D&D General DM Says No Powergaming?

MwaO

Adventurer
I think this is an example of why a session 0 is a good thing and why it is good to get buy-in.
DM: "I want to make the game feel challenging. I don't want to get into a game of 'team who goes first wins rocket tag' in order to challenge you. I'd also like to see everyone in roughly the same power level ballpark so no one feels left out. Does that make sense?"

A DM pronouncing no power gaming as a dictate is probably trying to say the above, because it has felt badwrong when the above happened before and can't necessarily put their finger on it. Help them out by offering the above, see if that's what they want. If they say, yes, you know what's going on. If they say no, I just hate power gaming without making it clear why, maybe need to find a different game.
 

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As a result, you can justify a number of approaches: if you are the DM, your decision is the law in your world. However, it’s a choice to take a hard stand and is NOT hardcoded in the rules.
Absolutely right. By what we have, there will be Warlocks who are basically the puppets on strings of certain devils with too much time on their hands, but equally they could drawing power from beings who barely know they exist, and even those signed up with devils could be like Warlock #12235 who is signed up to him, and he's hardly going to get personal attention from such a busy devil (except maybe if he's actively messing with the devil's business). And even then it's questionable as to whether the pact can be revoked. AFAIK nothing at all in text suggests it can be. Rather the only action the devil could take would be to set his lawyers on you send his fiendish hellhounds etc. after you.
 

DM: "I want to make the game feel challenging. I don't want to get into a game of 'team who goes first wins rocket tag' in order to challenge you. I'd also like to see everyone in roughly the same power level ballpark so no one feels left out. Does that make sense?"
The trouble is that first line doesn't necessarily make any sense in 5E (or 4E). I'd consider it a lesser red flag because what it indicates is that the DM doesn't understand how the game breaks, but at least is trying to find a rationale.

In 3E that maybe made sense, but even then it was arguable.

5E simply isn't a "rocket tag"-type game, even with a party full of highly-optimized PCs. How do I know this? I've played D&D with a party full of highly-optimized PCs. Like you might want to use more Hard and low-Deadly encounters than with a "normal" group of PCs, but not by much, not to the point that a "normal" group couldn't expect to handle it. There are games where "rocket tag" balancing can be a real issue, but 5E D&D isn't one. I can expand on this if you like.

Then the second line is problematic because of the inherent full caster > everyone else gap and long rest class > short rest class gap that 5E has. So there's already a power disparity, especially in the exploration and social pillars. So maybe you need to start thinking about what classes to ban if you genuinely don't want anyone to feel left out, because Fighters particularly are likely to get left out, so maybe they need to go?
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Unfair mechanical consequences relative to the other classes. It shouldn't be unfair. If that sounds like "the PCs actions shouldn't have consequences" you seriously need to reevaluate how you're reading my posts.
I'm talking about mechanical consequences, stuff you can't ignore or avoid in the game. Your suggestions are all narrative consequences.

As far as fairness goes, ok. I strongly believe that your choice of fictional power source has appropriate, verisimilitudinous effects, so if fairness is an issue, I would find a way for similar consequences for other classes. They would just have to be based on PC choices in a similar way.
 
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tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
I'll admit that I basically skimmed most of the warlock-patron posts in this thread, but is "pulling rank" a huge issue? Isn't this mostly handled by the DM's world building?

Who, exactly, can the warlock pull rank on? If their patron is an Archfey, it isn't the only Archfey. And when your patron is of the more capricious variety--which many/most warlock patrons seem to be (archfey, demons, far realm...), their can certainly be factions among the patronized.

This is where the renown rules in the DMG can come in handy. I find the DMG rules to be a bit too basic and use a combination or Reputation rules from an ENworld article and rules from Strongholds and Followers (by MCCM), as well as downtime activities and complications from Xanathar's Guide. So, sure, there are times where a warlock can pull rank, and that's a feature not a bug. But ALL PCs have the opportunity to pull rank and call in favors. Whether it is related to having a supernatural patron, being part of an organization, or just being a highly respected member of a community is flavoring.
It creates a plot door for players that exists beyond the station of what players should be able to create without investment. Eventually a situation will come up where opening it seems useful. At that point the class is pretty explicitly setup to ensure that opening the door can never have a downside with Crawford even taking it a step further in at least one videogoing on about how they intended to make it one sided irrevocable power the GM can't use sticks to pull strings with.

Sure the GM could refuse to allow a player to open that door or open it easily but that leads to a few problems. Firstly is that the player could be opening that door in an effort to circumvent hurdles elsewhere making the prospect of creating new hurdles tenuous. Secondly is a pretty big one, the gm can not simply lock & barricade the door without...
Spell name: Player Resentment
Casting time: One Argument
Duration: The Campaign
It loops onto the "I'm a roleplayer" flavor of powergaming that sits pretty adjacent to the "you run the game I demand because that's your job". Coincidentally I recently had one such player reach out to me with a question about a campaign that ended nearly three years ago when I got covid january2020... Not having really interacted with them much since I didn't think much about it & gave him an answer that was basically "no because it's The Dark Powers not xxx who controls that aspect of ravenloft". In the time it took me to get dressed & pour a cup of coffee I was accused of failing to compromise on a story a player was excited about telling and trying to force through my own story simply by answering a ravenloft lore question not particularly specific to a game that ended nearly three years prior.



It's not just an archfey/fiend though, the PHB even names some. Beings of this sort include the Prince of Frost; the Queen of Air and Darkness, ruler of the Gloaming Court; Titania of the Summer Court; her consort Oberon, the Green Lord; Hyrsam, the Prince of Fools... Some of those are deific level rank entities with the literary & mythological creds to claim it. while others are servants to some in that list.

The Fiend is no better & in some ways much worse because it namedrops (mostly) d&d specific beings with significant worldbuilding attached to them.
iends powerful enough to
forge a pact include Demon lords such as Demogorgon, Orcus, Fraz’Urb-luu, and Baphomet; archdevils such as Asmodeus, Dispater, M ephistopheles, and Belial; pit fiends and balors that are especially mighty; and ultroloths and other lords of the yugoloths Some of those are literally plot level beings in DiA but even in other campaigns they link to a fairly notable percentage of totesbadstopthem cultists. Nice of the PHB to mention some nameless peons by rank after going through so many deific level toting named individuals.

From there it literally jumps to Cthulhu... not an eldergod, not one of their servants.... The unknowable reality warping mind shattering Cthulhu himself.... Yea... that couldn't possibly cause problems
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
That’s not a problem. Most classes in D&D are extremely broad, and the fewer players play the narrow ones because they are so niche (hello, Monk!).

In a game where the niches include:
  • studiously masters magic that can do everything except healing or resurrection;
  • fighting without magic;
  • being good at skills;
  • can use music, oratory, dance or even words of encouragement to do magic.

“Got their powers from an external source” isn’t a particularly broad niche.
Right, but those other things you mentioned all directly affect the PC in question, mechanically. It affects what abilities they have and how they work. "Got their powers from an outside source" isn't like that. Instead, all the consequences of that are expressed narratively, which means they matter when the PC wants them to matter, and there's only so much the DM can do.

It reminds me of 2e kits, where the benefits are mechanical, but the drawbacks are narrative.
 

As far as fairness goes, ok. I strongly believe that your choice of fictional power source has appropriate, verisimilitudinous effects, so if fairness is an issue, I would find a way for similar consequences for other classes. They would just have to be based on PC choices in a similar way.
I mean, it could be done, but people would not like it.

At all.

Next time the Fighter jumps down 40ft because 4d6 damage ain't nothing to him, he injures his back, and loses access to his Battlemaster dice and manuevers. Also he has to spend every short rest doing back exercises (we've all been there buddy).

The Wizard doesn't take absolutely obsessive psychotic care of their belongings, so their spell book gets stolen and they can't memorize spells anymore.

The Ranger didn't follow "leave no trace" closely enough and now not only did she lose access to her spells, but her animal companion went off in a huff.

I could go on. Even a Gunslinger could forget the face of his father ;)

The point is, if we did similar nonsense to what some people want to do with primarily Paladins, Clerics, and somewhat confusingly, Warlocks (but rarely Druids, oddly enough), people wouldn't like it. Can you even imagine how vexed/mad this would make some players? Especially some of the same sort of players who think it's totally cool to punish the Cleric or whatever. Turnabout is fair play but they're not going to see that.

I think a more realistic approach is one of making it opt-in. Ask the Warlock, do you want to have a scenario where your Patron messes with you, or do you want a more distant Patron? And would you be okay with losing your powers? The same for Paladins and Clerics. With Paladins, there is always some consensuality because oaths are opting in to this, and some oaths are so vague they're almost impossible to break (Vengeance particularly), but you can certainly ask if they want the oath to be tightly binding or more loosely interpreted. With Clerics, I think a lot of players today do not expect ANY attention AT ALL from their god, certainly below high levels, and 4E made it pretty clear Clerics could keep their powers even if they pissed their god off, so some people will still be working like that, because 5E hasn't contradicted that all (rather it just hasn't addressed the issue).

If you go for an opt-in approach to "losing your powers", I think everyone is going to have more fun.

I'd also note with Warlocks that I'm not aware of any 5E text suggesting pacts are revocable. So it would be more about making your Patron mad and thus them sending others after you.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Same thing should be done for a warlock's pact. Let the player come up with the terms their character agreed to. Of course a DM should still be able to veto that a given patron will never offer certain pact conditions should it not fit the DMs world. Like if devils only accept souls as payment.

Also some patrons might not even be powerful enough to revoke their gifts. A unicorn (CR 6) is mentioned as an example for a celestial warlock patron. At a certain point the warlock will be more powerful than their patron. The character cannot be channeling the unicorns power, much less only a part of it if they have more power.
It might even be that a patron gets part of the power their warlocks grow for them. Making warlocks investments for magical power. The patron gives their warlocks a starting gift and receives magical dividends when their agents grow in power. Even an evil patron might not ask anything of their good aligned warlock because they still get stronger the stronger their warlock becomes.

Pacts don't and shouldn't all work the same way. How boring would that be? Let people be creative.
As long as whatever way is chosen has exactly the same mechanical effects? It feels like 4e to me, where making sure you get the effects the rules say trumps any fiction, twisting the world to the crunch.
 

It feels like 4e to me, where making sure you get the effects the rules say trumps any fiction, twisting the world to the crunch.
I mean I know it's fun to rag on 4E, but 4E did the best job of any WotC edition of actually explaining how the power sources of various classes worked. For example in 4E, Clerics are given a tiny fragment of the power of the god they follow, and that power isn't on a string, so if the Cleric "goes rogue", they keep it.

Narratively and fictionally this is more detail that we'd seen since 2E (including 5E), and on top of that, it's really great for stories, because you can have "rogue Clerics" misrepresenting gods, who need to be dealt with. You don't have to just be the one in trouble, you could be the one ending trouble. Indeed one of the elements of my campaign was that a number of senior Clerics of Bahamut had broken away and created their own, more warlike church, which was far more successful follower-wise than the "main" church. Of course they had the issue that that because Bahamut wasn't happy with them, they could not create new clerics - so they had to try and indoctrinate/poach/brainwash existing Bahamut Clerics... or even go to darker powers!

Don't you think that's kind of neat? I don't think that's "rules trumps fiction", at least with Clerics. I think that's actually pretty rockin'.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I mean, it could be done, but people would not like it.

At all.

Next time the Fighter jumps down 40ft because 4d6 damage ain't nothing to him, he injures his back, and loses access to his Battlemaster dice and manuevers. Also he has to spend every short rest doing back exercises (we've all been there buddy).

The Wizard doesn't take absolutely obsessive psychotic care of their belongings, so their spell book gets stolen and they can't memorize spells anymore.

The Ranger didn't follow "leave no trace" closely enough and now not only did she lose access to her spells, but her animal companion went off in a huff.

I could go on. Even a Gunslinger could forget the face of his father ;)

The point is, if we did similar nonsense to what some people want to do with primarily Paladins, Clerics, and somewhat confusingly, Warlocks (but rarely Druids, oddly enough), people wouldn't like it. Can you even imagine how vexed/mad this would make some players? Especially some of the same sort of players who think it's totally cool to punish the Cleric or whatever. Turnabout is fair play but they're not going to see that.

I think a more realistic approach is one of making it opt-in. Ask the Warlock, do you want to have a scenario where your Patron messes with you, or do you want a more distant Patron? And would you be okay with losing your powers? The same for Paladins and Clerics. With Paladins, there is always some consensuality because oaths are opting in to this, and some oaths are so vague they're almost impossible to break (Vengeance particularly), but you can certainly ask if they want the oath to be tightly binding or more loosely interpreted. With Clerics, I think a lot of players today do not expect ANY attention AT ALL from their god, certainly below high levels, and 4E made it pretty clear Clerics could keep their powers even if they pissed their god off, so some people will still be working like that, because 5E hasn't contradicted that all (rather it just hasn't addressed the issue).

If you go for an opt-in approach to "losing your powers", I think everyone is going to have more fun.

I'd also note with Warlocks that I'm not aware of any 5E text suggesting pacts are revocable. So it would be more about making your Patron mad and thus them sending others after you.
I would be fine with opt-in, but certain character concepts really lend themselves to having these kind of issues.

Incidentally, every situation you described is something that has or can happened in a story, so it's not like those things wouldn't make sense, even if the rules don't support that sort of thing.

And yes, I'm aware there's nothing in 5e that says the powers are revocable, so everyone can stop mentioning it.
 

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