D&D 5E A Power Dial Separate From Level

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
I have been thinking about this for a bit and wanted to discuss it and see if we could collectively come up with a way to make it happen.

I think there should be a power level dial that is independent of character level. That is, a set of rules adjustments that you can easily set to a preferred power level for characters that takes effect at level 1 and stays consistent and relevant throughout the campaign.

It seems to me the dial would adjust at least the following things: ability score array, hit dice size, healing rate, number of feats, and ability uses rest/recovery mechanics. For example, the high powered dial might give an array like 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 12, increase hit dice by 2 steps, give bonus feats at every other level, etc... A low powered dial would have a meager array, decrease hit die types, and limit access to healing. That sort of thing.

As a starting point,: what specific areas do you think a Power Dial should impact, and how would you implement it?
 

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nevin

Hero
I'll beat the dead horse again. That's what magic Items are. magic items can affect your damage, your healing, they can give you feats, they can be one use, multi use, daily use etc. And they can be blown up , stolen or demagicked at any time. 5E's biggest mistake IMO was buying into the groupthink about the christmas tree effect and doing attunement and limiting magic items. DM controls when they come, DM controls when they go away. It's already there just use it.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
I'll beat the dead horse again. That's what magic Items are. magic items can affect your damage, your healing, they can give you feats, they can be one use, multi use, daily use etc. And they can be blown up , stolen or demagicked at any time. 5E's biggest mistake IMO was buying into the groupthink about the christmas tree effect and doing attunement and limiting magic items. DM controls when they come, DM controls when they go away. It's already there just use it.
Except that isn't at all what i am talking about.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
If you're interested in using power level as a way to emulate certain genres (e.g. Low Fantasy), then I would definitely consider Spell Access an important area to restrain. And I don't just mean spell level, but more critically a disparity within spells of the same level – some can have significant impact on genre even right at 1st level (e.g. at-will access to magic, becalming a wild animal, understanding all languages, creating water or magically nourishing food, dropping up to 600 feet without harm). I bring this one up because it would be the most work & involve the most clarity of design intent.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
If you're interested in using power level as a way to emulate certain genres (e.g. Low Fantasy), then I would definitely consider Spell Access an important area to restrain. And I don't just mean spell level, but more critically a disparity within spells of the same level – some can have significant impact on genre even right at 1st level (e.g. at-will access to magic, becalming a wild animal, understanding all languages, creating water or magically nourishing food, dropping up to 600 feet without harm). I bring this one up because it would be the most work & involve the most clarity of design intent.
I agree with you but am not sure you could easily do it with a dial setting. I guess you could augment the spell list with a tag for each spellt hat indicates what the minimum power dial setting it should be allowed in?
 

Quickleaf

Legend
I agree with you but am not sure you could easily do it with a dial setting. I guess you could augment the spell list with a tag for each spellt hat indicates what the minimum power dial setting it should be allowed in?
Absolutely. Actually, tags might be useful for your endeavor even if you decide to leave Spell Access as too much of a briar patch – tags could be used for certain races, class options, and so forth.

Slight tangent, but Shadowrun uses a priority (A through E iirc) character creation system. For example, priority A in attributes would give you tons of points, whereas priority E would give you much fewer. I believe the categories are Attributes, Skills, Money, Metatype, and Magic.

Even though you're setting a bunch of different categories at Priority A, Priority B, and so on collectively, I think that basic approach might be a good organizing principle.
 

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Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Absolutely. Actually, tags might be useful for your endeavor even if you decide to leave Spell Access as too much of a briar patch – tags could be used for certain races, class options, and so forth.

Slight tangent, but Shadowrun uses a priority (A through E iirc) character creation system. For example, priority A in attributes would give you tons of points, whereas priority E would give you much fewer. I believe the categories are Attributes, Skills, Money, Metatype, and Magic.

Even though you're setting a bunch of different categories at Priority A, Priority B, and so on collectively, I think that basic approach might be a good organizing principle.
Maybe use the rare spell approach from Level Up for magic that requires a higher dial setting? They're simply not available outside of narrative/DM adjudication.
 

Oofta

Legend
D&D 3.x point buy had different arrays for different power levels, you could start there. To make PCs more powerful there's always things like a bonus feat at first level, make spell access and scrolls easy to come by. There are boons in the DMG and likely other sources that I'm too lazy to look up at the moment. Tweaking how often PCs get to rest and what a rest entails can go both ways with PCs either resting whenever they want or limited to safe locations and a extending the time.

To make PCs less powerful you can limit access to spells, enforce spell components, be a stickler for verbal components being loud enough for everyone to hear and somatic components require a free hand. Enforce things like it takes an action to don or doff a shield so no easy switch between melee and ranged for many. Don't forget that feats are optional, as is multi-classing. Limit access to spells or ban ones you find problematic, really think about the consequences of things like casting fireball in a city. You can limit weapon and armor based on technology of the setting, although if you want to support strength based PCs, I'd be a little careful with limits to armor.

On the other side of things you can make monsters tougher, something I do simply by adding to their attack bonuses or doing additional damage. Occasionally I'll add more HP but I'm more likely to just set up the encounter environment to help the monsters. Legendary creatures get more legendary actions and saves based on the number of people in the party.

Depends on what you're going for. I've never had an issue with challenging groups, I just make sure attrition matters and think about tactics the enemy is going to use. But I don't think there is not one simple answer to me, it's a grab-bag of options you just kind of have to throw together. In my own campaigns I make some things easier, some things harder.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
D&D 3.x point buy had different arrays for different power levels, you could start there. To make PCs more powerful there's always things like a bonus feat at first level, make spell access and scrolls easy to come by. There are boons in the DMG and likely other sources that I'm too lazy to look up at the moment. Tweaking how often PCs get to rest and what a rest entails can go both ways with PCs either resting whenever they want or limited to safe locations and a extending the time.

To make PCs less powerful you can limit access to spells, enforce spell components, be a stickler for verbal components being loud enough for everyone to hear and somatic components require a free hand. Enforce things like it takes an action to don or doff a shield so no easy switch between melee and ranged for many. Don't forget that feats are optional, as is multi-classing. Limit access to spells or ban ones you find problematic, really think about the consequences of things like casting fireball in a city. You can limit weapon and armor based on technology of the setting, although if you want to support strength based PCs, I'd be a little careful with limits to armor.

On the other side of things you can make monsters tougher, something I do simply by adding to their attack bonuses or doing additional damage. Occasionally I'll add more HP but I'm more likely to just set up the encounter environment to help the monsters. Legendary creatures get more legendary actions and saves based on the number of people in the party.

Depends on what you're going for. I've never had an issue with challenging groups, I just make sure attrition matters and think about tactics the enemy is going to use. But I don't think there is not one simple answer to me, it's a grab-bag of options you just kind of have to throw together. In my own campaigns I make some things easier, some things harder.
I am talking more about baseline power as it relates to tone. What are PCs in general (at 1st or 10th level) capable of? Do they huddle behind cover or run full tilt into the fray? Can they leap a gorge or do they have to work to scramble up a rocky slope? That sort of thing. So I am looking for a broadly applicable dial that sets those expectations within minimal fiddliness.

Just spitballing here:
High Power Ability Score Array: 18 16 16 15 12 10
High Powered Hit Dice: +1 Die type, max d12. Max HP x 1.5 at 1st level, 3/4 max each level thereafter.
High Powered Feats: 2 bonus feats at 1st level and a feat each even level.
High Powered Skills: 2 extra proficient skills plus expertise in one skill.
High Powered Damage: Add character level to weapon and spell damage.
High Powered Saves: 3 total proficient saves
High Powered Class abilities: All uses per rest doubled.
High Powered rests: Immediate short rest and 10 minute long rest. Max 3 short rests per long rest and max 1 long rest per 8 hours.

Something like that. What I want to avoid is having to fiddle with all the other part of the game (monsters etc). I think that just setting the PC power level will take care of everything else.
 


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