The Chessmaster
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Basic Information

The Chessmaster is a character - often, but not always, a villain - who plots everything he does in extreme detail in advance in a way that when his plan actually starts, everything just seems to fall into place, making his victory all but inevitable. The only real defense against a Chessmaster is to be truly unpredictable - and this is hard, given the typical genius of your opponent.

See Also



Game and Story Use

  • These are difficult to run properly as a game master without making feel the players helpless, and thus annoyed - however, when done right, it's worth it for the realization of the players when the learn that their characters have been outwitted. The best way in this Arcanist's experience is to drown all the necessary clues in a deluge of other information and distractions plotted in advance by the villain - this way, the players will realize that they did have the necessary clues, but only when it is too late. Cue the Oh Crap moment - what every game master lives for…
  • Chessmaster player characters are also possible, but require both a player used to thinking on his feet and a game master willing to play fair - after all, the latter control all the information in the game. Still, player character Chessmasters should be encouraged - it is deeply satisfying for the heroes to see powerful enemies simply fall to pieces because they outwitted them…
  • The best way to simulate a chessmaster in action is to determine his plans as late as possible - if you work it out in detail, your PCs will destroy your careful plotting in a few sessions, whereas if you watch what they do, figure out how the chessmaster benefits and then let them find out … it can be tricky to pull off but seriously, go read A Game of Thrones and see the mess that George Martin's chessmaster character creates. Even better, try and figure out who the chessmaster is before he shows you. See also Schrodinger's gun
  • Another possibility is to say "I meant to do that"; note what the PCs did in the initial encounter and assume that the Chessmaster wanted them to do things that way; then work out a secret sub-plan where the results of the first encounter advance the secret plan.
    • Kang the Conqueror used to do this to the Avengers all the time. "Hah hah! By preventing me from obliterating New York, you walked right into my trap!"
    • Of course, if your Chessmaster comes out and tells the Party that, it'll just make him look stupid. Let the Players figure it out for themselves.
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