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5E Is 5e Heroic, or SUPER-heroic?

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Are D&D PCs superheroes? Well, the most powerful wizard in the most popular fantasy fiction was only 5th level by comparison ;)

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I always assumed Gandalf was a politician with access to a fireworks supplier and flash bangs (to scare off the goblins) who had a fast horse. The only real magic he did while there were witnesses was when he broke his staff. Absolutely everything else we're just supposed to take his word for it. :p

I mean, the guy had a good PR department, but that was about all.

Of course comparing LOTR with D&D is about as useful as comparing D&D to superheroes. There are some superficial similarities along with just as many differences.
 

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TheSword

Legend
Supporter
At 20th level, they are displaying Cosmic Power. How do you 'ground' a Wizard 20 that can fly, travel to other realities, clone himself, be immune to damage and alter reality with a word?
As I said, only when dedicated to... though 100 hp, low saves, lousy AC and the fact for the most part it can only do one of those amazing things at a time keeps them down to earth.

They get to display a sliver of cosmic power, then they need to take a hot bath and a good nights sleep.
 
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Fanaelialae

Legend
They cure dead at 8th level i will say yes they are supers.... or atleast casters are.
If that's the case then both Miracle Max (Princess Bride) and Akiro (Conan the Barbarian) are superheroes. IMO, they are not superheroes.

If all that is meant by "superheroes" is that 5e characters are powerful and can do things beyond the scope of ordinary people, then I can agree with that. That's not really how I'd use the term though, since it carries a lot of connotational baggage from the superhero genre that doesn't really apply to high powered fantasy heroes.

However, the impression I get from the OP is something a bit more over the top. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, just that I don't think it's the standard or to everyone's tastes.

You can certainly have powerful characters who are fundamentally mortal. They might be amazing at dodging swords and fireballs, but they can't simply stand there and "block" swords or fireballs with their face. They can still do epic things like defeating demon lords, it's that they won't be described as having been run through multiple times during the fight by claws that are bigger than they are.

They may be powerful and skilled mortals who can change the world, but they are mortal nonetheless.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
They may be powerful and skilled mortals who can change the world, but they are mortal nonetheless.
Which skill raises the dead :p and the word "mortal" has meaning and you brought this up right after I mentioned raise the dead?. LOL. I feel the mundanity of how that ritual is usually presented no quests into an afterlife realm no wrestling a god for the privilege.... nothing to me it actually makes it feel like these impossible things are minor for them and not a big deal. (even the 1e penalties were when looked at from a real world perspective pretty shrug)
 
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TheSword

Legend
Supporter
Which skill raises the dead :p and the word "mortal" has meaning and you brought this up right after I mentioned raise the dead?. LOL. I feel the mundanity of how that ritual is usually presented no quests into an afterlife realm no wrestling a god for the privilege.... nothing to me it actually makes it feel like these impossible things are minor for them and not a big deal. (even the 1e penalties were when looked at from a real world perspective pretty shrug)
What you’re describing is miracle from your god as a reward for exceptional faith. It isn’t a superpower.

Moses wasn’t displaying superpowers when it is said he called on God to part the waters of the Red Sea. 🤣
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Moses wasn’t displaying superpowers when he called on God to part the waters of the Red Sea. 🤣
Call it what you want to ;p. For me no D&D priest reads like a miraculous thing anymore than a magic missile (its way too character driven not god driven god offered). RuneQuest had some very maybe the god will give you what you want maybe something else game elements and maybe they wont and you had to really sacrifice to do big things that doesn't happen in D&D. It lacks authenticity AND does feel like super powers. OR super science with its reliability
 

Scott Christian

Adventurer
Lol, I like to chart a middle way. Never used fumbles, insta-death and starting new PCs a level lower than live ones.

However neither do I allow PCs to go crazy. They remain thoroughly down to earth. The enemies they face may display amazing cosmic power but the PCs definitely don’t. As I said, I play it like the Witcher. Magic is a boon and only becomes amazing when dedicated to.

Of course a character can fly around firing disintegration rays. But in 5e that character has 50 hp and will die from a round of attacks from a dragon.
You mean down to earth as they encounter CR's at or above their level, correct? I think if that is what it takes to make high level characters down to earth, then every DM makes the characters down to earth. But, it dismisses the fact that the characters are god-like to 99.9% of the other humanoids and creatures. I mean, other encounters don't auto-disappear just because the group is 15th level do they? A troll is still hungry, and might attack that 15th level wizard, which by that level, the troll is like a mosquito, annoying.
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
Call it what you want to ;p. For me no D&D priest reads like a miraculous thing anymore than a magic missile (its way too character driven not god driven god offered). RuneQuest had some very maybe the god will give you what you want maybe something else game elements and maybe they wont and you had to really sacrifice to do big things that doesn't happen in D&D. It lacks authenticity AND does feel like super powers. OR super science with its reliability
That probably comes down to the role playing. After all the cleric has to pray to the god for their spells and usually display their holy symbol. Sure if you ignore those things it may look like superpowers.

I myself like a bit of “Oh most holy Torm, smite these infidels who, naughty in your sight, shall snuff it.”
 



Fanaelialae

Legend
Call it what you want to ;p. For me no D&D priest reads like a miraculous thing anymore than a magic missile (its way too character driven not god driven god offered). RuneQuest had some very maybe the god will give you what you want maybe something else game elements and maybe they wont and you had to really sacrifice to do big things that doesn't happen in D&D. It lacks authenticity AND does feel like super powers. OR super science with its reliability
In an RPG, a lot of that comes down to how it is described. If you describe it as 'the will of something greater than you reaching through you and changing the world' it's going to feel a lot more like divine will.

Just like you could describe a high level character as getting stabbed a dozen times or that same character narrowly avoiding getting stabbed a dozen times. Both are mechanically identical (HP loss without any wound penalties) but they'll feel very different at the table.
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
You mean down to earth as they encounter CR's at or above their level, correct? I think if that is what it takes to make high level characters down to earth, then every DM makes the characters down to earth. But, it dismisses the fact that the characters are god-like to 99.9% of the other humanoids and creatures. I mean, other encounters don't auto-disappear just because the group is 15th level do they? A troll is still hungry, and might attack that 15th level wizard, which by that level, the troll is like a mosquito, annoying.
Ah, maybe I wasn’t clear. I meant the party might fight Tiamat, but that doesn’t mean the party can do the things that Tiamat can do...

Instead they can do things that can hurt Tiamat.
 

Scott Christian

Adventurer
Ah, maybe I wasn’t clear. I meant the party might fight Tiamat, but that doesn’t mean the party can do the things that Tiamat can do...

Instead they can do things that can hurt Tiamat.
Ah.. okay. Sorry for any confusion.

I think many DM's have a very hard time keeping players grounded at high level. But, I feel like it's not really the DM's job sometimes. It's the characters to play their character. If they want to go mass murder 100 goblins or make an entire village quake at their power, then they are simply becoming evil. Which is actually, imho, the difficulty the DM has. But I have seen it happen; a player's character is good aligned, never hurt anyone, then reaches high level and is suddenly: "What do you mean they won't give me a horse. Fine I take it, and if they try to get it, I thrown a fireball at them." ;) As DM, that part just kind of stinks.
 

As I said, only when dedicated to... though 100 hp, low saves, lousy AC and the fact for the most part it can only do one of those amazing things at a time keeps them down to earth.

They get to display a sliver of cosmic power, then they need to take a hot bath and a good nights sleep.
Have you DM'd a whole party of 20th+ PCs?
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
Have you DM'd a whole party of 20th+ PCs?
Yep. A wizard, a bard, a rogue and a fighter.

A single spell slot of each level, multiple encounters each day and concentration was a game changer. It was an utterly different experience to DMing pathfinder at lvl 20, which was a gonzo-fest. I gave the cleric the hand of Vecna in Pathfinder and he felt it was a waste of action economy because his other powers were so much better 😭 5e has come a long way.
 

But I have seen it happen; a player's character is good aligned, never hurt anyone, then reaches high level and is suddenly: "What do you mean they won't give me a horse. Fine I take it, and if they try to get it, I thrown a fireball at them." ;) As DM, that part just kind of stinks.
As a DM you should repremand that Player immediately.

If he still wants to do it, send an Army after him.

What would a world Government do, if a person suddenly developed superpowers and started blowing up towns?

Do that.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
In an RPG, a lot of that comes down to how it is described. If you describe it as 'the will of something greater than you reaching through you and changing the world' it's going to feel a lot more like divine will.
I have seen games which come with built in elements invoking a difference but this in D&D reads just like spell casting. (5e wants to say it uses different mechanics for different things these somehow arent not really)

While I am on board with how description can give some flexibility in the hero vs superhero realm AND that applies across the board (which is really the reason I think the original question is a bit meh) HOWEVER with the magic of this extremity on demand and utter reliability assumed by game really seems to defeat anything but the superhero flavor. I can think of some descriptions that obfuscate the character agency and mundanity of how the game presents this.... but I feel I am fighting the systems forms.
 
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Yep. A wizard, a bard, a rogue and a fighter.

A single spell slot of each level, multiple encounters each day and concentration was a game changer. It was an utterly different experience to DMing pathfinder at lvl 20, which was a gonzo-fest. I gave the cleric the hand of Vecna in Pathfinder and he felt it was a waste of action economy because his other powers were so much better 😭 5e has come a long way.

While I agree with the rest, a 20th level Wizard has 1 slot of levels 9 and 8 and multiples of each other level (plus arcane recovery) and (presuming the use of magic items) likely a lot more firepower from a staff or scrolls.

He also has a clone. In a demi-plane. And a simulacrum. And Wish.

Your martials should be just as effective, in other ways (plus items).
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
While I agree with the rest, a 20th level Wizard has 1 slot of levels 9 and 8 and multiples of each other level (plus arcane recovery) and (presuming the use of magic items) likely a lot more firepower from a staff or scrolls.

He also has a clone. In a demi-plane. And a simulacrum. And Wish.

Your martials should be just as effective, in other ways (plus items).
Ah, see in my game you just can’t freely find simulacrum scrolls lying around, they’re treasure. Unless of course you want to burn a precious leveling up spell choice to learn it. Same for Demi-plane. The stress of Wish was a game changer, i see it used very much as a spell of last resort now for the same reason, very circumstantial.

Those 6 spell slots that are level 6+ don’t last very long. They burn up in a painfully short time. Certainly not fast enough to make a person feel like they have supreme cosmic power.
 

Scott Christian

Adventurer
As a DM you should repremand that Player immediately.

If he still wants to do it, send an Army after him.

What would a world Government do, if a person suddenly developed superpowers and started blowing up towns?

Do that.
I get it. But, DM'ing a game where one player is trying to go one way, other players another way, and the DM corralling them through force has never appealed to me. I like tables best when everyone is after the same goal - a good story.
 

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