Wednesday, August 10, 2011

There's a Munchkin at my Table

I've been playing D&D off and on with the same group of people for about 20 years now.  Very rarely do we all get together at once to play, but more or less, we all know each others' playing styles.  We've had new people drop in and out of campaigns here and there over the years, but the core of the group has remained the same.  When I first brought up the idea of this new campaign, one of my friends wanted to invite a mutual friend of ours who was relatively new to D&D to the campaign.  I know this guy, and he's a good person and not a weirdo, so I agreed without really knowing his play style.  In the first session, he was fairly quiet.  Mostly observing, but putting in his thoughts here and there on things that came up.  The second session was a bit different, and it wasn't long before I realized, yes, despite my best efforts, my campaign has been invaded by a munchkin.
My first warning sign should have been the fact that his character's stats were ridiculous.  Our mutual friend assured me that he rolled these stats legitimately using the 4d6 drop the lowest method (which is the standard method we use in the game.)  This mutual friend is not a munchkin player, and in fact has a lot of GM time under his own belt, although he tends to run very story based campaigns where the PCs are chess pieces in his D&D "novel," but I digress.  My gut told me I should have simply made him roll a new character in front of me, but in an effort to speed things up so we could all start the campaign, I simply let it go.  Of course, being the DM I am, I really didn't care about stats, and I still don't truly.  High stats may help in certain situations in my campaign, but outsmarting the bad guy is what ensures survivability.  After spending two sessions now with this player, and talking to him on the side about the game, it has become quite obvious that he is simply consumed with powering up his character and to hell with the consequences.  So, now I face a dilemma I haven't dealt with in many years, but in the immortal words of Ivan Drago, I will break him.
His first near death experience came without him even realizing it, which is disappointing to me as a DM dealing with this type of player.  If you've read the session two summary, you probably already know that the party had to gain access to a tunnel system outside of the city which connects to the sewers.  This tunnel system was blocked by a portcullis and guarded by a blind man.  Life-sized stone statues stood in the antechamber leading into this hall as well.  There was enough for them, as players, to put two and two together and realize that if this meek looking blind man can somehow control the entry point to a major black market trade route, he must have some power behind him.  The munchkin didn't realize this.  Fortunately for him, the others quickly reigned him in.  He was distraut over the required payment of 200 gold pieces, especially considering they had just looted a bandit camp and managed to pick up about 240 gold.  His immediate reaction at the table was "kill the blind man and open the portcullis."  After all, his character has an 18 exceptional STR.  He could smite this blind dude with his hammer in one round and raise the portcullis with a little help probably.  What he didn't realize is the entry point is protected by a medusa who uses her blind slave to take money to enter, and the portcullis is enchanted with lightning which means any character touching it will sustain 3d6 damage.  Had the others not intervened, we would have experienced a very quick and sudden character death.  For their own sake, however, they decided to just pay the blind guardian, and get the hell into the tunnels.
Throughout the session there were several facepalm and eye roll moments from my other players in regards to this munchkin's actions, which left me smirking at times.  They know the deal, and a wrong move, or a foolish mistake can result in a death quickly.  I have made this point clear to them at the start of the campaign, so they tread even more carefully...except our munchkin of course.  So, now that it has become painfully obvious how this player intends to run his character, I've got a few tricks up my sleeve for him.  First of all, he is running a cleric/fighter Dwarf, and he is foregoing any attempt at roleplaying the priestly aspect of his class.  For him, priest spells are useful for healing and casting Bless for the party when he's not smashing things with his maul.  In fact, after capturing a bandit to interrogate, he stood by and essentially allowed the bandit to be tortured and even joined in himself.  I warned him, this continued behavior could result in an alignment change, but I did not warn him of the fact that such behavior from a cleric, without seeking penance, will result in him calling for a priest spell when needed the most, and not receiving the spell from his god.  No, I think it better for him to discover this on his own through his gameplay.
I am still toying with the idea of a new mini-dungeon for the next session, only rather than a labyrinth crawling with monsters and undead, it will be a tomb of horrors style puzzle/trap maze where a wrong move can easily result in character death.  My only concern with such a dungeon is the fact that I have to expose the other good players to this exercise simply in order to teach a lesson to a munchkin.  If they're smart, they'll simply let him take the lead, as he will assuredly do, and let Darwin take over.  I could easily invoke some method to kill him as a DM and be done with it, but it goes against my code as a DM to simply use my "DM hand of God" to kill a character.  I want to present the challenge, and allow the character to make a choice, and let the consequences of the choice take over.  That's how it should be done in fairness, and I'm a fair DM.
Now that I know what I'm dealing with in regards to this player, I doubt it will take long before he realizes munchkinism does not work at my table.  That is my hope anyway.