What do you do if one PC is obviously overpowered when compared to the rest of the party?

Let’s look at some reasons why this can happen, and what to do about it.

Origins of the Uber-PC

Based on my experience, these are the three most common reasons why one PC will be significantly better than the rest:

  1. The character was created by a skilled player who is accustomed to squeezing the most out of the rules.
  2. A broken rule or combination of rules are involved (they probably seemed okay at first).
  3. The PC isn’t really that powerful — it’s just that the other players didn’t build optimized characters.

What to Do

First, figure out if it’s a problem. My favorite character ever (a mortal in a Mage: The Ascension chronicle) was underpowered compared to the rest of the party. Sometimes this just isn’t an issue, and it largely depends on the style of the game.

Talk to the player of the uber-PC. If it’s clear that one character’s abilities are making the game less fun for the other players, start by bringing that up with the player of that PC. By default I’d do this in private, but in some groups sharing the discussion would be just fine.

Dial things back a bit. Try to identify why the PC in question is overshadowing the party, and reduce their abilities slightly in that area. Handle this with kid gloves — the goal isn’t to penalize the player (who may have put a lot of work into maximizing their PC), but to make the game more fun for everyone. Make sure to explain what you’re doing and why, and do it around the table with your whole group present.

Alternately, amp everyone else up. If all of your players are interested in having some sort of parity with the uber-PC, bring them up to that character’s power level. This is tricky because it can involve twiddling with lots of rules, which may create other problems — and the overall power level of your game will change, which requires some adjustments on your side of the screen.

There are other approaches, but this one presents a solid baseline — particularly for RPGs like D&D, where problems like this one are most likely to arise.

How have you handled this situation in the past? Are there any glaring flaws in this approach?