I don’t think it’s an earth shattering innovation to say that if you’re designing an adventure, it’s a good idea to drop in a few encounters or situations that cater to the strengths of each of your players. An opportunity for the bard to parlay or the hacker to break a security system will give them some spotlight time and make them feel valued. Conversely we’ve probably all been in some games where the GM makes no concessions to a particular class/ skill set/ etc… and the player in question does nothing but say “I hit it with my sword” all session… and maybe builds some first rate dice towers.
Recently I made a joke about the old school “detect sloping passageways and new construction” ability of the D&D dwarf. No one got it, but that’s not the point. The point is that when I thought about it, I have never once either seen that skill come into play as a player or provided an opportunity for it to come into play as a GM. Now, I’m not saying no one has ever used it. I’m sure somewhere out there is a GM whose game constantly hinges on the dwarf inspecting the hall the party is in and revealing that they’re new construction or that the floor slopes towards the surface. I’m just saying I’ve never run or been in that game and I’m betting that most GMs have a few abilities that they routinely forget to include in their game.
That made me think if there were a simple “fix” to include these forgotten elements on a regular basis. This would in theory add more depth to the game, a greater variety of encounters and challenges and round out characters just a little. My solution: a custom deck of encounter/challenge type cards to randomly drop into your prep.
Here’s how it works: Grab a set of index cards, blank playing cards or similar. Ink the edges with a different color for each PC. Go through your character sheets and find what kinds of encounters and challenges let each PC really shine or that no one else has, check the rulebooks to make sure lesser used abilities haven’t been overlooked, talk to your players and get input (Because maybe the party grump really wants to play romance encounters even though he’s got no skills to support that. Maybe he sees it as comic relief but maybe he just wants to explore that aspect of his character. Weirder things have happened.) Take what you’ve come up with and fill out each PC’s cards. Now you have a deck of encounter and challenge types custom tailored to each PC.
During prep, pull out these decks, shuffle them, and draw a card or two from each. Put an opportunity for that kind of encounter to arise in the adventure. Chances are you were already doing something like this already. Like I said this isn’t something terribly innovative, but for minimal prep you now have a system that makes bend bars and lift gates, detect sloping passages, romance encounters, grappling, whatever, rear it’s head every so often and say: “Remember me? How about if I showed up this time?” instead of getting forgotten again and again.
Alternately, you could put everything in tables and roll for results instead of using cards. You could also shuffle all the decks together and draw until you get at least one per PC but this will work best with only a few players and with a similar number of cards for each.
How about you? Have you ever routinely forgotten to place situations for certain abilities or types of abilities? What were they?