If you’ve been reading this comic for any length of time, you’ve heard me talk about my megadungeon campaign. This is Monte Cook’s Dragon’s Delve, which came packaged within the sadly defunct dungeonaday.com. Both exists now only as fond memories and PDFs. Even so, my playgroup is going on five years and 13th level, and we plan to chug all the way through to 20th.

I bring it up so that I can ask you this question: When you hear the term “megadungeon,” what do you think of? Old school crawls and labyrinthine corridors? Wandering monsters? Random encounters? My experience has certainly been all of that. It’s also been my longest contiguous game, and I’ve encountered my share of social encounters, deep roleplaying, and copious backstory as well.

Today’s comic is something of a follow-up to The Right Skills. I suggested there that, as a community, we overemphasize combat effectiveness at the expense of a well-rounded character. My years in the depths of a megadungeon gave rise to that belief. I’ve seen my pal the magus explode his share of monsters, but I’ve also seen the pure support bard save the day time and time again. Whether it’s countering a medusa’s petrifying gaze, freeing a sorcerer from a T-rex grapple, or putting ranks in all the right social skills, I can’t think of a character that has single-handedly “solved” more encounters.

In my experience, most games make it pretty tough to build a character with zero combat effectiveness. However, I think it’s all too easy to fall on the other side of things. I remember running an Exalted 2e game where a buddy of mine built a true combat monster. His guy was all martial arts all the time. He had great defenses, dealt respectable damage, and basically couldn’t die so long as he had a few motes of magic still swirling around. However, he had no way to contribute outside of combat. As soon as the talky scene started, he wound up sitting there bored to tears.

Speaking for myself, I try to answer three questions when I build a character: What will I do in combat? What will I do in social encounters? What will I do in downtime? I don’t think it needs to be much, but it does need to be something. And I’m willing to shave a point our two off of my fighter’s damage output so that he can intimidate properly or actually make that engineering check during exploration.

Such a character may not be optimized for damage output, but I find it’s a lot more interesting to play.

What do the rest of you guys think? When you build a character, do you try to hit the three pillars of adventure? Do you emphasize one over the other? Let’s hear it in the comments!


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