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5E Is 5e Heroic, or SUPER-heroic?

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
My spouse and I were watching the New Legends of Monkey, a "Journey to the West" inspired action show. It's cheesy but entertaining. Lots of gods and legendary heroes.

... and those gods, those legendary heroes? They are like... level 7-9 characters?

It made me realize that D&D characters, especially at level 5 and above, are not heroes. They are super-heroes. And perhaps a big bold style is best suited for the game?

The gritty, grubby stuff should be reserved for other games (warhammer, older editions of D&D like B/x or a modern retroclone, the GLOG... And you could have these heroes be "reborn" or "ascended" as young "gods" in the world once they reach level 5 - they now have 5e powers and hit points, they are more colorful, they heal fast, they are hard to kill...

 

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Coroc

Hero
Well the monkey king is a classic Asian legend, and he did take on buddhas and other real powerful mythic beings just with his wits chuzpe and his Bo which he could transform from toothpick size up to colossal. He was playing so many pranks to the pantheon that Buddha got angry and threw a mountain on him, burying him for good (eventually, that is :p)
 

Coroc

Hero
On your topic, the superhero question:

Are D&D characters powerful? Yep compared to e.g. DSA characters they are (most of the times).

Their magic capabilities are very high on higher XP levels.
Are they superheroes though? Well, let us see:

  • Fly at will, through outer space if needed? No, unless you are of a winged race, and then it is only maneuverability class B
  • X-ray vision or the like? Nope. You got some divination skills though for certain caster classes.
  • Being really inhumane strong, like able to lift and move a whole truck? No. They are far stronger than most world elite professional athlets, but they are not "Superman"
  • Invulnerable? No, though they can take in their package of hurt.

So they are above the things that normal IRL people could accomplish, and above many characters in other - more low magic, realistic and gritty - systems. But they are not "marvel-class" beings.

Are they heroes then? Hm, I would say that is dependent on their deeds also isn't it? If they are evil aligned and out for no good they could be villains as well , no?
 

Tonguez

Legend
But they are not "marvel-class" beings.
What is a marvel class being?
Is it a guy wearing magical power armour that allows him to fly and shoot lightning bolts? or one with a magical bow and arrow? or Barbarian who can leap off cliffs and tear through multiple challenges after drinking his potion of strength?
 

Coroc

Hero
What is a marvel class being?
Is it a guy wearing magical power armour that allows him to fly and shoot lightning bolts? or one with a magical bow and arrow? or Barbarian who can leap off cliffs and tear through multiple challenges after drinking his potion of strength?
No, I rather thought of superman, dunno if this counts.
 


TheSword

Legend
Supporter
5e is whatever you want it to be. The level of fantasy is largely dependent on the level the players and DM want to play at.

Healing, AC and Hp and the mechanics that support them are abstract terms and can always represent rolling with the blows.

I can create any number of characters that resemble Ned or Arya stark. Sure there’s magic, but my wizards don’t have to act as if they wield unlimited Cosmic POWER.

The OP’s suggestion on doubling down on the superhero-esq elements just makes it harder to play 5e the way I like and It sounds like you can already play the way you like.

My ideal fantasy implementation of 5e is like the world of Witcher 3. Yes there is magic though the big powerful stuff is rare and the simple stuff is easily accessible. Heroes can do things that normal folks can’t, but then again heroes are the exception not the norm. They can heal, they can get simple magical effects, they can attack fast and they can take damage. I wouldn’t dream of describing the world of Witcher as super hero though.
 
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Are they superheroes though? Well, let us see:
  • Fly at will, through outer space if needed? No, unless you are of a winged race, and then it is only maneuverability class B
  • X-ray vision or the like? Nope. You got some divination skills though for certain caster classes.
  • Being really inhumane strong, like able to lift and move a whole truck? No. They are far stronger than most world elite professional athlets, but they are not "Superman"
  • Invulnerable? No, though they can take in their package of hurt.
High level DnD PCs do all that and more.
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
High level DnD PCs do all that and more.
But they don’t have to. Flight is not ubiquitous, it has a cost - namely not being able to cast any other concentration spells, or for a limited time. Or for needing a flying mount.

Your play style may not be the same play style as me. Maybe my group isn’t fond of specific classes or subclasses. Maybe we have different quantities of magic items or avoid certain types. Maybe there is more or less focus on downtime.

What I love about this game is that it can be a broad church, where everyone can play how they want.
 


My ideal fantasy implementation of 5e is like the world of Witcher 3. Yes there is magic though the big powerful stuff is rare and the simple stuff is easily accessible. Heroes can do things that normal folks can’t, but then again heroes are the exception not the norm. They can heal, they can get simple magical effects, they can attack fast and they can take damage. I wouldn’t dream of describing the world of Witcher as super hero though.
The Witcher is every inch a superhero - he is even is a mutant with an origin story. His superpowers aren't as strong as Superman, but he could go toe-to-toe with Captain America, who has a similar origin.

And so is Ciri.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I think they're closer to heroes than superheroes. That said, "superheroes" covers a wide range from street level to cosmic, so the claim itself is somewhat nebulous. Certainly, a reasonable argument can be made that they resemble super-heroic characters at the lower end of the scale.

Many classes have access to magic, but I don't think that necessarily makes one a superhero. There are plenty of powerful magic-using characters in fantasy who (I don't think) most people would classify as superheroes. I certainly wouldn't classify Harry Potter as a superhero. ;) I can't even really put my finger on why. I have no issues with Doctor Strange being a super hero, but the idea of classifying Harry Potter as one feels inaccurate, despite many commonalities.

This is a place where bounded accuracy has a significant impact in my opinion. Fairly high level characters can be killed by a sufficient number of relatively low CR creatures in 5e. That feels more heroic than superheroic to me. I would would say that 3.x is more super-heroic by comparison. Of course, given the wide range that superheroes encompass, either could technically fit.

The superhero genre is quite vast and encompasses characters from wildly disparate power levels. While we wouldn't blink if Wolverine leapt off a towering cliff and just kept going, most people would be a bit incredulous if Cyclops did the same thing. I don't really think that D&D characters are superheroes per se, but ultimately it's an extremely subjective assessment. I don't think this one really has a right or wrong answer, just one's personal viewpoint.
 


Doug McCrae

Legend
Both superheroes and D&D characters often rely on magical (in the broad sense) equipment that may not always be present.

In D&D the main limitation on the use of inherent powers is periodicity. They generally recover after a short or long rest. Spells also usually require incantations and gestures.

Limitations on powers in superhero are very diverse. Superman's powers don't work in the presence of kryptonite, red sun radiation or Kryptonian gravity. They are ineffective vs magic. Green Lantern's ring is ineffective vs the colour yellow. He also has a periodicity limitation - his ring needs to be recharged every 24 hours. The Martian Manhunter is vulnerable to fire. Wonder Woman cannot use her strength when she is bound. Bruce Banner cannot easily control his transformation into the Hulk. Cyclops cannot turn off his eye beams without special equipment. Spider-man's foes frequently found ways to negate his spider-sense.

Superheroes often have physical disadvantages that D&D characters lack or could easily cure - Daredevil's blindness, Professor X's inability to walk, Tony Stark's heart condition. Donald Blake (Thor's alter ego) was lame in the original comics. Aquaman had to be in contact with water every hour or he would die.
 


TheSword

Legend
Supporter
The Witcher is every inch a superhero - he is even is a mutant with an origin story. His superpowers aren't as strong as Superman, but he could go toe-to-toe with Captain America, who has a similar origin.

And so is Ciri.
I really hate when people mix genres and then make up gladiator style fight-off contests and talk about it. As if these kinds of statements have any weight. I get that it’s fun for people who are into it, but not as a reply to a post.
 
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Asisreo

Archdevil's Advocate
At will?

Invulnerable?

No.

Edit: Though how generous your DM is with a wish spell, they could do some things a comic superhero could not.
No one PC can do all of those at-will but certain ones can do certain ones each.

Like, a wizard can fly at-will. They aren't invulnerable at the same time, though.

But isn't that an aspect of being a superhero? You don't have to be superman to be a superhero. The simple ability to turn invisible for a limited time over a limited instances over a day is extremely superheroic.

Imagine in real-life having access to spells and you use them, people would think you're a superhero. Even moreso, they'd probably not even realize you had a limit to your powers unless you let them know.
 

Coroc

Hero
No one PC can do all of those at-will but certain ones can do certain ones each.
....
Power rangers anyone :p ?

.....
Imagine in real-life having access to spells and you use them, people would think you're a superhero. Even moreso, they'd probably not even realize you had a limit to your powers unless you let them know.
Except if you are a terrorist, then you 'd be a supervillain :p
 

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