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How to fight the Chosen One syndrome

Written by Expy - Published on November 2, 2007

The Chosen One Syndrome

I was proud of my players yesterday – they overcame the Chosen One Syndrome and found their way out of a tough situation. The Chosen One Syndrome is quite common among PCs. Characters that are involved in every plot and storyline they stumble across and succedd at every task they undertake inevitably develop a medieval fantastic ego!

COS is common

All characters suffer from the Chosen One syndrome to a degree or another. But it is possible to keep players to feel too comfortable about the survival rate of their characters.

Here are a few humble pie recipes!

7 ways to fight the chosen one syndrome

  • Plan a fight in which the objective for the players is to figure that their characters don’t stand a chance. The PCs must find a way out of a squirmish. Mobs of weaker monsters are great for this because they don’t deal much damage.
  • Plan a scene in which the PCs can avoid a tough fight through wits or roleplaying. If they do get into a fight, make it a tough one that could delay the accomplishment of an important goal. Don’t make the fight impossible though.
  • Another group of adventurers pursue the same goal as the PCs. The NPC group finds a shortcut or better way to achieve the goal. This could lead to a fun scene in which ticked off PCs get trash-talked by the NPC party – but if they got to the goal first they might be a very tough opponent in a fight. Will they challenge them?
  • A red dragon shows up! Maybe too humbling. You could opt for a blue dragon – somewhat powerful – or a black dragon – spooky color – but don’t even think about the other 2 chromatic dragons. Green dragons are too emotional and I won’t even mention white dragonlike creatures!
  • Introduce lasting injuries to the characters. If a creature bites a PC’s leg there could be a negative movement or DEX modifier. This also makes combat more exciting. I wouldn’t make any injury too lasting – and the cleric might not let you anyway!
  • Play a timed adventure – maybe one of the PC has been poisoned? This adds a lot of drama to scenes when time is about to expire. When time expires, a PC falls unconscious or maybe even dies. If you play a timed adventure you might consider making combat encounters longer!
  • Disguise an enemy. I’ve always liked pimped and blinged up goblinoids with lots of magical gear. They pack a nasty punch. If your PCs kill the blinged up NPC make sure they get some good loot. This is a double-edges tactic.

Your players are still the stars of your campaign

No matter what you do to shake your players out of their comfort zone, never kill a PC unecessarily. Scare – don’t kill… but parties have been know to get wiped out! Hopefully yours will survive!

Have fun!

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Written by Expy

Meet Expy The Red Dragon

Expy is the mascot for DungeonMastering.com and the real mastermind behind Expy Games. He likes to hoard treasure, terrorize neighbors, burn down villages, and tell white dragon jokes..

No matter how fearful the legends claim dragons are, they always end up being defeated in 5 rounds by adventuring parties they encounter. That’s what dragons are – experience points for the heroes in your Dungeons & Dragon party. And this mascot is no different, hence the name Expy.

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8 Responses to “How to fight the Chosen One syndrome”
  1. rekres says:

    Is it just me or do these suggestions seem a little adversarial? When running a game, I try to avoid the DM vs PCs Syndrome…. ;)

  2. Rich G. says:

    I like ’em!

    I ran a campaign for almost five years with the same core group of characters and sometimes they would get very “We’re the star of the show so we CAN’T fail…” I used some of these things to ‘bring them down a peg or two’ not in an adversarial way, but in a ‘keep them on the edge of their seat’ way.

    At least that was my goal. They seemed to take it that way as well.

  3. Yax says:

    Your are both right. They are somewhat adversial but the goal of these tactics really is to keep the players on the edge of their seat, worrying about the safety of their characters.

    I strongly discourage imposing unjust hardships on the PCs just because you feel like it.

    But tougher encounter bring greater rewards. In the end everybody wins.

  4. The game is less fun when you think your character is always completely safe. I, for one, enjoy a challenge… it’s one of the reasons I keep coming back to the table to play every week.

    I think some of these are really great ideas. We just had a very humbling encounter last night, where our 18th level party (which had been virtually unstoppable) encountered a deity who put us in our place without killing anyone but in a very eye-opening manner.

    It’s good to help us players remember we’re not immortal and infallible sometimes.

  5. Hmott says:

    Man, The weakest spot in my DMing is letting the PCs win fights they shouldn’t be able to. I’m such a horrible DM *sob*

  6. Yax says:

    Don’t be so hard on yourself Hmott! It happens to the best of us.


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