Attack of the Munchkin Lightning Bolt

by Marcus Pan (with excerpts from Usenet's

Chain Border

Cruising through today I came across a thread that started with the following, from denizen Galin Tork:

I am DM and Lurker to this newsgroup, and have got a problem. A munchkin player of mine (he might be a Loonie, but I am going to classify him as munchkin) has made it clear to me that he intends to research a spell that levels my campaign world via a very large lightning bolt. I have told him "NO" several times, but he begin complaining about how I do not give any power to PCs, and if a PC wants to change a world, he should be able to, blah blah...

Are there any suggestions out there as to what I should tell him?

First, let me try to define a munchkin. In Advanced Dungeons and Dragons terms, a munchkin is a player whose main goal is to wreck the DM's world. They can be anything from an annoyance, to a definite campaign problem, as highlighted above. If you are a DM of any type, as I am, you recognize the munchkin threat and need to find a way to deal with this player. It's not a good idea to throw a player out of your campaign, so you devise ways to deal with him or her. Below is one of my favorite answers to the above post, written by Erik Ward:

Opposing mages might begin researching powerful protection magics to save their world -- and they would be slightly more powerful than the PC (basic premise of role playing: there is always someone more powerful than the PC, to provide either assistance or opposition); or, if not more powerful, they would be more numerous.

And how would the gods react to some mere mortal daring to begin the spell research of that Armageddon spell, much less cast it? Unless you intend to include said Armageddon into the mythological base of your world (perhaps a massive, interplanar Ragnarok-type Final War), the gods will squish the mortal immediately. For example, the good deities could send a legion of solar to obliterate the mage -- smack him with a disjunction, then wave after wave of Arrows of Mage Slaying, well within the write-up of the solar.

Failing that, the devils (you know, the L/E supernatural beings) might decide the mage is out of line. The would activate their mortal followers, who might in turn summon a gaggle of pit fiends. Certainly, pit fiends and their less powerful buddies would be waiting for the mage to screw up.

In fairness, the powers from the elemental plane of lightning would be all for it, and might be able to help the mage, but almost every other power in the multiverse would be out to get the mage.

Basically, if he's going to mess with powers like your player wants to try, he's going to get squashed. But, I'd let him try -- give him fair warning (something subtle, like vision of legions of solars or hordes of devils attacking), then squish him. The gods certainly would be fully justified in bringing ALL their powers to bear on said individual. The only entity from any fantasy books I can think of that would assist your player would be Entropy.

Bringing in supernatural forces is one thing that can be done, especially considering the magnitude of the spell this munchkin would like to research. However, not all DM's want to bring down the "Wrath of Gods" upon PCs. I myself have done it, but never in such a direct manner. However, we can look at typical, physical means with which to cause problems for the player character. For example, here are some other ideas offered to the DM, this time by Augustus Caesar and Robert J. Becraft:

I don't have my copy of the Tome of Mighty Magic laying around right now, but I think they had a spell to do a massive assault on the world, and its casting time was in the time frame of 150 years... (meanwhile, the Collapse Plane spell was 500 years casting time).

…put in some really hefty components for the spell (a 1000' glass rod to reflect the greater magnitude should stop him cold) but other than that you could also fall on the fact that it's a lightning bolt he is going to go for, and after checking up a bit on electricity and such at your local library, you'll probably be able to come up with some way to ground it out, or burn it out in the ocean.

Ahhhhh spell research... that fuzzy domain where a character goes from PC mode to NPC mode and back again with TIME thrown in on top of that.

Spell research is expensive. Specialized spells of the magnitude that you describe are EXTREMELLY expensive, and can be used to your advantage as a DM. So for the first 6 months his character is off in NPC mode, researching. He discovers that he needs a supply of 6inch purple glass rods, each of which is destroyed in his experiments, requiring him to find and secure a supplier of these precious ingredients to his research.

Back to PC mode for the campaign to discover a source for these ingredients. Of course purple glass is only made by dwarven glass smiths in some remote enclave of some dangerous mountain area on a continent that just happens to not be the one where this character presently resides.

Having discovered and negotiated for his rods, he goes back to the lab (back to NPC mode) and after a month, finds that his supply has dried up and new shipments have not been received. Well, back into PC mode to discover and deal with this new dilemma.

Oh yea, by the way, the character's money supply has dried up as well and he'll need another 100K to continue his research.

And then, on one of his jaunts in PC mode, he returns to find his lab in ruins, his notes burned and irrecoverable. He has to start all over again from scratch.

So, how many dilemma's do you throw into this research project? Just when do you want to give him his spell? Never. Keep this up and he'll either find other things to do with his time, or in the end, it will be worth both your investments.

Look at it like the search for the holygrail, or the cure for cancer. You know it's out there, and get within a finger-tip only to have it elude your grasp.

In my honest opinion, getting the goal is not near as much fun as the adventures you have along the way, both as a player as well as a DM.

Time, as seen above, can be a combatant to the PC's goal of spell-based world destruction…sometimes without the need of direct deity intervention at all. Deity intervention may just be a secondary issue. Entire adventures can be derived from just the search and research of this spell, along with constant interjections and assassination attempts by PCs and NPCs that would not like their world leveled, as shown in Erik Ward's suggestions (though "squashing" may be less fun than the consistent fun derived from Becraft's suggestions). And even player characters can get involved in the issue, as shown here in Richard W. Pierce's ideas:

Also don't forget the social ramifications of playing an evil character. No NPC will trust him, many will refuse to do business with him. If he has changed alignment (assuming he did not start out as evil), be sure to penalize him appropriately. Henchmen will leave him. If any other party members are paladins, rangers or good priests they must act against him. Perhaps they will try to cure him, or maybe a "feeblemind" is the only way to save him without killing him. Eventually the player should realize the error of his ways (unless he is REALLY dense).

In any case, his foolishness should generate plenty of plot spin offs and other adventures!

You see? Sometimes, even over-zealous munchkins can breed whole adventures!

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