• The VOIDRUNNER'S CODEX is LIVE! Explore new worlds, fight oppressive empires, fend off fearsome aliens, and wield deadly psionics with this comprehensive boxed set expansion for 5E and A5E!

D&D General DM Says No Powergaming?


B/X Known World
As stated multiple times already, this is the Stormwind Fallacy, a disproven myth that has teeth because it "feels truthy". That part isn't up for discussion, that's already be long discredited.
The thing about the Stormwind fallacy is that it's only a fallacy if you assume that all power gamers are bad at role-playing. It in no way prevents some actual power gamers from being bad at role-playing. I've played with dozens of them in my time. It's fallacious to assume. But it's not fallacious to point it out when you run into them at your table.

log in or register to remove this ad

I'm open to different ways to make that character choice matter. As it stands in the rules, however, it doesn't.
You know what's going to happen is some game is going to get inspired by D&D and come up with a tremendous system and like maybe 7E will learn from if we're lucky. Definitely designers out there who could do something really cool and make the choice matter and be involving.

As a side note I was interested to see the Worlds Without Number sourcebook The Atlas of the Latter Earth (which is cool but really could have stood to have a reminder of what all the terms were so I don't have to constantly reference back and forth what X being is! There's a lot of weird dudes in WWN!) added a number of classes and one of those was the Accursed, a WWN take on the 5E Warlock (very much definitely the 5E one specifically), which is pretty damn cool, and it's take on the patrons is explicitly that the power cannot be revoked (I know, I know, I'm just saying, because they're very clear) and that the majority of patrons are beings so alien in mindset they'll never have much interest in you - but your fellow minions might. It's an elegant design with a simple choice between Accursed Bolt (Eldritch Blast) and Accursed Blade (basically Hexblade/Pact of the Blade), or both but that's costs an Invocation-equivalent (they have versions of most of the cool invocations, and some of their own), and allowing you to use the best of STR, DEX, INT or CHA to attack with.


As a sometimes powergamer, if you include the next phrase, "...who may be differentiated from normal powergamers..." then the mark seems hit, to me.
That's the problem with blanket statements. One can only say that some powergamers are a problem with any claim to accuracy, but one could also make the same statement about frequent posters to EN World, guys named Keith, or anyone who decorates using wallpaper. The odds are that those accusations are accurate with approximately the same frequency.

Powergaming, in its truest form, is simply optimizing a character, through some means, in order to achieve a desired goal. Usually, that goal is to excel at a task, or range of tasks, at the cost of poor performance at other tasks. This can be achieved through aranging ability scores, gear, class, feats, spells, or any number of other means and in no way directs or implies a particular play style.

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
or telling other players what they should do.

Now that was super interesting. After two long paragraphs purely about builds, you suddenly drop that in there as if it’s not a topic change.

Which suggests to me…or really confirms my suspicion…that this “powergaming” bogeyman isn’t really about optimization (because, let’s face it, the delta between “optimized” and “normal” in 5e is just not that large) but rather about a perceived correlation between optimization and jerky behavior.

And, as I noted upthread, banning certain builds won’t prevent jerks from being jerks.


This is a common fallacy, so common it has a name: The Stormwind Fallacy. It's been disproven again and again.
You can't actually disprove my personal experience.

Expanding on that: I have never seen an instance of power gaming that wasn't also meta-gaming, which for me as antithetical to the kind of D&D that I personal enjoy. I am not judging others for what they enjoy; there is no right or wrong here. I am simply stating what my personal experience and taste is. Saying that "it has been disproven" is a non sequitur, since I did not state an absolute. In fact, I specifically pointed out that this was my experience and emphatically not an absolute.

To put it in terms of logic, since you are citing a gaming version of a standard logical fallacy, you are applying an a priori test to my a posteriori claim. Which is, in fact, your logical fallacy, not mine.

My point stands. And it is only true for me. I am not saying anything about what you should feel, or that you are wrong in feeling however you do about this issue.

Edit: building on that, to put it in plain English: the issue is between two types of truth tests. A priori tests, also commonly called coherence truth tests, are claims based upon pure reason. In a nutshell, they are claims expressed so that if the premises are correct, then the conclusion must inevitably follow. Mathematics, for example. Had I committed the "Stormwind Fallacy," I would have written something to the effect of:

Premise 1: Roleplaying and character optimization are mutually exclusive.
Premise 2: Player X is optimizing.
Conclusion: Player X is not roleplaying.
The so-called "Stormwind Fallacy" has not actually been committed in this thread that I have seen, and I rather doubt that it has ever been committed by anyone, because I doubt anyone would claim that optimization and role-play are logically exclusive. So I think it is actually a classic strawman argument - a way to avoid debating the actual claim by twisting it.

However, I did not make anything like such an extreme claim, so any charge of the "Stormwind Fallacy" is wrong and a straw man argument. I made a different kind of claim which relies not on coherence but on correspondence. This is an a posteriori claim, which is never absolute and is rooted in observations. In a nutshell, the claim is true insofar as it corresponds to evidence. The sciences rely on this sort of reasoning. The main difference is that the conclusion is never an absolute. Here is the actual argument that I made:

Premise 1: I have observed that roleplaying and extreme optimization (also known as "power gaming) have been generally exclusive in my personal experience.
Premise 2: I prefer an emphasis on roleplaying.
Conclusion: I don't want power gaming in the games that I run.

Note also that I was at some pains to point out that "optimization" and "power gaming" are very loosely defined terms, so probably no one in this discussion is actually debating the exact same point. I was also at some pains to point out that "YVMV," thus acknowledging that my personal experience is only that, and entirely subjective. And finally, I have consistently emphasized that there is no right or wrong here, just personal preferences.

So having my nuanced argument and subjective, personal experience dismissed as the dreaded (and in logical terms farcical) "Stormwind Fallacy" is not a convincing response. However, responding to that charge has been kind of fun, and that's what these discussions are for, so cheers.

TLDR: Stop citing the "Stormwind Fallacy." It's a logical fail and not a meaningful argument.

Edit 2: I think you meant to write "...it's been proven again and again," not disproven, since I think you intended to affirm the so-called "Stormwind Fallacy," correct? Note that if it is, in fact, a logical truth it would only have to be proven once. Saying it has been proven "again and again" would be like asserting that 2+2=4 is more true because it has been proven again and again.
Last edited:


Follower of the Way
That is how it works in D&D. I just feel making the choice to hitch your star to another being for power should have some teeth to it, and am a little irked that the default rules basically encourage you to not care about that, because it makes no difference mechanically.
While I admit I personally find a lot of the proposals for adding "teeth" to various components of D&D to be actively un-fun, I can recognize that this is something people might want. I think the big problem you're facing is cultural, and very specifically caused by 3rd edition.

Because 3e massively expanded the kinds of DM dick moves you could pull, through its mechanics involving divine casters generally and Paladins very specifically. The descriptions for the Paladin's code are poorly-written and full of both significant assumptions and logical loopholes, which directly contributed to both the "Paladin Catch-22" problem (DMs forcing Paladins to fall by making them choose between Good and Law, and thus no matter what they choose, they fall because they didn't choose the other thing) and the "Lawful Stupid Paladin" problem (paladin players being jerk@$$ moral police and/or Tautological Templars to the other players or otherwise harming the overall game experience.) Further, the whole "your god can pull the plug literally at any time" mechanic wasn't so much giving the mechanics teeth as straight up handing every DM live ordinance with "don't use this incorrectly" as the only real instructions.

That, I think, has led to a rather extensive and durable distaste for any mechanics which put significant veto power over the player's ability to keep playing as the character they want to play. Years (more than a decade, if you count PF) of DMs being crappy about that power has inserted a cultural perception that DMs, on the whole, do not use this power with the judicious caution it deserves, or at least not consistently enough to make the stuff involved worth playing. Much the same, for example, as the vehemently negative reaction from many DMs, and players, to anything that looks like a Prestige Class. It doesn't matter if you have a great idea and you intend to use it responsibly and you do in fact actually produce something balanced and effective and flavorful. The well is already poisoned; the bitten are already shy. It will take a long time--possibly a decade or more, though perhaps less due to the massive influx of genuinely brand-new players--before DMs are willing to even consider something PrC-like. I'm pretty sure the same applies to giving "teeth" to mechanics that "hitch your star to another being for power."

So. With all that said. What would you do to give it teeth? As I said above, I'm a skeptic. I find a lot of mechanics of this nature are not only purely stick with zero carrot, but the stick usually takes the form of being annoying, cryptic to the point of actually insoluble, and/or nuclear in nature. Where this "hitching" is actually more like being shackled and players would rather play literally anything else because power gained through such inappropriate means absolutely has to be accompanied with filing one's taxes every few weeks. For the cryptic, making it so there "really is" a way to work through, but it's so convoluted it would offend Sierra adventure game puzzle designers. Or, in the nuclear case, one wrong move and poof, your whole character just got thrown in the trash, congratulations, you're now playing an NPC Sidekick as opposed to the actual character you wanted to play.

I say this not because I am trying to be aggressive, but because I want to make it very clear where I'm coming from. I would actually really like to see mechanics that give "teeth" to this kind of thing that aren't tedious or disproportionate. In the ideal case, they'd actually be useful to me as DM for my Dungeon World game.


Morkus from Orkus
By comparison, the entire point of powergaming IS to win. To achieve, by some external standard, the best possible result--not just an enjoyable result. What I have previously called the "Score and Achievement" purpose of gaming. Score is the (semi-objective) metric by which one judges success, and Achievement is the act of succeeding at relevant goals while avoiding pitfalls along the way. The pleasure of powergaming is very specifically rooted in, as the kids say, wanting "to be the very best, like no one ever was."
The problem with this is that D&D cannot be won this way. In fact, D&D cannot really be won at all. It's not a traditional game with win criteria that once achieved end the game.

Combat is also only 1/3 of the tiers, and the other two are usually much more important. Sure the powergamer can kill the ogre single handedly, but the guy who roleplays with the DM to get local lord to send a garrison to keep the ogres out is doing much more.

A PC cannot optimize for everything, and what powergamers optimize for most often is combat. I'm plenty happy to let them feel good about themselves for face stomping something unimportant and do the heavy lifting for the campaign myself.

I'm not saying that a power gamer cannot also roleplay, but if one optimizes for social and/or exploration, they are going to suffer in combat. You can't do all three and combat, despite how much game time it takes up, is the least of the three.
Last edited:

Now that was super interesting. After two long paragraphs purely about builds, you suddenly drop that in there as if it’s not a topic change.

Which suggests to me…or really confirms my suspicion…that this “powergaming” bogeyman isn’t really about optimization (because, let’s face it, the delta between “optimized” and “normal” in 5e is just not that large) but rather about a perceived correlation between optimization and jerky behavior.

And, as I noted upthread, banning certain builds won’t prevent jerks from being jerks.
But it sometimes helps to reign them in. Sometimes against jerks you have to draw lines. Some jerks want to dominate the game, play against the DM instead of playing with them. At some point you as a DM have to say: stop, or the game will fall apart. Not of ill will, but because you as a DM just lose fun to always accomodate to one certain player.

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads