Power Creep
  • Power Creep


    I was reading about the level cap increasing from 60 to 70 in an online game, with many new possibilities/abilities. "How do people keep track of so many abilities at such high levels?" I thought. Then I realized yet another reason why I prefer simple games: "A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Another version, about Japanese gardening, is "Your garden is not complete until there is nothing else that you can remove."


    Games are sets of artificial (separated from the real world) constraints, even games as "loosey-goosey" in rules as RPGs. Players agree to use and abide by these constraints. The best players are usually those who cope best with those constraints.

    "Power Creep virtually always leads to a Broken Base, with the most ‘conservative’ players stating that the new unbalanced content is an insult to the original game (which might be true or not, depending on the case)." --TV Tropes

    Good play comes not from having lots of things you can do, many of them really “OP” (overpowered), but from making good use of what you've got. Another case of creativity benefitting from constraints.

    Power creep is a common online (video) game problem that we can see in tabletop RPGs. The cause isn't online play, it's the frequent changes and additions to rules and to "content". New "stuff" is more attractive when it's better than the old stuff (duh!), so that's what the makers produce, and over time the entire game sees an increase in power, in what the players can do. (See “The Dilemma of the Simple RPG.”) This must be matched by an increase in the power of the opposition (more dangerous monsters) or the game becomes too easy. Some games handle the escalation better than others, but if the game was well-designed to begin with, power creep is likely to hurt the design.

    Make no mistake, I like blowing things up with tac nukes - well, fireballs anyway - and megawatt lasers (lightning bolts). But when you get up into Timestops and other Immense Godlike Powers, I think the GAME suffers in favor of the POWER TRIP. And at the same time it becomes less skillful, less clever, and harder to GM.

    I’ve often said, about 1e D&D, that the “sweet spot” for play was 3rd-9th level. Early on players were too fragile (not a problem in recent editions), and later on the game couldn’t cope well with double-figure levels. It got to the point that (as in WW II armored battles) whoever fired first usually won, because the attack capabilities were so strong. This is especially obvious where surprise is involved. If a game then “power creeps” to where 9th levels are as strong as 11th used to be, the situation worsens.

    Of course, many players and GMs don't care about skill or cleverness, they care about other things (among them, power trips). What I’ve said is descriptive, not prescriptive. I don't care how you run or play your game (unless I'm involved!).

    contributed by Lewis Pulsipher
    Comments 108 Comments
    1. Jiggawatts's Avatar
      Jiggawatts -
      Just curious, was the game Final Fantasy XIV?
    1. Hussar's Avatar
      Hussar -
      Was right with you up until that last paragraph:

      Quote Originally Posted by lewpuls View Post
      Of course, many players and GMs don't care about skill or cleverness, they care about other things (among them, power trips). What I’ve said is descriptive, not prescriptive. I don't care how you run or play your game (unless I'm involved!).
      which presents a rather false dichotomy. Players and GM's who aren't fazed by increasing options and character power are not people who "don't care about skill or cleverness", necessarily. And it is certainly not true that those who prefer simpler systems care more about skill and cleverness.

      And, let's be honest here, cleverness in this context is power creep by any other name. Using Spider Climb to pick pockets (as a pretty random example) is both clever AND power creep since you are establishing a new "power" for an existing game element. Now Spider Climb can both let you climb walls and pick pockets.

      Power creep does not have to originate in the rules in order to be power creep, particularly in a role playing game where the players can use existing elements in so many different ways to create new effects which grant them new "powers".
    1. shidaku's Avatar
      shidaku -
      You are all using power creep wrongly.

      New powers, requiring higher levels and more resources are not example of "power creep".

      Power creep is a similar power requiring less. It is not common in online games. It is common in TCGs like Magic or YuGiOh or Pokemon. If you were to have it in D&D, it would be comparable to creating a new spell "Fireblast" it is 2 spell levels lower than "Fireball" it does 6d8's instead of 5d6s and gets +2d8 per level increase instead of +1d6. THAT is power creep.

      What you guys are talking about is an arms race. That the bigger the gun the player has the bigger the gun the bad guy needs, and the bigger the gun the bad guy gets the bigger the gun the player needs. That the stronger the PC gets, the more powerful tools you need to dangle in front of him to keep him engaged in the level grind. These are fundamental elements to a level-based game that are designed to keep the player chasing the carrot.

      Power creeps were common in 3.X D&D. New splat released new spells, new classes, new races not with shiny but equal features, but with shiny and more powerful features that often required less resources from the players. THAT is power creep.
    1. Hussar's Avatar
      Hussar -
      I'm not sure that Magic is a good example though. While, sure, there are exceptions, they've managed to keep things pretty decently balanced have they not? It's not like older cards or decks have been entirely phased out because the new cards are so much better. You still see lots of decks containing cards from earlier releases.
    1. Lylandra's Avatar
      Lylandra -
      No, this is power creep. In literature or shows, power creep refers to the fact that our protagonists keep getting stronger and stronger until they reach levels of fantastidiculous while their enemies miraculously keep up at their pace. See most Shonen Anime. And this is what happens in some RPGs, too.

      Now, Power creep itself isn't that bad if implemented in an organic, sensible way. You could, for example, have a basic ability that keeps getting stronger and more refined when you power up. Like the bending arts in Avatar. Or, to some extend, the psionic powers or 4e D&D powers which often were just replacements for the same, weaker version. Or think of all the cure or charm or summon spells.

      Power creep shouldn't lead to an arms race, however. I am really not fond of the power - counter power - power which cannot be countered by anything - power which can specifically counter even uncounterable powers etc. row which is also common in many systems or games.

      Now I do want to have PCs (and their obstacles) get more powerful over time. I want them to be able to make numerical and narrative progress. But I'd like to see them get stronger while sticking to their core. To have a distinct theme which can define a character and which you can adhere to. I don't want my enchantment specialist to start picking blast spells at level 13 because they are so much better at progressing through the obstacles. I also don't want my unarmed style kung fu character use firearms from levels 10 to 15 because he'd suck otherwise. Or have my water mage use meteor swarm because there is no other viable option at high levels.

      Cookie cutter power options are what makes games dull in my opinion...
    1. Jhaelen -
      Quote Originally Posted by Hussar View Post
      I'm not sure that Magic is a good example though. While, sure, there are exceptions, they've managed to keep things pretty decently balanced have they not?
      AFAIK, MtG manages to have both power-creep _and_ maintain balance by phasing out older card cycles.

      I definitely know that's how it works with Hearthstone:
      Every new expansion represents power creep, i.e. almost every card is strictly better than the cards that are part of the 'basic' and 'classic' sets (which are (normally) never cycled out to give new players a chance to get hooked), but because new cards are playable in standard only for 1-2 years, the developer's don't care. Also, legendary cards (representing the rarest of cards) are way more powerful than cards of lower rarity, something that isn't necessarily true of MtG.

      In D&D the problem isn't power-creep, it's option-creep. 4e tried to limit this by having high-level powers replace low-level ones. In paragon (levels 11-20) and epic tier (levels 21-30) the only additional powers were utility powers and powers from 'paragon paths' and 'epic destinies'. However, characters continued to accumulate feats and magic items, so complexity still increased noticeably.
    1. Fandabidozi's Avatar
      Fandabidozi -
      I've got a complete set of Onslaught cards that says, yes, there is power creep in MTG.
    1. Lord_Blacksteel's Avatar
      Lord_Blacksteel -
      I was reading about the level cap increasing from 60 to 70 in an online game, with many new possibilities/abilities. "How do people keep track of so many abilities at such high levels?" I thought.

      ---In most online RPGs your number of powers doesn't increase beyond a certain level as older ones are replaced by more powerful versions of the same thing at higher levels. In fact this is common enough that I don't understand how it would raise this question unless you have never played them. Beyond level "X" you do not gain a wider set of capabilities (new, distinct abilities) - you gain power (higher numbers in existing powers).

      As far as the tabletop conversation here "power creep" typically refers to unintended increases in character capabilities. This is typically a rules issue, not a leveling issue as increasing character power through the leveling process is intended, not an accident. It's also typically a time-based issue as in newer material provides more powerful options than older material.

      Example: In Pathfinder there is a perception that some newer classes (as in appearing in more recent game books) are more powerful than classes from older books. Theoretically those should be balanced but the perception is that it's not necessarily true.

      All that said, what's the point of this article? I remember a lot of good stuff from Lew in the pages of Dragon. This reads like an early draft of an article, not a finished one.
    1. shidaku's Avatar
      shidaku -
      Quote Originally Posted by Hussar View Post
      I'm not sure that Magic is a good example though. While, sure, there are exceptions, they've managed to keep things pretty decently balanced have they not? It's not like older cards or decks have been entirely phased out because the new cards are so much better. You still see lots of decks containing cards from earlier releases.
      MTG has tiers of play. Standard, Modern, Legacy/Vintage. Standard only includes the two most recent sets (typically). Modern includes sets back till the Mirrodin border change/8th Edition, and Legacy/Vintage contains everything. All of these tiers have different banned/restricted lists based on what cards are available and how that interacts with other cards. It is generally regarded that Standard is the most balanced, and the least powerful. Modern is somewhat balanced and very powerful and Legacy is generally regarded as unbalanced and extremely powerful. As you can see, the more material you include, the less balanced and more powerful the combinations become.

      As far as I am aware, only the set Portal, is banned entirely.

      But you're still looking at power creep in the author's wrong terms. New MTG cards aren't typically explicitly better just because they come from a new set. In fact some of the older cards are less balanced than newer ones. But there are times when Wizards does print sets generally comprised of cards that do the same thing for less or more and better things for the same cost. Usually with MTG sets, power creep happens for a block or three, then gets radically scaled back with a Standard rotation (the changing out of sets that are legal to play in Standard). Then it slowly builds back up again....and then gets scaled back.
    1. Celebrim's Avatar
      Celebrim -
      In the case of something like World of Warcraft, what you have is false leveling. After about level 20, your character never actually gains another level. The numbers go up, but your characters place in the world is unchanged. You'll be grinding your way through level 70 bears with basically the same techniques and difficulty you encountered when you grinded your way through level 20 bears. The obvious conclusion is that the numbers have no existence, even in the abstract, in the in game world. Your character has not really increased in power and prestige from the early days of your time as a character. Rather, the only purpose of the numbers is external to the game reality - for example, ensuring that you approach the story presented by the game in a linear manner, reliably going through the content in a predictable order. Or else, to ensure that going through the content requires a certain amount of in game time, so that you remain a customer for a longer period. But it's reasonable from most everything you observe (if you follow the game's expectations) that your character has been a mighty hero from pretty much the time you left your factions starter area and has not 'leveled up' meaningfully any time since that time.

      The same is fundamentally true of a game like Skyrim or any of the other elder scroll games. Since the content levels up around you, the numbers exist only for the out of game experience. You aren't meaningfully getting more powerful. Rather the numbers are going up simply for the pleasure the player takes in getting bigger numbers. The only real meaningful increase in power is your power relative to your expected power for your level. In some versions of the Elder Scrolls, a true power gamer then would endeavor (if they could) not to level up at all, as the most powerful possible character would be a 1st level character (or similarly low level character) with massive advantages compared to the games expectations. This character's narrative would be the one of being the most powerful, experienced, and capable character despite in fact never leveling up at all.

      D&D originally had the idea that levels were meaningful, and that reality didn't level up with you. Mighty heroes would eventually overcome all but the most mundane challenges and move on to new roles in the game universe - lords and perhaps even gods. But as the original article points out, older versions of D&D often had a hard time delivering the same level of interest in high level game play because offensive powers generally vastly outstripped defensive capabilities. Eventually, the initiative roll was the 'midpoint' of the combat, and most combats were meaningfully over by the end of the first round. Later editions have tried to balance the desire to have gameplay be interesting and yet still capture the 'zero to hero' and beyond gameplay that appeared to be D&D's intention and which has become its core 'story'. The result though is sometimes the experience that fighting Orcus is functionally identical to fighting a Bugbear chieftain, just with bigger numbers, making leveling less meaningful.
    1. Imaculata's Avatar
      Imaculata -
      What Power Creep is, is when the addition of new powers/cards/abilities makes some of them dominant, while making others useless. This can be seen to some extent in Team Fortress 2, where the addition of some new weapons, made some weapons dominant, while making others look objectively worse. This is why all of a sudden you saw tons of Demomen running around with melee weapons, chopping off heads left and right, when this is exactly the opposite of what the backline grenade-lobbing class was designed to do.

      It also happened in Guild Wars 1 and 2, in different ways. In Guild Wars 1 the level cap always remained at level 20, but they added new normal and elite skills, some of which were either way too powerful, or were like stronger versions of older skills. For example, the skill Pain Inverter was so powerful, that it was the default skill to bring against any boss, and that future bosses had to be specifically designed to cancel out this skill. The skill single handedly insta-killed the final boss of one of the expansions, it was that broken. Other skills were so underpowered, that they never really made it onto anyone's skillbar. Yes, you could bring them, but why would you, when all of the other skills are objectively better? Thats a classic example of Power Creep. As more skills are added, you'd think there would be more options, but in fact more options disappear.

      This also happened with new classes, where one class would intrude on the area of expertise of another class. Why would you for example want to bring an assassin, when its basically a more squishy version of the warrior? And why would you bother bringing a warrior, when the assassin has a skill that makes them immune to everything, and they can keep active long enough to solo most end game content. Classic example of power creep.

      With Guild Wars 2 they repeated the same mistake, by adding new Specialisations for classes. This basically meant that you had an optional redesigned version of your class that you could play, but only if you bought the new DLC. So instead of expanding what the class could do, they just redid the class. The real issue here is that in some cases this made a class not the broken mess that it was originally. And here we come to the central issue with Power Creep. Because one older version of the class is clearly inferior, people won't bother to play it any more, and the other becomes the dominant one. The older class is simply replaced, and problems with the original class aren't fixed/addressed. So if you want to still compete on the same level as other players, you must get this new specialisation, because no one wants your old broken class in their party. The old class still exists, but no one wants to play it, because a better alternative is now available.

      They even made the same mistake with the skills, where once again some classes had a skill that made them completely invincible for a few seconds, while some other classes did not have such a skill at all. In a game where the pvp is so spam-heavy, not having a panic button is a handicap that no class can afford to have.

      And this also happens in games like Magic the Gathering of course, where some cards are objectively better than others that pretty much do the same thing, but worse. And it also happens in D&D, when certain new feats are better versions of an older feat. Its not so much an issue of the new game-addition just being too powerful, but with them making another game element obsolete by comparison. Ideally in a game you want more options, and Power Creep removes options.
    1. EvilDwarf's Avatar
      EvilDwarf -
      I've said for years--well, at least to my gaming group--that level increases are an illusion. My AC increases, Monster BAB increases. My BAB increases, Monster AC increases. My skill levels increase, DCs increase. It's all a wash. I've also wondered for years what a game would be like in which you entered a game world as a more or less static character, but the game world contained low "level" and high "level" Monsters. Say, maybe you'd enter the world at the equivalent of 5th level D&D, so there would be orcs and goblins, but also liches and ancient dragons.

      Then the action would shift. Need to kill that high "level" ancient dragon that's awakened? Search for some lore, and/or search the sky-high Towers of the Dragon Riders for the weapon you need. I think it would be interesting to see how such a shift might encourage planning and strategy and adventuring to survive in such a world. Progress would be measured in something other than Levels. It might be measured in an Arrow of Dragon Slaying, or the Blessed Sword of Sir Gawain the Dragon Slayer.

      I guess what might be missing would be a sense of achievement on the players' part? Maybe instead of "stronger" powers they would gain more powers/skills, could do more things, learn more "3rd level" spells, etc. Or you could invent a rewards system based on some in-world mechanic called Reputation or something.

      Anyone ever tinker with or play a game like that?
    1. AriochQ's Avatar
      AriochQ -
      MtG got it right when it comes to combating power creep IMHO. They did two things...

      First, cards tend to 'sunset' and leave the standard rotation. Any unbalanced cards have an 'expiration date'. RPG's tend not to have that mechanic. Any new content stays around forever.

      Second, they focused on interactions rather than base improvements. In most cases, when they add a 'superior' card, it comes with a drawback. That makes players spend a lot more time focusing on the synergy rather than the individual cards. RPG's have some of this, but nowhere near the extent of MtG.

      Although bonus actions get some bad press, it is actually one of the better mechanics in 5e that prevent power creep. You only get one bonus action a round. That allows WotC to add any number of abilities utilizing the bonus action mechanic with minimal power creep since the PC is simply replacing one action. Any increase in power is incremental rather than multiplicative.
    1. Razjah's Avatar
      Razjah -
      Quote Originally Posted by EvilDwarf View Post
      I've said for years--well, at least to my gaming group--that level increases are an illusion. My AC increases, Monster BAB increases. My BAB increases, Monster AC increases. My skill levels increase, DCs increase. It's all a wash. I've also wondered for years what a game would be like in which you entered a game world as a more or less static character, but the game world contained low "level" and high "level" Monsters. Say, maybe you'd enter the world at the equivalent of 5th level D&D, so there would be orcs and goblins, but also liches and ancient dragons.

      Then the action would shift. Need to kill that high "level" ancient dragon that's awakened? Search for some lore, and/or search the sky-high Towers of the Dragon Riders for the weapon you need. I think it would be interesting to see how such a shift might encourage planning and strategy and adventuring to survive in such a world. Progress would be measured in something other than Levels. It might be measured in an Arrow of Dragon Slaying, or the Blessed Sword of Sir Gawain the Dragon Slayer.

      I guess what might be missing would be a sense of achievement on the players' part? Maybe instead of "stronger" powers they would gain more powers/skills, could do more things, learn more "3rd level" spells, etc. Or you could invent a rewards system based on some in-world mechanic called Reputation or something.

      Anyone ever tinker with or play a game like that?
      This is awfully close to E6. All levels cap at 6. So taking down a 10th level dragon means getting help, researching this species of dragon's weaknesses, finding the ingredients to make a necessary balm to apply to weapons to fight it. Fighting the tarrasque wouldn't be a battle. It would be a huge Shadow of the Colossus moment where the PCs have to climb the beast, fight some stuff on it (cultists or other monsters ridding it cloverfield style), stab it in the eye, then climb into it to find and destroy it's heart. Then while the beast lays temporarily dead, 20 mages perform a ritual to banish it while dozens of warriors continue hacking at the monster's vulnerable parts to keep it from regenerating enough to wake. It might even take siege equipment.

      But on a game world side, I think the numbers treadmill are because many GMs are focusing on balanced encounters. Letting some 10th level PCs fight trolls or something they struggled against recently but can now easily handle is an amazing triumph. Finding random raiders in Fallout is an exercise in being a badass and wiping out a group of them solo. More of these moments make the other struggles better and let players celebrate their PCs gained abilities.
    1. Hussar's Avatar
      Hussar -
      Well, this is generally an issue in many RPG's, and particularly in any level based one. As you level your PC, you get more powerful at what you do, but, you don't, generally, do anything new. It's all height and no breadth.

      It would be nice to see a system where you branch out further and further "sideways" rather than upwards. Imagine a D&D level system where you only gain HD every three levels (forex) and attack bonuses and damage don't really change very much. Small, incremental increases once in a while.

      But, instead, you gain all sorts of "first level" powers

      The only problem with that is, everyone's character winds up being pretty much identical after enough time. Everyone has the same stuff, even if they started from different points.

      It's a very hard thing to design around.
    1. Jhaelen -
      Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
      In the case of something like World of Warcraft, what you have is false leveling. After about level 20, your character never actually gains another level. The numbers go up, but your characters place in the world is unchanged.
      Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
      The same is fundamentally true of a game like Skyrim or any of the other elder scroll games. Since the content levels up around you, the numbers exist only for the out of game experience.
      Well, I'm not a WoW player, but iirc, you're wrong about WoW having 'false leveling'. The game's divided into 'zones' meant for different level ranges. But there's nothing preventing you from visiting zones that aren't appropriate for your level. If your character is level 50 and you enter a zone intended for level 10, all monsters will appear 'grey' to you, indicating you won't get any xp for killing them. If you enter a level 80 zone, all monsters will appear 'purple' to you, indicating the monsters are extremely likely to kill you without taking a sweat.
      This isn't much different from your typical D&D (sandbox) game: The areas around the PCs home base will usually be populated by low-level threats, and the farther you travel into the wild, the tougher they get. For 'epic' level threats you journey into the outer planes.

      You're definitely right about Skyrim, though. It's one of the reasons I don't particularly enjoy the Elder Scrolls games: Since everything around you is leveling up whenever your character does, you're encouraged to avoid leveling as much as possible in order to have an easier time to solve the overarching quest line. If you don't make attempts to slow down your character's progression, you end up with a ridiculous game environment where liches and vampire lords prowl the city streets at night and every farmer's root cellar houses an ancient red dragon with a bunch of iron golem bodyguards...
    1. Saelorn's Avatar
      Saelorn -
      Quote Originally Posted by EvilDwarf View Post
      I've said for years--well, at least to my gaming group--that level increases are an illusion. My AC increases, Monster BAB increases. My BAB increases, Monster AC increases. My skill levels increase, DCs increase. It's all a wash.
      That doesn't sound right. The stats on a goblin, ogre, or dragon aren't supposed to change as the PCs get stronger. If an ogre presents a tough challenge when you're level three, it doesn't stay a tough challenge when you're level five; it gets way easier, because your numbers go up while their numbers stay the same.

      Or what, do you just stop fighting level 4 green ogres and start fighting level 6 red ogres?
    1. Lylandra's Avatar
      Lylandra -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jhaelen View Post
      Well, I'm not a WoW player, but iirc, you're wrong about WoW having 'false leveling'. The game's divided into 'zones' meant for different level ranges. But there's nothing preventing you from visiting zones that aren't appropriate for your level. If your character is level 50 and you enter a zone intended for level 10, all monsters will appear 'grey' to you, indicating you won't get any xp for killing them. If you enter a level 80 zone, all monsters will appear 'purple' to you, indicating the monsters are extremely likely to kill you without taking a sweat.
      This isn't much different from your typical D&D (sandbox) game: The areas around the PCs home base will usually be populated by low-level threats, and the farther you travel into the wild, the tougher they get. For 'epic' level threats you journey into the outer planes.
      I can give you a bit insight on this. You are basically right. This is how zoning works and it feels usually like progress. Sometimes you could even see a dragon from a nearby high level zone patrolling at the borders of your level 15-20 zone and you get utterly terrified. And yes, you'll generally encounter high level threats (like dragons or big demons or Liches) only in high level zones. Unless you are in a dungeon where one of these creepers can be a mid level boss. NPC enemies can appear everywhere though, so you'll likely encounter orcs or murlocs or furbolg from level 10 to level 110.

      What can make this level experience a bit awkward is expansion scaling. Every expansion offers a new threat, so you'll start a bit "smaller" at the beginning of every expansion story, but end much higher at the end. This also means that once you go back "in time" to revisit the old threats, you'll most likely oneshot the Lich King who has been the big bad 4 expansions ago. But that's because he's not really there anymore (as you already defeated him in the past... or so.)

      Also, you will get more abilities and greater influence as you progress. Right now, you acquire a legendary artifact at the beginning of the new story and gain new powers as you empower the weapon. And the levels at which you'll get your class abilities change every expansion. Again, this can lead to awkward situations for characters who are neither max level nor starting new (like having some abilities removed from your table only to regain them later).

      From a narrative perspective, the player characters "ended" as powerful warriors who were part of elite teams (guilds) in the original game. They were really not on par with the most powerful humanoid NPC out there . The enemies they faced were mostly dragons, undead sergeants of the Lich King or proxies of the Old Gods (some Cthuluesque beings). Then they traveled the planes to fight Illidan's ragtag team who had concquered Outland (some of the more powerful NPC). And they faced a pit lord. And helped out some powerful NPC and their armies in a timey wimey rehash of the demonic Legion Invasion. Then they fought back the Lich King and one weakened Old God, plus his titan watcher wardens, and killed the maddened dragon aspect of magic. Then the apocalypse happened (sort of) when Deathwing, the most powerful (and crazy) dragon aspect returned. The heroes fought his minions and worshippers, rescued one major powerful NPC and killed the aspect in a 2 stage fight. Then Mists happened which resulted basically in a civil war because some bad leadership decisions and a power hungry Warchief. The rest were basically powerful corrupted emotion-beings and one ancient wannabe tyrant who got the powers of the titans.
      After that, the player characters really gained a leadership position when they were hurled to an alternative universe version of the orc's planet of the past (yep, it is that ridiculous^^) and had to manage a base of their own. They were promoted commander of the alliance/horde forces and fought the "new horde" threat and their demonic masters, including one of the two demonic leaders. And right now, the power position continues as you became basically the leader of your own class' "coven", working together with the other covens to push back the 3rd demonic invasion of your planet and bring the fight to the demon's home turf to maybe finish them off for ever. Which is something an entire army of light enfused beings has tried to do for millennia. Oh and you found aforementioned artifact along the way.

      Quote Originally Posted by EvilDwarf View Post
      I've said for years--well, at least to my gaming group--that level increases are an illusion. My AC increases, Monster BAB increases. My BAB increases, Monster AC increases. My skill levels increase, DCs increase. It's all a wash. I've also wondered for years what a game would be like in which you entered a game world as a more or less static character, but the game world contained low "level" and high "level" Monsters. Say, maybe you'd enter the world at the equivalent of 5th level D&D, so there would be orcs and goblins, but also liches and ancient dragons.
      But the DC for a given non-opposed task should stay the same? Jumping over a canyon doesn't suddenly bacome harder just because you gained a level. What does increase is the NPC's opposing skill level when they are at the same level of a PC. But then again, seducing a dragon should be harder than seducing a waiter

      An organic game world will always include threats that are too hard or too easy for the players. My level 2 PCs wouldn't have dared to attack the ancient red dragon who devastated their city. But they managed to kill him once they came back at level 16. Also, their reputation is now able to intimidate lesser goons who don't want to be killed in a single stroke.
    1. Imaculata's Avatar
      Imaculata -
      Quote Originally Posted by Hussar View Post
      It would be nice to see a system where you branch out further and further "sideways" rather than upwards. Imagine a D&D level system where you only gain HD every three levels (forex) and attack bonuses and damage don't really change very much. Small, incremental increases once in a while.
      An interesting idea, but I think this would also undermine the feeling of a power curve, which many players are fond of in RPG's. Then again, it would be interesting if the power curve is represented by skill, rather than just raw numbers. Guild Wars 1 achieved this to some degree, where the players were only as strong as the skill combinations they made with their limited bar of 8 skills, and the way they used those skills. The sideways progression in this case, is all about obtaining more powers that you can mix and match.

      It would be interesting for a game like D&D to not have certain level spells become completely useless after a particular level this way. Just an increasing pool of options to mix and match, and the players are only as strong as they are resourceful.
    1. Celebrim's Avatar
      Celebrim -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jhaelen View Post
      Well, I'm not a WoW player, but iirc, you're wrong about WoW having 'false leveling'. The game's divided into 'zones' meant for different level ranges. But there's nothing preventing you from visiting zones that aren't appropriate for your level. If your character is level 50 and you enter a zone intended for level 10, all monsters will appear 'grey' to you, indicating you won't get any xp for killing them.
      I played WoW for about a year and had a level 90 character at one point and got the banner that you got for completing every quest in the game.

      Your objection answers itself. Yes, you can go to zones you are not intended to go to. You can earn the right to enter zones that were previously too difficult for you to enter, and you can go back to zones that were once challenging and have a cake walk - for instance soloing an instance that before you found impossible. But the point is that the game actively punishes you for approaching the game this way, and as a practical matter long term players just don't play that way. Content is only meaningful if it is at your level. And the experience of play of things that are at your level is always very much the same after you open up your full hot bar quite early on.

      Unless someone is consciously trying to mimic the idea of zones, this is very different than a typical D&D sandbox. The area the PC's in my current campaign started in had threats from encounter levels below 1 to encounter levels above 20. There are places a short journey from where they started they still couldn't go. They've moved on to other areas and they are still finding things above and below their level. More importantly, they've obviously grown in scope of power from being nobodies that no one paid attention to, to being highly influential figures that dominate pretty much any social setting they enter into. In WoW, if you play as expected you are the center of attention the whole time, and yet wherever you go everything is perfectly tuned to offer a particular experience that is exactly like the experience you had one or five levels ago and no where you go actually responds to your wishes. If you play the game as intended, and then step back from your experience of the game and try to imagine how the PC would perceive his experience of the world (assuming that the PC can't literally see numbers and health bars), I think you'll see that from the PC's perspective he's not leveling up. He keeps encountering things of the same sort and having the same degree of difficult with him. With instance scaling, that's even more the case - every BBEG is about the same 'level'.

      This is very typical of Blizzard games. For example, once you hit about level 20 in Diablo 2, you'll have functionally unlocked all your basic skills and filled your bar with combat options. From that point on, the game plays basically exactly the same again and again and again. Everything scales with you. You never actually 'level up', the numbers just get bigger.

      Consider also that even to the extent that I have zones, that zone isn't going to be filled (in most campaigns) with 10th level goblin fighters and double HD cave bears. Dangerous zones are going to be occupied by monsters of greater power. D&D has always encouraged monsters to be of a predictable difficulty. The lower level of the dungeon either has more zombies, or it has ghasts, or it has hill giant zomies. It doesn't just have ordinary zombies scaled up to threaten you. My BBEG and his minions have been the same level since the party was 1st level.

      Skyrim isn't as bad as earlier Elder Scrolls games. They instituted minimums and maximums that do mean that to a certain extent you are leveling up and things that once were problems - saber-tooth cats, for example - will eventually no longer be problems. If anything, I found Skyrim suffered badly for inappropriate scaling, in that the game never got more challenging than it started out and the only way to produce challenge was gradually increase the games difficulty as you leveled up. If you didn't do this, all the main events were very anti-climatic. Worse, if you did the main quests first, you got the experience of the world shaking problems being caused by foes of no great power, while as you put it - the stuff in some random farmer's root cellar where lords of their kind.

      It's also got terrible balance generally.
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