5E Power Creep pitfalls in 5E
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  1. #1
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    Power Creep pitfalls in 5E

    Kind folks of EnWorld I ask for your wise help.

    Id like to find out the worst pitfalls leading to power creeps in the rules RAW so to be able to be prepared against them. I really like 5e but the one thing I dislike its that the power level is geared a little too high for my tastes.

    What I found out by playing is that such power creep is not uniform but manifest itself in some particular circumstances. The help I ask is to know them in advance.

    A foreword: an opinion is fine. Im not looking for perfect balance, just to be helped in finding out possible problematic features. What Im looking for is things which I could eventually ban from the start in a future campaigns so my players know in advance. What I do not want is to tailor each encounter to counter overpowered specific players features. Better to avoid these from the start imho and have a fair fight when needed.

    The ones I found till now are:


    • +2 stat increase. While I understand all of it, it leads to overpowered stats, especially if paired with the standard & generous ability generation mechanic. Bounded accuracy suffers from 20 stats in the areas where your pc is already strong, I think. I find feats less dangerous (generally speaking) and you still can get +1 in many stats. For instance, a paladin granting +5 to all saves of nearby friendly character is just too much in a BA environment for my tastes;



    • Barbarian durability: way too much. Half damage from nearly everything paired with good AC and excellent HPs is just too generous. Especially considering that you can, I think, choose a different totem choice each time you reach the appropriate level becoming quickly a monster on the field both in offense and defense. Perhaps its just the way I build fights but Barbarians are constantly very difficult to be challenged. Fighters are really strong too due to action surges but at least thats much more limited. We did not tried Paladins but those smites seems very powerful, but they are limited in number;



    • Spells: so far, no serious issues. Should I look out for some problematic ones?



    • I know some feat combos are problematic, like the crossbow one paired with sharpshooter, others?



    • One for the DM: legendary saves seem really nasty to spellcasters. Im considering changing these in legendary actions to free from a spell effect or more simply always pair legendary bosses with lesser enemies to let casters have their share of fun, any idea is welcome.



    Anything else? Once again, just your opinion, it does not matter if its the universal truth, Ill judge it based on how me & my players play.

    And thanks for your time!

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fabio Andrea Rossi View Post
    the power level is geared a little too high for my tastes.
    Too high? Have you played 3E, 4E or Pathfinder?! On the power creep scale, 5E is like a 1 or 2 on a scale of 1-10 compared to the 11 that 3E and Pathfinder are.
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  3. #3
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    I usually think of 'power creep' in terms of new material raising the power level by introducing an element here or there that's strictly superior to some pre-existing element, or synergizes inappropriately to create a broken combo or something of that order. Spells, feats, and magic items are the usual suspects. Because 5e hasn't been putting out a lot of such new material, it shouldn't be a big issue.

    For your issues:

    Yes, barbarians are tough and fighter are high DPR. That's just about all they are, they're not hard things to challenge or work around if you think they're getting to be 'too much' in some way. Any challenge other than a toe-to-toe beatdown can take them out of the spotlight.

    Stat increases don't strike me as a problem. The 20 cap keeps them in the same scale as proficiency bonuses, so bounded accuracy seems safe enough, there.


    There's a lot of spells and I haven't even tried to wade through them all - it's just not worth it to me as I'm running lower-level games for the foreseeable future. Simulacrum seems to draw a lot of flack, but it's very high level, and you just interpret it narrowly to prevent abuse. Anything - spell, feature, item, big stacks of gold pieces - that lets a PC put a lot of 'allies' on the field (and thus get /lots/ of attacks off every round) is potentially problematic because of bounded accuracy. Hold (any sort of helplessness, however brief) can turn into a death sentence - CdG is brutal. Sources of mass advantage are a potential issue, in the sense of power, but also in the sense of erasing tactics and abilities that would otherwise be rewarded advantage. Just as numbers tell heavily, big honking AEs can help counter them. Etc, etc... (A more systemic problem you might run into with spells is not a particular broken spell, just that, when a spell comes up broken in your campaign, the caster with it prepped is going to be able to spam it, unless it's his top-level spell - and any caster who can is going to have it prepped consistently, starting the next day. Even if a spell just turns out to overpower or trivialize a challenge, situationally, if it's available at all, it can be spammed when it comes up. That's in contrast with most prior editions where you had to prep a specific spell into a specific slot, so if you wanted to use it more than once, you gave up variety to do it, to 3e, when you could prep or cast spontaneously, not both, and to 4e when you just plain couldn't spam an encounter or daily spell.)

    One perk of 'bigger' feats is that there are fewer feats, thus fewer combos and less potential for unintended synergy.

    Legendary monsters are meant to be very dramatic challenges, for the whole party, often alone. Class balance in 5e is of the 'spotlight' sort. Some characters are going to do better in some challenges, some shine in others. Having a few monsters that make it particularly hard for a caster to dominate or trivialize the encounter and 'take the spotlight,' isn't a bug, it's a feature. Just use them advisedly. The more your casters seem to be taking center stage and the melee types just along for the ride, the more you pull out the arbitrary 'gotchya' monsters that spells can't touch. Just like if the guy in Heavy Armor has just gotten too big for his britches, you bring in a rust monster to eat his armored britches.
    Last edited by Tony Vargas; Thursday, 9th April, 2015 at 06:14 PM.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by GlassJaw View Post
    Too high? Have you played 3E, 4E or Pathfinder?! On the power creep scale, 5E is like a 1 or 2 on a scale of 1-10 compared to the 11 that 3E and Pathfinder are.
    You're comparing Lamborghinis and oranges. Those games have extremely high customization for both characters and monsters. 5E doesn't, it is a far more locked down system so power creep is more noticeable and harder for a DM to deal with.

    The fact that a barbarian can effectively double it's HPs means at high level they can easily take on threats meant for an entire party. Having 2 paladins in the party giving as much as +10 to all saves means nothing the DM will ever throw at the party will ever require more than a 2+ to save against.

  5. #5
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    I don't get what's so bad about power creep. Power-creeping provides more exercise than just regular creeping, and I feel it's important that even creeps stay healthy. Skip-creeping may be slightly more strenuous, but let's be honest, it looks kind of undignified.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chocolategravy View Post
    You're comparing Lamborghinis and oranges. Those games have extremely high customization for both characters and monsters. 5E doesn't, it is a far more locked down system so power creep is more noticeable and harder for a DM to deal with.
    .
    2 things. First, the OP said power creep in 5e was too high for his tastes, and as GlassJaw notes, powercreep in 5e is much less than in previous editions unless you go back to TSR days. So not sure what high customization has to prevent power creep--it usually has the opposite effect. That's why you saw +35 bonuses in 3e and monsters with 1000 hit points in 4e.

    Secondly, you said you don't even play 5e, so how would you know what is and isn't hard for a DM to deal with in 5e?

    To the OP: regarding the legendary resistance, I'll remind that almost every class has abilities that impose Saving throws. Legendary resistance isn't a caster-only nerf like a lot of people like to act like it is. For example, the other day I was playing a BM fighter and the dragon burned it's LR on making its saves against my maneuvers before a caster even cast a spell.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chocolategravy View Post
    The fact that a barbarian can effectively double it's HPs means at high level they can easily take on threats meant for an entire party.
    Say what now?? Isn't the average party composed of 5 people? Doesn't that mean 5 attacks... or at the least 5 actions? I also think that's alot more than double the barbarian's hit points... isn't it? So I'm not getting how DR allows him to take on threats meant for an entire party... am I missing something?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chocolategravy View Post
    Having 2 paladins in the party giving as much as +10 to all saves means nothing the DM will ever throw at the party will ever require more than a 2+ to save against.
    Again I'm a little confused... could you explain how this is possible?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Imaro View Post
    Say what now?? Isn't the average party composed of 5 people? Doesn't that mean 5 attacks... or at the least 5 actions? I also think that's alot more than double the barbarian's hit points... isn't it? So I'm not getting how DR allows him to take on threats meant for an entire party... am I missing something?



    Again I'm a little confused... could you explain how this is possible?
    @Chocolategravy argued in the past that since it does not say paladin's auras do not stack, then they stack. I think they function like spell effects where benefits from the same kind of source do not stack. I think the designers realized some clarification was useful and specifically said the oathbreaker paladin's aura does not stack in the DMG.

  9. #9
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    I can't say that I see any of the examples given as an issue.

    My opinion would be to err on the side of letting the players have their fun with the rules as is with out adjusting anything like the barbarians abilities, or any of the spells. I'd say feel free to disregard any or all feats if you don't like them since they are optional, but I just let them all be available at my games and have encountered no issues.

    Regardless of how durable the barbarians look on paper, how broken the sharpshooter/crossbow expert seems, or trixie the wizard can be with his simulacrum, don't forget that you are the DM and still have total control.

    Let the barbarian stand unyielding and unbroken before the onslaught of orcs, because the player who chose to play the barbarian picked that class because he wants to have that experience and wants to enjoy being an unstoppable juggernaught.

    Work with it, and craft a fun enjoyable environment for your player's stories.

    Because really... when that barbarian is out of rages for the day, you can always spring the ambush by the big bad and keep the party on their toes. Ultimately you're still in control.
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  10. #10
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    To add to Gakarg, do not think that something as it appears on paper will be that way in game. 5e, more than any other edition, has actual play that differs from theorycrafting. Many of the things that people thought were broken on paper never come up as issues during actual game play.
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