Most of it falls into three categories: broken, very broken, and holy God-Emperor what is that abomination.
— RPG.net combat optimiser Jon Chung, on the Scroll of the Monk for Exalted
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Tabletop RPG in general:
- Tabletop RPGs in general can be broken by some strategies that exploit the human nature of the game. These differ from rules-based Game Breakers in that they generally cannot be prevented by GMs except by abandoning the game. For example, in many games the player group can bypass any problem by simply falling silent and waiting for the GM to prompt them through.
- Of course, this kind of exploit is also easily patched out, in the form of the same GM telling you to cut it out. Among other solutions if you push it too much. Or, for a GM with a lighter hand, just recommend Schmuck Bait. Or they just say "No." Arguably, though, since the game ends if the player continues to defy the rules, this is not actually a patch - just not playing the broken game.
- Any tabletop RPG that allows "point-buy" character design is vulnerable to Game-Breaker characters. The Variable Power Pool ability in HERO System is particularly infamous.
"It's a cosmic attack, literally. Pulses of cosmic energy that radiate from the attacker (reaching 74 gigaparsecs in a flat second) burn out the neural system of living beings in the affected area, and remember that even the edge of our universe is "merely" about 10 gigaparsecs away from Earth. Also note that an Area Effect attack with Emanation involves no to-hit roll and simply affects anyone in the area. Furthermore, it allows victims only to dive for cover, and actually there's no effective cover since this Cosmic, Irresistible attack ignores DR. In conclusion, the user can attack every living thing in our entire universe, with 1 point of damage, 300 times per second. Have fun. 53 points."
- Mutants & Masterminds has been nicknamed "Min-Maxers and Mary Sues" for a reason. 4chan's /tg/ is just full of M&M characters using the gamebreaking for fun. For instance, Ball of Arms Man 360 degrees of punch!
- In GURPS someone built an advantage named M.U.N.C.H.K.I.N. that allows you to disintegrate the entire universe for 53 points in a game where a "career adventurer" is expected to start at 200 points.
Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition
D&D 2nd Edition Skills and Powers had a mage variant called Channeler, which effectively combined mage and sorcerer (you could learn as many spells as you wanted and cast them all however many times you wanted until you ran out of spell points). The only downside? You fatigued yourself when you cast a spell (and yes, you could kill yourself this way). There was an 8th-level spell called Heart of Stone that replaced your heart with a carved stone one. Among other effects, it made you completely immune to fatigue.
- In the 2nd Edition of Dungeons & Dragons the Psionicist's Dimensional Door wasn't limited to vertically standing doors. Open a horizontal door below your target, put the horizontal exit above them. Let them fall for a while (the disorientation effect keeps them from casting or doing anything to save themselves). This either ends with the target being cut in half by a closing door or splatting against the floor. Good fun. Meanwhile the Psi is constantly getting EXP for expending power points. That's thinking with portals. That psionic power was also a popular means of drowning castles with their own moats or, with enough psionicists, the ocean. It was also a useful bomb delivery system, magical or otherwise.
Dungeons & Dragons 3.X
- Almost anything can be a game breaker if taken to a great enough extreme. Characters can instantly end every encounter with a successful Diplomacy check which it is possible to render impossible to fail at a very, very low level. This is only the tip of the iceberg; even without exploitative min-maxing, all the spellcasting classes are almost hopelessly broken by the seventh level, and canny players can break the game with low-level spells like Color Spray, Sleep, and Glitterdust. The so-called "save or suck" spells all instantly incapacitate monsters or otherwise render them unable to fight, and many of these spells exist even at the lowest levels, allowing spellcasters to bypass the entire hit point system and kill monsters with a single roll. Worse, spellcasters also have huge levels of flexibility and can make themselves effectively invincible against many ordinary attacks, have near-infinite mobility by mid-levels, have the best offensive and defensive capabilities, and are the best at making magic items, which themselves can often act as game breakers or exaggerate a character's game-breaking abilities. Even non-spellcasting classes can frequently do incredibly convenient things, such as dealing more damage than any monster has hit points in a single round by mid-levels. As is noted in the unofficial (but widely accepted) tier list for the game, the third tier is not an insult to characters. A third-tier character is capable of defeating any monster in the game; they simply are not God.
- It's worth noting that, unlike with video games, it's common accepted practice for the DM to limit the options available to players to a subset of what is available and to disallow the Loophole Abuse that most of these builds are built on. And if the players do end up building a completely formidable character anyway, they'll generally work with the DM to make adjustments so the game is still fun for everyone. So unlike with video games, it's okay for a Tabletop RPG to risk combinatorial explosion by continually giving the players more options.
- The Game-Breaker status of so many things in 3.x is so universally known that the most common Character Tiers consider Tier 3 (the upper middle tier) to be the "not broken" category, while both Tier 2 and Tier 1 are considered this trope. The difference is simply that Tier 2 is broken, but it's still somewhat restricted and predictable in how it's broken, while a Tier 1 class can functionally do anything, if given a bit of time to prepare.
- The Wizard in 3.x is iconic for its broken status, and being a major inspiration for Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards. So many of the things that made wizards a risky option in earlier editions were removed, and the result was a class that was functionally unstoppable when properly played past about 5th level. Their casting keyed off the highly useful Intelligence, giving them a mess of skill points. Their Squishy Wizard status was easily allayed with a few protective spells (Mage Armor lasted hours and boosted you up to the level of scale mail, and Mirror Image or Displacement made you almost unhittable). Their spells per day were a little limited compared to the sorcerer, but this was remedied simply by specializing (especially as the Enchantment and Evocation schools were seen as below-par), and they also advanced through levels faster. Their spellbook, theoretically their weak spot, could be hidden through magic (such as Rope Trick or Shrink Item). And that spellbook itself snapped the game in two, giving a wizard an arsenal of tricks for a pittance of gold that could handle virtually any situation. Even when restricted to core, wizards can do things most classes scarcely dream of.
- A Cleric with the proper buffs up can be a better fighter than most proper fighters. Even when they aren't shooting for this, they have similar strengths to the wizard in terms of their insane versatility, and are arguably better in several regards. They can prepare any spell on the cleric list without needing to pay anything or watch for a spellbook. Their starting weapon and armor proficiencies are enough to get them through the early game with no problem, and they get to do most of the few things a wizard can't easily do (like healing). Their skill points are a bit poor, but between the stupidly good Divine Insight and the Cloistered Cleric variant, that's nowhere near as big a problem as you'd think. And with their domains, they have a whole other level of customization that allows them to assume almost any party role. Clerics may not have as many broken tricks as the wizard, but they are no less deadly, and in some regards even easier.
- Even sticking to core, Druids have powers (casting, wildshape and animal companion) a single one of which would make a competent character. They have special abilities that are more powerful than entire classes. As an example, the guy who built the system showed a variant where all spellcasting became extremely difficult, knocking most spellcasters from the lofty heights of tier 1 and 2 down to tier 6. Druids however were still at the high end of tier 3. Why? A single class ability of course: Wild Shape, an ability that is in and of itself more powerful than a Fighter's whole class (indeed, a Ranger variant with a nerfed version of Wild Shape as its primary ability is at the low end of tier 3). Actually, twinked out animal companions are stronger than Fighters. There's a reason why CoDzilla (Cleric-or-Druid-zilla) became a DnD meme.
- One disadvantage to Wild Shape is that you can't cast spells in animal form - unless you take the Natural Spell feat, a core feat which lets you do just that. This combination allows druids to have their cake and eat it too, gaining the animal's combat ability along with their druidic spells. The feat is so universally taken that it's joked in druid guides that you mysteriously lose your 6th-level feat and nobody knows why.
- The Archivist essentially mashes together the cleric and wizard, with exactly the results you'd expect. They cast like a wizard from a prayerbook, but scribe cleric spells into that book. Where are they broken? They can also scribe ANY DIVINE SPELL, as long as they have a scroll for it. That means, in theory, they can use not just cleric spells, but also druid spells, paladin spells, ranger spells, prestige class spells, every spell that's part of a domain... oh, and since many of those spells are lower-level than their cleric counterparts, the archivist even picks them up earlier. Oh, and there are divine bard and wizard variants, so in theory those spells are on the table, too. Though they're massively dependent on how much a DM will actually let you find or purchase such scrolls, an archivist at full power can cast essentially any spell in the game.
- Eberron's Artificer may be rather cumbersome to manage and need a fair bit of downtime, but when unrestricted, there is very little they can't do. With the power of magic items, they can duplicate almost any spell in the game, have magical gear several levels ahead of when they're supposed to, and accomplish some bizarre feats. Being able to craft almost anything opens up entire lanes of possibilities, and makes them very difficult to nail down. A good artificer can fill almost any role, being unparalleled in terms of party support, battlefield control, healing, blasting, and even melee combat.
- The Erudite class in 3.5 is not broken in and of itself. It has the ability to eventually learn every psionic power there is, but this just makes it the psionic equivalent of a Wizard, whereas other psionic classes would be focused spellcasters like Beguilers or Warmages. The "Mind's Eye" series of columns on Wizards of the Coast website, however, provides an alternate class feature called Convert Spell to Power. For the cost of giving up a single bonus feat at 1st level, this feature grants Spellcraft as a class skill and allows the Erudite to use it to study any arcane spell, convert it into a psionic power, pay a small (e.g., 400 XP at 20th level) cost to permanently learn that power, and then use it at will for as long as their Mana Meter holds out. So not only is your Erudite a psionic-type Wizard, he's now also a mutant wizard-type Wizard that can spontaneously cast like a Sorcerer and isn't subject to arcane spell failure. Perhaps even more alarmingly, the spell-to-power Erudite can even ignore costly material components. The price of these materials is often the only thing preventing incredibly powerful spells from being cast as routinely as any other spell of their level.
- Some of the monsters fall into this category as well against unprepared players. Many monsters have instant death or incapacitation abilities which can take a PC out of combat or, in some cases, even turn them against their allies; enemy spellcasters are a particular nightmare, due to having access to every superior ability that the players have (and, thanks to polymorph and similar shapechanging abilities, players have access to every formidable monster ability as well). High level combat in 3.x edition (including Pathfinder) is often described as "rocket tag" for this reason — whoever fails their saving throw first, loses. Assuming the ability in question even allows you to roll a saving throw. Feats which improve your ability to act first in combat thus are viewed as extremely powerful, simply because very frequently, it gives you an enormous edge by allowing you to take out one or more enemies before they can even act — and prevent them from doing the same to you.
- Using the Serpent Kingdoms sourcebook it's possible to construct a perfectly legal character (a kobold dubbed "Pun-pun" by its creator) who possesses every ability in the game (including godhood) at infinite strength and is immune to all negative effects at level 1. This combination does require assuming a certain intelligent NPC involved in the process (and by extension, the DM) to follow a very specific script without any deviation, as well as asking (and trusting) an Efreet to grant you three wishes for no compensation (or allowing it to enslave or murder you on the spot). There are slightly more delayed/demanding versions that don't involve this Batman Gambit or cheesing off of genies, however, only requiring you to get up to level 5 instead of requiring the rest of the universe to conspire in your character's favor.
- Another particularly special example is the Omniscificer. There is a spell which allows you to share the damage you take with others, and it is possible to cast this spell in both directions; because each person receives half the damage given, if you cast this on four people taking half the damage of a fifth person, and in turn dealing back to that fifth person half the damage they themselves receive; as you would then be receiving back a quarter of the damage you originally took from each of the four people, you thus have created an infinite damage loop (so long as you have dealt yourself at least 4 points of damage - say, by jumping off a 40 foot cliff), causing you to instantly take an infinite amount of damage as the damage washes back and forth between you and your helpers. Ordinarily this would be extremely fatal, but there is another spell which allows you to stay alive for a short period of time despite being reduced to -10 or fewer hit points (which would normally kill you). There is also a spell called masochism which causes you to gain a +1 bonus to all your skill checks per 10 damage you took in the previous round; as you have taken an infinite amount of damage, you now have a literally infinite bonus to all your skill checks, allowing you to succeed at any skill check automatically. Better still, there are (extremely large) penalties you can take to many skill checks to instantly take certain actions, and other skill checks are by their very nature instant (such as knowledge checks). This means that the Omniscificer can, among other things, instantly succeed at every knowledge check possible and thus know everything that can possibly be known from a successful knowledge check. They also have an infinitely large diplomacy (and bluff, and intimidate) check, meaning that they can convince anyone of anything, and with the proper spells, can communicate with anyone (including the gods), meaning that they can convince the GODS of anything. Now, all of this is impressive, but they are still stuck in an infinite damage loop; however, they can simply dismiss the spell creating that loop, and then fall over into a bucket of water and voluntarily fail a drown check. Due to the way that drowning rules work in D&D, when you fail your first drown check, your hit points are instantly set to 0... meaning that it heals you from -infinity hit points to a much more tolerable 0 hp, from which you can easily be resuscitated with any manner of curative magic (or alternatively, a contingent cure minor wounds spell). Or the characters simply die and then fall into the bucket. The order of operations isn't explicit in the core book.
- The description of how drowning works in the Stormwrack supplement book makes this a moot point, and the whole process impossible (without dying). Characters who can't/don't hold their breath start drowning the round after they fall into the water.
- Many of these to be found in Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, a few of which do not even require sourcebooks outside of core (Pun-Pun is only the most famous as he basically amasses all of the others' powers). A full list of these may be found here along with explanations. Yes, the official D&D forums have an entire board dedicated to the pursuit of the most hilarious/demented Game Breakers ever (though the logic behind many of them is equivalent to "But the rules don't SAY dead people can't keep fighting and taking actions!").
- And it's not all about character design or game mechanics either. For instance, a 10 foot ladder is cheaper than two 10 foot poles, allowing for an infinite money loop and infinite firewood. (Think about it.)
- Another Tabletop Games example: The haste spell in Dungeons & Dragons version 3.0. Originally redesigned the way it was to "show off" the new action rules, designers learned the hard way that there was such a thing as an action "economy" in their resulting game... and whoops, they broke it. Nerfing this spell was arguably one of the primary reasons for the creation of 3.5.
- To make this one step worse, the "speed" armor enchantment permanently duplicated the haste spell and was cheap, which wouldn't have been so bad, except then the Arms and Equipment Guide established that armor enchantments could be added to bracers which could be worn by characters who don't normally get to wear armor. Every mage in his right mind bought a pair as soon as he could afford them, as an item that grants +1 armor bonus, +4 dodge bonus, AND lets you cast twice as many spells per round without having to ever take the action to cast Haste is a steal at 16,000 gp.
- D&D 3.0's Harm, full stop. A no-save touch attacknote that leaves a target with 1d4 hp. So the more hit points a target has, the more damage it's going to take. (It did the same in earlier editions, but 3rd edition increased the Hit Points of most non-Mooks about fourfold while keeping damage spells the same; so Harm became four times as effective as most other spells of its level.)
- If the cleric is feeling even more sadistic, they can toss in a Quickened Inflict Light Wounds. ILW is normally a poor spell, but it's guaranteed to deal at least 6 damage (assuming you're a high enough level to cast Harm yourself) to an opponent who has no more than 4 hp left. The result: a one-turn KO.
- Another D&D version involves what is typically dubbed the Locate City bomb. There is a spell called "Locate City" (a harmless divination spell), which has a area of effect of 10 miles per caster level. This is the crux of the thing — by the intent of the spell, that number ought to be its range, but making it the area of effect allows one to use an obscure series of feats to first give it the Cold subtype, then deal 2 Cold damage to everything in the area of effect, then change it to an Electric type spell. You can then use another feat that gives an Electric spell a Reflex save, allowing you to apply the Explosive Spell metamagic, forcing a second Reflex save to avoid being blasted to the edge of the area of effect. Failing this save will deal 1d6 damage for each 10ft travelled, allowing someone to instantly wipe out a whole city of commoners with no collateral damage (except for the blood splatters). Eventually, players figured out that this didn't actually work, but as all the problems were due to Locate City having a 2-D circle as its area of effect, some slightly higher-level spells that scaled to a 1 mile/caster level sphere fixed them. Although this is a mere 10% of Locate City, it should be noted that on average the damage dealt by one mile in this fashion is roughly four times the hp of the biggest, baddest dragon a party is likely to ever see before epic levels. Unfortunately, however, if there is any obstacle anywhere between a given victim and the nearest edge of the blast, they simply smack into it for 1d6 points of damage and stop moving. Thus, any commoners who are inside or otherwise near any impediment to movement would only be injured. There is also the risk of the caster being caught in the radius.
- Alternately, modify the spell to deal ice damage then add in Fell Drain. A Fell Drain spell automatically gives everybody in the area 1 negative level... which will kill any level 1 commoner with no save, and then cause them to rise from the dead as a wight. When the wights are all up, they can go kill everybody who's still alive and turn them into more wights. The fun part is that the PCs all will survive this combo easily, while the original combo, if it worked, would kill all of them as well.
- A simple 3.5 spell which is not high level, does not appear exclusively in an obscure sourcebook (it's in the Player's Handbook), and doesn't require a cheesy combination to work is the level 3 Bard spell 'Glibness'. In a game system where +4 or +6 to a roll is considered a considerable bonus, Glibness gives +30 to your bluff checks for its duration (10 minutes per caster level, a minimum duration of over an hour). The penalty to your Bluff skill check for telling a lie that is completely and utterly unbelievable ("I am the Moon.") is only +20 to the opposing Sense Motive check. With Glibness, you can quite easily convince a king that you and he were actually secretly swapped at birth and that by all rights he's sitting on your throne. A single spell that can make a GM scream in fury. Glibness' power was highlighted to great effect in an Order of the Stick strip. The intended balance is that Glibness only provides its bonus for the purpose of telling lies and not any of the Bluff skill's combat applications, but as has been shown, lying is quite broken enough by itself.
- Glibness can be seen as a subset of the entire game breaker that is otherwise known as the Diplomacy skill. Under the rules as written, it requires a result of 50 to turn someone willing to take risks to hurt you (Hostile) into an ally willing to take risks to help you (Helpful). Considering it's legally possible to build characters who get +72 to their Diplomacy rolls by level 6, in theory you need never carry a single weapon nor fight anyone in your life, since you'll only have to open your mouth for roughly 10 seconds to enlist the help of anything smart enough to have a language.note
- Of course, you have to have a common language (or other way to communicate) and the things trying to hurt you have to be smart enough to understand the concept of "friend" (and preferably not in an unhelpful way), so it's not foolproof. Also, no facet of the Bluff skill ensures against the target changing their mind in the face of contrary evidence. A bluff is given no guarantee of lasting any longer than it might take to notice proof to the contrary (which, for a claim like "I am the moon", may be seconds at best) - "usually 1 round or less" is the most the rules afford.
- Pathfinder closed this loophole by doing what any sensible GM would do and stating in the rules that some things are so unbelievable no Bluff check will ever let you convince anyone that they are true. Additional sourcebooks later clarified that a very assured Bluff check just makes the listener think you are very confident in what you say, that is, not actively lying to them. A king being told by a very convincing stranger that they were swapped at birth will likely conclude that the strange fool he's speaking with believes very strongly in a false scenario.
- Prestidigitation can clean a small surface, and is an easily accessible cantrip. Urban Arcana has a feat you can take at the start of the campaing giving you uses of a cantrip a number of times per day. Then you can become a Mage at level 4. Enough prepared Prestidigitation makes you the perfect cleaner. Crime Scene Cleaner to be precise.
- Blink, Ethereal Jaunt, and similar spells which let the caster pass through walls and ignore attacks have been the bane of many an unseasoned DM. Heck, just about everything on the Story-Breaker Power page is available as a spell.
- It's hard to find a use for Invisible Spell (viewers cannot tell that your spell has taken effect) that isn't overpowering. Common uses include Invisible Summon Monster, Invisible Fog Cloud (only obscures the vision of creatures who can see invisible things), Invisible Invisibility, and Invisible True Resurrection.
- By combining feats from multiple sourcebooks, it's possible to reduce the cost of Bestow Power (transfers psionic energy to another creature) until it can transfer at greater than 100% efficiency, allowing a character to recharge their psionic abilities between fights. This wouldn't be as notable if psionic characters didn't have the ability to boost the strength of their powers by expending larger amounts of energy (meaning that a character using this trick can "go nova" in every fight with no consequences).
- Once you get out of core, there's the ludicrously overpowering Planar Shepherd, which happens to be custom made for Druids (and possibly the only Prestige Class strictly better than more Druid levels). Other gamebreaking prestige classes include the Dweomerkeeper, famously used in the "Cheater" (Chosen) of Mystra, which could circumvent almost all all the restrictions on Wish and Miracle, and use both multiple times per day.
- No discussion of broken prestige classes is complete without the Player's Guide to Faerun Incantatrix. First, the requirements: third-level spells, three skills you were already taking, a feat you were already taking, and a feat that you can actually buy. Most casters qualify by accident. It gives full spellcasting progression, which means it's automatically better than continuing with most caster classes. Most full casting prestige classes provide minor benefits or only run for a few levels, but the Incantatrix runs for ten - and its features are some of the strongest in the game, with three free metamagic featsnote , applying metamagic effects to an ally's spells (or your own), stealing continuous effects from enemy casters, and a capstone so overpowering that it's normally an epic feat. Pump up Spellcraft, and you can cast all your buffs at the start of the day, and Persist them at minimal effort. Picture a 20th-level wizard with Prismatic Sphere, Shapechange, Superior Invisibility, True Seeing, Haste, Freedom of Movement, Globe of Invulnerability, Elemental Body... all at the same time, all day long.
- The Hulking Hurler. The damage of a thrown object is proportional to its mass and limited only by your carrying capacity. If you qualify for the class at all, it's a one-hit-kill. Optimized HH builds have been known to do TRILLIONS of damage. The supposed 'balancing factor' for the Hulking Hurler was that it required the character taking the prestige class to be Large size or larger, which put it out of reach for most PCs without taking a truckload of monster hit dice or level adjustment. It probably wasn't meant to be used by player characters at all, but players found ways around the restriction (such as enlarge person with permanency), or the rather low-LA half-ogre. Or the goliath race, which counts as Large for some things including (thanks to a Word of God clarification in the game's FAQ) meeting the requirements for feats, spells, prestige classes, etc that require the character to be Large sized making it easy for characters to qualify for a class that wasn't designed for players.
- The ur-priest. Nay-Theist characters who steal power from the gods, they gain cleric-style casting that happens to be better than most clerics. Though it starts a bit slow, its rate of growth is explosive, gaining a new level of spells with every character level. A proper ur-priest can earn 9th-level spells three levels before the clerics, if they enter it as soon as possible. Its own class features are a little lackluster, but that just means you can start as an ur-priest and then immediately hop into something else that advances its casting. The class is so powerful that it can even be used to buff up prestige classes that are otherwise hampered by bad casting advancement, like the mystic theurge. And one of the few features it does pick up is Rebuke Undead, making Divine Metamagic antics feasible. You do have to be evil and pick up some lackluster feats to play one, but it's well worth the trouble for an aspiring overlord.
- The tainted scholar is a class one badly hopes wasn't meant for player use. It uses The Corruption to cast spells, including replacing its casting stat with its Taint score. Said Taint score can increase every time you cast a spell. You can also take Constitution damage to remove the level boosts on metamagic, letting you do some truly insane feats. You're locked into it, but that doesn't really matter when it provides full casting, allows features of its own, and even has a better HD than most arcane casting classes. If you take too much Taint, you die, but simply becoming undead or gaining the Evil subtype in some fashion makes you immune to this, and even then, you can comfortably have a Taint and Depravity score of 30 or 40 without being much in danger.
- The Soul Eater definitely wasn't meant for players, but it's not at all difficult for them to qualify for. At 1st level, it sticks a Level Drain effect on anyone to be hit by a natural attack. There are so many routes to increase your numbers of natural attacks; a two-level dip in totemist alone nets four attacks. And at 7th level, the Level Drain gets twice as strong. Anyone you kill turns into a wight under your command, netting a free army. And at 6th, you gain the ability to shapeshift into anyone you've killed in the last 24 hours, gaining all their abilities. Want to break the game as a melee class? The world is your oyster.
- Finally, in our survey of D&D options which don't rely on an unforeseen combination of feats and/or spells to break the game, consider the spell Shivering Touch from the sourcebook Frostburn (and well you should, since the game's creators clearly did not). When you cast it, you touch your target (usually not hard since D&D's combat system tends to focus around getting through armor to inflict damage rather than simply touching them - though spellcasters or creatures with certain exotic or class-granted defense bonuses may have very high touch AC). That target then suffers between 3-18 points of damage to its Dexterity. Because the aforesaid monsters generally have a low Dexterity, depending on how well you roll this will actually penalize an opponent's AC by up to -5 if you take their Dexterity to 0, and also render them unable to move. The phrase 'sitting duck' then applies to your opponent. As an added bonus, unlike most other seriously powerful spells in 3.5, Shivering Touch does not allow a saving throw against it. The only beasts that stand a chance of avoiding death by clumsiness are those with spell resistance. Not bad for a spell which any cleric or wizard can cast from level 5; in some spheres this spell is called the dragon killer. And that's even before you look into things like applying metamagic to it.
- Want to break the game with just two spells? Cast Contigency, make your contigent spell Celerity. Congratulations; the next time somebody threatens you, you get a free standard action to do whatever you want. You can even cast Twinned Celerity. Then use the extra actions from Twinned Celerity to cast TWO Twinned Celerities. Sure, you get dazed next turn, but if there's an encounter you can't finish or escape when given four free standard actions, it's time to give up on the whole "wizardry" thing.
- Polymorph. Any. Object. All but the most frugal interpretations of this spell are absurdly broken, particularly considering that some interpretations allow for removal of the HD limit to Polymorph (an example of the spell is turning someone into a stone, which has no HD), or transforming a creature repeatedly to make any form permanent. How do you feel about permanently turning the party fighter into a giant, or the party wizard into an ethergaunt with 27 Intelligence? Plus, in a pinch, it's a nasty little save-or-die.
- Shapechange isn't as broken as PAO, but it more than makes up for it in versatility. Unlike the other Polymorph spells, Shapechange lets you assume the supernatural abilities of whatever you turn into. Turn into a Chronotyryn and take two turns! Turn into a Solar and gain full cleric casting! Turn into a Golem and gain near-complete spell immunity! And that's ignoring the fact that you can assume another form mid-shapeshift.
- There is no usage of Genesis (once an epic spell, 'downgraded' to a 9th-level spell) that isn't completely broken. Free demiplane? That only you know the location of? And you can determine the traits of? Including, say, making it a Fast-Flowing Time plane? Or giving it morphic traits, letting you warp it to your will? About the only justification for it is that by the time you've gotten 9th-level spells, the game is basically over anyway.
- The Orb spells introduced in Complete Arcane, which take nearly every complaint about blasting in the game and throw it in the trash. They have good damage, hit on a ranged touch attack, ignore Spell Resistance, come in every damage type (including the nigh-unresistable Sound and Force), don't offer a Reflex save, come in lesser and greater versions, and apply bonus effects on top of their damage. On top of all that, they're inexplicably Conjuration rather than Evocation spells, meaning a specialist wizard can safely bar Evocation and still have a powerful blasting option.
- Want to destroy the world? Pick a melee class. The metabreath feats in the Draconomicon allow a creature with a true breath weapon—which was not available to players at the time without jumping through a lot of hoops—to improve the damage/range/staying power/etc. of a breath weapon at the cost of extending the cooldown between uses, and they could be stacked with themselves. A 5th level green dragon shaman with 17 Constitution and the feats Enlarge Breath, Clinging Breath, and Lingering Breath could, in a single round, theoretically create a cloud of acid the size of the entire planet that lasted for a year or more at the cost of not getting to use his breath weapon for several years. The only problem is that anything that did survive (high-level wizards, earth elementals, etc.) would come looking for revenge slightly sooner than that.
- Eschew Materials, weak-ass feat or subtle game breaker? This feat will let you cast spells without having to worry about inexpensive material components, provided they cost less than 1 GP. This is mainly useful if you lose your spell component pouch, or don't have a hand free to reach it. But there are a few spells where you can squeeze a surprising amount out of a 1 gp budget:
- Fabricate's material component is the raw materials to craft something, so you can create anything whose raw materials cost less than 1 gp out of thin air. This covers pretty much any mundane adventuring gear - food, rope, backpacks...
- Visit the astral plane (or any plane that has the timeless trait - assuming you don't have any aging problems, this is a separate but solvable issue...) and cast fabricate as many times as you can to generate 1 silver piece each time, making you rich in no time when you come back to the material plane (if quite possibly insane from boredom and loneliness).
- Another clever use is with the 0-level spell Launch Bolt, which lets you shoot a crossbow bolt without using a crossbow. Normally, this is useless - you could just carry a light crossbow instead. But a crossbow bolt sized for a Gargantuan crossbow (meant to be carried by creatures eight times your size, basically a ballista) is cheaper than 1 gp. So you can fire them with this spell, for 4d6 damage a shot. Not bad for a 0-level spell.
- The feat Divine Metamagic allowed Clerics to apply power-up modifiers to their spells, but at the cost of Turn Undead uses for a day. This would normally be fairly useful, but it became a Game Breaker when a magical rod was added to the game which grants an extra few Turn Undead attempts when used. Clerics could carry huge sacks of rods around and use them at the start of each day to cast multiple spells on themselves, extended to 24-hour duration.
- The spell Mind Rape, which can be basically summarized as "fail a save, and the caster gets to rewrite your personality". The first spellcaster to learn it and be evil enough to use it gets to take over the multiverse.
- The Teleport spell is generally seen as a game breaker when given to a sufficiently high-level wizard played by a sufficiently clever player. Entire campaigns' worth of notes are rendered irrelevant as the players, not the DM, suddenly set the pace for their movement and decide what parts of the campaign they will or will not participate in. Armed with the ability to scry out the Big Bad's lair, most parties at levels 9 and above could simply perform a Dungeon Bypass and Teleport themselves directly into the Big Bad's throne room and kill him using any number of pre-planned strategies and buffs, or simply Teleport away to safety if things went south, a tactic commonly known as "scry and die". The latter became so noticeable that Wizards of the Coast eventually created a spell solely for the purpose of allowing enemies to detect incoming teleports and prepare against them... A spell that, naturally, was also available to wizards. By 4th edition Wizards of the Coast had eliminated the spell entirely: Its ritual counterpart only worked between pre-prepared ritual sites.
- The Candle of Invocation is a famously broken item, thanks to its ability to summon an Outsider. Summon an Efreeti, and you get three wishes. Use just one of those wishes for another Candle, and voila: infinite wishes.
- For that matter, you can just cast Gate directly. It's the same level as Wish and costs 1,000 XP, but that's a fifth the minimum XP cost, you get three wishes instead of one, and you can wish for magic items without paying their XP cost. What makes the Candle unique is merely that it puts Gate on the menu for every class, and for a price that an adventurer with proper wealth-by-level can afford as early as 5th level.
- The binder is generally seen as very well-balanced, with many good options but no Game-Breaker ones... with one big exception in the online vestige Zceryll. When binding Zceryll, you gain damage reduction, resistance to acid and electricity, the outsider type, an alternate form that provides a -1 to attack rolls against it, and True Strike. Sound good? That's just the first benefit, that being it making you pseudonatural. Next, it grants you immunity to confusion effects and a bonus against mental attacks. Nice? Not done. You can fire bolts that cause the target to take no actions if they fail a save. Very good? Still not done. You have telepathy out to a hundred feet, and the Mindsight feat, which lets you detect the location, types, and intellect of all creatures within your telepathy range. Amazing? One more: you gain a Summon Monster effect that scales to your level, has a good duration, sticks the pseudonatural template on everything you summon, and can be used every five rounds, letting you spam it endlessly. This one vestige is seen as bumping the binder from "powerful but balanced" Tier 3 to "more or less broken" Tier 2.
- White Raven Tactics is one of the few things from Tome of Battle that the entire fanbase can agree about being broken. It essentially amounts to giving one of your allies an extra turn right after you, even if they already acted that round, without even needing to give up yours. Giving someone two turns is as broken as it sounds, and it remains viable all the way to the endgame. It's seen as the martial counterpart to Celerity and 3.0 Haste, and a good reason to have a warblade cohort. And let's not even get into the question of whether you can use it on yourself...
- Iron Heart Surge is the other one. It's meant to simply represent a character throwing off a disease or an enchantment or a debuff with Heroic Willpower, but the way it's worded is absurdly loose. It lets you select "an effect" with a duration of one or more rounds that is currently affecting you, and then end it. When used as intended, it's quite handy, but there are so many things that can qualify as "an effect with a duration of one or more rounds", and it doesn't say its effect on you ends, just the effect as a whole. As written, that means if you use it while in the vicinity of a poison gas cloud, it's not that you don't take damage—the cloud just instantly disperses. In theory, one could use Iron Heart Surge to end things like planar traits, states of existence, or gravity. No sane DM will let you use it this way, but if you find an insane one, feel free to go to town..
- Epic Spellcasting, on top of being a Scrappy Mechanic, is totally broken when used with any degree of cleverness, due to how easy it is to toy with mitigating factors. The idea's pretty simple: you have a bunch of basic effects, you can cast them if you make a Spellcraft check, and you can raise the DC to make the effects more powerful or lower it to make them worse or add more qualifiers onto it. One mitigating factor is "other casters have to donate spells, and each one can only donate one spell." But if you have the Leadership feat and an easily-obtained score of 25, all your cohorts and followers are casters and all of them donate their best spell, then you hit a -218 on the Spellcraft DC, a number that can skyrocket even higher if you throw Epic Leadership or Legendary Commander into the mix. Alternatively, you can use the above Genesis/Fast Time method, and take a -220 while working on a spell for 100 days that last five minutes for everyone else. Or you can take advantage of the fact that the Fortify seed allows you to add SR to a creature, with a -2 for every point of it below 25, to add it to a spell and give the target an SR of -500 (which has basically no ingame effect) in exchange for the abilities you actually wanted. Even games that play at epic levels tend to ban epic spellcasting for how absurd it can be.
- Leadership itself is banned incredibly commonly. The low-level followers you pick up are just gravy; the real advantage is being able to pick up a cohort who's only a few levels lower than you. An entire spare character that doesn't use up XP is just so bluntly useful that it's considered mandatory if you have a DM who's dumb enough to allow it.
- The combination of Leap Attack (increases the multiplier of Power Attack's damage bonus if you charge and jump) and Shock Trooper (allows a character to take Power Attack's penalty away from AC instead of attack when charging) resulted in the ridiculously powerful "ubercharger" build, capable of dealing hundreds of points of damage in a single rush with the proper items. Being that it played on the already effective Power Attack feat, it was almost universally taken among any character that planned to fight in melee and could afford the feats. There are commoner builds that can one-shot dragons with this fighting style.
- The "flaws" variant in Unearthed Arcana may be a variant, but it seems intended to be balanced. And if that's the case, they failed miserably. Flaws are a Min Maxers Delight, as it's laughably easy to just take a flaw in something you're either already incredibly good at (a -1 to AC when you wear full plate armor) or incredibly bad at (a -3 to Reflex saves when you're as slow as a slug), and the potential to triple your number of bonus feats at 1st level is well worth it, especially since the feats can be used to patch the "hole" the flaw just made at a net profit.
- Races of the Dragon turned kobolds into a Lethal Joke Character par excellence. They can take the Draconic Rite of Passage, netting them a free sorcerer spell for almost nothing, which can then be upgraded into the Greater Draconic Rite and give them a free sorcerer level for almost nothing. Being dragonblooded opens up a whole lot of avenues for insane stuff, including specialized spells. And then there's the Dragonwrought feat, which lets you be treated as a dragon at 1st level. This may sound innocuous, but it opens up a mess of rules normally meant to apply only to dragons. Dragons don't take ability score penalties for aging, letting you instantly start as Venerable and gain a +3 to all mental stats. Dragons of Old age or greater can take Epic feats. And if your DM is stupid enough to allow Loredrake, White Dragonspawn, or many other things exclusive to the type... well, suffice to say Sorcerer is no longer Tier 2.
- Rules as written, checks for your sensory skills checks suffer such a massive penalty for distance (+1 to DC / 10') that it can lead to some absurdities. Adding that +10 DC for being 100' out, for example, can make stealth builds nearly impossible to detect, and rules-as-written, the characters shouldn't be able to notice a mountain a mile away (+528 to the DC). Many GM's ignore this.
Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition
D&D 4th Edition has a large number of infinite combos IN THE CORE RULES:
- There is a 15th level Ranger power called "Blade Cascade," which allows multiple hits as long as the previous hit connects. This inspired game-breaking accuracy builds; one such (Kenshiro "Ratata" Orcuslayer) could kill Orcus at level 15 as long as the player did not roll a 1 (which is an automatic failure) on the d20. Wizards of the Coast quickly issued an errata stating that the maximum number of hits on the power was 5 (1 per 1.25 seconds of the combat round).'
- Sleep is a first level Daily spell that knocks people out, making them vulnerable to continuous Coup de Grâce attacks. You can use Salves of Power, (which cost 5000 GP and a Healing Surge) to regain this power. And until recently, getting a -16 continuous penalty to saves was quite easy (now it's basically impossible, although you can still get a fairly high penalty to saving throws for one or two rounds).
- Everyone say "hi" to the Essentials classes, mostly found in the "Hero of X" books. Their intended use: get casual/first-time players into the game with a class-build that's far easier to deal with than most. Rather than potentially dozens of powers and situational options, you typically have your Melee/Ranged Basic Attack boosted in one way or another, either increasing the damage, adding effects or letting you make follow-up attacks. On its own, this isn't particularly bad, but those classes qualify for feats that modify basic attacks further. Want to push 3 squares, impose a -2 penalty to attacks on a hit OR miss, and eventually daze at will? You can! Add in the number of items and ally class-features (especially from warlords) that allow you to make basic attacks outside your turn, and you could have a character dealing more damage per round with basic attacks than most classes deal with encounter powers.
Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition
The 5th Edition of D&D tried to avoid game breakers by limiting the ability of powers to combine together, but it still has some problems. For example, the power of a Warlock's Eldritch Blast scales up with character level, not Warlock level. It's a cantrip which is unlocked at 1st level for Warlock meaning that every character benefits from being a Warlock for a single level.
- There are still a number of cheesetastic spells, or combinations thereof, but for the most part, they're all relegated to the later parts of the game.
- Wish is a good example of this. In this edition, there are absolutely no repercussions for using this spell, so long as its used only to copy the effects of another spell. As a bonus, Wish ignores the casting times and other components of said spells.
- Simulacrums copy all features from the creature they clone, including spells. Sure they're fragile, can't heal, and can't restore their spells, but this is still essentially an automated set of spell-scroll and a concentration-spell sink any way you look at it. And this doesn't even mitigate recharging any other limited-use abilities (i.e. Fighter's Action Surge).
- Where this reaches true stupidity is when you combine both spells above. Normally, a caster is restricted to only a single active Simulacrum of their own at a time. But you can easily circumvent that by having the clone use the Simulacrum spell themselves. Or better, have it Wish its own Simulacrum of the caster for a minuscule percentage of the casting time and none of the other resources. And then the clone of the clone does the same. Cue instant Clone Army.
- Polymorph is still a very problematic spell in this edition. Forms are now much stronger, since the recipient can assume a form whose CR (or Challenge Rating, a number roughly estimating how well it would challenge a party of a given character level) equals to their own level! Of course, it's a concentration spell, only allows for the shapes of beasts (none of which have a CR greater than 8), and the subject replaces all of their other features for the duration, but its still quite a buff. Even ignoring that function, the spell is effectly a "Save-or-Die" when used offensively, so long as you find other ways to kill the target without HP damage.
- True Polymorph, on the other hand, is almost as silly as Polymorph Any Object was in 3.5 edition, possibly more so in some ways. This time, it doesn't even check for creature type (save for undead and constructs), size, material, or any of that jazz. The only limits this time are with the new form's CR, which has to be equal or less than the level or CR of the target, the new form can't be undead or a construct, and that permanency requires concentrating on the spell for the full duration. Like Polymorph, the new forms features replace all of your other features (yes, even spells), but even that's still no excuse to put Pit Fiends and Ancient Copper Dragons in the player's hands, nor the ability to transform the Tarrasque into an apple.
- Moon Druids are the 'Disc-One Nuke' of this edition. This has everything to do with their Combat Wild Shape feature, which allows them to take the form of things like tigers and, worse, brown bears, at a humble level 2! What's worse is that, just like Polymorph above, they simply revert back to their old form, HP included, when their animal form gets killed off. And if that's not bad enough, they can use this feature twice per short rest! This makes Moon Druids among the most damaging and most damage-spongiest build for the first few levels, and that's before considering they've also a full allotment of spells. Fortunately, the power of their forms tapers off at around level 5 or so, and the designers at least had the mind to keep away Wild Spell... at least until level 18. And then things get silly once again at level 20, when Wild Shape can be used infinitely, reducing HP damage to a complete joke for the class.
- They do, however, have one solid counter in the "Moonbeam" spell, which immediately reverts them to their original shape and locks them out shifting again - until they leave the spell's area of effect, which is a paltry 5 foot diameter.
- Someone in the design team seems to really like Bards, because the Bard is seriously overpowered in 5th edition. For starters, Jack of All Trades now gives bonuses to skills you don't have rather than just negating penalties, this effectively means that there will never be a situation where the Bard cannot solve it with the direct approach. Though if that should fail then the Bard can just keep trying different appropriate skill checks until they find the one that works. Did we mention that this is an ability you get automatically? At level 2? While the lower dice bonus (half your proficiency bonus rather than full) seems like it might impede you it really doesn't: The bonus is so small at early levels you will only be at a 1 point loss or so. By the time the gap widens you've obtained more than enough power to make it a moot point. Especially since your spells now go up to level 9 (Apparently "Dabbling in magic" means a greater spell progression than the warlock). While your spell list would be fine in of itself, the Bard also gets an insanely OP ability that lets them take spells from other classes spell lists, up to the maximum spell level you can use, regardless of what archetype you end up picking, and the College of Lore gives an additional set of spells to you earlier than normal, with many considering that College the best caster in the game. This even lets you pick spells from levels that the class would normally have to be epic level to reach (Such as level 8 or 9 Warlock spells). What should be the most all-rounder class in the game ends up being a specialist in almost every field except physical combat and even then you're not bad, just not great at it. Though the right cantrips also make this a moot point. CoDzilla may be dead, but now there's BoDzilla!
- One of the worst example of this is the Ranger spell Swift Quiver, which normally gives a Ranger the ability to shoot twice from a weapon that uses a quiver as a bonus action, but can only be cast as a Level 5 Ranger spell. Since Rangers are a half-caster class, they don't get Level 5 spells until the very late levels. A bard, however, can snaffle the spell with Magical Secrets - and since a Bard is a full-caster, they get it 7 levels earlier than the class the spell is actually meant for.
- Certain multiclass combinations can get incredibly cheesy due to synergy between class features and abilities:
- Sorcerer/Paladins (or "Sorcadins" if you'd prefer) have the ability to use high-level Sorcerer spell slots as high-octane fuel for Paladin smites, allowing some truly insane levels of burst damage. A Pal 6/Sorc 5 Sorcadin with 16 Str and an ordinary longsword can cast Hold Person as a bonus action and wallop with two critical attacks expending two Level 4 Spell Slots to achieve full smite power. The result? Two all-but guaranteed hits together doing 24d8+3 damage. The GM can kiss his precious BBEG (Big Bad Evil Guy) goodbye note . Not to mention you also have the full versatility that being a caster provides: Fireball, Hold Person, Mirror Image, Wall of Fire, Polymorph, Greater Invisibility...
- Warlock/Sorcerers are commonly called "Coffeelocks". You can use the Pact Magic feature to convert Warlock spell slots into Sorcerer Metamagic points, and then use Sorcerer Metamagic points to convert into Sorcerer spell slots. The trick here is that Warlocks recover spell slots on a short rest, while Sorcerers normally do on a long rest. In other words, you become The Sleepless and only need to take long rests to use Hit Dice and recuperate... although even that becomes irrelevant if you are a Divine Soul Sorcerer, as you get some healing spells.
- The Druid spell Summon Woodland Creatures can be fairly broken in classic interpretation. It allows the Druid to summon a number of forest creatures with a fairly low CR limit, which seems OK.. except that one of those possible creatures is Pixies. Pixies are fairly low-level fey with only 1 HP each that could blow away in a stiff breeze, and you get 8 of them... but each of them comes with their own loadout of 1/day spells including Polymorph and Improved Invisibility, so 8 Pixies can polymorph your entire party into T. rexes. Was later fixed by errata stating that the GM, not the player, should choose which specific woodland creatures appear - but this only moves the responsibility onto the GM to determine the usefulness of the spell.
- The spell Healing Spirit, added in the Xanathar's Guide To Everything supplement, creates a spirit on a single square that heals anyone passing through that square for a variable number of HP every round. This doesn't sound that powerful, but an organized party can conga line back and forth through the spirit's square every round it's active, making it heal the entire party, which is by far the best healing in the game. Combine it with the cleric/bard multiclass trick to add a static level bonus to healing spells and it can be better than a healing spell 10 or more levels higher. The designers have argued that this is not actually a game breaker, since the worst that can be done by powerful out-of-combat healing is to ensure the party starts every encounter fresh, which does not necessarily affect the play of the game that much.
- The Witch hex Misfortune. If the enemy fails their save, then for the next round, they roll twice for any roll using a d20 (which includes attack rolls, skill checks, and saving throws), and take the lower result. Fortunately, it only lasts a round, and you can only use the hex on a given target once per day. However, another witch hex, cackle, uses a move actionnote to extend the duration of most witch hexes by another round. If you can get them with misfortune, and keep cackling, you will have rendered that opponent effectively useless. And since cackle is a move action, you can then tag another one of his buddies each round. Oh, and this build is easy to pull off at first level - just take the feat "Extra Hex".
- The Cyclops Helm. For 5,600 gp (a sum that is affordable to a middle-level hero, even moreso if you have someone in the party craft it halving its price) its wearer can, once per day, just decide that a dice roll turned up 20. Devastating when combined with high-risk, high-reward rolls such as attacking with a scythe (which has a 4x critical threat but only threatens a crit on a 20)
- The Synthesist archetype for the Summoner allows the Summoner (a stereotypical Squishy Wizard) to whistle up a tank-like monster and meld with it to assume the monster's physical stats (making them close to invulnerable) and spell-like abilities, without sacrificing either their own spell-casting abilities or any of their magical items except for armor (which is useless to them anyway). This archetype breaks the game so thoroughly that it's actually been banned from official play, despite having been published in an official Paizo sourcebook in the first place.
- However, the Synthesist archetype is frequently placed lower than the base Summoner class in tier lists. Non-Synthesist Summoners get to summon a similarly powerful monster (which, if carefully optimised, can in itself be better at combat than the mundane party members), and on each turn the character can both cast a spell and have the monster attack. Synthesists can only do one of these two powerful options on each turn.* For bonus points, the mere existence of the Summoner's spell list also messes up magic item prices. Summoners only get spells of up to level six (theoretically compensating for having control of a big scary monster). However, the developers apparently wanted to give them high level spells still, since many spells which would normally be levels 7-9 get squashed into the upper levels of the spell list, and some lower level spells get bumped down the make the list less topheavy. Unfortunately, the value of consumable magic items that duplicate spells is based on the level of the spell, so many wands, scrolls, etc that cast spells Summoners can cast had their prices suddenly drop when the class was released - unless the GM carefully read item creation and realized that the price of wands, potions, scrolls, and so on always default to Wizard/Sorcerer and Cleric lists first. note
- Pathfinder Unchained presented optional mechanics for everything, including four fixed classes. The Rogue and Monk were fixed for being low-tier. The Barbarian was streamlined. The Summoner alone was nerfed - and still remains a powerful, possibly overpowered class.
- The Scarred Witch Doctor, a Witch Archetype applying to characters with orc blood. The Scarred Witch Doctor is unique in that its main casting stat isn't the traditional intelligence, wisdom, or charisma. It's constitution. So now you have one disgustingly bloated stat that not only boosts all of your primary class features, but you are receiving a significant amount of free hit points each level. Squishy Wizard? I think not. But wait, it gets better. Simply by taking a half-orc (Which qualifies as an orc and a human when meeting prerequisites), you can apply your floating +2 ability bonus to constitution. This makes it appallingly easy to make a character with as much as twenty constitution in character creation in even the lowest point buy, considering the only other ability you need any points in is dexterity (The others being relegated to being amusing bonuses at best). So now you have a full caster who on average gets more hit points per level than the fighter and enough to even rival or exceed the barbarian, but the best part? Being a witch you have access to the Misfortune hex mentioned above. Naturally, this got nerfed back into the usual Witch casting stat of intelligence. Orcs have a penalty to intelligence, so since this penalty is no longer bypassed by using a different ability score, the new version of the archetype gives a +2 bonus to your intelligence. But half orcs not only have no intelligence penalty, they have the floating +2 ability bonus mentioned above. Thus a half orc scarred witch doctor will have an effective intelligence bonus of +4 - more than any other playable race/class combination.
- The Sacred Geometry feat. Minimal requirements, especially for a wizard (Int 13, and ranks in an otherwise mostly useless skill). Whenever you cast a spell, you can choose to try to apply metamagic feats you know to it for free; the only limitation is that the spell's effective level can't be above what you can normally cast. To do this, you roll a number of d6 equal to your ranks in the aforementioned skill (in practice, your level) and the game stops while you attempt to make one of three target numbers from your dice rolls using only addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Succeed, and the spell goes off with the metamagic; fail and you lose the spell. Apart from being a literal game-breaker for players who are slow at arithmetic, it quickly turned out that beyond about level 5 (if you keep your skill ranks maximised) it's virtually impossible to have dice rolls that don't give any solutions - so the feat effectively lets you bring all your spell slots up to the maximum level you can cast. And the metamagics can be chosen when you actually cast the spell, rather than having to plan in advance when preparing spells as prepared casters normally have to do. And as if that wasn't enough, the feat also gives you not one, but two metamagic feats of your choice.*
- Second Edition Pathfinder introduced a new rule on critical hits: instead of needing to roll a 20 to crit, you crit if you beat the enemy's AC or task's DC by more than 10 points. This meant that combat could be dominated by "crit fishing" builds which focus on rolling the largest number of attacks possible in a round in order to maximise the chance of landing a crit. Add weapons, in particular combat picks, which dramatically increase their damage dealt when a crit occurs and you have a distinct game breakr.
Vampire: The Masquerade
In Vampire: The Masquerade, one of the most brokenly powerful powers was available at character creation and found at lowly Discipline level 2 of Obfuscate - which let the vampire using it become invisible. No blood or willpower spent, no roll needed. Just plain ol' at will invisibility. Now, there was a counter (Auspex, available to a handful of vampire Clans and even then they had to be at least as good at Auspex than you were at Obfuscate), it didn't fool cameras or other technological systems (not a problem if you're playing Dark Age) and until higher levels in the discipline it dropped when attacking or performing similar attention-getting actions. Still, quasi-perfect invisibility any time you want, in a game that revolves around intrigue, information gathering and general-purpose skulking around ? Sorta kinda neat.
- Though this breaks the game in terms of the World of Darkness setting and the Storyteller system, you must factor in precisely what they're up against.
- It's not quite as powerful as all that, since you can't 'go invisible' to anyone who's actually watching you when you do it... And 'attention getting actions' include such things as: Making any kind of sound louder than nearby ambient sounds, manipulating any kind of object that can be seen (opening a door, picking up something, accidentally bumping into a chair), doing anything that would attract attention if you weren't invisible (pointing a gun at someone even if you don't fire it, dancing, making faces) and you need to concentrate to keep it active so if anything distracts you you're suddenly fully visible again. Still, with enough points in the Stealth ability and a bit of careful planning, it becomes very powerful very quickly.
- A minor example is available even at character creation. A new character can put a maximum of five dots into the generation background trait, bringing his vampire from 13th generation all the way to 8th; in other words, from one step above a rank Caitiff all the way to the lower rungs of the old blood, letting him have a blood pool 50% greater than a normal starting character. Such a character can also spend up to three blood points per round, rather than just one. All in all, a higher generation rating gives a character the capacity and capability to perform actions and disciplines far beyond other vampires of greater "experience".
- But perhaps the biggest game breaker, is the Tremere's Path of Conjuring Discipline. At first glance, you might only think it's good for creating personal weapons out of thin air. However, since you can summon anything you know the construction of, a generous helping of points in Science will give you the power to make (among other things): Napalm, Gauss Weaponry, Plastic Explosives, or even Antimatter! Worse still, if you take the time to conjure the building supplies, this can be used to make larger scale weaponry like Tanks, Battleships, Fighter Jets, Mech Suits, or ICBMS. And to top it all off: You can have this build at character gen.
- Not to mention that it does not take exceptional skill in biology to create blood with the upper limit being the body mass of the conjurer. Also all sorts of chemicals and compounds were available to a master of the Path of Conjuring for fun and profit.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse
In Werewolf: The Apocalypse it was possible, with mere hedging of the rules rather than outright cheating, to make a starting character that rolled in excess of 40 damage dice per hand, and went first in every combat round.
- Even without any cheating at all, werewolves in the Old World of Darkness could spend Rage to have an extra action in a combat round. Rage replenished every time they got angry—so basically all the time.
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
- The first edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay contained several somewhat ill-considered spells, the most infamous of all being the innocuous-sounding Glowing Light. Glowing Light is a very basic Petty Magic spell used to turn any handy useless object into a disposable torch. At least, that's what it was supposed to be used for. The spell description actually just said "The object glows brightly for one hour, and then vanishes." And then vanishes. Most novice wizards considered that a one hour time-delay was a fair price to pay for the power to vaporise anything they could lay their hands on.
- In Black Crusade, players can start the game with items of certain rarity (each item has a rarity modified by craftmanship rating and quantity).You can abuse the system to for example start with 1 000 000 poorly trained slaves carrying shitty lasguns. The true gamebreaker comes from the fact that the Heretek class could start the game with 100 of the "mechanicus assimilation" cybernetic upgrades (Hereteks count the upgrade as being more common than other classes, so it only works for them). Said upgrade gives you the "machine" trait, or if you already have it, +1 to the trait and nowhere does it state that there is an upper limit on how many times you can take it. Each level of machine gives you +1 armour, so you can start the game with 100 armour. For comparison, Space Marine Powered Armour has 8 armour (10 on the chestplate if it has the reinforced armour subsystem).
- In Deathwatch, you have the Devastator (sometimes known as the Cheesetator) with a Heavy Bolter. Average BS of 50-60 means it hits with about 4-5 shots per turn. That means it rolls 15d10 in damage, and a single 10 on any of those means that it does the 'weapon's entire profile again'. Did I mention that a single average hit is ~23 damage, enough to reduce the average full-health human character to near crits? And that's not even going into the Techmarine, which can take the Breaching Auger very early. Said Auger does 4d10+3 damage. Factoring in a Marine's Strength Bonus, that's 4d10+13. It can be dual-wielded, and has rules so it can No-Sell armour (Pen 7 + Power Field, which means a 75% chance of destroying any weapon without a power field as well used to parry it). It rolls five dice (with Tearing), with a reroll for two damage dice, and any result of a 10 means it does its entire profile again. With this thing, a Techmarine can and will turn anything in front of him into fondue in a turn or two.
- Champions, the Hero System Superheroes game, actually contained several examples of game-breaking characters in the rulebook to indicate they were possible. This included Planet Man (who can shrink planets, put them in his pocket, and throw them at people) and Azathoth (who sits in the center of the universe using powers to remote view anything and then shoot it)
- A player created breaker was Soul Surgeon, a character with the worst possible version of the Desolid power. His power turned him desolid, but left his body behind and vulnerable and gave him little power to affect anything while desolid. Oh, and he added the Usable On Others advantage. So any enemy he meets, he tears them out of their own body, then beats them unconscious while they're helpless.
- This is actually pointed out in the books themselves. Any power or advantage with a Stop Sign next to it, like Resurrection, Desolidification, or Transforming a foe into anything you want, require explicit permission from the GM to take due to their potential to derail the GM's story or plans.
- Oddly enough, the Damage Over Time is only labeled as a Caution Sign Power. It's entirely possible to create a power that does 1d6 damage 256 times (subtracting the target's defense only once) and still come in significantly under 60 points (out of 400). And since it only increases the power's active cost, not its base cost, further advantages are costed relative to the base power's 5 points, (and not the power's 1,280 points worth of damage) allowing you to add Personal Immunity, Area of Effect, and Megascale (the ability to cover, let's say, the entire planet) and still come in at 59 points. Have fun killing everything on Earth in under 10 minutes.
- In the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying based on Cortex Plus, successful attacks against an enemy can create a complication for them rather than dealing them Stress damage. If a complication is raised too high, the opponent is considered defeated. However, there are no rules limiting the nature of meaning of complications can be created, meaning that Spiderman can repeatedly spray web into Doctor Doom's eyes to blind him until he is complicated out, even if this would logically have very little effect on Doctor Doom (who is perfectly capable of detecting his surroundings without regular sight).
Deadlands has nearly unlimited character options available to the players, and there are quite a few that can make other PC's feel a bit inadequate.
- In Deadlands Classic a scrapper (person with Steam Punk limbs) can generally mop the floor with anything.
- The system itself has an eccentricity built in with its rules, specifically the "Ace" system where if you roll the maximum number on a die you get to re-roll that die and add the new roll to the total. If you just so happen to have a four sided die set for that skill and have a high amount you are rolling you have a very high chance of aceing over and over again to get a ridiculously high number. Any marshal worth their salt knows to fear a knife thrower with 4d4 strength and 5 in Throwin' Balanced.
- Hell on Earth opened up the Junker arcane background, where you can build a rail gun from the get go, and enables PC's to be Robot Hunters, PC's with hulking power armor that has the armor value of a tank and the hitting power of one as well. Also, if you are a PC with the Arcane Background Doomsayer and the miracle Nuke or MIRV and they just blow things up from hundreds of yards away.
- It is possible to be the only PC with a car or plane, which can either make you feel like a chauffeur or the road warrior, depending on how the other PC are built.
- Marshals are advised to deal with these sort of things by occasionally nuking the equipment or abilities of the PC's by "silver bulleting" them away (RPG a car, anti aircraft robots for a plane, no power source for a power suit, etc).
In Eon, you can create an extremely lethal fire spell that makes any one target within 30 meters burst into flame and keep burning for 1 minute, dealing constant damage to everything within 1 meter radius (which means basically the victims entire body). It's a 3rd level spell, but it deals more damage than your standard 5th level spell (and in this game, that's a pretty big leap in difficulty to pull of). So what does it take to craft this spell? A decent score in fire/heat/chaos magic, an average score in the skill Transform Magic, and two different magical effects. And if you up the level of the spell by a tidbit and add a certain third effect, the fireball doesn't go out until the caster says so.
- On the other hand, it does have one weakness. Casting the spell requires five rolls on three different skills, and failing any of those rolls means the spell goes of in its unfinished state and the caster has to start over. Of course, this means that if the caster fails on any of the last two roll, the fireball will manifest directly in the palm of the caster. And when a fire with a 1 meter radius manifests with its center right in your hand, yeah you can guess the consequences.
Second Edition Exalted: In a game where defense has primacy, Obsidian Shards of Infinity Form has two scene-length perfect defense charms, one of which allows you to perfectly redirect any attack aimed at you. It lets you make and control a perfect clone of your opponent who is linked to the clonee, and command it to kill itself, knocking the opponent out. A charm to make all of these cost zero essence. These charms are almost impossible to counter, and the chance of someone having IC knowledge of them is low.
- And then there's the combination of Grandmother Spider Mastery and anything that enhances perception. Grandmother Spider Mastery allows the Exalted to attack everything that he or she can see in a single action. There are charms that allow an Exalted to see everything in several hundred miles, or even everywhere in Creation. Pattern Spider Touch turns a single action attack into a move that either utterly destroys or transforms its target. The natural result of this has been nicknamed Creation-Slaying Oblivion Kick. It does, however, require Essence 7 and a cooperative Sidereal Martial Arts master, at which point killing everything everywhere isn't that far from the norm.
- Actually, this can be obtained much earlier using a combination of Mentor 5, Divine Transcendence of Martial Arts, and Glory to the Most High (Basically, you can have the Master Lupo or Aesha Ura as a mentor, and you count as having 2 more points of Essence than you actually have). Granted, this is an expensive build to make, but it's still a mass destruction charm combo obtained several hundred years before you should be able to use it. Of course, mentors are still fully-fledged Non Player Characters, not omnipotent Charm-dispensing vending machines, so whether they are willing to teach you the exact Charms required - or whether they necessarily even know all of them - is a matter of role-playing and the decisions of the Storyteller.
- The merit Brutal Attack allowed people to use Strength for attack rolls instead of Dexterity. This allowed tyrant lizard totem Lunars to show up as a T-Rex and roll 20+ dice for their attacks without spending a mote.
- Post-2.5, anything that says "that do not count as dice added by Charms" has a huge sticker reading BE CAREFUL WITH THIS on it. Also, anything intended for Essence 6+ was skipped entirely for the errata, since it was already a Herculean tasknote , meaning that post Essence 6 things are still horribly broken. Naturally, almost everything that involves the Sidereal Martial Arts is post-E6.
- Character creation can make or break you, due to the use of flat costs while most of the advancement table uses (previous level of trait x multiplier). Take two identical Dawn Castes. Have one buy his physical attributes at 5/5/1 and the other at 3/5/3. The first will spend 40xp to get to 5/5/5. The second will pay 56. That's three, maybe four sessions of play ahead, and for only one small part of chargen. Repeat that kind of thing in every section - get everything important to five, buy your Infernal eight Charms in a non-favoured Yozi for 16xp free, that kind of thing - and you can end up with one player hit very hard with Can't Catch Up.
While FATAL is a terrible system, it has one spectacular Game-Breaker. Your starting level, instead of being 1 like any sensible game, is the square root of the number of years you've been following your profession. Now, this means that a character who has spent 400 years at their job is maximum level from the get-go. Dwarves have their age rolled on 1d1000, and start work before 200. There's also damage XP, which is awarded per class that gets damage XP - so, if you have a few levels in three classes that gain damage XP, you can level up three times faster than someone playing a pure class. The only counterbalance? The assumed Killer Game Master, and considering your GM is likely drinking heavily in an effort to forget some of the things in the rulebook...
- In 1st edition FATAL, when you grappled an enemy, you were asked to roll for the "grapple position" you achieved. One of the options was.. ugh.. "rape". If that wasn't bad enough, this is a game which actually has stats for penis size and vaginal/anal circumference. If one will not fit inside the other, the target takes damage equal to the proportional difference as a proportion of their hit points. This means that playing a race with a large penis and going for grapples to "accidentally" rape enemies to death is much better than attacking normally. ...Or So I Heard.
- FATE is notorious for having problems with the wording of aspects. In particular, skills such as the ability to foresee the future can potentially declare aspects like "We Are Going To Win This Fight" which can then give a bonus to anything in it, or even argued to be automatically true in versions that maintain this rule. Given that it is a system which sparked lengthy forum threads over how to handle aspects like "Dark" and "On Fire", this is perhaps expected.
Due to the very nature of GURPS, it's relatively easy to land such combinations of advantages and skills, but it charges so many points that your character may end up a Bunny-Ears Lawyer to get there. Or never get there due to point limit. Having said that, there are few relatively cheap tricks allowing you to break the game without spending more than 30 points on them.
- Any skill that is at least 17 (or 16 with related Talent advantage) can only fail when the player rolls 18 during 3d6 checks, which has 2.8% chance of happening. Since skills are related with the level of specific statistic, and Easy skills don't get any penalty, it's ridiculously easy to make a character with 13 baseline skill (from stats) and then spend 12 points on the related skill to reach the 17.
- First level of better appearance, Attractive, costs 4 points. It helps with pretty much all social skills and adds default +1 to reaction checks. While higher levels of better appearance cost a lot more points with almost purely roleplaying value, Attractive has too good to skip point-to-usefulness ratio for the party's face.
- High TL, but only if the GM allows it and it suits the campaign. Most likely byproduct of being Ancient Astronaut, Time Travel or ending up Trapped in Another World, it allows a character to use a higher tech-level than the baseline of the setting, thus having access to much better versions of the same skills and knowledge. It only costs 5 points per level, so at 20 points you can use modern skills in The Renaissance, and at 30 - in Roman times. And obviously, High TL decreases or entirely removes penalties for jumping the technology curve, should the character have proper skills for that. Even such simple things like First Aid skill benefit greatly from High TL.
- To a lesser extent, just having access to higher TL tools makes a massive difference, especially in low TL games. Should character have proper skills and be from proper (or higher) TL, it's very easy to make TL4 (early-modern period) tools with access to TL2 (Iron Age) resources, providing an absurd +4 bonus to their users and negating the -10 penalty when trying to build or make other TL4 things. Giving Radio to the Romans is just a matter of finding a sponsor who will pay for initial investments.
- Gizmo. A 5 point advantage allowing a character to pull a small object from Hammerspace whenever needed, as long as it's within the possible gear the character could carry. The description provides an example of pulling dry matches from a pocket to light a fuse right after after diving or being thoroughly searched and yet pulling a hidden gun when put in front of the Big Bad. Oh, and Gizmo has levels, so it's 5 points per item that can be pulled whenever characters need one. The most common use is about having always a lockpick on character when the plot demands it.
- Talent advantages, especially when custom-made. Most GMs simply don't allow making custom Talents due to their absurd potency, or ban any other than Minor version. Depending on tier, Talent adds +1 to up to 6, 12 or 18 skills covered by said talent, for the price of 5, 10 or 15 points. In all versions Talent also provides reaction bonuses to other users of covered skills, so it's very easy to impress NPCs while simply performing routine tasks.
- High Manual Dexterity. For 5 points, it adds +1 to all skills related with delicate handiwork. And it has levels, so for 20 points you can gain +4 bonus to 11 different skills and Dexterity-based checks of another 20, making a character an instant expert and great performer even with minimal training in those skills or none at all. As you might notice, it's twice as effective as described above Talent and yet it's almost never banned.
- Similarly, Ambidexterity. For 5 points, you can perform any manual skill equally well with either hand. Think about how many things you do with your dominant hand. Now imagine being able to do them all equally well with the other. (If you don't have to imagine, congratulations: you're part of perhaps 1% of the population.) Interestingly, the GURPS devs themselves don't seem to see this, and have even discussed making it a 1 point Perk.
- Magery. Spells are casted by rolling an IQ check. It costs 20 points to rise IQ by 1. Magery counts as +1 to IQ checks when casting spells, while it costs 10 points per level. Yeah. And while IQ is by far the most useful stat to have high, Magery allows to ease up Early Game Hell in low-point games and helps to avoid ending up with Squishy Wizard.
- Combat Reflexes are intentionally broken this way, as a thing every "professional" fighter should have. For measly 15 points, it adds +1 and +2 to variety of fast reaction skills, makes character immune to freezing in combat and also counts as a massive +6 bonus to Instant Waking Skills. More, entire party gains +1 to defense against surprise attacks and +2 if the character is a designated party leader.
Legend of the Five Rings
The first edition of the Legend of the Five Rings RPG had quite a few gamebreakers. One of the most infamous was a joint grip maneuver from the "Mizu-do" unarmed combat style. A successful roll could disarm and incapacitate the target. Doesn't sound too bad, except that the target's abilities had almost no effect on the easy-to-perform maneuver. As a result, a starting character with fairly normal stats (Agility 3, Mizu-do 3) would have about a 50% chance of disarming some of the greatest swordsmen in the Emerald Empire.
- You also get some of the crazies stuff with the Kakita Artisans, who were both underrated and overpowering./tg/ archiveSFW writeup.Acting Rank 3: "At this rank, the dramatist has gained the ability to physically alter their entire body, so that the dramatist can assume the form of animals. The forms which the actor chooses to become may not exceed the mass of a heavy war horse, and no items (including clothes or weapons) change with the Artisan."
- 4th Edition has the Asako Henshin, who are simultaneously dreadful in both directions. At first rank, they get an ability that lets them raise or lower anybody's traits of a certain ring, and it lasts for a very long time even early on. So with a simple action, an Asako Henshin can render trained courtiers into gibbering idiots, out-wrestle a Crab, or out-stealth a ninja. However, the rest of the class is excellent in the "unplayable" way, with rank 2-5 abilities being mutually exclusive, being conditional at best, and the class lacks the staple 'can make attacks as a simple action instead of a complex action' feature at higher levels, instead getting a watered-down version at rank 5.
Mekton fans long ago compiled the MTS Abuse Catalog listing these. Here are some of the highlights:
- Probably the most infamous in Mekton Zeta is Weight Efficiency. Using large amounts of weight efficiency, the design drops its all-important Manuver Value, raises its ground movement, and decreases the cost of flight movement, all at the same time. Also, the points spent on weight efficiency are not subject to cost multipliers. Additionally, nowhere in the rules is said that you can't weight efficiency your mecha down to zero tons. Since the cost of propulsion systems are a multiple of the mecha's weight, this would allow infinite MA for a cost of zero points.
- Poor Man's Reactive Shield: Coupling an Attack Factor of 2 with a -2 WA Beam Shield results in Reactive Shield like protection for 1.8cp/K instead of 3cp/K normally required by reactive shields. This gets even better if the design has room for 2 shields, which can then alternate between uses and add the Turns In Use and Rechargeable modifiers for even more savings. A 20K, 1 TIU, Rechargeable, -2 WA, AF 4 beam shield costs only 17.82 cp. Buying two of them only costs 35.64 cp. This is even cheaper than a 15K reactive shield! It is effective against all types of attack, has 5 more SP, is basically unlimited, and by default has a Reset of 1.
- Smart Missiles: Use of Smart missiles with 20+ skill almost guarantees a hit, and even makes Anti-Missile Systems largely ineffective.
- Suuuuurrrrrrgggggeeee!!!!: Ablative Reactive Shields grant Kills x 5 SP. Surge shields do SP kills in damage. Combine the two for five times the pain. As an added plus, take Reset: X and any other modifiers you feel like (this thing isn't supposed to absorb damage anyway) (ie. 15K, Reset: X, Matter Only, Surge for 21.1cp).
- Large amounts of Ninja Leaping. Since ninja leap is achieveable once per action, a +10 ninja leap results in an effective MA of +20 (or more, if using Let's Active) (ex. Ground MA of 7, normal leap = 2 hexes. +10 ninja leap. move 4 hexes for free [walking 1/2 MA is free], spend 2 actions for +24 MA. Total MA = 28)
- Transformation: Gun scales up one of the mecha's weapons. Equip a big enough gun, and your mecha can transform into a BFG that would turn Megatron green with envy.
- Out-of-Scale Energy Melee Weapons. Buy a low kill 10x scale EMW. The EMW's "hot knife through butter" effect scales to ignore 40K of armor instead of 4K.
- Similarly, Out-of-Scale Missiles: Buy a low kill 10x scale blast radius missile. The missile's blast radius damage scales to 10x, instead of a maximum of 5K for 1x scale missiles. This allows indirect fire to negate Anti-Missile Systems.
In Nobilis, reality is written in a language of flowers. "Flowers" is technically an available Estate. This would create nigh-omnipotence even by the standards of a game where shooting down the sun is considered a fun afternoon.
Racial Holy War
Racial Holy War (it's as stupid as FATAL) is an unfinished mess anyway, but even if fearsome amounts of alcohol and inbreeding have convinced you to actually jury-rig the rules into a playable state, you'll still be left with the hideously broken Athlete player class. See, Athletes get an additional 10 hitpoints per level, since the ability of an experienced athlete to ignore a chainsaw to the head or anti-tank weapon is well known.
- Even worse is the Hero class which gives a substantial boost to the Heroism stat and makes all Rouse checks automatically succeed. Because the Morale Mechanic works by adding the whole group's Heroism together for defense and Intimidation for attack and Rouse checks add a set amount to both stats for EACH character based on the Hero's ranks in Rouse, this means that it's nigh-impossible for the party to be intimidated by opponents and will almost always make enemies run in panic. And fleeing opponents can't fight back. And give the party free turns to shoot at them. Worst of all, since multiple Heroes' Rouse checks can stack with each other this means this trick can be pulled at character creation.
Rifts is a game where everyone is a Game-Breaker, and needs to be in order to survive the Nintendo Hard combat, but there's one O.C.C. that surpasses even the most broken Juicer or Crazy Hero. Glitter Boy. A character who gets a several million credit mech suit with around 700+ M.D.C. (Mega-Damage-Capacity). A normal character's armor has about 45-100 M.D.C. (To put this in perspective, 3 MD is enough to tear a car in half, and can kill a human several times over), and has a BFG that can inflict up to 100 M.D.C. or more in a single shot. A Glitter Boy can, with a little luck, survive a nuclear explosion, and takes half damage from laser attacks. What's the drawback for all this power? The character levels a little slowly, and they have to get out of their mech for a few minutes a day to prevent atrophy. Oh, and pretty much everybody knows what you're capable of and will try to kill you first.
- Magic users can be seriously broken as well; most notable the Ley Line Walker, who starts out with a huge amount of mana/sp, and some of the most powerful magic abilities in the game. And if one is lucky enough to roll good Psionic powers, One-Man Army time. A properly built LLW is capable of withstanding a direct nuke hit by 5th level, and dealing out almost as much damage. And that's before adding insane stuff from magic-heavy expansions like Worldbook: Atlantis.
- No magic users will ever be without the most broken spell in the game, Carpet of Adhesion; a 3rd or 4th level spell that is ludicriously powerful, able to glue down and glue together literally ''anything', immobilizing most enemies and turning them to sitting ducks. (To make it worse, this spell is available to some of magic user classes at first level.)
- One of the classic examples is the Godling RCC from "Conversion Book 2: Pantheons of the Megaverse". In that you can combine all the useful special abilities of three core classes, superhuman strength, endurance, and regeneration, a 100,000-year lifespan, and some nifty utility powers such as darkvision, seeing the invisible, etc., all for the price of... it's an allowable starting character class, actually.
- Then there is the Cosmo Knight from the Phase World sourcebook, who not only is immensely powerful (they're designed to take on starships), but can be combined with just about any other race in the game.
- Both the Godling and the Cosmo Knight were created by C.J. Carella, who is quite possibly the Biggest Munchkin Ever.
- CJ Carella should have his own section, the man is/was a human Game Breaker. South America 2 has what is arguably the worst example of broken munchkinism. There is a psychic character class in there called the Gizmoteer. One of his powers is the ability to convert any energy weapon so that it runs on psychic energy instead of energy clips. The cost to recharge said weapon is equal to the weapon's payload. The very same book features a gun known as the Anti-Tank Rifle, a very high powered gun (like, about as much the Glitter Boy BFG mentioned above) designed for armies to give infantry troops a chance against tanks. The drawback of the weapon is that it drains the entire energy clip in one shot, giving the weapon a payload of one. How munchkins can combine these elements to their advantage is left as an exercise for the student.
- And let's not get into the stuff you can come up with when you mix sourcebooks and even other Palladium RPGs. One horrific example is the Zentraedi Titan Juicer Murder-Wraith. For the uninitiated, that's a fifty-plus-foot giant zombie with thousands of MDC that can only be harmed by magic or silver weapons. Good luck getting a GM that will allow it to happen, but it's perfectly game-legal. Yet again, C.J Carella was responsible for Titan Juicers and Murder Wraiths.
SenZar seems to hate the gamemaster with a passion. The "status" power increases a player character's starting money from 1,000 Stars to 1,000,000, in a game with a comically challenging artificing system. Proper munchkinisation can result in a player character starting with an armour value of 100, and being armed with a weapon which has a +10 attack bonus, causes an automatic 300 points of damage that will not heal short of 8th Order Magic while healing you for every point it deals, and forces any human you hit with it to make a power save or instantly die. SenZar is probably the only game where a starting character can be armed with a weapon able to kill a normal player character 20 or 30 times over.
- Hacking had a surprising tendency to be broken in Shadowrun 4th edition. Due to the relatively low limit on the maximum System score, any computer which wasn't protected by a spider could be relatively easily hacked even by a starting character. This was made worse by 4th Edition's introduction of "Commlinks", basically superpowered smartphones, which meant that almost any of an individual's data could simply be hacked off their relatively-insecure commlink (rather that having to find it in the wider scope of cyberspace)
- The notoriously weak Sixth World version of Shadowrun made this even worse by removing the System/Device score as a default value for Matrix stats. A character with any investment in hacking skill at all can instantly and utterly destroy any character without it, many of whom will have zero in their defense stats.
- Sixth World was also infamous for its bizarre treatment of armor. Instead of reducing damage taken, armor in Sixth World grants you Defense Rating, which gives you bonus Edge points if you are attacked by weaker weapons. While the intent is to put you in an advantageous position in battle, the result tends to be that you get some Edge points and then die. It also creates insane interactions such as the ability of a PC with a cyberjaw to eat a drydocked submarine in a few rounds (its armor doesn't protect it against even the low "cybernetic bite" damage, and if the submarine is docked, there's no character involved to gain the Edge)
- The most infamous game breaker in Sixth World is using the Anticipation action with a full-auto weapon. A full-auto weapon lets you fire at as many targets as you like within ammo limits, but you have to split your dice pool between each of the targets you attack. Anticipation means you no longer need to split your dice pool when attacking multiple targets. Using this with a weapon with a large magazine can allow you to shoot 50+ targets with your full skill in a single round.
Star Wars d20
Stun in Star Wars d20 Revised is somewhere between That One Rule and a Game-Breaker. If you hit with a stun attack, your enemy must save or be helpless, losing all dexterity, granting a +2 to hit to all attackers, and drops what they are holding for a few turns of combat. If they do save, it happens anyway for one round. Again, this is for every hit, so a party can simply tie up a single, powerful enemy, regardless of size (think rancor) and whittle it down at virtually no risk to themselves. Even if the enemy breaks the loop because all the party members using stun weapons miss (unlikely), they have to take move actions to get their weapons back into their hands, allowing maybe an attack or two before the Cycle of Hurting continues. Do not do this to your players, even as a joke.
- Another big gamebreaker was one ability of the Elite Trooper Prestige Class, called 'Deadly Strike'. To qualify for the class at the earliest opportunity, one had to be a sixth level Soldier, then gain nine levels in the Prestige Class. Hard to get? Possibly. The benefit for your patience and hard work? The character in question makes a full-round action to perform a single attack, that deals maximum possible damage regardless of a critical hit. This attack has a doubled critical threat range, and gains a plus four to hit. This is coupled with the character's already high plus fifteen to hit from base attack, plus whatever dex bonus they may have, plus any other bonuses, feats, or special abilities to boot! What does this all add up to? On a crit, even with a measly blaster pistol, anyone getting hit dies, and the odds are that the average to-hit bonus is going to be twenty-five before rolling the d20. Couple this with a blaster cannon, the resident energy BFG, and a few good critical hits, and this character has a decent chance of taking out anything less than a frigate in orbit, by himself, from the ground, in roughly two minutes. Any starfighter will be dust in roughly three to five rounds, long before the pilot can even see the tiny speck down on the ground blasting at it. A round being six seconds long, that amounts to eighteen to thirty seconds, per ship.
- Or not, as the character must be able to spot the ship, and in the d20 rules, your checks for your sensory skills suffer a -1 penalty per 10' of distance to the object. Rules as written, the characters shouldn't be able to see a moon - er, space station - orbiting the planet they are standing on.
Star Wars (Fantasy Flight)
- The Auto-fire rule, which allows advantages rolled on dice to be spent to have a weapon hit multiple times, is notoriously broken due to the damage multiplication it allows. Even powerful enemies can be mown down in a hail of bullets in a single round.
- There are a range of Knowledge skills available, all of which use Intellect as their base stat. However, there is no trained/untrained skill system in FFG Star Wars; a character who doesn't have a specific skill can still roll their entire base stat. This means that a character with a high base intellect knows everything, as if he/she had dice in every possible knowledge skill, even ones they've never heard of.
The ridiculous design of World of Synnibarr makes it fairly reasonable for a party of five people with a decent starting sum and stats rolls to have every PC have 50,000 Life Points, shotguns loaded with Lubricated Pelleum Steel slugs, and be able to attack three times per segment, twice.
- A half-pound sling ball of Pelleum can be purchased for nearly 1/200th of the price. After spending the starting funds, the players can have a 100-foot armor-plated pirate ship that could shrug off nuclear bombardment with armor-piercing chainguns and rocket launchers to fire back.
- One of the sample low-level monsters is a bat. The number of XP awarded for a bat - which does not scale with character level - and the "number that appear in a group" indicate that simply blowing up a nesting group of bats with a grenade will give a character enough XP to reach the level where they become a god.
The Witcher: Game of Imagination
The Witcher got a fair share of game-breakers that can turn fighting into nothing more than declaring who got killed on your turn. To be fair, every type of character can got his own game-breaker and the game-breakers by themselves are nothing more than a way of showing how badass your character is at the point when they are possible to conduct. It's very important to understand how the successes and difficulties are counted, as each of the gamebreakers heavily relies on how bonus damage and/or Defence ratings are counted, so they are not as obvious as they seem here. In the case of Critical Hit every of those techniques turns into There Is No Kill Like Overkill. Each Hit Roll goes on the same principle: there is a Defence rating of the attacked and skill of the attacker. Defence is lowered by skill and adjusted by potential modifiers (weather, light, being mounted and so on). This provide an equation Defence - Skill + (Positive and Negative Modifiers) = Amount Of Required Successes To Hit. Success is any outcome of 4 or above on standard dice (the game is based exclusively on d6) and the amount of dice taken for roll is equal to the Statistic of linked skill, so Shooting and Throwing are under Perception, while Armed combat, Unarmed combat and all forms of magic (Spellcasting, Witchers' Signs and Prayers) are under Dexterity. The higher the Stat, the easier it is to get sufficient amount of successes, even with low skills.
- Bash & smash, which is shield and single-handed weapon combo, can devastate anything human-sized, especially when humanoid. With a perk allowing using shields as weapon, combat manoeuvre granting a character two attacks per round and 4 (on a 0-5 scale) points in Armed combat skill, it's possible to conduct a deadly combo. First, attack with shield. Shields have a chance to knock the enemy to the ground, while dealing standard weapon damage. Targets knocked down have their Defense reduced to 1. This allows an effortless second attack with your weapon aiming for the head. In normal situation, it would add 2 points to Hit Roll's difficulty and 1 for the second attack in the same round, so combined with full Defence of the enemy you would most likely miss or barely hit. But since knocked or unconscious enemies have Defence rating of 1, that gives a total of 4... and Armed combat required to even try two attacks per round is 4, so the final Defence of your enemy is 0. Yeah, that's right. Which means an automatic hit, even if you fail the Hit Roll. Attacks aimed for head have a damage multiplier, dealing twice as much damage and three times in case of critical hit. Summing the damage, you deal d6 + 2xStrength with shield, which is average, but your second, head-aimed attack, will deal at least 2d6 + 2x Strength + 3x Each Success. Why Each Success? Because every success in Hit Roll more than required to score a hit is translated into additional 3 points of damage. And since the difficulty of that roll was 0, all successes during Hit Roll are counted as additional. To put that all into perspective - typical humanoid enemy has about 23-26 Hit Points, while ending at 35 with maxed-out Constitution. And you can deal up to 35 damage with a character with average Stats, without critical hits or any elaborate tactics. More. Even if you fail to knock down your enemy, you still can deal quite a nice damage and since you are wielding a shield, you can parry potential counter-attacks or attacks from allies of your target or at least reduce their damage. It's almost impossible to lose a fight with this.
- Shooting. Plain and boring shooting, without any tricks, perks or traits. Thanks to how defense against projectiles is counted, it's much easier to target specific body parts. In case of hand-to-hand and melee combat, both Agility and corresponding skill are counted into Defence: 1 point for each two of Agility and 1 for each point of given skill. Same goes with any form of magic, but Willpower is used instead of Agility. In case of projectiles, Defence is taken from Agility... and shields, if they are equipped. Which means that typical Defence against projectiles is 1 or 2. As noted above, skills lower Defence, so any amount of Shooting above 1 allows to automatically score a hit if no other factors than Defence are present. With higher skill (you can easily start with 3 or even 4, but that would be a Crippling Overspecialization) you can again go for head, ignore the penalty from such shot (after all, your enemy has low Defence) and get the damage multiplier. Aiming cost a single Combat Point, while most average character can't have less than 12. This gives poll large enough to use additional point to "charge" your attack - you can add that single point to any dice you wish, so it can prevent getting a Critical Failure or turn any dice below 4 into success, meaning additional 3 points of damage (remember that again you don't require any successes at all). You can of course use more Points, but that would be simply wasteful. This allows to One-Hit Kill almost anything on your way, from safe distance to boot. When combined with compound bow or heavier types of crossbows, you can one-shot a dragon - compound bow can deal as much as 90 damage in certain circumstances (while it's listed as 2d6+5+Strength of damage, so it's 2d6+10 with maxed-out Strength), which is enough to kill most of creatures twice. Remember dryads? This is exactly why they are so dangerous, because to top this all, they usually lay an ambush, meaning that for their first shot they have no difficulty for their shots and then it's still a measly 1 or 2 points of Defence for their enemies in further rounds and only if they somehow manage to spot dryads.
- And then the first expansion introduced combat manoeuvre Repeated Shot, which is also known as Legolas shot. Archers can fire in single round amount of arrows equal to their skill, targetting each of them as they please. Certain dryad splat was originally planned to start with it, without having the pre-requested skill level and another manoeuvre, but it was cancelled after the authors realised how absurdly powerful this would be.
- Traits and perks make distance fight so broken that it gets simply boring to play as ranger - Hawk-eye lowers difficulty for all visual Perception (like aiming) by 1 and halves distance penalties, Professional adds another dice for rolls of chosen Stat and Specialisation lowers difficulty by 1 for using chosen type of weapon and grants additional +2 of fixed damage.
- Throwing works under the same principles, but thrown weapons generally deal less damage and on shorter distances. Of course that doesn't mean you can't obliterate someone with a javeline in the face if you wish. Or a pebble.
- Basic fire spells - Fire Arrow and Ball Lightning - by themselves are nothing special and easy to dodge or just block. Spells in general are rather timid in their effectivness, but can became very powerful if overcharged, gaining additional effects in the process. Not to mention that you can add a single Arcane Point to each of dice used for roll, having a better chance for additional successes. Since Defence against magic is usually low for non-magical character, and they make most of the population, it's generally easy to exploit described above "low Defence" technique for Spellcasting, but not really cost-efficient, as spells churm a lot of Arcane Points. Here however comes additional successes and perks. With more successes than required player may choose their effect and one of them for spells is lower intake of Points. For direct damage spells there is also standard +3 damage for each additional success. One of perks lowers the initial cost of chosen group of spell, their difficulty by 1 and Defences against it by 1, while other halves cost of chosen spell and can be picked numerous times for different spells. And don't forget about perk lowering difficulty of chosen spell by 1. By picking them all you can make Fire Arrow and Ball Lighting considerably easier (both are from pyromancy group) and cheaper to cast. In fact, they both will cost a single Arcane Point to cast and won't require any successes against typical enemies, so you know the drill already. Those perks turn Fire Arrow into Magic Missile Storm Magikarp Power, while Ball Lighting can be additionally overcharged to "just" kill everything in absurdly large radius without using whole reserve of Arcane Points for single spell. This can be made even more broken if your character always recharge Arcane Points from fire, which cancels inherit difficulty of fire spells from being hardest element to tame. In fact, the sole "get your Points from element related with spells you want to cast" is possible from the get-go and makes life easier for mages - while there is a penalty from using wrong source of Points, it's often the only difficulty for casting spells, so it can be ignored most of the time be sheer skill.
- It's also notable because how easy it is to get all of those and how the game is very vocal against Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards - fandom often claims that this game-breaker is intentionally so easy to get to avoid problems with Squishy Wizards and mages going quadratic with skill progression.
- Psychic Powers: Why even bother with fighting your enemies if you can turn them into drooling morons for the rest of their lives? The only thing required to do so is to maintain a Psychic Link for long enough to win a conflict test based on psychics and their victims Willpower and then do whatever Psychics want with them - which means it could end after a single round with good rolls or poor stats of victim. Turning them into retards at this point of mental battle is as easy as plain hypnosis trick of "jump on one leg". Unless the psychics are too preoccupied with their surroundings (like fighting or having to act fast), they have almost no penalties for using their powers.
- Aard Sign from Witchers' Signs is very potent for a simple reason. While all it does in basic version is knocking people down, it doesn't cost an action to cast. So a witcher can cast it, knock his enemy to the ground and then just finish him or her with sword (described above "low Defence" technique) in the same round. Or throw some object on swarm of enemies and then get the closest one. Or stop a ranger, while dealing with his melee friends. Or even stop a projectile in the mid-air if timed properly. The applications are countless. And as Magic Knights witchers can cast their Signs using both Arcane and Combat Points, which allows them to use much more fancy actions than any other type of character before running out of juice. Purposely Overpowered indeed.
- Heliotrop, another Sign, also doesn't cost an action, so witchers can fight mages effortlessly, blocking their spells while charging toward them or backfiring spells in close quarters, as Heliotrop creates a shock wave after blocking magic - something that a witcher can handle, but can take a magic user by surprise.
- Skill Dodge after certain threshold. With 3 points invested, it no longer cost an action, so a character can dodge and do something else in the same round. With perk Additional dodge, character can dodge twice per round and still perform another action. Combine it with above description of Aard Sign and witchers are virtually untouchable.
- Or combine it with combat manoeuvre Rebound Attack. While it consumes a single opportunity to dodge, it allows to perform a counter-attack after relatively easy roll. Without using your action, as it's a dodge, not an attack. And your enemy didn't score a hit of course. Gets really nasty when Additional dodge and combat manoeuvre allowing second attack are present - you can obliterate your enemy in single round while remaining untouched from any attacks. This can be used even on monsters.
- Attacking unaware targets and/or remaining unseen reduces their defences against physical attacks to 1, no matter what. This makes stealth attacks extremely lethal, as it's perfectly possible to perform One-Hit Kill blows, combining all the different rules for low defense with extra damage output, precise aiming and in general pull things that normally would ramp the difficulty of the attack Up to Eleven.
- Ambushes are the second reason why dryads are extremely dangerous to face as enemies. Due to their status as Stealth Experts, they are perfectly capable of maintain their stealth even after sending Rain of Arrows.
- Gabriel, a mini-crossbow lifted from the saga and introduced in later expansions, combines all the powerful elements of ranged combat with surprised attacks. It's designed as a concealed weapon, hidden in a wide sleeve and such. While it has a pitful range amd relatively low damage, it still follows all the rules of ranged combat, making it perfectly possible to put a headshot at point-blank range. And most importantly, due to their size, gabriels can be reloaded with ease and shot twice per round, which makes them the most broken weapon in the game.
- As insignificant as it sounds, the bonus 5 Skill Points all humans get for free during character creation allows to rise any of the starting skills from 1 to 3. It is entirely possible to get any of those skills to level 4, allowing an auto-success without a roll in basic checks, cheaper than rising any skill to 3 with any other race (5 points from 1 to 3 vs 4 points from 3 to 4). Even without any min-maxing involved, it's still a free level 3 skill.
- Vigour is probably the most undervalued skill in entire game, while being single-handly responsible from keeping characters alive and immune to most damage and even death itself. Any form of save check will be based on Vigour. Bleeding, poisoning, suffocation, disabling pain, being close to death, hypothermia, possible broken limbs, head trauma... they all require to pass Vigour check or suffer the consequences. In most cases that means dying on the spot. Sufficiently high, it can turn a character into a No-Sell juggernaught that can't be stopped by anything short from being physically destroyed. It's especially useful against all the dirty trick that can be pulled in brawling, since high Vigour is equal to being Immune to Flinching and all the nasty effects of Unarmed combat manoeuvres.
- Perks lowering intake of Combat and Arcane Points are considerably unbalanced. The first one change price of chosen combat manoeuvre to 2/3 of original, which is irrevelant for low-tier, but makes all the high-tier moves very cost-efficient. The one for Arcane Points halves the price, which allows to spam spells.
- Perks expanding the maximum pool of both Combat and Arcane Points are even worse in this regard. Not only they both increase the pool by 5, but they can be also bought three times each. And they are much cheaper than those mentioned above, while the points can be used for all kinds and sorts of manoeuvres and spells.
- The trait Lucky is this for all skills. Normally, you get a critical success when you roll a 6 on Fate Dice. With this trait, a 5 is also a critical success. Thus, by using Charged Attacks in fighting, you can easily got crits with just a 4... or a 3 if you are using a charged Riposte combat manoeuvre. In normal circumstances a 3 is not even counted as success. But to get this trait you must first shed 5 Stat Points, which is almost impossible without lots of Min-Maxing or creating a wimpy, very hard to grind character.
- Riposte combat manoeuvre by itself can qualify as a game-breaker. Whenever used, it adds 1 to outcome of each dice during Hit Roll, costing 3 Combat Points. So having Dexterity higher than 3 means you save Points. Oh, and you can still charge Riposte with Combat Points, so it can easily turn into +2 to outcome of each dice. With perk lowering cost of chosen combat manoeuvre, Riposte cost 2 Points, making it even more broken. Add to that Specialisation for specific weapon type, and the cost goes down to 1 when such weapon is used. By this point, for the standard price of 3 Combat Points, it's possible to augment two dice by +2, while remaining ones are +1.
- Combination of blows, the Unarmed equivalent of Riposte. One of the most basic hand-to-hand maneuvers, requiring barely any skill, cheap to use and without any drawbacks whatsoever. It allows to perform few stikes in a single, quick sequence, drastically multiplying the relatively low d3+Strength damage output of hand-to-hand combat. Since the source book wasn't precise about the limit, most players follow the provided example and cap it at 3 hits per sequence, because otherwise this move can simply cause an overkill. The entire sequence can be of course aimed at any body part, so a good brawler can easily render limbs and ribs broken or outright knock someone cold due to the extra multiplier for head trauma. The maneuver also comes with +1 to a single dice of choice during Hit Roll, so it's impossible to crit-fail it and much more likely to either get a critical hit or at least an extra success, further inflating the damage output.
- It can go a step further, when a character is wearing armoured gloves or something similar, since each hit will get +2 of fixed damage. Combined with perk Specialisation, which is another +2, and suddenly the manoeuvre can't deal less than 18 damage, while 21 or even 24 is even more likely, since barely anyone will make a boxer with 1 Strength. To put that into perspective - an average character has 26 Vitality.
- Painful Stike and, to a lesser extent, Groin Attack can be extremely powerful, as people on the receiving end of them need to pass relatively hard check, or they are unable to fight for up to 6 rounds. A series of Painful Stikes can render entire group of enemies unable to even stand straight, not to mention fight, without causing them any actual damage.
- Since the difficulty of saving throws against Painful Stike is equal to the damage it dealt, wearing a knuckle duster or armoured glove and thus gaining a fixed +2 to damage can make it virtually impossible to resist the pain. Combine that with Specialisation perk (another fixed +2 of damage) picked for fists and the minimal possible difficulty of the saving throw will be 7. It will take Legendary Vigour to even try to resist it. And it can go as far as 16 with everything maxed out.
- Simply throwing a sudden punch during fight using weapons can completely change the situation, especially if combined with Painful Strike. Defences against weapons and unarmed attacks are counted separetely, so great swordsmen may still have considerably low defences against attempt to get their nose smashed.
- The perk Splitting moves takes the game-breaking to a new level. Forget what you read till this point, because everything pales in comparison with Splitting moves. Without it, characters can move to an enemy and hit him or hit an enemy and move away. With this perk, it's possible to move close, hit the enemy and move away. It's possible to be literally untouchable, without any need for dodging and suddenly turns Movement, THE official Dump Stat, into the most important parameter, as it's used for one and one thing only - to measuring how big distance a character can cover in a single round.
- Fighting stances are an optional rule for this very reason - they are game-breaking enough to be pointed out as such in the source book. Each stance takes either Armed or Unarmed combat skills (depending which one is used) and changes them into additional buff. In case of defensive stance, your character becomes Stone Wall - the skill is removed, but Defence is rised for the same amount, thus making characters virtually unhittable. Offensive stance turns the character into Glass Cannon: it lowers Defence by skill, while doubling the skill itself, thus making it possible to hit anyone. Stances have a long list of other debuffs - they can be only used in close combat, you can't cast spells or use witcher's signs, no combat manoeuvres or charges are allowed and so forth. Then why they are game-breaking? You can still dodge, which makes offensive stance doable for certain builds without being afraid of retribution. And defensive stance allows to block anything, so who cares if you have hard time returning hits, if your enemies can't even touch you, as your Defence can go easily above 10 (meaning there is no way they can hit you regardless of skills and Stats) and that's without even taking outside factors into account. The defensive stance goes as far as allowing to pull You Shall Not Pass! against dozens of enemies if a character is placed in some choke point and thus can't be simply trampled.
The designers of the superhero RPG Wild Talents freely admit that their (fairly generic) powers-creation system can be easily abused if players are so inclined. The 2nd Edition rulebook even comes with a free example describing how to build a power that will allow the character who has it to extinguish the sun...