[RPG] How to challenge extremely strong 1st and 3rd level characters


I've got a very strong group:

  • Lvl 3 two weapon ranger noble drow AC: 26 (10 base + 6 from dex + 10 from armour
    the armour is an artifact with dragonskin as material))
  • Lvl 3 elf magus AC: 20
  • lvl 1 taininim sorcerer (true blood) with a shapechanging amulet
  • lvl 1 tiefling alchemist

The group itself is quite strong especially the lvl 3 chars, and I'm running a bit out of ideas how I can challenge them without one hitting them (the lvl 1s are easy for them I just add a few low lvl traps/enemies but the lvl 3s are a problem).

As example in the current adventure I've based things on the theme of undead and thanks to their high attributes and also luck of roll (the noble drow usually does 1-2 crits in a combat) they have beaten everything I've done so far with such an ease that they are playing around even. Thus it is no real challenge and I want to change that. As examples:

  • Zombie lord (total fighter level 5) + 12 skeletons were down in 4 combat rounds with one of the lvl 3s slightly hurt (the skeletons werent able to even hit them aside from rolling a natural 20 and even the zombie lord had troubles….came to a +8 in total thanks to high strength and a magical sword so still needed 16+ or 18+ to hit).
  • A word of pain trap was spotted the drow ahs trapfinding as a feat and managed to take care of the trap with 2 attempts while managing all of the fortitude rolls (the others also managed but had to spend one hero point).
  • Undead tried to ambush them right after the trap leading with a ghost and then 3 ghasts. Those were down by 3 rounds with only the drow taking one blow thanks to the ghost.
  • An imp councelor who served as familiar for the necromancer that is the end boss in this adventure went invisible and tried to warn his master of the party but the drow managed to beat the stealth test and got enough info where the imp is to shoot him down
    (the strongest perceptionwise are the drow and the taininim with +13 each for perception)
  • In another adventure they attacked a single manticore and tore through it within 2 rounds (with the drow almost one hitting it in the first thanks to crits with botwh weapons).

The above are typical examples. They are extremely lucky with dice rolls and have high values. Normally I throw things at them that are 2 lvls above them so that combat and traps are not over in just 1 single roll / turn but still they are not even challenged.

So comes my question: What could I do to challenge that group….without one hitting them into oblivion (thus they should have a chance but be challenged)?
(for example in the current adventure it is an undead theme about a necromancer who raises an army, in the next adventure it is going against nonundead (we are playing then the last baron and even with that lvl 5 adventure I fear it will be WAY too easy for them),…).

As a comment here though: My players come from shadow run and thus they also act like in shadowrun. They are mercenary like and extremely cautious, thus always looking for traps and the drow using his detect magic ability to detect magical threats ahead of them.

Best Answer

A Ball!

If the PCs are that powerful in combat (and wouldn't be nice to know where the Drow got the cash to buy a dragonhide magic armor at level 3!), then you may want to put other kinds of challenges in front of them. No amount of armor will help them make a good impression during the official meeting with the noble of the land they saved, or to convince the princess to flee the castle with them because her foreign fiance has been replaced with a doppleganger that wants to use her in a ritual sacrifice during their honeymoon. After all, the fighter and magus can't have that many different skills maxed out, so they'll have to roleplay it the old fashioned way =)

That is, of course, if your group is willing to roleplay a more social adventure; if they're only looking for a good brawl, then I'd advise to let them enjoy their combat advantage while it lasts. In a few levels, the nature of the threats they face will begin to expand, and they will find that a high armor is just not enough to keep them safe, and they can't thrash everything in 2-3 rounds.

Independently of the way you proceed to challenge them, you should follow the advice of auditing their character sheets. They may resent it a bit if you correct them if they're using rules wrong (like stacking Mage Armor with actual armor, for example), but it's better to do it now, because if they keep going like that, it will only get worse when they get more resources to their name.

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