How to Keep God Like Characters From Getting Boring – GM Tips

02 February 2023
As unto gods

Words by Richard Jansen-Parkes

There’s something special about getting to run a high-level RPG campaign, one where the characters are close to hitting max level and you’re finally able to start playing around with all those ultra-rare magic items and super-expensive gear that’s been clogging up the rulebooks.

Some of this is simply because it’s an achievement of sorts. Talk to enough GMs and you’ll soon find that most campaigns tend to fizzle out before they even hit session numbers in the double digits – who would have thought that getting a half-dozen people in a room every couple weeks would be so hard? Honestly, putting in the time and effort needed to push a game through to the top tiers is genuinely impressive.

As well as this, however, getting to run a powerful game shows you the deeply strange way that games fundamentally change when the heroes begin to push the limits of the rulebook.

Rather than worrying about local threats and finding a way to pay off their bar tab, the player characters are suddenly hopping between planes of existence, buying and selling entire armies and chewing through baddies that would have wiped the floor with them when they first emerged on the adventuring scene.

This shift can be exhilarating to GM, and if you get the chance to run a high-level game you should probably leap at it. However, bear in mind that there are a lot of unique challenges that come with the territory.

Simply put, trying to run an RPG with super-powered heroes can be hard.


The exact source of these struggles varies with the type of game you’re playing. In truth, more narrative-led games with fairly limited progression might not really change that much. Maybe the players get a couple of bonuses to their occasional rolls, and the characters have a few more allies to call on in-world, but that’s about it.

More heavyweight games like Dungeons & Dragons and Shadowrun, however, can begin to throw up real challenges as the characters approach peak power.

Numbers can begin to inflate to the point where skill tests become trivial for specialists and impossible for anyone else. Characters can gain so many powers and options that combat grinds to a halt while their players work out just what the hell they want to do on their turn. New spells and special abilities can render conventional encounters all-but meaningless – it turns out that a yawning chasm is much less threatening when the druid can turn the entire party into birds whenever they feel like it.

Perhaps the most pervasive issue, however, is suddenly finding that your usual repertoire of adventuring hooks and lures simply isn’t up to the job anymore.

When you first start playing a typical fantasy RPG, a trip to a city several hundred miles to the east is likely to be an arc of its own. The party need to plot their way across the continent, throw their lot in with merchant caravans and generally get pulled into a dozen little adventures as they travel.

All this changes when your heroes have easy access to teleportation spells, flying airships and friendly dragons willing to give transcontinental. Suddenly, a trip across the planet – possibly even across the planes – is little more than a spot of book-keeping.

This isn’t without its bonuses. You tend to get to the meat of the problem faster, for one. But at the same time you lose out on a lot of room for character development and all the unexpected quirks of adventure that can make RPGs so enjoyable.

Travel isn’t the only thing that’s impacted when your players suddenly have a lot of power to throw around. The same kinds of problems can be applied to plenty of situations that were once fertile ground for adventuring.

Tracking down a potential spy becomes a lot easier when your ragged gang of street toughs now have eyes and ears scattered across the city, eager to buy favour with their bosses, for example. Acquiring a unicorn horn is simple when the party cleric has a handful of angels on arcane speed-dial.


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So, how do you keep things interesting at high levels?

Perhaps the easiest way to deal with it is to simply crank things up on your end. Rather than having to search for an abandoned wizard’s tower in pursuit of a magical tome, perhaps the party needs to track down an archmage’s long-lost demiplane and glean the information from an imprisoned demon.

Functionally, things work pretty much the same. The party needs to find the location, do a bit of travel, and then deal with whatever wacky magical hijinks the mage has engineered for trespassers. However, not only is the latter much more epic in feel, it’s also much harder to trivialise with magical favour and high-powered abilities.

The best thing about this approach is that, in most games, you can make things about as ludicrously inflated as you want, and your players will still find some way to deal with it. If an early adventure saw them need to scavenge a handful of parts from an alien warship, this time they might need to lift the entire thing, crew and all.

Indeed, when it comes to dealing with enemies, bear in mind that super-powerful heroes don’t just face off against any old schmucks. Use the sheer strength of the party to get as cruel and creative as you can, with diabolical plots that extend beyond stealing a measly million credits and start shaking the world, multiverse or even universe, depending on your setting.

Also, remember that turnaround is fair play. If your heroes are in the habit of casually teleporting into enemy strongholds, don’t be afraid to slip a few similarly-powered assassins into their home base. Remind them that, presumably, a few other folks have also approached the level cap, and not all of them are going to be friendly.

One important thing to remember throughout this, however, is that while you still want to offer a challenge to your party, you don’t want them to feel like the past three years of heroism hasn’t actually achieved anything. If you just scale everything up to match them, they miss out on a lot of the rewards of sticking with a campaign for so long.

If they come up with some ludicrous plans – in the case of my ongoing D&D campaign, this took the form of forcibly gate-ing enemies directly into the River Styx – let them have their fun. They earned it, after all. Just remind them that anyone really worth killing probably has plenty of defences set up to stop just those kinds of shenanigans.



As with so many aspects of GMing, perhaps the best way to get yourself ready for a high-level campaign is to simply give it a try.

This doesn’t mean you have to suddenly crank your current game into overdrive, mind. Rather, try enticing your players with a max-level one-shot. Personally, I’ve found that most groups leap at the idea to take their half-sketched character concepts and get them onto the table. Just don’t be too concerned if some of them end up being obvious takes on Marvel heroes, videogame characters and min-maxed monstrosities salvaged from the deepest depths of the internet.

There are usually a handful of high-level adventures hanging about online, or you can simply peruse the bestiary, pick an appropriately horrific foe and bash out a story yourself. Just remember to leave a bit more time than you might expect to run the game – playing a brand new hero can be confusing enough, think about how hard one with a 12-page character sheet is. 

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