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I agree. Freelance DMing is really the only way I can do it, as I have almost no prep time in which to sit at a table and put pen to paper as a "set in stone" path. So what do I do? I think up ideas on my way home from work or school, and let my mind think of where those could lead. Out of all the possibilities I can consider in that time, I use maybe three or four and pretty much let the players run the campaign whatever way they want (my primary campaign's players are all blowing their loot from their last campaign arc on a "vacation" of sorts...it feels more like a "mini-retirement", though...)

But, I digress. CHEATERS. Oh boy. I have had to deal with two in my time (both roll-augmenters). Both times I allowed their cheating to go unconfronted, but similarly ramped up the die rolls for their opposition while keeping it at the original level for the others. I think it worked.


PC's name: Oberan
Race: Human
Class: Wizard
Level: 11
Circumstance of Death: Hung around a Dread Wraith too long and got turned into one (Constitution drain up to his score).
Setting: Homebrew World (Redstar)


Sir Kaikillah wrote:

I hate finding out that a pretty girl has a problem with D&D and all that fantasy stuff, after you've been dating for three weeks. Then the wench decides not to call you back. I hate that!

I hate the fact that because i'm brown, surf and play the ukulele, people think I don't work. This lady came up to me the other day and said, "It must be good not having to work." No you don't see me here at the beach all day, everyday (well most days, but not all day everyday). I 'm poor, I have to work for a living, to pay rent, buy food and gas, pay for all those D&D books.

I hate the fact that people try to take advantage of my generous and friendly ways. The other day, this hippie kid was dancing to my cousins and I playing music. He asks if he can borrow my phone, make a call. I lend him my phone, tell him make it quick keep it local. I assume he puts the phone back in my cousins van, and we go swimming and the hippie kid walks off. We return and my phone gone, hippie kid is gone. I leave pissed. My cousin then calls me latter and tells me he found the phone on the hippie kid. I return and confront the little thief, and he says its just a mistake he forgot to return the phone. Then he starts giving me a grief about being hostile. The kid called long distance and put his friends numbers in my phone. He had no plan to return my phone. Ten years ago I wopuld have slapped him silly. But I am old and lazy now, so I took five dollars from him and told him to leave town and never let me see him or else.

So I know he is telling his friends how unfriendly the natives are on Maui. How this uneasonable large local taxed him and kicked him off the beach. But this sh** happens for a reason. So if you are on the north shore of Maui and see a group of large natives singing and playing music, be friendly smile you will make friends. Those stories of unfriendly natives come from punks who step out of line.

Yes, you should be commended for such restraint. Where I live stunts like that would get hippie boy beat, killed, or worse.


Baramay wrote:

My rant is about lazy players. That is right lazy players. What do I mean, I am talking about players who don't try to figure out the next step to move the campaign along but wait for the DM to send a NPC to tell them what to do because he spent 5 hours working on the adventure. So you say the DM should award experience for good ideas. The result of that was a barrage of ill conceived, idiotic ideas thrown out by the dozen in hopes of guessing correctly. I am not saying that people need to have brilliant ideas all of the time, in some cases the simplest solution can confound anyone. But please show that you put more than 5 seconds into your idea. That can really tick off the DM 5 hours of work vs 5 seconds of thought.

So I am playing in a King's campaign similar to Birthright, all of the players have their own small island kingdom and have put cabinets together. I assigned tasks to all of my cabinet immediately to find out as much as I could about my kingdom. The others had one or two people handling their problems. The result: The person I sent out takes three months to find out the same information that the other character's people find out in one month but started two months later. So in character I am thinking, are my people inept? Is their person that good? The answer was neither. Having the information would give my character and kingdom a distinct advantage over the others and as we all know from the DMG II one character having advantages over the others is not good. So my ideas get nerfed. If one character or kingdom is screwing up and making bad decisions and your kingdom is doing well by skill or luck. Look out there is a plague on the way.

Don't get me wrong I am not in favor of splitting up players, but even when they stay together it is a competition. I actually heard one players say to another, " At least I did not die before you did." Where does this mentality come from? Is there a way to fix it? If you cannot win an arguement with an idiot, can you work with someone...

The scenario you have described is a good example, but the reason that I (on the rare times I'm on the player's side of the DM screen) would be qualified as a "lazy player" by your standard is because I don't know what kind of "cue" the DM is going to give to tell me "time to go find your next adventure!" One of my peeves with tabletop gaming are those times where I feel like I'm just ambling blindly through the DM's campaign world, waiting for the adventure to "trigger". Now if you're discussing metagamers (ie. "The DM will have to send me an NPC eventually or else his five hour prep will be for nothing!") I agree with you. Nothing is more irritating than those that think that D&D is a medieval combat simulation and refuse to do anything to any end other than finding the quickes way to beat up the next monster, but those players do exist.

One of the times where your idea proved true was during my paladin's campaign where I had to rescue a priestess from some wizard. The problem was, I had no idea where I was supposed to go to rescue her. On top of that, the Wizard had launched a maximized 15d6 lightning bolt at an NPC before, so the guy was at least CR 15. I was 3rd-level. At first my peeve alarm went off, but I suppressed it and decided to go on. Eventually I was led through the most thrilling and entertaining adventure of that entire campaign (so far; it's still going), all because I had made my own decisions on where to go and such rather than allowing an NPC to tell me where to go.

However, there are times when the DM should give some NPCs the ability to aid the player in their search for their next adventure hook, and those NPCs should help out the player. Having a burglar attack under the still of night, steal the player's equipment, and leave without a trace and expecting the player to instantly conclude where the burglar came from with no prior context or clues is bull, and it's that kind of crap that makes up most of my peeves with homebrew campaigns.


Call me crazy, but I thought we called Fighters that got along OK in the wilderness and had animal companions Rangers.

Don't hit me! *ducks*


Longest campaign I ever ran lasted about a year. VERY high-magic, with extreme NPCs (some very story-active NPCs were hovering around 60th level, some of the main villains were even higher but less active...it made the players very cautious of what they said or did). It was only me and one other friend with a constantly changing array of other players that would join for one or two adventures and then quit only to return and play once or twice in a few months. It made prepping hard, that was for sure.


My group consists of:
DM: Me (age 16)
Players (in order of their participation in the group): My best friend (16), his brother (12), his neighbor (14), my nemesis (16). Also, my best friend has expressed that he's going to introduce an unknown to the game, age 16-17. That brings the average age to 14.8, which is about how old I was when I started playing! :D


trembletoe wrote:

I am going to cross post this so I hope no one gets angry.

I sponsor a gaming club at the high school where I am the librarian. I am trying to help start two more in the area this year. My question is:

1)How many of you out there are currently in high school/middle school and have a gaming club at your school?

2)Of those of you who do not, would you like to have one?

3)If youw want one what is stopping you?

4) If you are older and out of school...did you have one when you were a student?

I am asking these question because I would like to get a feel for how widespread these clubs are and if there is a need out there for an origaization to help start clubs at schools that do not have them.

Just for your info
our club is nine years old this year
we have about sixty kids (although that drops around report card time)
we play five nights a week (not everyone but the options is there)
we have one late night session a month (2:00 - 10:30 pm) and one over night per year both of these are in the library.
I also sponsor the Japanese Animation club, there is lots of spillover and they participate in the evening events.

Thanks

1. I'm in high school, but we're a computerized accelerated school (I'm actually posting from said school). Our school days are less than 5 hours long, with only two 15-minute breaks interspersed. There is no lunch, students are kicked off of campus 15 minutes after school ends, and 99.5% of the students here (meaning all of them except me) are the type that would pull a gun on you if you mentioned something like D&D. After all, they wouldn't want their imagined "street cred" ruined, yo.

2. I would love to actually have a group of players outside of my actual friends. Right now my hobby is hurting, because the only people I have to play with are:
-My best friend, who has completely unmedicated ADHD and has a hard time keeping focused at the game table, gets hungry every hour, and constantly quotes anime characters,
-My best friend's immature and erratic friend, whose mother will have heart palpitations if he's not in his room at 6:00 PM, and
-My best friend's brother, who is 12 and does nothing but roll-play. These three are my group, and I've totally exhausted just about every ounce of creativity I've got playing with them for so long. Other gamers that I know, but have been inactive for a long time are:
-A total munchkin/rich kid that is so used to having his way all the time that his arrogance negatively affects my DMing. I've actually caught myself fudging rolls in favor of monsters when this kid is at the table,
-Munchkin/Richie Rich's best friend, who is a good guy but has expressed that he is tired of D&D, and
-Munchkin's best friend's neighbor, who is another roll-player. These three are what I call (surprise) the Munchkin group, because Munchkin rubs off on them and it's all a mess.

A change of pace would be great. I'd love a gaming group. At my first HS (the one I attended freshman year) the geeks would all gather in the room the chess club played in and we played games like D&D, Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh (which was popular at that time). I miss that group...

3. See the bottom of #1.

4. Not applicable.


Unfortunately, none of my players have ever used their cantrips in a way that is surprisingly effective. Of course they use light when they enter the dark creepy dungeon and read magic before they use their scrolls, but I've never had one of them wow me with a surprising use of a cantrip.

The one thing that comes to mind most visibly when I think about cantrips is one time in a bygone year that one of my old players used an unseen servant to...well, let's see if I can say this correctly..."exert its few pounds of force upon a male red dragon's royal jewels" (you get the drift).

One guy (another old player that I haven't played with for years) labeled an NPC a "dumbass" in plain common...with an arcane mark. That sent everyone to the floor.


F2K, if the players don't get it after three hints, something's wrong. Either your players are blatantly LOOKING for a fight (and against a Battletitan I too would not be so foolish at 13th) or they are being distracted (or worse yet disinterested) to the point where they weren't listening when you gave the hints. The guy's been playing since '78, so he can't claim inexperience. I'm with you: what gives


Lilith wrote:
I hate having to spoonfeed players (at least as far as certain character aspects are concerned). :P

I agree. Initially that was the reason that I made players do this: doing so FORCED them to either come up with character backstory or be the most generic character of that class anyone can possibly think of. I do the same for feats gained at 1st-level, and I make players go out and actually seek someone from which to learn any additional feat they gain. This not only forces the character to consider his backstory, I've found it cuts down immensely on munchkinism in its many ugly forms. The reasoning behind it is simple (a munchkin is desperate for lots of power and gaining power takes more effort than most munchkins are willing to exert) but nevertheless effective.


punkassjoe wrote:
I just need to know some good examples of Extraplanar creatures my NPC cleric can call via Pelor's favor. (Fire Elemental for one, right?)

Peloran clerics calling Fire Elementals...That seems a bit far-fetched, so I guess that's sarcasm? *ducks*

Anyway, Pelor's domains are (if I recall) Sun, Healing, Good and Protection. I reckon a Peloran could call a Couatl or a Celestial critter, but other than that I'm at a loss.


Azhrei wrote:

The most likely explanation, at least at a cursory glance, is that non-casters of a Very High Level are often no match for a good caster of a High Level esepcially when supported by a couple meat shields. If that paladin and ninja can simply NOT DIE for a couple rounds, that should be enough for the wizard to kill the rogue with a fortitude save, and take out the fighter with a will save.

Think about it this way: you have two expert swordsmen in armor fighting two super-expert swordsmen in armor. Neither side is going to gain an immediate decisive edge, but the guys who are only experts also have a third friend with a .50 sniper rifle who just needs enough time to reload and aim.

GREAT ANALOGY. This helps me see it a bit more clearly now.

I went through my notes and tried to restructure the battle on my grid and minis at home. I found a couple of ways I could have made the battle harder for my PCs:

1. I counted way too much on my Rogue's initiative modifier, so much so that I forgot that the Ninja had one of comparable size. I expected the Rogue to decimate one of the casters with a sneak attack, but she instead got walloped by a sudden strike and lost the initiative battle to the Wizard, who was the one that fried her with a disintegrate.

2. The fighter had stuff to improve his saves, so much so that his armor and weapon were underwhelming +2's, which are simply unacceptable for 19th-level melee kings. This resulted in a couple of missed critical opportunities when his threat rolls against the paladin went awry.

3. I forgot about the rogue's Improved Evasion, which would have helped her immensely against the disintegrate.

So, now I've got a good idea of what to do next time the PCs inevitably encounter these guys. These forums rock! It's like a vast pool of DM knowledge that I can draw from for assistance!


Lilith wrote:
Gavgoyle wrote:
That's a damn fine rant, Treima!

Agreed! Damn fine rant!

"Tolkien worshippers" - I likes that one. Can I borrow it?

Every time I've played a ranger, I've always taken aberrations as my favored enemy - do they not corrupt nature with their foulness? Do they not leave an unnatural stink about a place?!?! Or constructs. Such mechanical monstrosities are the products of an egotistical spellcaster and have no place in my land!

Again, thanks! As someone who is probably going to pursue a career in journalism, comments like that make my day.

See, your reasoning is PERFECT. That's what I'm looking for when I see a class ability like favored enemy on somebody's character sheet, or anything that involves choices. I always tell my players "Don't think about what choices YOU would make. Think about the ones your character would make." I've seen that this leads to much more flavorful characters, and it makes the players happy when I let their character's choices shine in combat (like pitting your group of PCs against a gibbering mouther or some other aberrant critter).


Savaun Blackhawk wrote:
I'm not a ranger-oriented character but I feel the need to interject. You should let a player play or do whatever he wants to do with his character. Bad character choices aside, it is his character to do with as he pleases. I dont think a DM should ever question a players choice in anything they do, even if they question the logic behind it.

My bottom line was, the ranger-in-question had 12 Strength, 18 Dexterity and 6 Constitution, had chosen two ranged feats at 1st level (Point Blank and Precise Shot), and had a masterwork longbow and only a mundane dagger for close range. The guy had his character MADE for ranged combat and decides to wade into melee. I didn't antagonize him for it. I only casually said "Are you sure that's wise?" and had him look over his character sheet. The answer I received, "I wanna be like ARAGORN (spoken in adequate fanboy shouty-ness)!" does three things:

1. Breaks verisimilitude.
2. Discourages creativity and originality amongst the other PCs, and
3. Makes other Tolkien worshippers engage in long-winded word-for-word quoting sessions with the other characters (which brings you back to 1 and 2).

Certainly you can see why these would impose on a DM's game, right? I never told him he couldn't be Aragorn, I let him have his way and take his lumps. Instead, I am ranting about that here. I want to run Dungeons and Dragons games, that is what I am equipped for, that's what I've bought $350 worth of books for. I am not running Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth on paper.

EDIT: Let's put this into another context. Let's say I was running a D&D session and somebody comes along and decides he wants to play Darth Vader. He wants the cyborg suit, the force powers, the lightsaber, everything. Am I expected to allow that? NO, because I'm not playing the Star Wars tabletop. Or how about a D&D session with some munchkin playing a character named Rand al'Thor? NO, because I'm not playing the Wheel of Time tabletop (although I may let it go once or twice as long as he doesn't start engaging in monologues about how he's the Dragon and whatnot). And, as much as I love him, anyone who comes to my sessions thinking they can be a carbon-copy of Iuchiban outside of Legend of the Five Rings is crazy.

My point is, I like to reward my players for being original. My very best friend in the whole world has a problem with being original because he reads manga a bit more than he should and likes to quote Vash from Trigun. No matter how low their Wisdom scores are (one character had a whopping 3 in this regard) or how immoral, his guys like to engage in those long-winded rants about morality and the difference between right and wrong, much as Vash does in the manga. Do I punish him for it? No, but I do make him aware that he should be a touch more original, and he has been making progress in that direction. Do I reward him when he shows this progress? Yes, usually with an extra magic item or a little XP boost, because that fosters good role-playing and originality.

I understand that D&D--no, all medieval fantasy--borrows immensely from Tolkien's vision. I understand that Aragorn was probably the first fictional character that defined rangers into what they are, much as the hobbits do for halflings and the orcs do for, well, the orcs. But it doesn't hurt to at least act like you have a clue what good roleplaying is, reject your inner munchkin/fanboy and make up an original character that isn't seeking to "pwn n00bs" and get "fat lewt", one that you will eventually foster a love for playing. Did I mention the Aragorn-guy was a WoW player?

If all you can do is imagine yourself being LotR characters, then play Battle for Middle Earth, where you can meet others who accept that and may be similar in that regard. But by all means don't expect me to show you any mercy if you think Aragorn had 6 Constitution and 12 Strength. And fought with a mundane dagger.

I disagree that a DM should never question what a character does. If a DM does not question why the newbie paladin is deciding to surrender his paladinhood (or is it paladinate?) simply because he wants to team-kill his brother's PC, what is left then? If a DM does not question why the dude with the Vow of Poverty is about to sacrifice his feat so he can have flamboyant and expensive noble clothes, then what? A DM is not just the narrator of a story and the arbiter of the rules; occasionally he has to intervene or at least warn when a player is doing something that he will without a doubt regret later. Unless, of course, that DM wants them to do something they'll regret...

And in closing, Savaun, I disagree with your statement that the way a character decides to play cannot possibly impede upon my fun. If I have a nice little adventure set up in the lovely town of Idletree, and the PCs are all Lawful Good on their character sheet, and then at the last second one of them says he's going Chaotic Insane and burns down Idletree, I'd say that ruins everyone's fun, even if ruining the fun was not his intention, right? The analogy is pretty obvious: I have a lemure for you to kill, or at least it wants to kill you. You have created a character with ranged everything and two effective melee combatants alongside you. You have 6 Constitution. What more incentive do you need to not act a fool and decide that you're going to be "like Aragorn" and jump into melee, effectively sentencing your character to gurgle on the end of the lemure's claw? I'm sure Tolkien is smiling down on you from heaven *sarcasm*, or more likely he blessed my d20 to make the lemure hit you with a critical for disgracing Aragorn. All these things are the ways that characters can ruin the DM's fun, even if they are not aware of it.

It is the DM's duty to question stupid decisions at the game table, much as it is a boss's duty to question his employees when they are making stupid decisions at the workplace. Much as a boss is occasionally held accountable for mistakes his subordinates make on the job, so is a DM accountable for his players' fun and progress in the story. A PC dying slows down the game for everyone, makes encounters harder, and forces the other PCs to spend thousands of gold to get them revived. It also forces the players with living PCs to be subject to the dead player's whining, which is no fun no matter how you slice it.

So, to recap:

No fun = Bad DM.
Arbitrarily slow game progression = No Fun = Bad DM.
No Fun + Arbitrarily Slow Game Progression = Doubly Bad DM.

I don't wanna be a bad DM, and I can't think of anyone who does.


Gavgoyle wrote:
That's a damn fine rant, Treima!

Thanks. I figured that I really needed to say this, and I am almost certain that a ranger-oriented player here is going to flame me for what I've said, but I needed to put it out here, otherwise I was likely going to say these things somewhere where it would have come out rather loudly and with much less eloquence. Like say, the game table when I see that the team's ranger's name is Aragorn or some variation like "Aragom" or "Arogorn", as if I won't see the obvious...


OK, now I've got a pretty good idea of what to do. Tell me how this sounds...

Since the two high-leveled guys are pretty, you know, HIGH LEVEL and since they work for an organization in which each member is gifted with direct access and communication with a deity, they are obviously going to get a True Resurrection and such. Knowing their enemies' tactics, they are going to really suit up, meaning I'll give them everything a 20th-level PC would come with, including cloaks of resistance, amulets of natural armor, and items to increase spell resistance and saves.

If the PCs again manage to beat these guys (highly unlikely, since their usual marching order leaves a wide gap in which the rogue is going to put a well-placed Prismatic Wall that will seperate the casters from the paladin and ninja.), they will have scrolls of greater teleport so they can regroup and plan. Oh yeah, did I mention they're gonna leave behind some rather unhappy glabrezus in their wake? THAT should get the PCs a-running, and that can be how I progress the story.

Does it sound good?


Guess I'll add one of my own rants to this...

Why is it that I can never encounter anyone who can roleplay a Ranger properly? It never fails: I get confronted by players with characters that are supposedly servants and guardians of the beauty of nature, yet they'll burn down an entire forest to get away from the rampaging orc patrol without a second thought! They are supposedly the best archers out there, but insist on melee even when the group is already packed with melee combatants!

The dudes that play Rangers at MY table are often only in it for the Favored Enemy bonus, which is always against either evil outsiders or dragons. The players that frequent my table know that I like to involve devils a little more than most, so that's fine. But whenever I ask them where they would learn how to become proficient at hunting down fiends while they were busy defending the forest, they say "liek omg the player's handbook lolz!" If I tell them that answer isn't acceptable, they give me the player's classic "it's in the book, it should be allowed!" as if Rule Zero didn't exist. I tell them that having a proficiency at fighting fiends is fine, provided you have a reason or purpose in your character's backstory for doing so. I get a ten-minute b****fest about the virtues of being a fair DM. Five words: "Take it or leave it."

Also, they are never satisfied with having an ANIMAL companion around. Nope, it's gotta be a half-dragon psionic paragon kyton. And they ask for these things (which I have calculated to be about CR 25) as soon as they get the Animal Companion ability (which is what, 6th level?)

Also, some Rangers just do not understand what their role in combat is. One group that didn't last long consisted of a Fighter, Barbarian, Ranger and Bard, meaning there wasn't a whole lot of magic to go around. The fighter was great, and had a pretty unique setup of skills and feats that definitely fit the feel of his character's personality. The barbarian was pretty run-of-the-mill but role-played brilliantly, from accent all the way down to smacking a wand in a magic shop on the counter repeatedly in a futile but hilarious attempt to get it to work. The bard acted as the party strategist and tactician, albeit a little overbearing, and knew his character quite well. But there's always one cracked nut in the bowl...

The ranger insisted that he wanted to go up and get into melee despite the fact that there were already two melee combatants in the group and no archers. And the ranger had ranged feats and had chosen the ranged aspect for his weapon mastery thingy, as well as having only 12 Strength and 6 Constitution. When I asked him why, I got "I wanna be like Aragorn!" Great. Another Tolkien worshipper. I told him that his character had very low HP (only 8 at 2nd level) and that he shouldn't wade into melee needlessly, he didn't wanna hear it. I told him his character had ranged feats and skills, he didn't wanna hear it. I finally told him that he was more akin to Legolas than to Aragorn. This almost broke through, but in a classic display of ranger pride, he ignored me and wandered into melee with the lemure. So, I let him have his two rounds of action.

When he died, as most characters with no idea what the heck they're doing usually do, the party was at a loss as to what to do. Resurrections weren't an option: we're talking about 2nd-level characters here, with no way to really pay for a Resurrection. The ranger-guy abjectly refused to a Reincarnation or to rolling up a new character. He just packed up his things and went home, making room for another player/PC that was actually a pretty awesome sorcerer, which is JUST what the party needed at that moment.

The one thing that makes Rangers utterly annoying is the fact that, for some reason, the gamers where I live immediately equivocate the word "ranger" with the adjectives "arrogant", "smug", and let's not forget "overbearing". Every ranger player I've met MUST have the spotlight 24/7 during games. When he obtains said spotlight, he usually uses it to spout LotR quotes or engage in pointless "I'm better than you at everything" monologues with either the team's melee combatant or the nearest druid/adept. I swear, shouldn't being around nature for so long humble you, or at least make you see just how big the world is around you? All it seems to do to rangers here is make their heads bigger than nature itself and make them the undisputed masters at ticking off other PCs. And the DM. And that's never a good mix.

I am proud to say that I have not struck upon a munchkin as a DM. If I do, I will neuter his abilities so fast he won't have time to say the word "nerf". As a player I was forced to sit alongside one, but I removed myself from that game as quickly as possible (the DM allowed player's to commit suicide with a strength check and a Will save) to spare myself the grief. When said munchkin went home, the DM, myself, and one of my good RP friends engaged in a cool double-character session that lasted about eight hours before we were finally too tired to do much more.

Well, there's my rant.


I see. Thanks for the input.

There's another question I meant to ask: I put the 13 Paladin (the same one that took out the 20th-level guys) alone against the Monster Manual's Half-Dragon 4th-level fighter (CR 6), thinking that he would easily slaughter the thing with his smite evil and move on.

Suffice it to say, by the end of the battle, Reis (the pally) was forced to flee on his mount and regroup. I totally do not understand this. He can knock down the level 20 rogue, but give him some solitude and the level 4 fighter with a few special powers and a two-bladed sword comes in and he's effectively down for the count!?


I believe this is a DM's call, really. The Reincarnate description says that the DM constructs a table if the creature is anything other than a humanoid. If there's nothing in the Core Rulebooks and in Savage Species that specifies anything clearly, then I'd fall back on that.


I have a situation to explain, one that boggles my mind.

I DM for a group of friends, right? We've been having at this campaign for months now, and the PCs just crossed the plane into high-level territory, where their power dramatically increases. The group consists of a Level 13 Paladin, a 15 Wizard, a 13 Sorcerer and an 11 Ninja (all humans). They are all equipped with stuff that is about in line with what is expected of characters of their level.

As a storytelling-oriented DM, I will from time to time pit them against a powerful being as a great way to cap off a long adventure or story arc. At my DM's planning table, I designed a straightforward encounter, one that the PCs were not expected to win. I pitted them against a 20th-level Rogue and a 19th-level Fighter, and I had expected them to make successful Sense Motive checks to determine that these opponents were stronger than they were (the Paladin has max cc ranks in Sense Motive and almost always comes through for the PCs on this front). I expected them to run, as these two characters were stronger than usual. I fully equipped these characters with gear equivalent to what a 20th-level NPC should have according to the DMG table. I even hand-picked their magic items so that they would stand a better chance against the two casters and their patented "Twin Disintegrate of Death" move, in case they didn't flee.

Not only did my PCs pummel the daylights out of these higher-level NPCs, they did so without taking more than maybe 20 damage each. I was stunned, and awarded everyone but the Ninja full XP (because the Ninja's win against a 20 Rogue is considered a "stroke of luck" according to the XP table; I did give him full XP for slaying the 19 Fighter). Needless to say, they all gained a level and are well on their way to their next one.

Tell me: is this sort of thing supposed to happen? I can only chalk it up to numbers and a poor Fort save by the rogue against a Disintegrate. It seems almost crazy that the NPCs fell so quickly without even putting up much of a fight, but the worst part is that now my whole planned and plotted story arc is thrown into disarray. What I'm asking is, Did I do something wrong or is this just another example of the "CR = class level" system gone awry?