How to Deal: Ubercharger  

Posted by Michael Donaldson in ,

One of the more daunting tasks available to a DM, especially in 3.5/Pathfinder D&D, is the expert player. With the variety of options available to players there are no limit to the number of absurdly powerful and broken builds out there. We don't really have to write much on the Pun Puns out there because the answer is woefully simple - players should not play these characters and as soon as you have a grasp on their awesome power you have to take DM action immediately.

An arguably greater challenge is coping with expert players and their powerful characters that are clearly within the realm of acceptable gaming, but nonetheless a troubling force of destruction on the battlefield. Most often, it comes in the form of several synergistic choices leading up to one conclusion, whether it be charging optimization (the Ubercharger) or total magical damage output (the Nova Caster). With this series of articles, I plan on detailing some of the more common archetypes of powergamed characters and what you can do to thwart them (when you need to).

A word of caution, though; it is important to let a powerful characters use their tricks. The party is supposed to win fights. If a particular character's optimization and/or trickery is annoying you so much that you feel the need to thwart it constantly, then you should probably just go ahead and ban the character. This will save you and the player a ton of grief and frustration in the long run.

Today, I'll go over some ways to deal with the Ubercharger.

How to spot the Ubercharger

When it seems like the mounted knight has a singularity on the end of his lance tip, you know that you're dealing with this type of character. Typically mounted and utilizing feats such as Spirited Charge to multiply damage, an ubercharger can easily push their single-shot numbers into the hundreds. Keep in mind that a mounted, lance-wielding warrior can triple their damage with spirited charge. Prestige classes such as Cavalier (C.War 19) can push this multiplier to quadruple and even quintuple the damage at high levels.

Another popular option, although with a lower base multiplayer, pushes the number to be multiplied into the stratosphere. Leap Attack triples the amount of extra damage you can glean from power attack, which becomes a lot less of a risk when you utilize Shock Trooper to power attack straight into your AC. Even as low as level 6 (assuming full BAB) we're looking at a blistering 36 extra damage without a tiny bit of accuracy sacrificed. At level 10 this skyrockets to 60.

The key thing that ties uberchargers together is that all this damage hinges on the charge, and that's where we'll dismantle them.

1) Deny Circumstances

If you look closely at the rules for charging, you can pick up several situations in which a charge is not an available option. This is the least creative and least recommended option, since it conveys a much stronger feeling of antipathy between you and the player, but it is also the easiest.

Players can't charge through difficult terrain. A fight in a swamp heavily bogs down (heh heh heh) this character. Cliff faces which require careful balance, well placed pit traps, or even the oft overlooked Grease spell can ruin a charger's day. Don't be afraid to set traps for the charger. Also, be aware that most chargers require an unmolested straight line to their target and clever battlefield design can make this difficult to set up a charge in less obvious ways than the aforementioned swamp fight.

2) Control the Benefit

The biggest benefit of the ubercharge is the alpha strike, or initial damage, of the charge. The ubercharger is incredibly dangerous to large foes, BBEGs, and other important enemes. His effectiveness, however, is lessened when most of his ludicrous damage is being burned off as overkill.

Uberchargers lose much of their appeal and benefit when fighting large groups of relatively weak foes. Sure, they'll pop one a round, but it won't be as battle-wrecking as one-shotting the terrible archmage of doom before he can get a spell off. Coupled with the fact that the ubercharger will be more than happy to liquefy the fodder of the day, and you have a much more elegant solution than the one above.

As always you can combine solutions. In a battle with an important enemy, provide fodder that is easy to charge and create circumstances that make the more important foe less of a viable target. A frustrated player will expend that tremendous damage on the fodder when he can't set up a charge and the NPC lives to fight another round.

3) Create a Counter

For every trick there is a counter. Charging has plenty. Note that there are a lot of polearms that can be set against a charge to provide double damage, in addition to possibly getting a reach advantage on the player. The biggest issue is most counters share the same problem - they are designed to screw over chargers, but they don't actually stop the charge. Regardless of what happens to the ubercharger, he typically still gets his alphastrike off on the enemy and with a setup utilizing Shock Trooper he likely has a healer on hand to fix up the inevitable torrent of damage he'll receive in return. Instead, I'll provide you with a few solutions intended to competely dissolve the ubercharger.

Outranging him could potentially be easy. Expeditious Retreat gives an absolutely massive bonus to speed, and is available in potion form for a mere 50 gold. A class such as Scout, with an in-class speed bonus, could with minimal effort get 70' of land speed - more than the standard charging distance for typical unmounted chargers. No matter how hard he tries he will be unable to catch him without assistance.

Creating groups of enemies, as discussed earlier, could be pushed even further to create a squad of highly-trained anti-chargers. Imagine for a second a double-thick line of four spearman. Evasive Reflexes (Tome of Battle) allows for a 5' step in the place of an AoO. Ubercharger charges the line, and instead of setting their spears against the charge, they use the initial AoO to step back and force the ubercharger into a horseshoe of reach-abusing spartans, and as the ubercharger continues charging he gets totally destroyed by the entire line. Add trippers for extra lulz.

Perhaps the most ballsy move would be to ubercharge the ubercharger. Two words, my friend. Cometary Collision

(What sort of archetypes would you be interested in seeing featured? Sound off in the comments and we'll take a look.)

This entry was posted on September 20, 2009 at Sunday, September 20, 2009 and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


Luckily, most of my players have avoided over-optimization of their combat skills. But I still find it fascinating to read about those who do. Looking forward to the next installment.

September 21, 2009 at 11:21 AM

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