One common dilemma for many a GM is when a particular player outstrips the others in terms of combat ability by a mile. This results in lop-sided combat where some player characters are struggling to survive, while one or two are pretty much sweeping the opposition with little trouble.
So how do you deal with this sort of imbalance? If a GM escalates the difficulty, the other player characters may die due to the overpowered opponents. If he maintains the difficulty, the optimized characters will destroy any sort of tension combat could ever provide, while the un-optimized player characters find themselves with little left to do.
It’s a thorny issue. On one hand, players who optimize have every right to reap the rewards of their work to hone their characters into a razors edge. On the other, non-optimizing players end up with unfair challenges when things escalate, facing higher risks.
My personal solution to this issue is to actually split the kind of challenges that the team meets. The more combat-able characters get challenges that are adequately scaled to their abilities. Meanwhile less combat optimized player deal with other taks that could affect the outcome of the battle without necessarily fighting head on.
How do you guys handle this situation? Or do you just write it off as a fact of life and let the fittest survive?