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D&D 5E 5E is attempting to recalibrate our expectations

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
One of my favorite gaming blogs is The Alexandrian, and one of my favorite articles over there is D&D: Calibrating Your Expectations.

The article talks about a lot of things, but one of the more salient points is that a lot of people head(ed) into 3.X with the expectation of the entire game playing like a low-power/magic, LotR-like fantasy adventure RPG, and then become disillusioned as the game becomes less and less conducive to this style of play as you level up more and more.

The article argues that this is a feature, rather than a bug, of the game, and says that rather than trying to "fix" this, it's better to calibrate your expectations to the fact that the game is really only about gritty heroism for the first five levels or so, and that after that you start getting wuxia heroes, superheroes, etc. (Incidentally, it was this that inspired the idea of E6 and capping level advancement before it fully left the "gritty" realm of play).

So how does this relate to 5E?

Well, the bit about the game transforming from gritty low-level heroes who become wuxia masters and then superheroes isn't how the game played before 3.X (and 4E) - or so I've been told (I haven't heard about many high-level and epic-level 1E and 2E characters).

What WotC seems to want to do with 5E is recalibrate D&D's own expectations for itself in order to return to that lower power-level across all of the levels. That is, it wants the gritty feeling to last more than five levels...quite possibly a lot more.

From what I've heard here and elsewhere on the internet, a lot of people want that. Or at least, they want some version of that.

The thing is, I'm somewhat concerned about what gets lost in the transition. Is there no room for the game having some point where your character has justifiably graduated to being measurably better than ordinary people? Or even so powerful that he's practically a demigod in the campaign world? I'm surprised by how many people seem to think that, to whatever degree, playing a truly powerful character is anathema to what D&D is.

5E is framing itself in very positive terms, but I can't help but wonder if a large portion of what it's trying to do is better define what D&D is not.
 

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KarinsDad

Adventurer
The thing is, I'm somewhat concerned about what gets lost in the transition. Is there no room for the game having some point where your character has justifiably graduated to being measurably better than ordinary people? Or even so powerful that he's practically a demigod in the campaign world? I'm surprised by how many people seem to think that, to whatever degree, playing a truly powerful character is anathema to what D&D is.

I think that one doesn't have to worry about PCs not being measurably better than ordinary NPCs. A single 5D6 Fireball will dissuade that kind of thinking.


As for playing Gods, that's a bit illusory in 4E (less so in 3E).

4E PC Gods are not really that. Yes, they can stand toe to toe with really powerful monsters, but the rules still handcuff them. Most of them cannot shapechange or have worshipers or even go invisible. Powerful, but not versatile. To me, a real god would be able to do a lot of things that simple 5th level spellcasters can already do, but most 4E Epic PCs cannot do most of that.

So, D&D will probably always be a system where the PCs are not truly gods, rather they are just more powerful. This will occur in 5E as well, it just might be a different form of power (5 attacks in a single round) as opposed to a 95% chance to hit 95% of all monsters ever conceived.
 

harlokin

First Post
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The thing is, I'm somewhat concerned about what gets lost in the transition. Is there no room for the game having some point where your character has justifiably graduated to being measurably better than ordinary people? Or even so powerful that he's practically a demigod in the campaign world? I'm surprised by how many people seem to think that, to whatever degree, playing a truly powerful character is anathema to what D&D is.

I couldn't agree more. I don't mind starting off as 'farmer's son with a pitchfork' if I can graduate to being the equivalent of Achilles some day.

If on the other hand I'm going to be only a little stronger than the bulk of the population for my whole career, I might as well play Rune Quest, which does low fantasy far more logically than DnD.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
All they have to do (and this might be what they intend to do, all we've seen or heard about is low-level play) is stick to the 4e idea of Tiers, and make each tier feel different.

Heroic (gritty)
Paragon (Action heroes)
Epic (Supergods)
 

francisca

I got dice older than you.
Well, the bit about the game transforming from gritty low-level heroes who become wuxia masters and then superheroes isn't how the game played before 3.X (and 4E) - or so I've been told (I haven't heard about many high-level and epic-level 1E and 2E characters).

Speaking only of my own experience as a long time 1e AD&D DM/player who ran and played 3e for about 5 years along the way, this really is a YMMV situation.

My cousin ran a very gritty "magic scarce" campaign in OD&D/AD&D for years. There were no generic +1 swords, etc...very gritty, very focused on the sword aspect of swords and sorcery.

But on the other hand I recall groups where the DM handed out 10x by-the-book XP so they could "get to the good stuff" sooner, meaning so they could go kill the gods in D&DG with their 100th level characters. Bitd, and even today with groups who still play 1e, it really depends on the DM and players, in my experience.

IMO, 3e changed that with the CR system, etc...and reigned in both ends of the spectrum.

I've no meaningful long-term play experience with 4e, so I can't comment on it.
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
One of my favorite gaming blogs is The Alexandrian, and one of my favorite articles over there is D&D: Calibrating Your Expectations.

The article talks about a lot of things, but one of the more salient points is that a lot of people head(ed) into 3.X with the expectation of the entire game playing like a low-power/magic, LotR-like fantasy adventure RPG, and then become disillusioned as the game becomes less and less conducive to this style of play as you level up more and more.

The article argues that this is a feature, rather than a bug, of the game, and says that rather than trying to "fix" this, it's better to calibrate your expectations to the fact that the game is really only about gritty heroism for the first five levels or so, and that after that you start getting wuxia heroes, superheroes, etc. (Incidentally, it was this that inspired the idea of E6 and capping level advancement before it fully left the "gritty" realm of play).

So how does this relate to 5E?

Well, the bit about the game transforming from gritty low-level heroes who become wuxia masters and then superheroes isn't how the game played before 3.X (and 4E) - or so I've been told (I haven't heard about many high-level and epic-level 1E and 2E characters).

What WotC seems to want to do with 5E is recalibrate D&D's own expectations for itself in order to return to that lower power-level across all of the levels. That is, it wants the gritty feeling to last more than five levels...quite possibly a lot more.

Hard to tell at this point exactly what WOTC has planned for higher-level play. Nonetheless, if the "core" game goes up to level 20, I could easily envision an "Ascension" module that either tweaked the teens or tacked on 10 levels to take you out of the realm of mere mortals.
 

Consonant Dude

First Post
The thing is, I'm somewhat concerned about what gets lost in the transition. Is there no room for the game having some point where your character has justifiably graduated to being measurably better than ordinary people? Or even so powerful that he's practically a demigod in the campaign world? I'm surprised by how many people seem to think that, to whatever degree, playing a truly powerful character is anathema to what D&D is.

I think there are two things to take into consideration. The rules and the flavor.

Rules-wise, high levels are tougher to DM for me. Extremely powerful characters who have a vast array of abilities as a group make it tough to build adventures that are challenging. A well-rounded group will have a shortcut for almost everything and that just becomes boring for everyone involved.

Fluff-wise, it's even worse. Ad your characters progress, you throw at them a lot more non-sensical creatures. Everything gets bigger and bigger until the world is an inconsistent mess. If the stakes are constantly at the highest... well nothing really matters anymore.

I compare this to Hollywood movie sequels. The first movie is usually amazing. Then they have to raise the stakes more and more in subsequent films until nothing really makes sense anymore. Badass characters are OK but you have to be careful not to turn the whole thing into a caricature.
 

harlokin

First Post
I think there are two things to take into consideration. The rules and the flavor.

Rules-wise, high levels are tougher to DM for me. Extremely powerful characters who have a vast array of abilities as a group make it tough to build adventures that are challenging. A well-rounded group will have a shortcut for almost everything and that just becomes boring for everyone involved.

Fluff-wise, it's even worse. Ad your characters progress, you throw at them a lot more non-sensical creatures. Everything gets bigger and bigger until the world is an inconsistent mess. If the stakes are constantly at the highest... well nothing really matters anymore.

I compare this to Hollywood movie sequels. The first movie is usually amazing. Then they have to raise the stakes more and more in subsequent films until nothing really makes sense anymore. Badass characters are OK but you have to be careful not to turn the whole thing into a caricature.

With respect though, if you are not comfortable with high-level play, it is your call whether you run it.

The problem is, if the option isn't included in the rules, it is very difficult for those who want to play higher powered campaigns to do so.
 

JRRNeiklot

First Post
Instead of farmboy to demigod, I'd like to see it range from high school athlete to hall of fame inductee. You start out slightly better than most and end up among the elite, but never overshadow everyone (Babe Ruth not withstanding).
 

Hassassin

First Post
From what I've heard here and elsewhere on the internet, a lot of people want that. Or at least, they want some version of that.

Some want a relatively static power level without genre shifts, some want gritty to superheroes to gods.

I think there should be tiers. Either two: non-epic (linear growth) and epic (exponential); or three: heroic, paragon and epic, or whatever.

Extrapolating from the buzz E6 created, there is a sizeable subset of D&D players who want to stay low fantasy (or insert more appropriate term). Therefore, recalibrating so that (at least) levels 1-10 = real world human potential would in my opinion be a good thing.
 

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