I’m not the best at it, and it’s not my driving goal, but I have a natural tendency to exploit loopholes.

I mentioned once in a Memorable RPG Moments thread (of my own creation) that I played a character in a high-level game, named Shinma.

Let me paint the parameters for you : 30 levels to distribute, Divine Rank 0, Psionic template, and high stats.


So the other players had ‘super-charismatic Elven Sorceress’ and ‘two-handed-fighting Dervish’ and ‘freaky-weird Wizard/Druid with a huge friggin army’.

I had Shinma. Shinma was… for lack of a better word… obscenely powerful. By cherry-picking levels of this and that, I pushed him towards his character concept ideal, which was basically “Pretty-boy anime amnesiac swordsman/wizard.”

We gained a few levels over the course of the campaign, but Shinma’s schtick was that he was an Excellent spellcaster, and an Excellent swordsman - without sacrificing much form either camp. His true standout was his AC, though. His stats, combined with special class abilities, and his magical items, made his starting, standing AC in the high 80’s. By the campaign’s end, it was slightly over 100.

And he could push it higher with those 3rd Edition D&D stat-boosting spells. Roughly… 135, if I recall correctly.

Coupled with high saves, Evasion, and Exceptional Deflection from the Epic Level Handbook, he had the nickname ‘the Untouchable.’

Yeah, I know, you’re all nauseated. On the other hand, it proves I’m really good at playtesting new RPGS to find holes, right?


For those of you unfamiliar with Blue Planet it is a game set in the future around 2200 AD. The premise is that a habitable planet has been found and Earth has been in the process of colonizing it. It’s cyberpunk and the wild west all rolled into one.

I was running the campaign and the premise was that they were crew members on a ship sponsered by a university to study the planet. They were also suppose to find the previous expedition that mysteriously disappeared a few years earlier. The game never happened because one power gamer ruined it for me before it ever got started.

When making his character he picked Transhuman as a race. (Gene Modification is pretty common in the future.) Transhuman is pretty much the best modification as it adds the most bonuses to stats but it’s generally reserved for people from wealthy backgrounds. He’s an ex-cop and private detective and he just came up with a lame story about growing up wealthy to justify the Transhuman race. Fine, I didn’t stop him and thought we could just get on with the game.

I based their characters income on their education level and occupation. The doctor and the engineer were going to be making more money then a deck hand or security personel. As I said Transhuman boy was a P.I. which fit the campaign like a glove because part of their mission was to find out what happened to the previous expedition. The doctor and the head engineer both made 5,000 credits a month while a deck hand only made 800. In the player’s handbook it says that private decetives make 500 credits a day but average about 2-3,000 a month. I went ahead and said Transhuman boy would be making 2,500 a month based on his education level and occupation.

This was unacceptable because the book says private dicks make 500 credits a day. By his caclucation he should be making 15,000 credits a month. Of course I said “fat chance” because there’s no way a PI employed by a university (expedition sponsers) was going to be making 3 times what the doctor made. He tried all sorts of schemes to justify why he should make at least as much as the doctor even going so far as to raise some of his skills without actually raising his education level. (It was all legal so it wasn’t like he was cheating.) I did budge a little and raised his income to 3,000 credits a month but I refused to raise it further. When he put his foot down and said “I don’t even see why my character would be here for that kind of money.” I simply replied that nobody else seems to have problems with the premise of the campaign and you need to make a character to fit the parameters of the campaign.

Keep in mind that money wasn’t even going to be a big issue in the campaign. Basic equipment like survival gear, food, lodging, weapons, etc. was all being provided by the University. Unfortunately the damage was done, he had pestered me so much over that week about his character that I lost all desire to run the game. After that I no longer invited him to particpate in anything I was running.


It’s interresting this was brought up- I’m currently in the midst of a discussion / near-flame-war on another board about just this topic.

My most interresting experience was with a very short-lived campaign right when D&D 3rd ed. came out. We were using the WotC character generator program, which allows re-rolls for stats. One of our players literally re-rolled over 1000 times until he had all of his stats at 16 or better. Luckilly, said game lasted all of about six sessions.

On a different note, I was part of a home-brewed LARP that ran for about 7 years. In the fourth year, I became part of the GM staff for it, and quickly gained the title of ‘Rules Monkey Overlord’ (a title I wore with pride)- I not only knew pretty much all the rules at that point (a feat few could brag of), but I was the ‘go-to’ guy when it came to powergaming. When a new skill / advantage / spell was thought up, I would be tasked to find out how one could powergame it. Several rules changes came about because I found ways to (for instance) make infinite gold from a new advantage, or do more damage than anything else in the game via a simple priest spell. Ah, good times. :slight_smile:

These are examples from PrinceCon, an annual event during Princeton’s spring break which features nonstop gaming with a custom ruleset from Friday night to Sunday night. Some rules have been changed over the years; I deny any responsibility for these. However, I haven’t attended in about six years, so these may no longer be accurate.[ul][]The rules (at the time, at least) detailed a formula for damage caused by falling objects, basing the damage dice on height, weight of the falling object, terminal velocity, et cetera. Someone realized an easy way to deal ungodly amounts of damage was to fly above an immobized target and cast a monster summoning spell. A 10 ton hydra falling a few hundred feet flattened most anything.[]The following year, the monster summoning spell was changed to only summon monsters native to the immediate environment - fish could not be summoned out of water, hydras could be summoned in the air - but it kept the note that the caster has complete control over the summoned creature. Someone then realized an easy way to deal ungodly damage was to repeat last year’s trick, except to summon a roc and command it to “stop flapping and dive straight onto the target.” This way even had auto-aiming![]The following year, the monster summoning spell was changed yet again to prevent a summoned creature from performing an action that would knowingly lead to their unavoidable death. There was still a dimensional portal spell, though, which allowed the caster to create an entry gate and an exit gate anywhere within 100’ (per level) of the caster. If an exit gate was within a solid object and someone passed through the entry gate, they were immediately killed. Using judicious timing and fortunate initiative rolls, people could[list][]Summon a rhinoceros and have it begin charging at full speed in a random direction.[]Caster #1 creates a dimensional portal with an exit underground and an entrance immediately in front of the target to be killed.[]Caster #2 creates a dimensional portal with an exit immediately behind the target to be killed and an entrance in front of the rhino.The rhino hits the gate, rams the target from behind, knocking him into the next gate, causing instant death. Poor rhino; if it only comprehended dimensional travel, it never would have run straight into a gate…[/ul]For some reason, this spell was changed the following year as well.[/list]

The game: In Nomine, a game of angels and demons.

The character: A kyriotate servitor of Jean. Kyrio were angels who had to possess mortal beings (humans or animals, basically) in order to acquire a physical form. Jean was the archangel of technology, so my character was also able to possess inanimate objects for short periods of time.

He also had a song (In Nomine equivalent of a spell) that enabled him to spray acid. What a sweet combination that was.

Possessing sprinkler systems and spraying whole roomfuls of Hellsworn was fun. The Pidgeon Attack Squad was lots of fun. The most fun of all was possessing peoples’ underwear and giving them the acid point-blank.

Possessing the demon policewoman’s radio so she put out an all points bulletin on her Hellsworn street gang allies instead of us was pretty fun, too. As was possessing her holstered gun and shooting her in the leg. And when I took control of her car during the ensuing chase and drove her off a dock, the look on the GM’s face was priceless.

Man, now I miss that character :frowning:

Not Holly Berry: Fire Seed. The tricky version you’re describing, however, comes about by casting this spell on holly berries, and is known fondly amongst powergamers as the Berry Bomb. Done properly, you can inflict well in excess of 2,000 points of damage with it (save for half).

Done properly, of course, means having a sucker for a DM. If your players try to do this, interpret D&D’s stacking rules conservatively.

The stacking rule states, among other things, that if you’re affected by multiple versions of the same spell simultaneously, only the most powerful version applies. In this case, I’d rule that the effects of the berries in the berry bomb overlap with one another instead of stacking: if more than one berry blows up in your face simultaneously, only the berry with the most boom hurts you.

Other famous D&D power-plays:

  1. The Bag of Puppies: carry a bag of puppies around with you. Take the Whirlwind Attack feat (one attack on everyone within range), and the Great Cleave feat (every time you knock someone down, you get a free attack on someone else). When you encounter the bad guy, drop the bag of puppies on the floor, letting them out, and whirlwind attack them. Every time you kill a puppy, use Great Cleave to attack the bad guy. Carry 20 puppies with you, and get 21 attacks on the bad guy. Not bad, eh? (3.5 changed this trick, so it’s more difficult to do, but with epic feats it’s still possible).
  2. The Great Awakened Puppy Machine: Capture a druid and persuade her to obey you. Have a big hulking assistant ready to continue persuasion efforts when you’re unable to. Have the druid cast baleful polymorph on you; fail both your saves. You’re now a puppy dog.
    Since you’re an animal, have the druid cast Awaken on you, giving you +2 HD and +1d3 charisma. The spell is instantaneous; once these changes go into effect, there’s no way to reverse them.
    Now have the druid dispel the Baleful Polymorph. Presto–you’re yourself again, only with +2 HD and +1d3 charisma?
    The best part about this trick? You can do it all over again! Keep on doing it as long as the druid has the XP to blow on the Awaken spell, or until you decide that you’ve got enough HD.
  3. Shocking the Shamblers: Ideally, use the Handle Animal skill to gain a shocker lizard pet. Otherwise, capture one. Now, find a Shambling Mound, and use Control Plants to take control of it. You probably don’t have anyone nearby that you really want to kill; that’s what your party wizard is for, to teleport the mound to near your favorite enemy (a black dragon is a great choice).
    But before you go, let the lizard and the shambling mound get to know one another. It’s easier if you’ve trained the lizard, but if you’ve not, just command the shambling mound to pick the lizard up and poke it–lightly! Each round, the shocker lizard will shock the mound, giving it +1d4 con. Give it, say, 50 rounds, or 5 minutes, in which to do this; at the end of that time, the shambling mound will have an average con bonus of +125, granting it an extra 57 hit points per hit die, or 456 extra hit points total. If that’s not enough for the shambling mound to be your meat shield, well, maybe you should’ve trained five shocker lizards instead of just one, huh? Then the mound would have 2,280 extra hit points. NOW it’s a meat shield!

moderator of a Dungeons and Dragons board :slight_smile:


I mean, that’s some nice stuff, LHoD - I’d heard the Awaken trick … the Cleaver’s a new one. Shambler’s old news.

You don’t know the Telekinesis trick?

Buy 1,000s of Crossbow Bolts. And a Couple of Wands of Greater Magic Weapon at 15th Caster level (in 3.0, 20th in 3.5 - if the trick still works.)

Bag of Holding is nice for carrying, as well.

Dump bolts in front of target, after having enchanted them hours before, with each charge of a wand getting 50 of them. Cast Telekinesis. Perforate Target with thousands of bolts. Even assuming they’re each doing the base minimum 1 point of damage (They shouldn’t really get their full normal damage value, as the TK spell isn’t a bow or crossbow) you get to add the +5 Damage Enhancement bonus. 6 points of damage, each bolt.

Lots of money for the trick, but the nice part is, as written, it will destroy Gods, almost none of whom, as I recall, had a DR of nastier than x/+5.

Figured out the trick with Shinma - Also figured it wouldn’t be able to kill him, quite, in the quantities I had assumed. Also figured out how I’d overrule it as GM.

Dorkness, those abuses sound like a gaggle of CCG players got ahold of the rules…

In my group, I once decided I wanted to run an Outer Planes campaign. This was long before the 2nd edition Boxed Set with the abomination that was Sigil and the cartoon anime watercolor artwork, and the pissy jargonslang…

No, this was not going to be a fun, friendly, PG-13 Outer Planes campaign. It was going to be a hard, cold, R- and sometimes X- rated tour of the depths of evil, the heights of goodness and the impersonality of both Law and Chaos, as revealed in my treasured copy of 1st Ed. Manual of the Planes. And it would reveal the follies and foibles of Gods and Devils alike. It was my Grand Campaign…

Since no one had PCs of suitable level, I gave all my players something like Nine Million Experience Points with which to create characters. They knew in advance it was to be a transplanar campaign.

In a group of seven, all but one made a Human, with nine levels of Fighter then a change class to whatever… cleric, mage, thief, etc… Unashamed min/maxing. I didn’t care.

The last one wanted to play a Psionicist, thinking (correctly) I couldn’t mess with his spell access when he crossed planes. Fine. As long as he stuck to the Psionicists Handbook, which imho was the only usable 2nd edition set of psi rules.

So the campaign starts, and a royal infant heir is kidnapped by a major demon during a sunrise baptism unintentionally scheduled for the moment of a full solar eclipse, etc… And the party full of 15th level munchkin wet dreams pursuses the babysnatching Fiend…

… by visiting the chief prime material plane temple of every single Major Power in two pantheons, begging the high preists at each for help with their quest, scared shitless to set one foot in the outer planes.

I did at least get them to visit Myth Drannor on Faerun by using the Temple to Lathander there. And they ran screaming like little girls from one giant slug. (And this was even after they completely annihilated two iron golems in one round of melee, before the golems even had a chance to act on their initiative.)

Freakin’ preening wimps! And as soon as I am able to corner them into using their planar travel item, and they wash up on the warm, friendly shores of Elysium, they want to play another campaign. They were too worried about mussing up their precious pretty 15th level characters.

I still berate them about their cowardice to this day.
My favorite story of power gaming, though is The Intercontinental Union of Disgusting Characters. It’s iconic!

Oh yeah–cartload of crossbow bolts. Forgot that one :). 3.5 made it impossible, thankfully.

You’d heard the Awaken trick? Pity, that–it’s the only grotesque powerplay I’ve invented myself. I came up with it in response to 3.5’s tiny rules change, saying that Polymorph changes your creature type, to demonstrate why this was such a bad idea.

But if you guys want to see the all-time greatest powerplays, check out The Sultans of Smack thread on the ENBoards. Characters who can reliably do 500 points of damage every round; characters dealing 48d8 points of damage to everyone in a single round; clerics who subdue elder wyrms in one round; and so forth.

It starts off in 2002, so many of the old powerplays don’t work any longer; on the other hand, the ones at the end include damage in the tens of thousands.


Great stories, if you have more, please post them, I know I love them.
If anyone would be so kind though, I would appreciate an email for some of these RPG boards. I don’t know any of the good ones or recommended ones.

My RPGing experience is usually the exact opposite. I can’t roll, powergame or figure out exploits to save my life. I can’t ever figure out how to be super cool. I usually end up ubar-suxxor.

Please more grossness!

My daughter and I were playing Candyland, and I was one square away from winning, and then I pulled the Plumpy card. My daughter did a dance of joy. “In your face, daddy! Now I’m going to win!”

And she did.

She’s definitely a powergamer. :slight_smile:

dunno if it was strictly “powergaming” per se, but here are a couple of memorable gaming encounters;

AD&D; we had to rescue some of our party members from imprisonment in a vampire lord’s castle, during our exploration of the castle, the vampire was apparently out in the countryside, feeding, and had stupidly left his coffin open

i was a magic user/fighter and another freind was a cleric, we decided to combine spells…

i cast “create rainstorm”, the cleric cast “Bless”, voila! we created a rain of holy water…

in the vampire’s coffin

we rescued our party members and left the castle undetected, at least until the vampire went to lay down in his coffin…

…the scream was heard 3 kingdoms away! :wink:

when i was GM’ing Gamma World in college, a couple of my freinds wouldn’t take it seriously, so the next time they were exposed to radiation and had to roll for a mutation, they gained the defect mutation “Fear of Fur”…

…did i mention that their characters were Tigeroids? (human/tiger mutants) :wink:

Now I remember why I prefer to play Paranoia. Much easier to put the smackdown on powergaming munchkins there. :smiley:

Check out; IMO it’s the best D&D website around.

A note on these tactics: you really don’t ever want to use them in actual play. They’re very fun as mental exercises, but most of them are exploiting loopholes in the rules, and will make the game less fun for everyone involved. As a DM, you can usually find some loophole to make a killer tactic not work, and it’s a very good idea to do so if someone tries to, for example, open a bag of puppies in the middle of your game.


Not strictly powergaming, but a guy I knew in High School would literally spend 3 days (2-3 hours/day) rolling his characters until he got all 18s. We had to commend him on his honesty, but seriously…

Ok, if we’re doing D&D3.5 smacks, I have a few more to contribute:

The Burning Anger Trick
In the Book of Vile Darkness, there’s a disease called “Burning Anger”. It increases your Strength by 1d3 points each day, but deals 1d3 damage to your Intelligence each day. Now, damage from this disease cannot be healed by restoration or the like, but it can be prevented. So grab yourself the shield from The Complete Divine that blocks three points of ability damage per day and you’re good to go. Potentially infinite strength! For best results, find yourself a plane in which time passes more quickly than on the prime material.

Infinite Wishes
In the web enhancement to The Complete Divine, Wizards released a prestige class called the Dweomerkeeper. Among other useful goodies, the Dweomerkeeper allowed you to cast one of your cleric spells as a supernatural ability a few times per day. This is plenty abusable on its own, as this enables you to bypass spell resistance, material component costs, and xp costs, but it doesn’t really shine until combined with the Spell domain, which allows access to Greater Anyspell and Limited Wish. Greater Anyspell enables the caster to cast any single Wizard spell of fifth level or lower, and Limited Wish is, well, Limited Wish.

Divine Metamagic
Divine Metamagic allows you to use up turn attempts to apply metamagics to your spells, instead of increasing their level as is typical. This only becomes disgusting when you mix in Persistent Spell. Divine Power and Righteous Might are the two standard targets, but there are others; Divine Favor has its merits, and access to Wizard spells can enable a variety of abuses.

Note that this smack can be combined with the previous one; Draconic Polymorph (from the Draconomicon) has a range of “personal” and thus can be made persistent, allowing access to all-day polymorph at level 12.

The Hulking Hurler
Just for fun, we’ll discuss a rules abuse that doesn’t involve The Complete Divine. The Hulking Hurler enables rock-throwing damage that scales with the weight of the object thrown. Maximum throw weight scales with the square of your strength score (more or less). The Warhulk (from the Miniatures Handbook) is a combat class that provides no BAB, but grants +2 to Strength on each class level. There are ways to push your strength into the thousands, and gain the ability to throw planets at your enemies, but I can no longer remember them; consult the official wizards boards (D&D, Player’s Handbook, Character Optimization) for details.

The single most powergame aspect of the Space Marines is the Razorback (with twin-linked LC natch.) One of our group has his entire Black Templars detachment in Razorbacks, and they can go toe to toe, points-wise, with dedicated anti-armor units of other races, PLUS they can move and carry troops at the same time!

Then there is the fact he is playing the Templars, (taking the 6+ invulnerable vow of course,) with BP/CCWs so that even if you DO get them out of the razorback you still need good CC ppl.

He is beginning to take more BP/Power Weapon combos in his squads. He knows that it increases the CC abilities of the squads, but I haven’t yet pointed out to him that unlike most power weapons, you don’t have to give it to a Templar Character so I won’t be able to focus my CC attacks on the power weapon… :mad:

The funny thing is, I play the Chaos Marines, and people keep mentioning how they are unbalanced…I keep saying, not compared to the Black Templar and the Necron!

See, now, that’s why I don’t like starting parties much higher than 3rd level. If you don’t know what your character has survived, you don’t know what your character can survive.