Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Examples of Druidic magic or, "Enter The Silvered Woods"

The two companions walked through the Silvered Woods slowly, taking their time.  They had oft heard about these woods as they were growing up and had heard even more once they had begun their quest.

The stories of fairy type and other wildly different and magical creatures were many and often embellished to the point of obvious tall tale.  But they had listened to them all and remembered them just the same.

They could hear the muted sounds of the wood.  A scampering of squirrels up high, The cautious tread of a deer nearby.  The birds were hushed but not entirely silent and it seemed the whole woods was somehow waiting or perhaps holding it's breath as the two strangers passed through.

The taller of the two caught a movement off to his left side and elbowed his friend, directing his attention with a hushed voice, "see there, to the left?  Who is that?"  Both young men could now see a robed man walking among the Oaks and Willows.  He had seemingly come out of thin air, not having seen hide nor hair of him before that moment. Their casual stride came to a halt as they watched the strangely dressed man walking away from them.

"I don't like that at all."  said Hector the taller and more robust of the two to his friend now standing at his right side.  "I know", answered Robert.  "How could a man just appear out of nowhere in the middle of these woods and one of us not know it?"

Hector had been very puzzled by the same thought.  His just completed training as a Ranger, the third in a line of Rangers, should have prepared him to be much more observant than that.  While Robert, also just finishing his training as a Warrior, had not been as thoroughly experienced in the outdoors, certainly had grown up in the outdoors much as Hector himself had.

As the two silently watched the robed man, lost in their thoughts, they also, out of fresh training, began to draw their weapons, almost unconsciously, to be prepared, they thought, just in case.  They scarcely had drawn their weapons though when what they saw next, shocked them so much they almost dropped those weapons now in their hands.

The robed man was mumbling something.  They could just barely make out the drone of sound coming from him when suddenly, the man walked right into a tree.

Now, he didn't walk into a tree and bonk his head to fall to the ground. No, the man walked into the tree and disappeared.  Just the same way you or I might walk into a doorway.  One second he was there, the next, he was gone.  The two young men were stunned! 

Hector began to slowly make his way off of the path and into the woods toward the tree the man had disappeared into.  Robert, seeing his friend's movement, stayed right beside him.  However, no sooner had either of them stepped more than ten feet off of the path than a poke in their backs and a deep voice voice behind them froze them in their tracks.

Slowly they turned around and behind them, holding a menacing looking sort of oaken club, was the very man they had watched walk into a tree just moments before.  "We have very few trespassers into the Silvered Woods anymore." The man told them.  "Of those who do, most seem intent on causing some sort of trouble when they are here."  The man slowly shook his gray tinged but heavily haired head said.  "So, What are two young adventurers such as yourselves doing in my woods?"  He asked.  "And you'll want to choose your answers carefully or my friend here may not be as forgiving as I am."

Around them, a tree seemed to have come up behind them and was threatening menacing branches that moved like arms.  "Uh Oh", thought Hector, " I don't think I like where this is going."  Robert could only stare around him and looked at his Ranger friend for some kind of encouragement.
In the bit above, the Druid spells demonstrated were;  Pass Plant,  The Druidic ability for Wilderness Movement and Call Woodland Beings with a Treant as the answering creature.

I love Druids as they are perhaps my absolute favorite PC class to play.  Let's continue this story for a bit and see how much more of the Druids abilities we can show off as these two wanderers meet their first Druid.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Spoiled Players and Dominating DM's

How many times do you read through various RPG forum posts to see some pillow biting, bedwetting Player crying about how it's "not fair" that a DM/GM imposed a rule in the game which didn't go the way the player wanted?  Now the DM is being talked about as if he or she is a criminal who ruined the game because they wouldn't allow the Player to do something utterly stupid and out of bounds that would throw the game off but it would make the player feel better about themselves?

There are a lot of those out there.

At the same time, there are some dandy posts by DM/GM's who seem to think they are running a gulag instead of a game.

There are quite a few of these too.

First of all, it's a game people.  A fantasy game.  Get over it.

Secondly, It's a game with rules and archtypes.  Play the game and don't make others live or die over the small stuff.

Players, the game takes place in place X, you all came together to have an adventure.  The DM (probably) worked for long hours to either write that game or get to know it in depth if it's a published module.  If he or she says the beginning of the adventure begins by the party arriving in town Y and that they see something at building Z or Tavern A, then that's where you go.  Don't suddenly decide you want to turn around and have your character go in the opposite direction then cry that the DM is "railroading" the game.  Don't be such a pansy

DM, place the setting on the stage and be ready for the Players to go through the setting as they will, as long as they are going through it, all is cool.  If you try to hold their hands and walk them through it of force them into a specific situation, don't be surprised when they all have to leave early to go wash their feet.  That is "railroading" when you don't let them go through the adventure on their own.

Players, you chose a Class that is associated with requiring a connection to a deity of some sort (Cleric, Druid, Paladin, etc...).  Don't be stupid and think that there aren't going to be some added conditions and stipulations for your PC.  if you try to do something that the Deity your PC chose to follow and represent does not allow for, don't cry when that spell doesn't work or there is some repercussion for stepping out of bounds of the Deity's expectations. 

DM's, just because you get to "play god" doesn't mean you get to just invent crap on the spot because you're jealous the player thought of something you didn't expect.  If it's a known deity, both you and the player should have gotten together up front to make sure you both know what kind of deity it is and the expectations of that deity.  If it's a deity you or the player made up, then make sure the both of you sit down and flesh it out before game time so that both of you are on the same page going in.  There really shouldn't be surprises mid game because you want to spice things up out of the blue.

This isn't a game that is supposed to a historical simulation and it isn't a game that must be a duplicate "real" world. 

Hell, even the the game's author tells you at multiple points across several books that if it breaks the game for you and your players, to ditch the book rules and go with something that works better for your group.

Yes, most people expect rules, even if they don't follow "reality", to at least make sense.  If a rule comes up and it doesn't make sense to you as a DM and the Players, then by golly, change that rule.  This is your game, not some nameless twit on the internet who declares that you are evilspawn if you dare wander off the words on the printed page.  That's some nerd with no social skills and no social life.  Ignore them for what they are and play the game that works best for your table.

Players, learn to appreciate what you have.  Chances are, if you're sitting down to play a 2 or 3 hour adventure all you had to do is roll up a PC and bring your imagination and maybe some dice.

For those 2 or 3 hours you play, it is most likely the DM had to spend double that amount of time and likely even longer (especially if they are writing the adventure themselves) just so you would have a game to play. 

Just as you want to be creative and come up with new, imaginative ways to handle situations in game, so must your DM have to be able to make adjudications and rulings on the spot for that new move or new weapon, magic item, etc... on the spot.  Give them a break.  You don't like DM fiat to determine a result?  Then make sure you aren't putting the DM into a corner where they haven't had the time or opportunity to plan ahead and know what to do if that situation should come up.  The game must go on and so the DM has to make a ruling quickly.  Sometimes that means making it up then and there so as to keep things going.  Deal with it.  Move on.

One thing that all of the books agree on and is repeated multiple times throughout is that the game is the DM's game.  They have the last word.  Yes, the book does tell DM's that if they run the game by not taking the players into consideration then they run the risk of not having any players.  So there is the ultimate last word. 

If your DM is being that big of an ass then push back from the table and go do something else.  Hell, start your own game and be the DM yourself.  See how that works out for you.  If that DM wants to DM, he'll change his ways (or hers) if they can't buy a clue even if everyone walks away from them, then they are going to be one seriously lonesome DM.

On the other hand, DM's, if your have a player or more than one player who expects you to hand over everything and cave in to their whining and tantrums, then kick their sorry away from your table.  Most likely, the other players will appreciate you having the intestinal fortitude for owning your game and for making sure that everyone at the table is having fun instead of just some little "that ain't fair" nerds who aren't happy until everyone else is miserable.

Friday, December 27, 2013

About Handling Hirelings and Henchmen

At the beginning of every game, the DM has to answer a question for him or herself, "How do we fill the empty slots?"

The question is important because many published adventure modules require a certain minimum number of characters and frequently, there are fewer Players than required if each Player is to only have one PC each.

Now, If a Player is able to handle multiple PC's appropriately and not treat them like extensions of each other, you can easily let them run multiple PC's and get on with the game.  It's good experience for becoming a DM as well.

If they can't handle multiple PC's then Hirelings and Henchmen are going to be required to fill out the spots.  These are a quasi-NPC that the DM controls their thoughts and reactions but the Players handle the rest.

For me, I boil it down to this.  if a PC goes looking to hire them, they are going to be a Hireling.  Perhaps over time, that Hireling might become a Henchmen if things go favorably and the Players treat the Hirelings right.

If the NPC comes looking to work for the PC, they will be a Henchman from the start.  This usually can happen during random encounter rolls.  I have a bunch of pre-gen characters using an online character generator on hand.  and I almost always have custom random encounter tables with the result of a character looking for work being one of those.

As a matter of fact, when the random encounter roll happens to turn up a person encounter, the first roll is for what type, meaning is the person looking for work, looking for love, looking for directions, etc... there are a lot of possible encounter reasons.  Once it's determined that the person is looking for work,  I roll on a sub-table to see if it's someone in the party specifically they come to or the party in general.  The Henchman negotiation process begins.

Henchmen almost always start out with a higher favor-ability toward the PC and thus require less from them to be made happy.  Hirelings on the other hand almost always suspicious and with a lower favor-ability at first so require more to gain their confidence and participation.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Ranking Druids a la Karate Belts and Tolkien Wizards

I've decided to add a little extra something for druids in my world.

The standard name level advancement applies, but I thought it would be interesting to assign rankings like those you find in a Karate class according to the color of the belt of the person.  Black belt, white belt, blue belt and so on.

Also,  I thought, why not tie in some Tolkienesque into the mix at the same time and make the top levels match those of the Wizards in the books.  so Blue, Brown, Grey and White are the top most ranks among them.

As Druids ascend level groups, they are identified by a corresponding color:

  • level 1-2; Green. Thus Frederick the first level druid is known to other druids as "Frederick the Green" 
  • level 3-5; Orange 
  • level 6-8; Red 
  • level 9-10; Black
  • level 11; Blue
  • level 12; Brown
  • level 13; Grey
  • level 14; White 
 No, it isn't necessary and it doesn't really change anything about progression, but it seems fun to us so I did it.

Of course, the "mark" or signature of each druid a symbol for their name, in the color of their rank.In our case, again in a bit of honor to Tolkien, each druid's "mark" is the foot/paw/hand print of some creature.  Also, it could be a specific type of tree leaf or anything recognizable that the druid can draw or imprint on clothing, armor, or whatever it is they choose to leave their mark on.  

Each Druid, at character creation, chooses their "mark" and it is recorded so that no other druid can use that.  The human hand is yet up for grabs.  There is no Saruman or Gandalf the White in most of these games and in our Middle Earth campaign, those two have long been absent.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A look at Druids and Alignment

I have a particular fondness for playing druids in AD&D 1E.  Though, upon reading the Players Handbook, I must admit that I think Gary goes a bit off track in describing the Class.

On one hand, they are described as being True Neutral because concepts of Good and Evil are secondary, if even considered, matters.  They follow Nature and thus believe in balance of all things.  OK, I can see this,  I am on board so far.

Then he turns around and says that regardless, druids are out to protect, revitalize and strengthen their charges.  Mmm, this is starting to sound just a tad bit Good leaning now.  Though, it obviously isn't exclusive to Good to take care of their own, it's pretty much a hallmark of Good to do so.  Evil is just as likely to allow their own to suffer and be harmed if there is no immediate usefulness to them.

I can definitely see Druids as being Neutral in terms of being lawful or chaotic.  At the same time,  I can see Druids as being Lawful more than I can see them being Chaotic.  I still see the Neutral being more the base of Druids because for druids, it's not all about the group and it's not all about the individual.  For Druids (most of them anyway), It is what it is regardless of what a group of people/creatures think or what any individual thinks.

In the end though,  I think when it comes to PC's, it should be left up to the Player.  If they want to have a CG druid, perhaps it is because there is some sect or order of Druids that have identified something within Nature that shoves them to take on a Good or Evil position.  Or being a part of a Druidic order or sect that demands one to be Lawful.  Or maybe it's just recognition of Human or racial nature to aspire to be Neutral but still struggle with inner conflicts and in their heart they are still a bit Good or Evil or lawful or Chaotic.

So, in the end, I allow Druids to be what the Player desires them to be.  Though  I do require, for Clerics as well as Druids,  a background to be written up for the PC.  Something that gives some insight to their personality and life experience that would motivate them to be anything other than True Neutral.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Raise Dead and Resurrection spells

I really am torn on the two spells an how they are used BtB.  Essentially, they do the same thing at their core, with some differences such as how long the character has been dead, how healthy the character is after the spell, etc...

I envision a 5th level Raise Dead spell as being more along the lines of a spell that makes a dead creature a semblance of life, but not really alive.  You want to talk to a sage or a witness to an event who is dead?  Cast Raise Dead on it.  It's a temporary condition that gives you access to the dead's memories.  Think Jonah Hex when it comes to "Raise Dead.

A target of a Raise Dead spell can communicate, if able to as if they were alive, they can relate everything they ever remembered as it is more like a computer pulling data up instead of a live person "remembering".  They can walk and move as if they were alive, if they are able to, as well.

Want to bring a PC back to true life?  That calls for the Resurrection spell.  At least, that's the way it seems to me.

Having said all that,  I do understand why they put a Raise Dead as it is written in the game, so as to pacify Players who had a favored PC die or get killed.

But to me, this essentially turns a PC into a video game character.  You get x number of lives to get through the game.

Obviously, as a DM it's your choice to allow Raise Dead as you choose.  For me however, all it really seems to do is encourage bad role-playing and poor decision making on the Players part.

I run games that reward skillful play.   I save Resurrection for situations like PC that died doing something heroic or that have been playing skillfully and have the potential to greatly contribute to the mission, etc...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tom Bombadil is a Halfling Druid Demi-God

The kids have been wanting an adventure in our Middle Earth campaign in which they bump into Tom Bombadil.

In trying to stat old Tom, I sat here trying to figure out what he really is.  He is betrothed, if not actually married to a water nymph or sprite or some such.  He exerts a tremendous influence over the living things in the forest and Barrows regardless of their alignment.

He is largely unaffected by other great magics such as the One Ring where even the greatest magic wielders of the times felt it's influence.

For me, he is obviously not only a Druid type, but one exceedingly more powerful than a typical Druid. He is alluded to as being hobbit-like but a very singular being all the same.  This, to me, indicates perhaps not being a "full blown" deity, but more on a demi-god level like a Hercules, etc...

Based on these observations,  I have decided to enter Tom into the game as a Halfling Druid Demi-god.  He is pretty much only accessible to characters by going to him in his woods and he seldom leaves there, if at all anymore.  He is most certainly one to give gifts of magical nature to those, especially Halflings, who show courage in the face of unknown and dangerous paths.

You can see how I statted him out if you follow this link to Wiki-Mage.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Reviewing AD&D Magazines, criteria

I thought I would start reviewing some of the hobbyist magazines and other published printings available to gamers of 1E.

There are a few of them out there and I thought I'd peruse some and see how they stack up.  My reviews aren't using one magazine as a measuring stick though.  I base my reviews on what I think a magazine of this type should be.

One of the areas I look at is presentation. 
  • The text should be clear and easy to read.  
  • The layout should be easy to follow and should match the Index or ToC.
  • Tables, images and special items should be listed somewhere in the ToC or index.
Editing is another important area.
  • Content should be spell and grammar checked as much as possible.
  • References, citations, and quotes should be accurate and listed when and where possible.
  • Fonts, line spacing, etc... should be consistent through the magazine.

In terms of content,  I don't mind that some of the work is less "professional" than others.  A variety of gamers send in content to magazines like these as well they should.  However, it falls back to the editors to make sure that everything all fits together.  The greater the organization of the layout, the easier it is to read and find articles later.

Perhaps one of the most important features of any such magazine is that it is archive-able.  Readers might go through it once or twice as they obtain an issue, the greatest value is remembering something later and being able to find it without too much hunting through use of ToC and/or indices that are clear and specific.

Another area to consider is how well the document prints out.  Most of these, if not all of them, are distributed as digital PDF 's and there is nothing more frustrating than trying to print out an adventure or map that is made available and due to how the pages were implemented into the PDF, it doesn't print out properly or mis-aligned, etc...

Yes, it's true that the application used to open the file can have effect on how things are displayed and printed, but overall, the vast majority of display and printing errors are able to be tracked back to how the content was added and formatted to begin with.

These are the basic criteria I will base my reviews on.  I reserve the right to critique specific articles and works of art within a specific issue of a reviewed magazine as a part of the overall review if I believe that specificity is a general reflection of an aspect of the magazine overall.

Don't worry, I don't plan to be too hard on these reviews.   I realize that these are "fan" driven and not published by trained professionals.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Filling in the empty spaces

I have a map of the U.S. that I modified, somewhat dramatically, to represent "my world" of Terra Ursa.  on that map,  I began to fill in names of countries and lands that occupy the states of the U.S.

For example, Where Nebraska should be, is a country called "Plainsland".  I didn't get too far with the designations, just a few to get things started off with and as gaming has gone on, I have filled in information about the places I did start and have begun to fill in the blank spaces on the map as well.

Just recently, I was in a ponderous mood and began to fill in more details of the country just above Plainsland, called Nishland (this occupies South Dakota's place on the map).

At first,  I only wrote that Nishland was ruled by a group of Clerics and that Paladins served as the law enforcers of the Clerics there (otherwise, I personally see very little use for Paladins).

As my son and I talked about this for awhile, we decided that Nishland is a land of Vikings.  The Norse deities are observed there and the Clerics of those deities are the leaders of the land.  Each of the greater gods has a state in the country that is devoted to that deity and temples to related deities can be found in those as well.

For example, in the state of Thor (named for the Norse god of thunder) you will find that the Clerics of Thor are in charge and the temples and halls to Thor dominate the landscape.  However, you will also find temples and halls dedicated to Sif (Thor's wife) as well as to Magni and Modi (Thor's son's) there also.

There is even a state for Loki there and it is watched cautiously as it is the one state in the country that holds the most potential for trouble.

After having decided to use Nishland for Viking people, we decided it would be fun to have the Frost Giants have been expelled from Nishland to a magically bordered land to the north of it (where North Dakota would otherwise be) referred to by those of Nishland as "Jotunheim" as a tribute to the Jotunheim of the plane of Gladsheim.

The Frost giants therein are descendants of the Jotun giants (as described in the OSRIC Manual of Monsters) and are led by a king and queen who maintain their Jotun characteristics.

Jotunheim above Nishland is an ideal place to find all kinds of cold weather terrain monsters and adventure.

In another area on the map, my son in his DM debut decided to take a place from the module he ran and use it extensively.  so, In the spot for Wyoming, a country called Doragon was founded.  A land of dragons and an ancient line of kings.  The current Ruler is Vladimir Pendragon.  Lots of elves and dwarves live in this region s it is hilly and rocky with small mountains then levels out to a heavily forested land.

We don't have all the details ironed out  but then again, that's by design as much of it we make up on the spot as we need to then add it to WikiMage, my online home for my game.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Damage, is it something you tweak?

Now, as far as I and most 1E folks I know go, pretty much everything in 1E can be tweaked.  Having said that, one of the things I have paid more attention to lately is how damage is dealt out.  It seems that more often than not, damage seems to be left "as-is".

For example, a  "lite" crossbow bolt is able to do 1d4 (1 to 4) damage while a "heavy" bolt is able to deal 1d4+1 (2 to 5) damage.

Now, there are many variables that are taken into consideration on a roll to hit and to damage.  For example, the bolt might hit, but it might have been deflected or minimized somehow by armor, etc.. (low damage roll seems to indicate this).  Perhaps the bolt hit direct and solid with little impedance and really nailed the target. (seemingly indicated by a higher dice roll result).

Now, a question from one of my Players recently made me think a bit on the idea that an arrow does 1d6 damage.  However, it was observed that there are both short bows and long bows and that arrows fired with long bows seem to be longer, thicker, more substantial arrows.  He questioned whether the bigger arrow should do the same damage as the smaller arrow fired from a shortbow would.

I think it's a good question.

Should it be a variation on the lite/heavy crossbow bolt and say the longbow arrow causes 1d6+1 damage?

Should we keep it simple and just call an arrow an arrow regardless of the bow that fires it?

Here's something else we've been talking about.  What about crits and craps?

We have discussed allowing a natural 1 on a d20 roll to be a guaranteed miss, no hit, no damage.  However, on a roll of a natural 20 with that d20 to be a guaranteed hit with full/max damage done.  If we go that way, then we talked that a "To Hit" roll on the d20 that results in the minimum required to hit would automatically result in the minimum damage possible.  Anything in between the minimum required To Hit and a natural 20 would be rolled as normal.

We haven't decided anything yet, but it's interesting to think about.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

To Be Or Not To Be, Is you an avatar or a PC?

I read somewhere recently where someone was lamenting how many people don't want to deal with PC death and rolling up new PC's.  They want to keep the same PC going for s long as possible.

Personally, I think that is a dumb question.  Of course people want to have a PC gain  high levels, it's part of the game, for one.

Secondly, for a great many people, especially new Players, the PC isn't just a chess piece pawn.  The PC is more like an avatar for themselves.  They want to see "Themselves" go as far as they can in the game.  Fighting monsters, hoarding treasure and playing with fire, magic fire.

I've found through my own experiences and talking with those around me who play the game, that the longer they play and the more familiar they become with the game in general, they become more interested in creating other PC's and the "fear" of getting a PC killed in game tends to be less of an issue.

With my kids learning to DM now, they have been choosing published modules to run.The more they read through modules to select from, the more I hear from them about how lethal so many of the 1st level games are.

First Level is a strange place to be for a PC.  It's hard to survive.  Just about anything can kill a first level PC.  Heck, stand too close to a horse that farts and they can get killed.  Try to scale the game down to mini-bites so they can have a better survival rate and they are unhappy because they want some fun and adventure and the mini-bite most surely doesn't offer that.

Open up a full blown game and good luck making it out alive.  If the Player is using the PC as an avatar, it's even more of a bummer to have to struggle to survive so soon.

The DM really has to keep in mind who the Players are and how they play the game.  Are they more avatar players or have they gotten into playing the variety?  Keeping in mind that the whole point of playing the game is for everyone to have fun, you have to tailor your game so that it works out for you and the Players, however they play their PC's.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Dagger Diabolic

This dagger is possessed by a demon that exerts its influence empathically.   If in the hands of a Good or Neutral character, it's malevolent influence comes into effect and if held for only up to 4 rounds, it will act as only a +1 dagger.  If longer than 4 rounds, the wielder must save vs magic or begin to become convinced that this dagger rightfully belongs to them and will quarrel with anyone else laying claim to it.  If the save is made, the character will be repulsed by the dagger and cast it away, not wanting to handle it again.

When worn on the body somewhere upon their person, a dagger sheath, etc.. the wielder seems to be in a foul mood, irritable and short tempered. When taken in hand, the wielder feels very aggressive and especially vicious, seeming to be looking for a fight and tending toward unusual violence and cruelty.

If kept and worn for more than 4 hours, it's full effects are felt by the wielder and their personality is affected as described. In the hands of someone who has become affected by it, it operates as a +3 dagger with a chance to do 2d4 damage on a natural 20.

In the hands of an Evil aligned character, it operates as a +3 dagger with a chance to do 2d4 damage on a natural 20 with no other influence on their personality (as they are already Evil).

Casting of the Clerical spell "Dispel Evil" will disrupt the effects of the dagger on the wielder and they will be able to see the dagger for what it really is.
If "Detect Magic" is cast upon the dagger, it will be detected.

Where's the imagination?

It's good to be able to interact with other people involved in AD&D 1E or any other game or hobby.  To be able to find out how others do something or how they understand or carry out something.  It can inspire you.  It can maybe keep you from going the wrong way.

Sometimes though,  I admit to being puzzled as to why someone is even bothering to play a fantasy game at all when everything they present is so lethally boring and unimaginative.

They don't allow much, if any, magic in the game.  They don't like heroic or beyond normal abilities.  Seemingly everything must adhere to reality, despite being a fantasy game.

I admit,  I don't get it.

Speaking for myself,  I let the game be what it is.  It has magic in it, so I let there be magic.  There are fantastic creatures like talking, fire breathing dragons, so I let there be dragons.  There are super human abilities, so,  I let them be super if that's the way the dice roll.

I write game adventures that I think are fun and challenging.  I know who the Players are in my game, so I frequently toss in things I know they will think is fun and challenging.   I am the DM, I know the characters they create, the abilities they have.  I know what the potential for a PC can be if they make new ones up.   I create games around that knowledge.

There are already plenty of limitations just in the game rules , especially if you go specifically by the book. Most DM's  I know, find those limitations "too limiting" and houserule to open things up a bit more, not make them more constrictive.

 I know,  I know,  every DM runs the game in his or her own way.  Sometimes I just don't get the point of playing a game that is as dull, if not more dull, than real life.