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. Tony Vargas -
      Quote Originally Posted by Lylandra View Post
      No, I'm talking about power creep in shows or literature.
      As opposed to 'power creep' in RPGs....

      ...see? we should have called it 'power inflation.' ;P

      Quote Originally Posted by Jay Verkuilen View Post
      That's essentially how a supers game like Champions or its various clones works. They can end up feeling rather generic, though, and doing the specs on a character can be a fair challenge, though.
      "Generic system" would be a fair alternative to 'effects based,' if a bit less, well, specific.

      Quote Originally Posted by Ratskinner View Post
      I generally agree with your analysis. I would refine the "non-list games" category into "tactical effect" and "narrative wrapper" games.
      "tactical" would be unduly limiting. And effect might be 'detect the presence of an element' or 'provide food to a multitude,' for instance. Not everything's combat.

      What would a "narrative wrapper" be?
    1. Celebrim's Avatar
      Celebrim -
      Quote Originally Posted by Saelorn View Post
      I have to agree with the earlier post on this one. If they come out with a super-wizard class that could do everything a regular wizard does, only better and at lower levels, then that's a pure case of power creep. If an old Magic card gave you a 1/1 goblin for one red mana, but a new Magic card gave you a 1/1 goblin with the haste ability for one red mana, then that's power creep.
      Yes, but not for the reasons you necessarily think. If they come out with a super-wizard class that could do everything a regular wizard does, only better, then that is power creep because if the older game was balanced so that wizard and fighter were viable concepts, then the new super-wizard breaks that balance so that there is now no good reason probably to play a fighter. But we can offer an alternative situation. If in the existing situation, wizards are not viable to play because fighters are already so super, then the new super-wizard could potentially not be power creep at all, as the result of the new super-wizard might simply be that for the first time people feel validated in playing a wizard when they could have played a fighter. In that case, the new super-wizard simply balances the game.

      The case of the hasted goblin is important for understanding this topic. If the new hasted goblin causes the average game played by quality decks to finish by turn 3 rather than turn 4, then that is indeed power creep. The game play has changed, resulting in a shorter game which will depend on fewer more optimized strategies involving only a small number of 'best' cards. But the new hasted goblin allows goblin decks to finish by the current standard of turn 4 rather than the turn 5 they needed before, that is not power creep. That's simply increasing the diversity of approaches which meet the games agreed upon standard. MtG's history of power creep and how WotC both manages it and uses it to sell cards would require a thread all its own.

      What you're describing is more like the "Changing Gameplay Priorities" trope. The new way of playing is different than the old way of playing...
      Hopefully, with the clarifications I just made, you can see what this is not at all true. I'm not at all complaining if now it is viable to play a goblin deck or a wizard, when before those ideas were suboptimal and never part of the 'meta'. I'm not complaining that wizards or dwarves or what have you should be deliberately suboptimal because that's the way it was always done.

      and the balance changes as some things are buffed and others are nerfed, but it wouldn't really be a case of Power Creep in the traditional sense unless you introduce a new character using the new options and they completely outshine the existing characters because the new options are just better.
      Yes. Exactly. That's just what I said.
    1. Saelorn's Avatar
      Saelorn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
      Yes, but not for the reasons you necessarily think. If they come out with a super-wizard class that could do everything a regular wizard does, only better, then that is power creep because if the older game was balanced so that wizard and fighter were viable concepts, then the new super-wizard breaks that balance so that there is now no good reason probably to play a fighter. But we can offer an alternative situation. If in the existing situation, wizards are not viable to play because fighters are already so super, then the new super-wizard could potentially not be power creep at all, as the result of the new super-wizard might simply be that for the first time people feel validated in playing a wizard when they could have played a fighter. In that case, the new super-wizard simply balances the game.
      We might be getting hung up on terminology here. Power Creep is something that applies to individual elements, like characters or classes. The power of an element creeps up, relative to where it was previously, without regard to any other element. You know that it's a case of power creep whenever you have two options, and you would never choose the older options over the newer one, because the newer one is just better.

      To use an example that I hope won't be too controversial, back in the 3.5 days, The Book of Nine Swords introduced a new set of fighter-type classes that were just better than the fighter-type classes in the core book. They got all sorts of interesting powers, and they had different options for different situations that could do things no other fighter-type could do. If you had the option of playing a fighter or a warblade, then you would always choose the warblade, because the best a fighter could hope for was maybe being good at tripping people. Likewise, if you had the option of playing a (PHB2) duskblade or a (PHB) multiclass fighter/wizard/eldritch knight, then you would choose the duskblade, because it was just better. New books came out, and the newer options were just better than the old options, because of power creep. That's what power creep is.

      If power creep causes the balance of individual elements to change, or affects the meta in some way, then that's just a result of the power creep rather than the phenomenon itself. Often, power creep will be put in place with the intent of altering the balance of existing elements (to bring fighters more in line with wizards, for example), but it's still power creep regardless of whether the new element changes the balance. (As often as not, power creep is introduced to make profit at the expense of game balance, because nobody would buy a book if it only introduced options that were worse than what you already had.)
    1. Celebrim's Avatar
      Celebrim -
      Quote Originally Posted by Saelorn View Post
      We might be getting hung up on terminology here. Power Creep is something that applies to individual elements, like characters or classes. The power of an element creeps up, relative to where it was previously, without regard to any other element. You know that it's a case of power creep whenever you have two options, and you would never choose the older options over the newer one, because the newer one is just better.
      We are getting hung up on terminology, and I will attempt to explain why. I would like to apply the term "power creep" in a negative manner to refer to something specific. But if we apply the term "power creep" as you here define it, as something that applies to individual elements only, then it applies to both acts of balancing and unbalancing our content, or to acts which increase or reduce gameplay.

      Thus I define power creep differently. "Power creep" only applies to situations where an existing balanced and viable choice is made slightly better through some process. Very often you see power creep arrive in the form of "wish lists" where designers who wish to introduce new content cram in all the things that they wish something could do because they have a very idealized notion of the thing being designed. This can happen even when the intention is to add flavor, resulting in a class that has extra abilities to capture flavor compared to a generic class that had no specific abilities. Another example is power creep as a form of marketing, where the power curve is crept forward specifically to excite power gamers and encourage them to buy the new content. In both cases, gameplay tends to suffer as a result.

      3.5 edition in particular can be considered one long unending case of power creep specifically to help market the content.

      To use an example that I hope won't be too controversial, back in the 3.5 days, The Book of Nine Swords...
      You are going to cite Bo9S and you don't imagine that you are going to spark controversy. Even though I know where you are coming from here, the problem with Bo9S is that example is so complex that it's impossible to address all the factors that could influence the perception of power creep. Some factors you have to consider is that the fighter really was underpowered to the extent of being unable to fulfill even its stated role in the game. Another issue is that by the time Bo9S came along, they'd introduced so much unbalanced content that many 3.5 advocates and the publishers themselves seem to have adopted an approach of, "Since everything is broken, then nothing is." After all, regardless of how unbalancing something might be, you could also cite some other equally or even more unbalancing combination. Finally, these is the question of whether Bo9S was too radical in what it provided, so that it was overpowered against some reference standard of 'good balance' (whatever that may be) and could not justify itself as a merely better fighter, but actually better than the vast majority of existing options (short of an optimized tier 1 full caster).

      If power creep causes the balance of individual elements to change, or affects the meta in some way, then that's just a result of the power creep rather than the phenomenon itself.
      The problem with this definition is that there are many ways balance of individual elements might change, that we wouldn't normally call power creep. We'd just call it balancing the game. Think for example on tweaking the balance of a game during beta testing. If some class was performing subpar, we wouldn't think of it as 'power creep' to alter the class to make it more formidable or attractive to play. It's only power creep as the term is normally used if after having done so, we did something that increased the power of the same class yet again. This suggests that power creep is actually tied to the result of changing the meta in some way, and changing the overall balance of the game.
    1. shidaku's Avatar
      shidaku -
      Quote Originally Posted by Lylandra View Post
      No, I'm talking about power creep in shows or literature.
      Power creep in games can be defined a bit different though See http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.ph...CreepPowerSeep which kind of explains both (or many many Youtube videos on why which show or setting handles power creep well or not)
      Actually, that article only explains power seep, and explicitly says not to confuse it with "Power Creep" at the bottom, the subsequent article describes Power Creep appropriately:
      Quote Originally Posted by TVTropes View Post
      A term used in any kind of multi-player game (including Video Games, Collectible Card Game, and Tabletop Games) to describe the process in which newly-added-content can be played along with the old-content, but with the new content being far more powerful/useful in every sense.
      This is why power creep is so obvious in TCGs. Because we can all sit down and look at what X used to give us and compare it to what X gives us now. This is inapplicable in the sense this article uses the term, because Greater Lightning Bolt is not intended to be played with along side Lesser Lightning Bolt. It's explicitly GREATER and therefore (to use another MTG term) a replacement effect.

      Now, I totally agree with an earlier post by someone who used the term "option creep". That's certainly a valid reason why a game might get unbalanced as leveling continues. Some features are not replacement effects, they are cumulative, additive or multiplicative and designed to syergize with other abilities. The number 3 on it's own is not so dangerous. Nor is the number 4. But 3x4=12 and thats a Big Deal.

      Power Creep is a side-effect of needing to sell content. That's why it's common in games with a lot of splat (3.X, Pathfinder, World of Warcraft, TCGs, etc...) and why it is not common in games with little or no splat. The leveling treadmill is a psychological device used to keep human beings invested.
    1. Saelorn's Avatar
      Saelorn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
      We are getting hung up on terminology, and I will attempt to explain why. I would like to apply the term "power creep" in a negative manner to refer to something specific. But if we apply the term "power creep" as you here define it, as something that applies to individual elements only, then it applies to both acts of balancing and unbalancing our content, or to acts which increase or reduce gameplay.
      It applies to the power of something creeping up over time, which seems straightforward enough. Sword guys used to be able to deal 15 damage in a round, but now they deal 25 damage in a round (describing the effects of adding weapon specialization to a game). Their power crept upward.

      Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
      Thus I define power creep differently. "Power creep" only applies to situations where an existing balanced and viable choice is made slightly better through some process.
      That seems like a pretty narrow definition, and I don't think it's useful enough that it would persuade many people to adopt it. After all, whether or not things are balanced or viable is subject to individual perception; we still have people saying that wizards are more powerful than fighters in 5E, even though fighters have more HP and deal more damage in a round. If they introduced a NuFighter class, which was exactly like the old one except it also had weapon specialization, then we would still have disagreements over whether it was balanced or viable compared to the wizard, but we could all agree that it was just better than the old fighter.

      If you co-opt that term for your own use, then in addition to any confusion it would create in the short term, we would lose valuable language for describing the process of individual elements becoming more powerful over time.
    1. Ratskinner's Avatar
      Ratskinner -
      Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
      "tactical" would be unduly limiting. And effect might be 'detect the presence of an element' or 'provide food to a multitude,' for instance. Not everything's combat.

      What would a "narrative wrapper" be?
      "Tactical" would be the systems where "Power X" is defined and costed by very specific in-game features: "target moves 3 squares, takes 13 stun, is blinded for 6 sec as per the condition on p. 178." However, the system really doesn't care what exactly "Power X" is. Is it a Stun Pistol, Spell, or Mutant Sonic Shout power? Dunno, don't care, pay your points (Hero is a system like this) and write it down. The Big Design Goal in such a system is that the mechanics all work with each other to produce a clear, precise, (usually) tactical or (sometimes) simulation system. Fair, balanced, realistic, or accurate are words they shoot for.

      There is, I think, considerable overlap with "list based" games and my "tactical" category. The "non-list" versions just tend to have the costing system laid bare (IME), so a list is unneccesary. They are often billed as "universal" or more "flexible".

      "Narrative Wrapper" games are those that don't even have squares or points or seconds. You can probably write down any of those things (Stun Pistol, Spell, or Mutant Sonic Shout) on your character sheet and it doesn't even matter. What matters is that we all agree that your character has such a feature and that it will have corresponding narrative effects. Those effects may show up explicitly in play or not (as aspects or something). There are often rules about avoiding or putting a cost on contradiction, but the difference between a Death Ray and Tickle Gun are semantic...literally. The resolution system may or may not actually care what your character's stats are. I would put the more "outré" versions of Fate in this category, along with a host of quasi-experimental Forge games I have played. They strive for a consistent narrative, and dramatic stories usually with minimal math, even if mechanics can become rather complex. These tend to be the very antithesis of list-based games (IME), the concept of lists with picayune details about weapons, powers, etc. is just pointless for these games.
    1. Tony Vargas -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ratskinner View Post
      "Tactical" would be the systems where "Power X" is defined and costed by very specific in-game features: "target moves 3 squares, takes 13 stun, is blinded for 6 sec as per the condition on p. 178." However, the system really doesn't care what exactly "Power X" is. Is it a Stun Pistol, Spell, or Mutant Sonic Shout power? Dunno, don't care, pay your points (Hero is a system like this) and write it down. The Big Design Goal in such a system is that the mechanics all work with each other to produce a clear, precise, (usually) tactical or (sometimes) simulation system. Fair, balanced, realistic, or accurate are words they shoot for.
      Except for the odd choice of 'tactical' as label - "Power X" might have nothing to do with combat, could be to do with traveling, solving mysteries, or whatever - that's sounding reasonably Effects-based. That and 'realistic' or 'accurate' being highly optional. You can use an effects based system to create an accurate simulation, you just need to be very careful that you invariably map the effects to something that would 'realistically' cause them. Hero is a good example. You could use it that way, but it was developed for Champions! a super-hero game, a genre not notable for a high degree of realism.

      There is, I think, considerable overlap with "list based" games and my "tactical" category. The "non-list" versions just tend to have the costing system laid bare (IME), so a list is unneccesary. They are often billed as "universal" or more "flexible".
      You can certainly use an effects-based system to generate a list, or add to a list. The list could become infinite, in theory. It wouldn't experience power creep, because the system isn't being added to.

      That's distinct from list-based, a 'list based' system adds to the /system/ as you expand the list. So if you can already kill people, and already have knives, guns, & chainsaws that do that, adding poison or a flaming sword in an effects-based system doesn't add to the system, even if the mechanics may be used a little differently to get there. OTOH, in a list-based system, adding a flaming sword might add a new column to the physical attack matrix and a new way of determining damage, maybe even require adding whole new sub-system for magic, while adding poison might add a mechanic with not even cursory similarity to the attack-resolution sub-systems already in use. List-based systems get very arbitrary and unwieldy.

      Where there's maybe overlap is when a list-based system gets tired of coming up with new crap, and decides the next new thing "counts as" something it already has. Poison gets a new sub-system, but the flaming sword "counts as a chainsaw..."
      ...or when an effects based system hides 'behind a curtain' and the publisher charges you for each new 'skin' they put on the effects.

      "Narrative Wrapper" games are those that don't even have squares or points or seconds. You can probably write down any of those things (Stun Pistol, Spell, or Mutant Sonic Shout) on your character sheet and it doesn't even matter. What matters is that we all agree that your character has such a feature and that it will have corresponding narrative effects. Those effects may show up explicitly in play or not (as aspects or something). There are often rules about avoiding or putting a cost on contradiction, but the difference between a Death Ray and Tickle Gun are semantic...literally.
      OK, I can see how that's "Narrative" (and even almost Freestyle) but were does 'wrapper' come into it?


      "Narrative Wrapper" sounds almost like the old Champions! concept of the 'special effect.' Here's the power, an EB, but there's a special effect when you use it, a bolt of lightning. Sounds like 'wrapping' the mechanic in a 'narrative' (I was in a radiation accident at the nuclear power plant, now my mutant powers let me generate bolts of lighting!)
    1. Imaculata's Avatar
      Imaculata -
      Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
      We are getting hung up on terminology, and I will attempt to explain why. I would like to apply the term "power creep" in a negative manner to refer to something specific. But if we apply the term "power creep" as you here define it, as something that applies to individual elements only, then it applies to both acts of balancing and unbalancing our content, or to acts which increase or reduce gameplay.

      Thus I define power creep differently. "Power creep" only applies to situations where an existing balanced and viable choice is made slightly better through some process. Very often you see power creep arrive in the form of "wish lists" where designers who wish to introduce new content cram in all the things that they wish something could do because they have a very idealized notion of the thing being designed. This can happen even when the intention is to add flavor, resulting in a class that has extra abilities to capture flavor compared to a generic class that had no specific abilities. Another example is power creep as a form of marketing, where the power curve is crept forward specifically to excite power gamers and encourage them to buy the new content. In both cases, gameplay tends to suffer as a result.
      I actually think Saelorn's definition is better, and more correct: Power creep is when new content makes the older content redundant, and/or makes it a less desirable option, to the point of eliminating it as an option completely.

      So, we're not talking about a choice being made "slightly" better here. We're talking about a new choice that is objectively better, and thus causes people to no longer use the older content that did something similar.

      A good DnD example would be if they added a new melee slashing weapon that had the same requirements as a longsword, yet did more damage. Why would anyone still use the longsword, if the new weapon is the same, but better?

      This is different from spells that receive a "Greater" version at higher levels, because that is a deliberate upgrade to the lower level spell. Power Creep is when a new addition to the game is objectively better than similar older content, and unintentionally causes the older content to no longer be used, or fall out of favor.

      As you can tell from my definition, Power Creep is sometimes in the eye of the beholder. However, its effects are not. For example, a while back Valve released a big new patch for Counter Strike, that included a new revolver. The revolver was so unbalanced that everyone was running around with it, insta-killing anyone, regardless of body armor. People chose it over any other weapon, including the game's most powerful weapons. And every player seemed to be complaining about it.



      This was such a blatant example of Power Creep, that valve removed the revolver soon afterwards. Normally Power Creep is not quite this obvious and destructive. This was a rare case where this new addition flat out broke an entire game, and pretty much made every other gun redundant.

      The reverse also happens, and quite frequently in MMO's. I think we're all familiar with nerfs. And while sometimes this is just a case of players screaming at the slightest change to their favorite weapon/item/skill/feat/class, in some cases the changes are so drastic, that indeed things do fall massively out of favor, to the point of almost being useless.
    1. Celebrim's Avatar
      Celebrim -
      Quote Originally Posted by Saelorn View Post
      That seems like a pretty narrow definition, and I don't think it's useful enough that it would persuade many people to adopt it...If you co-opt that term for your own use, then in addition to any confusion it would create in the short term, we would lose valuable language for describing the process of individual elements becoming more powerful over time.
      Excuse me, but I'm not "co-opting" anything. The definition I gave is the definition of the word, and you are simply wrong.

      For example, the glossary of video game terms defines power creep as: "The gradual unbalancing of a game due to successive releases of new content."

      If there is no unbalancing, then there is no power creep.

      TV Tropes writes of power creep, "Have in mind though that as a general rule, Power Creep has a negative connotation. The reason behind it is that, while there may be some few exceptions, it usually shows that the producers were unable to come up with something interesting and balanced, instead resorting to creating an over-powered add on. Power Creep also tends to lead a game beyond its pre-defined limits, with one of two results: it will becomes a competition of mindless speed, or of predictable slow strategies."

      Again, this is exactly in line with what I wrote. It's your definition, which permits defining actions that bring balance to the game, and keeps the game within its predefined limits, or which are otherwise positive in nature which is not the correct technical definition. It may be a very natural definition to adopt of you don't know what the term means, but it is not the meaning of the term.
    1. Celebrim's Avatar
      Celebrim -
      Quote Originally Posted by Imaculata View Post
      I actually think Saelorn's definition is better, and more correct...
      I think I've addressed this enough when I responded to Saelorn, but I did want to know that after telling me that you found his definition more correct, you went on to provide a lengthy series of examples that fit my definition and not his.

      So, we're not talking about a choice being made "slightly" better here.
      It actually doesn't matter whether it is slightly better or greatly better. It's still power creep. In fact, the very idea of "creep" suggests that the usual problem is that it is gradual until finally you can't help but notice.

      A good DnD example would be if they added a new melee slashing weapon that had the same requirements as a longsword, yet did more damage. Why would anyone still use the longsword, if the new weapon is the same, but better?
      That is an example that supports my definition - not his.

      And so forth.
    1. Ratskinner's Avatar
      Ratskinner -
      Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
      Except for the odd choice of 'tactical' as label - "Power X" might have nothing to do with combat, could be to do with traveling, solving mysteries, or whatever - that's sounding reasonably Effects-based. That and 'realistic' or 'accurate' being highly optional. You can use an effects based system to create an accurate simulation, you just need to be very careful that you invariably map the effects to something that would 'realistically' cause them. Hero is a good example. You could use it that way, but it was developed for Champions! a super-hero game, a genre not notable for a high degree of realism.
      I just use "tactical" because...well, I'm not really familiar with or even aware of any games that focus this kind of effort in any direction other than combat. Although I accept that such a game could, at least in theory, exist. Some of the ones that might claim to do this basically, IMO, have an NPC mind-control system built in for a weird kind of "social combat", rather than an actual social interaction system. Generally, it doesn't seem that non-violent interaction inspires the same kind of desire to see massive lists and formulas that combat interactions do.

      Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
      Where there's maybe overlap is when a list-based system gets tired of coming up with new crap, and decides the next new thing "counts as" something it already has. Poison gets a new sub-system, but the flaming sword "counts as a chainsaw..."
      ...or when an effects based system hides 'behind a curtain' and the publisher charges you for each new 'skin' they put on the effects.
      No argument. Although I think there are Effects based systems that keep tacking on little bits and twists to their system as well. Mostly done, FWICT, to expand the game. Like..."Oh, our previous system didn't do anything that resembled Psionics, but people want that and it seems like we want to sell them books. Maybe we tack on the following..."

      Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
      OK, I can see how that's "Narrative" (and even almost Freestyle) but were does 'wrapper' come into it?

      "Narrative Wrapper" sounds almost like the old Champions! concept of the 'special effect.' Here's the power, an EB, but there's a special effect when you use it, a bolt of lightning. Sounds like 'wrapping' the mechanic in a 'narrative' (I was in a radiation accident at the nuclear power plant, now my mutant powers let me generate bolts of lighting!)
      I use "Narrative Wrapper" because "Narrative Channel" sounds odd to me. The rules in such games tend to put boundaries (even if rather loose or nebulous) on what it is that you are allowed to narrate for the results of (often quite abstract) mechanical operations. In my head, I see the mechanics creating a wide path, within which the narrative can travel. This is different (at least to my eyes) from the traditional style of game where (generally) we only use narrative to describe the specific results of in-game. I mean, I've played a game where a player character prematurely revealing the identity of the murderer must either be disallowed, or (if allowed) indicates that they must be wrong! Simply because the mechanical procedures which permit that haven't been completed yet. (A rule literally called "Not Yet", in that case.)
    1. Saelorn's Avatar
      Saelorn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
      That is an example that supports my definition - not his.
      No, because your definition is limited to the special case where the longsword was balanced and viable in the first place, which is not necessarily true. In order for your definition to apply, fighters with a d8 longsword would need to be balanced against wizards, such that elevating the d8 to a d12 (or whatever) would raise the over-all power level of the game. You haven't established that, though.

      In order for my definition to be true, it would only need to be the case that the d12 longsword is better than the d8 longsword in every meaningful way, which is not controversial at all.

      Not to double- or triple-quote the same source, but tvtropes defines Power Creep as: "A term used in any kind of multi-player game (including Video Games, Collectible Card Game, and Tabletop Games) to describe the process in which newly-added-content can be played along with the old-content, but with the new content being far more powerful/useful in every sense. This process leaves old-content completely worthless, save for a few exceptions and for Cherry Tapping."

      Nobody would use a d8 longsword if a d12 longsword was available, and the name we give to that phenomenon is called Power Creep. And yes, it does tend to have a negative connotation, because it can easily unbalance (or otherwise ruin) a fun game. It doesn't have to, though, as the enduring popularity of Magic will attest; the game is still alive and well in spite of obvious Power Creep.
    1. Imaculata's Avatar
      Imaculata -
      Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
      That is an example that supports my definition - not his.

      And so forth.
      Apologies. Maybe then I misunderstood.
    1. Celebrim's Avatar
      Celebrim -
      Quote Originally Posted by Saelorn View Post
      No, because your definition is limited to the special case where the longsword was balanced and viable in the first place...
      Yes.

      ...which is not necessarily true. In order for your definition to apply, fighters with a d8 longsword would need to be balanced against wizards, such that elevating the d8 to a d12 (or whatever) would raise the over-all power level of the game. You haven't established that, though.
      You are confused. For my definition to apply, the d8 longsword has to be a viable weapon regularly used by fighters. In every version of the game, the 'longword' is perhaps the most iconic fighter weapon. And in 5e in particular, the d8 longsword is already a popular weapon and competitive with the other available weapons in the game. In fact 5e weapons are very simple in their design and they have a very straight forward set of parameters that govern what is a valid/balanced weapon. (Let's for now leave off the possibility that the new d8 rapier may in fact be actual power creep, because there are already threads for that.) It is the case that the d12 longsword is better than the d8 longsword in every meaningful way, and it is the case that a d12 longsword would be power creep, but only because the d8 longsword is actually already a balanced and viable weapon. If every other weapon in the game had it's current stats, but the longsword did d4 damage instead, so that it was obvious to everyone that the longsword was subpar, then it would not be power creep to change the d4 to a d8. Suppose the designer of the game made a statement, "We're sorry but the d4 on the longsword was a misprint. There was an error introduced in the printing process that changed the d8 we had intended to a d4. We apologize. As official errata, the longsword should use a d8." That would not be "power creep" because it did not unbalance a game by the introduction of new content.

      As point of fact though, your example is rather silly, because it doesn't in the slightest capture how power creep actually tends to happen (except maybe in cases were longswords are playing pieces that are for sale for real money).

      And as a simple point of fact, your example of the d12 longsword replacing the d8 longsword fits my definition of Power Creep and so is not a counter-example. For you to offer a counter-example, you have to offer an example of making the game more balanced, increasing gameplay, and otherwise effecting the game in a positive manner and still have people generally recognize that this act of increasing (rather than decreasing) balance is power creep. But you haven't done that. Instead you've offered an example of an obviously viable and balanced weapon that people already used, and increased it in power, decreasing the balance of the game rather than increasing it. (That is to say, not only would the d12 longsword invalidate the d8 longsword, but it would invalidate pretty much every other melee weapon in the game and invalidate pretty much any other approach to melee.) Of course, it could be possible to offer an example of a hypothetical game where introducing the d12 longsword would not be power creep (although, rebalancing things in response to power creep and over compensating is a common way power creep continues) but 5e would not be that game.

      Not to double- or triple-quote the same source, but tvtropes defines Power Creep as: "A term used in any kind of multi-player game (including Video Games, Collectible Card Game, and Tabletop Games) to describe the process in which newly-added-content can be played along with the old-content, but with the new content being far more powerful/useful in every sense. This process leaves old-content completely worthless, save for a few exceptions and for Cherry Tapping."
      How in the world do you think that is in any way a useful rebuttal? If you are going to accept that as a definition, would you also accept that an increase in power that did not leave old-content completely worthless except for a few exception was not in fact power creep?

      Briefly, MtG deals with power creep by having a continually rotating format. It either bans/restricts any card that causes power creep in the broader but less accessible (and thus much less played) formats, or it simply ages out the card such that it no longer is part of the game (or both). MtG deliberately employs power creep as a core marketing strategy and has done so for about 12 years now. Because the game is so complicated, they can push power level deliberately in narrow areas of the gameplay, and then age out that sector while pushing gameplay in a different area. If one set proves over aggressive, they can scale back power in the next set while still leaving at least some "chase" cards that are powerful in narrow areas that haven't been recently explored. The result is a game that is never balanced except within certain narrowly defined metas describing how you should play and what you are expected to play against.
    1. Celebrim's Avatar
      Celebrim -
      A bit more of an explanation, attempting to show that 'unbalancing' is an essential aspect of "power creep" not simply the act of having a more powerful replacement.

      Since magic seems to be coming up a lot, and I've been playing it since the beginning of the game, I'll use magic as an example even though balance in magic is an extraordinarily complex topic. To keep matters as simple as possible, I'm going to focus on the games early phases which tended to be best described as 'power decay' rather than power creep.

      At the beginning of the game, no one really know the 'right' cost for anything because no one really knew (and Garfield to a certain extent did not care) whether any card was fairly priced for the effect. Garfield made assumptions based on players having small ever changing collections of cards and the idea that the game would self-balance under those conditions. As a result, at the beginning of MtG, everything useful was under-costed compared to a creature. The vast majority of competitive decks were creatureless and depended on victory on resource control, various combos to control resources, and cheap direct damage - most notably the infamous black vice. Those few decks that did have creatures tended to only rely on a handful of creatures to finish off the opponent once they'd gained full control over the game - Serra Angel was a favored choice.

      Without a defined metagame, it was "easy" to build decks that produced 1st turn kills 99.999% of the time. WotC responded by introducing rules for a metagame describing how decks had to be built to be legal, and by printing much less powerful cards. Gradually, as weaker and weaker sets were introduced that did not allow the resource control and easy kill mechanisms of the earlier era, people were forced to turn to creatures. But interestingly, no big creatures were part of this meta. Instead, we saw a era so dominated by 'weenie decks' that even a card like 'orcish catapult' which had previously been considered unplayable was famously used to help win in this meta.

      Why did that happen? Well, it happened because up to that point no one had really considered how efficient a creature had to be to be worth using. What we discovered was essentially that the line existed pretty close to mana cost = power. If the power of the creature was less than the mana cost, it wasn't efficient enough to play because there would always be something faster - direct damage, weenie decks, combos of various sorts.

      What this means is that I could print something very like a vanilla 3/3 at a casting cost of 3 and it would enter the meta, perhaps change the meta, but would not dominate the meta by being broken.

      Now you might object that this creature was "power creep", because in one fell swoop I've just obsoleted all the grey ogres, hurloon minotaurs, hill giants, pearl unicorns and all of their various clones that had been in the game since the beginning. But there are two big problems with that line of thought.

      First, while it is true that those cards existed, they were never a part of the game at all. No one at any point had played gray ogres, hurloon minotaurs, or hill giants in any sort of competitive deck. They showed up mainly unused in people's card boxes, and they persisted - indeed persisted for a good long while after the point that we knew that they were useless - mostly out of tradition and not for any valid reason. Indeed, their existence mostly acted as an unnecessary design constraint that prevent otherwise useful and balanced cards from being created. It would not have been power creep to print such cards, because the new cards should be judged not according to whether they were better than unplayed cards that couldn't even serve cherrypickers (or johnnies in MtG speak), but whether they would be invalidate existing strategies and approaches to play or instead just become a new approach that utilized hitherto unexplored space in "medium sized" creatures.

      But the second and more obvious reason that such a card is not power creep despite being strictly superior to hurloon minotaur or hill giant, is that cards like Sedge Troll and Granite Gargoyle have existed since the very beginning of the game - and they were both already better than gray ogres or pearl unicorns and yet despite that were never ever able to enter competitive play. Sure, infamously, some mediocre players looked at how much better Sedge Troll was than Gray Ogre and assumed on the basis of that comparison that Sedge Troll must be some killer gamebreaking unbalanced card and tried to play it competitively, but they were infamously unsuccessful despite loudly trumpeting their insight that Sedge Troll was undercosted compared to a Gray Ogre. Printing something as good as a Sedge Troll was not in and of itself "power creep". Indeed, quite arguably you could print things that looked on paper better than a Sedge Troll and it still wouldn't be power creep because Sedge Troll was never really playable anyway.

      Rather hilariously, rather than realizing this, the 4th edition Magic Designers actually had decided that creatures - even though they didn't actually see play - were undercosted and very temporarily had banned staples like Serra Angel and anything actually borderline playable on that grounds. This only further contributed to a full year of the game entirely dominated by creatures with a casting cost of 2 or less.

      None of which is to say that at some point later on, there wasn't significant power creep in creatures. Yes, obviously, at some point the reins were fully relaxed and then they truly did start printing creatures that were significantly more powerful than anything that had been seen before and would dominate the meta. Indeed, for an old timer like myself, it's obvious that the design team is committed to having a game dominated by creatures and interactions between creatures. But that is also as much the result of power rot in other areas of the game as it is power creep in creatures.
    1. jedijon's Avatar
      jedijon -
      Power creep - collectible game:

      "Oh man, I paid $50 for this thing that was awesome then and worthless now. When I made this purchase I had no idea that I was on a treadmill where I'd need to pay to win! And, I'm emotionally attached to my old stuff so it annoys me to have to go get new stuff".



      Power creep - written text:

      "I'm intellectually bothered that of these two ideas that share archetypical design space in the mental scheme I assume I share with fellow players one outweighs the other. It's more diverse, powerful, effective. I could easily go ahead and change the old for the new to get these benefits--often for free--but doing so would provoke cognitive dissonance related to the concept of continuity that's necessary to provide enjoyment at a minimum threshold for my suspension of disbelief. As such, the only benefit post-core-released materials provide is in their potential to precipitate opinionated discussions of the merit of their very existence. And, I'm emotionally attached to my old stuff so it annoys me to have to go get new stuff".


      Side light--most of what I'm enjoying is the discussion on leveling up. From a terminology standpoint though, we've just got to mean the stuff we're supposed to buy changes over time. Different philosophies on how characters scale to their environment as a narrative progresses are super awesome!! But, irrelevant to the original topic. Keep it coming!
    1. Saelorn's Avatar
      Saelorn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
      First, while it is true that those cards existed, they were never a part of the game at all. No one at any point had played gray ogres, hurloon minotaurs, or hill giants in any sort of competitive deck.
      It depends on who you're competing against. Hurloon minotaur saw plenty of use at my table, because they could protect me from benalish hero and couldn't be picked off by prodigal sorcerer. I could play my red deck against any of my friends, or anyone on the playground, and I wouldn't feel like my minotaurs were holding me back. To contrast, if I take that same red deck and pit it against any random deck of modern cards, I would fail miserably, due to Power Creep. Most of these new cards are way more powerful than most of my old cards, making my old cards worthless in comparison. You can play your Raging Goblin against my Mons's Goblin Raiders, and you will win because your cards are strictly better. That is the textbook definition of Power Creep.
    1. Tony Vargas -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ratskinner View Post
      I just use "tactical" because...well, I'm not really familiar with or even aware of any games that focus this kind of effort in any direction other than combat. Although I accept that such a game could, at least in theory, exist.
      Another example, though only of a sub-system, not a whole game, would be sphere magic in M:tA. There's 9 spheres of 5 levels each, they cover everything prettymuch the universe of possible effects. You can use sphere magic in combat, particularly time magic before combat for extra actions for instance, but it's generally quite adequate to just shoot the other guy, and going 'vulgar' with a lightning bolt is not only not a lot deadlier it's not so easy on you.
      So sphere magic gets used for a lot of non-combat applications, particularly, since it's low-level, for magical senses.

      No argument. Although I think there are Effects based systems that keep tacking on little bits and twists to their system as well. Mostly done, FWICT, to expand the game. Like..."Oh, our previous system didn't do anything that resembled Psionics, but people want that and it seems like we want to sell them books. Maybe we tack on the following..."
      Sounds more what I'd consider list-based. An effects-based system that couldn't handle 'psionics' yet also couldn't handle a lot of magic yet, for instance.

      When an effects-bases system 'expands' it ends up being a book of ideas and examples and genre conventions - no new mechanics to speak of.

      I use "Narrative Wrapper" because "Narrative Channel" sounds odd to me. The rules in such games tend to put boundaries (even if rather loose or nebulous) on what it is that you are allowed to narrate for the results of (often quite abstract) mechanical operations. In my head, I see the mechanics creating a wide path, within which the narrative can travel.
      "Channel" seems to me to capture that idea a lot better. 'Wrapper' sounds more like something that conceals a reality underneath and/or will be casually discarded later...
      ...but I think I get it now.
    1. Saelorn's Avatar
      Saelorn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
      If every other weapon in the game had it's current stats, but the longsword did d4 damage instead, so that it was obvious to everyone that the longsword was subpar, then it would not be power creep to change the d4 to a d8. Suppose the designer of the game made a statement, "We're sorry but the d4 on the longsword was a misprint. There was an error introduced in the printing process that changed the d8 we had intended to a d4. We apologize. As official errata, the longsword should use a d8." That would not be "power creep" because it did not unbalance a game by the introduction of new content.
      There's a difference between typos and actual changes. Don't conflate the two.

      If the longsword actually and intentionally had a d4 for damage, such that everyone would ignore it in favor of battleaxes and rapiers, then introducing a broadsword which was exactly like the longsword except it had d8 damage... I'm not sure what to make of that. It's hard to imagine a game which is poorly balanced to such a degree. Usually, there's some sort of trade off - there's some reason to use the weapon which is otherwise generally inferior.

      I suppose you're suggesting that the game, itself, has an over-all balance of gameplay. And that obviously inferior elements don't factor into that balance at all, because each element is weighted by its representation, and elements which are never chosen would have zero weight (e.g. it doesn't matter how much damage a chakram does as long as nobody ever uses a chakram). I think we can agree that altering an unused element of the game wouldn't actually change how anything plays out at the table, and wouldn't likely incite a negative reaction from anyone, in the manner typically associated with the concept of Power Creep.

      My biggest issue with your definition is that it doesn't describe the term as it is commonly known and used. Magic: The Gathering is the biggest and most obvious case of Power Creep of all games that we're both familiar with. That the new balance of gameplay may be more interesting or more fun than the old balance of gameplay - that the cards, themselves, may be more balanced against each other than they used to be - does not change the fact that Raging Goblin is strictly better than Mons's Goblin Raiders. My old deck from twenty years ago can't hope to match up against any new deck from last year, even in a regular casual match around the lunch table, and if your definition doesn't cite the problem as Power Creep then there's something wrong with your definition.
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