Campaign: The Great Tower of Oldechi
I used to think I was a pure simulationist. I wanted worlds to make logical sense first and foremost, even if that meant campaigns didn’t have a fully satisfying story or particularly fulfilling quests. Hadarai thoroughly disabused me of this.
Hadarai was an eladrin ice wizard. For a full description of the character, read that sentence three more times. He leveraged a few bits of early 4E that allowed low-level wizards to approach striker damage if and only if they stuck with cold spells. As such, he treated every problem as a nail for which ice was the hammer, except for the ones he could solve by teleporting to a place where he could use ice.
This bled into skill challenges as well. Hadarai found a way to use Arcana, the skill in which he had the highest bonus, to do just about anything. Lost? Arcana check to search for magic to use as a beacon. Trapped? Arcana check to use ray of frost to make walls brittle and let another player burst through them. Poison gas seeping in? Arcana check to use ray of frost to cover the vents. Diplomacy? Arcana check to use ray of frost to make ice sculptures to impress people. It got to the point where I started increasing DCs when a player used the same skill repeatedly in the same challenge. After all, the point of a skill challenge is to solve a problem, not have each character find increasingly ridiculous ways to use his or her highest modifier.
In-universe, Hadarai makes perfect sense. Either he was good at one thing and found ways to apply it everywhere, or he used one thing everywhere which let him train so much he got good at it. Either way, it was a wildly simulationist concept with a wildly gamist result. But it made things boring. Hadarai could have been played by a script, and the only thing that challenged him as a build was a monster resistant to cold damage. Nothing challenged him as a personality because eladrin tend to sashay blindly through the actions and opinions of those around him. He wasn’t a person, and he was barely a set of numbers because he only used 15% of his character sheet. He was just…there.
Hadarai’s player left town, and the character left the campaign by joining the villains (take a drink) as a mole. He came back some ten levels later and reunited with the party to fight the villains, dying valiantly by being…either eaten or crushed by a shipping container. That battle is kind of a blur.
I do want to point out that I’m still friends with Hadarai’s player. We game together regularly and he is incredibly aware of his tendency to give his characters convoluted simulationist justifications. This isn’t meant to be a complete burial. One of those is coming Monday.