D&D General DM Says No Powergaming?

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James Gasik

Falling Dawizard
Can't tell you how much I love "truth" delivered via interview, social media posts, and PR videos.

I also recall a fair number of people irritated with Crawford's take on his own rules. But I'm sure its much easier to accept a ruling from on high if you happen to agree with it.

But fine. We'll have to leave this a table issue then, since apparently PCs need to be protected from mechanical consequences for their actions.
I'm one of those who is constantly irritated with Crawford explaining the intent of rules when the text couldn't be bothered to do so, so I hear you there.

The thing with Paladins and Warlocks, however, comes down to this. Losing their powers isn't a balance point in 5e. There's no reason for it to be. Now to be sure, we more or less expect Paladins to be "good"-ish guys, but each Oath has it's own code of conduct, some of which stray from the traditional archetype.

And the thing is, there is a sidebar in the PHB that states exactly what should happen if the oath is broken. "At the DM's discretion, an impenitent paladin might be forced to abandone this class and adopt another, or perhaps to take the Oathbreaker paladin option that appears in the Dungeon Master's Guide". Not, lose access to powers. Not be turned into an ordinary Fighter. Just multiclass or become an Oathbreaker.

If the intent was to leave the door open for loss of powers or other penalties, wouldn't they have just said so?

Warlocks lack even this sidebar, instead the text reiterates two points. "Warlocks are driven by an insatiable need for power. No one makes a pact with a patron that doesn't intend to use the power thus gained" is one. And the other is "The warlock learns and grows in power, at the cost of occasional services performed on the patron's behalf."

Occasional. This is reinforced in the text with the section about "Creating a Warlock", where the player and the DM discuss whether your patron's demands drive you into adventures, or consist entirely of small favors you can do between adventures", as well as what the relationship between Warlock and patron is like.

Since loss of powers is never even touched upon, all you can infer from the text is that an angry patron might not grant you further powers- again, like the Paladin, you might be forced to multiclass, abandoning the path of the Warlock.

Now obviously, if the DM wants to impose additional restrictions upon these classes, they can. And the player has a right to accept that and play anyways, or not. But I can't see from the text that this was ever the intention of the authors, or that it's even hinted at as what a DM should do. Again, these classes are in no way intended to be balanced around "but you might lose your powers".

Further, I would go on to point out that forcing someone who plays a Fiendlock to be a right bastard and constantly act to further the goals of Evil in what is generally a heroic game where teamwork and trust are required to succeed seems at odds with what you'd want players to do.

It's worth pointing out that even the Paladin, that talks about fighting evil and doing the cause of good constantly, doesn't have "Must be Good" as a requirement. Nor does the Fiend Pact have "Must be Non-Good" stamped on it either.

That might rub some the wrong way, but it's intended to allow people to play characters without having straightjackets of "how you must play" imposed upon them. Evil can certainly have champions as well as Good, and the past of the game is littered with Anti-Paladins and Blackguards, just as examples.

And someone deciding to play a Paladin or Warlock or Cleric or what have you, that is at odds with the source of their power is certainly not powergaming by default! One can have a great story with someone who wrestles with the source of their power while trying to follow their own path.

Just as multiclassing isn't by default "powergaming", as I already pointed out, becoming a multiclassed character is a suggestion in the PHB for a "fallen" or failed Paladin!

Having had a campaign go to 17th level and experiencing the same, that's why I've banned it. It's a cheaper, penalty free resurrection magic that is always the best choice. The limitation of 1 minute came up twice during the game, but all it did was require the caster to spend an action in combat. Death is uncommon enough in 5E, so I don't feel like cheapening it further.

You can use gentle repose to conserve the body for later revivication.


Power gaming is a problem of relativity. Between different players and between the expectations of a GM and the players. For all that bounded accuracy is a thing, a set of well crafted characters can curb stomp things Many many CR higher than their APL. Despite crafty intelligent monster play. I’ve seen that many many times over my DMing career. Some times I’ve even made the problem worse with an unforeseen Magic item, more generous points buy, or a free feat at 1st level that has damaged the math of the game. That isn’t in itself a problem if the DM can keep upping the difficulty of the game to compensate.

The problem is that the more powerful the party the more hoops the GM has to jump through to challenge the party. Monster Manual creatures no longer provide a challenge, even AC18+ creatures many CR higher become trivial to hit. Party damage increases exponentially and NPC and DMs must rely on tricks to last more than a round.

As a DM I don’t want to play in a game that runs like a CRPG on story mode. Where foes are trivial. I want a sense of achievement, use of tactics, and combat seen as dangerous. The risk of death (not by rocks falling) has to be present in the game otherwise it might as well not include combat in my opinion. That’s not to same some people might not like it, it just isn’t my cup of tea. I’m interested in playing out foregone conclusions.

That said, I’m all for an honest conversation. I had such a conversation in our last session where the party had hit level 10 and were throwing CR 13-15 creatures around like kids toys. I explained how I felt and the group suggested some mitigations, one player gave up wearing a magic shield that was increasing their armour class substantially and switched to two handed. Another agreed to a modification to the grapple rules. Another suggested switching an item power that increased spell DCs to something else.

I think it’s acceptable as a DM to say, look guys, I’m not enjoying this because you have gotten too powerful. If you want to carry on playing these characters then we need to change something. I then meet them half way and do my own work to keep the campaign going. The following session then went well.

I have learnt to set expectations very early on and be very careful not to increase party power any more than the structure of the game allows. No bonuses, no magic items that increase spell DCs or ability scores, Magic +1 weapons extremely limited. In short, tactical options not force multipliers.

I do think that One D&D fixes a lot of my greatest concerns.


Can't tell you how much I love "truth" delivered via interview, social media posts, and PR videos.

I also recall a fair number of people irritated with Crawford's take on his own rules. But I'm sure its much easier to accept a ruling from on high if you happen to agree with it.

But fine. We'll have to leave this a table issue then, since apparently PCs need to be protected from mechanical consequences for their actions.

I've never had to revoke the powers of a warlock, but I have for a paladin and came close with a cleric. I'm not a big fan of warlock because there's this theoretical Sword of Damocles hanging over their head of "power at a cost" but then if the sword ever falls the DM is the bad guy?

In any case, Crawford doesn't make these decisions for my group when I DM. I let people know that there may well be an actual cost to being a warlock if they discuss playing one in the session 0 and it hasn't been an issue.

Maybe I’ve just never played with power gamers, but for me I just try to encourage roleplaying and building interesting characters with interesting stories. If they happen to be mechanically powerful too I’m cool with that.

As for Warlock patron pacts, etc… again, I try to encourage the player by offering boons for doing what the patron asks, rather than punishing them for not doing things they might not be interested in.


Always funny how people rank things. Like monks being terrible. My way of mercy monk in our ToA campaign has been right up there with the rogue in damage, frequently surpassing them. Admittedly that's in part because we're using the new rules from Tasha's where I can use my warhammer and get D10 for most attacks. Add in that we get fairly frequent short rests.

But stunning strike? We've been facing so many brutes and constructs that I rarely use it. We're just about done and it's worked maybe twice? Meanwhile I've saved a few of my fellow PCs with my healing or physician's touch. Since I'm one of the two main front line fighters, along with the moon druid who transform into the biggest beast that will fit wherever we are. My being able to heal myself has been a huge benefit as well.

I'm not saying my experience is universal, but the DM cranked the difficulty up to 11 because we just tore through everything he threw at us, in large part because of a combination of how much damage my monk does in a round along with the moon druid being a great damage soak. The casters in the party almost play a supporting role. The casters are good at different things, but my monk still has plenty of chance to shine out of combat as well. For the most part though we work as a team both in and out of combat. It's not a competition.

A feat like Sharpshooter will get an Sctier ranking while a rubbish one gets a D or F (most use S,A,B,C,D).

Feats, classes, races get rated. A Twilight cleric for example is S tier so you might add warcaster (A or S) and pick some race that is S tier as well.

Gloomstalker ranger plus variant human or woid elf, plus sharpshooter would be another "meta" example.
Speaking of tiers, this is an element that makes DMing harder than when most of us started.

In a group where the DM and the players are new, a new player can copy a powerbuild off youtube, making things more challenging for a new DM.


A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
There have been people in this forum that have said rolling for stats, instead of using stat array or point buy, is powergaming.
They must have very lucky players or let those players reroll poorly rolled stats.

With my luck, rolling for stats is often a case of "oh boy, well, at least let's have fun to see how long this mentally challenged runt will survive."

Yeah and just to demonstrate the subjectivity, the the Ranger's "star" is very much rising these days, and if you go on to say /r/dndnext, now, and talk Rangers, people will be saying stuff like "messy design but decent power level", where even after Tasha's, for quite a while people were saying "Rangers real bad".
Monks and rangers are the hardest to rate, for two reasons. For both, it’s because there is such a power disparity between subclasses, as a gloomstalker ranger is at least one tier higher than the PHB Beastmaster ranger. (Same thing between the 4 Elements monk and some of the later monks).

The second issue applies only to rangers and has to do with the fact that 3 versions of the ranger have been printed. So power level varies depends on whether you are using the PHB ranger, the Revised Ranger or Tasha’s ranger (and which class you are using for them).

I’m hoping 1D&D settles on a single ranger chassis and a single power level for its subclass.

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