Thursday, March 8, 2012

Monsters Resurrected: To Hyper Specialize or Not Hyper Specialize?

So one of the stranger dinos on this show, Spinosaurus is showcased as being another of these dreaded 'apex' hunters. (Seriously guys, get a thesaurus or something.). It's one of the largest dinos in its time. It's arms actually look to have some functionality to them. They end in massive claws. It's so powerful that it's teeth aren't designed to rip meat off the bone, but rather, it shakes the prey until it is ripped apart and then repeats the process.

But... and here's that dreaded but again, when its own food source goes away, it now has to compete with another type of creature that's smaller, faster, and uses pack tactics. In some ways, sounds like the good old terror birds against the wolves.

Acrocanthosaurus aka the Great American Predator, is like a variant of the T-Rex in that its another top level predator. It's jaws are designed to pull that meat right off the bone. Its neck designed to not break. Its arms, despite their small size, having vast strength. Its downfall? Its food source goes out and all these specialized features it has aren't that handy in taking down the other types of prey about. And it too has to compete with smaller and dangerous predators. And yeah, there's the whole "my eggs are laying on the ground and easy for predators to eat thing."

And as I'm watching these shows, and they push out millions of years at a time like I would discuss waiting for a bus. "In a manner of 15 minutes, the bus had arrived." but you know, "in a mere fifteen million years, the reign of this predator was over." But no, brain, come back to the point.

Because so many of these creatures are hyper specialized, when their niche is gone, so are they.

And to be honest, as a GM, I both play to, and play against players who do that.

In terms of playing to? I'll let the players know what type of campaign I'm setting up, What I expect to be using in terms of some of the major enemies. It allows the players to theme out if they wish. If I'm going to run the Age of Worms, they know that undead are probably going to be popping up left and right for example. In such instances, I encourage the players to pick up the pace when it comes to making characters that may specialize in the field of destroying undead, even offering them some advice in terms of useful feats and Prestige Classes they may not have heard of.

But at the same time, when I see a player whose so dug into his niche, like a warrior without a single missile weapon, yeah, it's on. Kobolds have slings, goblins have short bows, gnolls and orcs have longbows, duergar and hobgoblins have crossbows and of course other such assaults.

Mind you, I give them plenty of time to shine as well, but I've got no problem hitting them with the highlights just to point out, "Uh, you might at the very least want to you know, carry a hand axe or something to throw."

The same can also be done with wizards. I've seen some get so into their theme that they refuse to work out anything that goes past that. In some cases, this can be great as its the player roleplaying their differences, their style, their choices. In others, they're just bin min-maxers. I'm not going to tell you what's going on at your table. You're already there. You'll know from the way the player acts, how he reacts, and what he does in the future as his character advances.

Just don't be reluctant to shine a little light on them.