The Dew Cup tradition began several years ago amongst some of my gaming friends. The idea is to create the most powerful character possible under a given set of constraints, then beat the tar out of each other in grueling matches to the death.
The original Dew Cup: The pioneer competition was conducted using AD&D 2nd edition rules. I did not participate, though Jon and NOR did.
The second Dew Cup (2000): This Cup was a test of the newly released 3rd edition rules with 20th level characters. I got involved when I was asked to GM the Grand Melee event, an every-man-for-himself free-for-all. Eric’s monk won, though Vic’s sorcerer put up a good fight. Highlights:
- According to Wizards of the Coast technical support, a character with evasion who makes a successful Reflex save versus a delayed blast fireball within a spherical wall of force can “dodge the hot spots” to take no damage.
- A monk cannot, in fact, take any additional actions immediately following use of his dimension step ability. He cannot, for example, beat the shit out of the sorcerer hiding inside a spherical wall of force.
- On the other hand, the sorcerer cannot throw down three maximized ice storm spells in a single round (as this Cup took place prior to the existence of “Metamagic Specialist” or other such variant rules).
PowerGame 2K1 (December 2001-January 2002): The next year, a Dew Cup-like event was arranged with 30th level characters (prior to the release of the Epic Level Handbook), but interest quickly died down and most matches were never finished. See the original PowerGame 2K1 site for complete rules, match results and other information. Highlights:
- Recipe for Hobbes’s now-infamous “blender” technique: start with time stop, throw down an insect swarm (which in 3.0 made spellcasting “impossible”), a couple of blade barriers and cap it off with a spherical wall of force. Throw in a deeper darkness or cloudkill for extra flavor. Then sit back and learn the answer to the age-old question: “Will it blend?”
- What happens to a spellcaster who shapechanges into a Tarrasque, swallows his enemy whole, then reverts to his normal form? The world may never know!
- When a lycanthrope changes form and regains hit points “as though having rested for a day,” he does not get to factor in hit points regained from magical sources such as rings of regeneration. So sad.
Dew Cup III (February-April 2003): Eventually we organized another Dew Cup, this time with 16th level characters and more splat books allowed. This Cup was informally dubbed the “Zoo Cup” do to its inclusion of several ways to possess a familiar, animal companion or other loyal creature. It also spawned the “no recursion” rule, for reasons clear from the highlights below. Though most matches were fought, several players’ lack of interest resulted in another early demise. See the original Dew Cup III site for complete rules, match results and other information. Highlights:
- A half-orc cleric riding a half-dragon direbear is slightly more terrifying than a paladin with a shield of absorption on a dragon mount.
- Slightly less frightening, but no less awesome, is the ninja with an eversmoking bottle and a locking garrotte. You’re not afraid of the dark, are you?
- Bags of holding can really mess with your head. Especially if your head is inside one when it pops.
- Using dimension door to intentionally bounce yourself to the astral plane for as long as you want is still awesome, even if they did fix dimension door in 3.5.
- There is no limit to number of hit dice a mind bender’s “friend forever” can possess. But if the mind bender chooses a will o’ wisp, he had better not expect to be able to teleport around with it.
- A 9th level druid/7th level master of beasts is allowed to have a magical beast animal companion with 16 HD. When another such master of beasts has been reincarnated into an owl and thus qualifies as a magical beast, the resultant recursion is ludicrous indeed. Do five thousand owls actually fit in a 10 foot cube?
- As a character ages, his physical stats are reduced but his mental stats increase, to reflect the experience of years. When a character is reincarnated, he keeps his mental stats but his physical stats and age are reset to the default values for an adult of his new species. So how badass is a druid who has been reincarnated hundreds of times over thousands of years?
- A phasm is an intelligent amoebic blob capable of altering its form into any other creature. One such form is that of an ochre jelly, which has an interesting ability where it “splits into two identical jellies, each with half of the original’s current hit points (round down)” whenever it takes slashing damage. In 3.5, when a creature with the Alternate Form ability changes shape, “any gear worn or carried by the creature that can’t be worn or carried in its new form instead falls to the ground in its space”—but in 3.0 the ability was more like Wild Shape, which states that “any gear worn or carried…melds into the new form and becomes nonfunctional.” So what happens when you insert your vorpal keen +4 longsword into the phasm, it becomes an ochre jelly, then splits? Is each resultant jelly identical to the parent, or are they merely identical to one another? If not to the parent, then what are their statistics? Is each jelly essentially a polymorphed phasm now? Can the two phasms each revert back to their natural form, producing two vorpal keen +4 longswords? WotC technical support says no, but we did enjoy the solid half an hour it took just to explain it to them.
- What happens when the mind behind many of the most broken ideas above is repeatedly banned from implementing any of them? He makes a character who, unbeknownst to any of his opponents out of game, casts imprisonment on himself in the first round of combat just to watch his opponent flail around looking for where he went for the next ten rounds. Using bags of flour.
- Three nameless identical twin gnome triplets are capable of taking out a larger force, as long as much of that force has nothing equipped for their robe slots. Robes of powerlessness are scary that way, especially when you suddenly find yourself wearing one after a time stop. But dust of sneezing and choking can be pretty brutal too when tied to an arrow and fired at range.
Jolt Cola Cup (13 March 2005): I pulled feats, items, classes and races from as many obscure d20 sources as I could find and compiled them into a packet, one copy of which was given to each participant. The event was a lot smoother than the Dew Cups have been because it took place over the course of a single day. I am considering doing something similar again in the future, since most people seemed to have had fun (I am also considering reusing the packets I made before, to cut down on preparation time and monetary costs). Highlights:
- Silly people just couldn’t resist banning humans from play. And arrows, and crossbow bolts. But they forgot to ban “bolts,” a separate entry on the item list!
- No one thought the antimagic ring would be worth the price. Well, almost no one. The amphibious cat disagreed and proceeded to zip around the arena with his absurd Swim speed, drowning tiny electric gnomes with water allergies while raking them with his long, long claws. If only he had been immune to subdual damage, he might have emerged victorious.
- Even when it is impossible to take lethal damage, a petrification gaze attack with a high DC will still eventually ruin your day—at least for half the contestants. Of those without the proper immunity, only one of six managed to avoid the effect. Of the other four, each had a unique means of immunity: one was not made of flesh, another was blind and hence immune to gaze attacks, the third was surrounded by an aura of antimagic, and the last could not be harmed by his own ability.
- The breakdancing robot was programmed to do one thing well: shine get. Its creator seemed satisfied with its performance when it took home the trophy, even though it did have to fall sideways to do it.
Dew Cup 4E (June-July 2008): Shortly after the 4th edition D&D rules were released, we played a 30th level Team Dew Cup. Four teams of four players each planned their strategies obsessively for over a month before battling for supremacy on an agreed arena, using every trick from the 4E Player’s Handbook and Monster Manual to their advantage. Highlights:
- Four warlords can wash over enemies in a deadly wave, dealing thousands of damage in a single action using action chains (Relentless Assault, Stir the Hornet’s Nest, White Raven Formation, Commander’s Strike + Helm of Heroes, Knight’s Move, etc.). They can even slide themselves anywhere in the arena using Wolfpack Tactics by attacking each other.
- When all else fails, have more hit points—and stall until the sudden death phase, which deals exponentially increasing unhealable damage until your enemies are paste before you are. And what’s the best way to have the most HP, you ask? Lichdom!
- One man (we’ll call him Stab Killington) can be made nigh-invulnerable using Seal of Binding with a berserker weapon, becoming totally immune to attacks. Bonus points if the cleric who casts it on him then drinks poison that weakens her to reduce the Seal of Binding damage each round. Combined with Heart of the Titan, he is immune to stunning (and many other status effects) as well, becoming a juggernaut. Imagine the four-warlord wave of doom washing over him… and him emerging unscathed. Now imagine those same four warlords turning tail to run, pursued by an angry Stab Killington brandishing his berserker weapon menacingly.
- One problem with the Seal of Binding plan is that it takes a few rounds of buff time to set up. How can you protect yourself during that time? Win initiative with one character, then blast your allies into an open Mordenkainen’s Mansion door using Thunderwave. Just make sure your allies all have crap for defense and you’re good!
- Once in the Mansion, you might be afraid of someone dispelling the effect with Dispel Magic. To reduce that chance, every little bit helps: try lying prone for the +2 bonus to Will defense vs. any dispel attempts. We recommend covering your eyes while repeatedly muttering “there’s nobody outside, there’s nobody outside…”
- One time-honored strategy for victory is to divide and conquer. And nobody understands this technique better than the elven pit fighters. Through a combination of cunning ploys including Own the Battlefield, Elemental Maw and Fey Switch, individual opponents can be manipulated into the pit, where they will meet Diesel the warrior, who will pump them up!
- To ensure there is no escape, and no assistance from allies, once all of Diesel’s allies have been pulled into the pit through warlord action chains, the opening is plugged with a Wall of Ice. Then, all that remains is for Diesel to run interference while the fey warlock shreds the enemy using Slashing Wake. When both sides of an Arcane Gate (which has the Teleport keyword) adjoin the enemy’s square, and the warlord’s Inspiring Word buffs the warlock’s move actions beyond 20 squares at a time, that enemy is paste within a turn.
- Unless that enemy is Stab Killington, that is, whose berserker weapon negates the 8 points of Slashing Wake damage every time. Still, Diesel’s Reaper Stance, and damage from the Wall of Ice, will eventually whittle him down… too bad the matches were only 3 1/2 hours long.
To what battle do we ride today, brothers?