As an agent of both destiny and Quest!Co., Quest Giver does not make mistakes. He might get confused sometimes. He might forget to take his medication (or perhaps take too much), but he’s never wrong.

In the same way, we as players are never wrong when we build characters. The pile of game mechanics and personality that winds up hitting the table may be shifted towards damage output, skill specialization, or a particular school of magic, but it’s not about stats. It’s about what you do with them.

Here’s where I’m coming from. Today’s comic is inspired by an old Monte Cook encounter design called “Soul Storage.” Players who touch a magic mirror get trapped inside a solo encounter. From the character’s perspective it seems as if they’ve been teleported to some distant corner of the dungeon, but in reality they’re just paralyzed and hallucinating. It’s a fun conceit, but the really interesting part is the nature of the solo encounters. According to Cook, these encounters should be “appropriate (which is to say, inappropriate) for the character.” The examples include lock picks for paladins, talking your way out of a hangman’s noose for socially challenged fighters, or heavy armor and melee for squishy casters.

The point isn’t to punish players for building specialists. (As a general rule, the point is never to punish players.) Rather, I think the point of this little encounter comes towards the end of Monte’s write-up:

Creativity should be rewarded. Knowing that he’ll never pick the lock, a character in challenge 1 might use the picks to try to remove the hinges on the door, for example. A good verbal riposte in the repartee that will occur in challenge 2 should grant a large Diplomacy bonus….

These encounters aren’t about build-shaming: “You fool! You should have put more ranks in Disable Device!” After all, Cook’s “appropriately inappropriate” encounters are always wrong for your character. Rather, the “Soul Storage” encounters are all about putting PCs outside of their comfort zone regardless of build choice. In that sense creativity isn’t just encouraged; it’s essential.

So here’s the question of the day. Has your character ever been put into a situation they weren’t equipped to deal with? How did you deal with it? Let’s hear your tales of Gordian knot-cutting down in the comments!


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