D&D General Is power creep bad?

Is power creep, particularly in D&D, a bad thing?

  • More power is always better (or why steroids were good for baseball)

    Votes: 3 2.3%
  • Power creep is fun when you also boost the old content

    Votes: 33 25.6%
  • Meh, whatever

    Votes: 23 17.8%
  • I'd rather they stick to a base power level, but its still playable

    Votes: 36 27.9%
  • Sweet Mary, mother of God, why? (or why are there apples and cinnamon in my oatmeal?)

    Votes: 23 17.8%
  • Other, I'll explain.

    Votes: 11 8.5%

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CR 1/8
(Speaking with DM hat on...)
I prefer they stick to a baseline, but I deal with it.
My main issue with power creep isn't the power creep itself, but just the fact that it "stretches out" power-level expectations among gamers. If there's a well-established baseline, everyone's typically got a similar power level assumption in mind. Otoh, if the game's power level grows a lot over time, then some gamers might come to the table aiming at the original power level while others want the current higher power level.
No biggie really, but it's just one extra expecation to manage in session zero.


Shaper of Worlds
I don't mind it, too much.

From a pragmatic perspective: Creating a game system means coming up with dozens of interlocking bits that play off each other and create new and inventive ways to achieve your goals. No designer, no matter how prescient or skilled, can foresee every possible interaction and, more than that, foresee every possible way to create new material for the game.

And as you create that new material you'll run into interactions that increase the level of power in the game. Sometimes because the new material is too flexible or too powerful, but often because it combines with other materials either produced or new that create unintentional interactions...

And, of course, that's presuming you got the "Balance" right in the first place. Later passes over the same material may show that your initial designs don't line up with your actual goals after they've slammed into public play.

So power creep isn't that huge a deal, for me, in the end, so long as the baseline gets pulled up to deal with it, or the outlying issues get appropriately nerfed.


Autistic DM (he/him)
If unnecessary? Usually yes. If for an option that has been underperforming powerwise since their publication? No, it's usually a good thing, so long as the "creep" is specifically measured to not make the option overpowered. 5e has plenty of examples of this, from Dragonborn to Rangers to Sorcerers, and so on.

The answer, as usual, is "it's complicated". Power creep is a tool, and like all tools, it can be used in good ways. But it can also be used in bad ways.


Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Some amount of power creep is inevitable for any game that continues to expand content. If well-managed, it is perfectly fine, but that’s not a small if. It should be treated as a necessary evil, managed and kept to as gradual a rate as possible.

I think 5e has managed its power creep quite well overall.


Limit Break Dancing
I have a few theories on why DMs hate power creep so much:

Theory 1: A lot of Dungeon Masters have a "my monsters vs. the player characters" attitude. They are on Team Monster, and it's up to them to create interesting challenges and goals for Team Heroes. Power creep makes their job more difficult, because they have to consider more and more angles and contingencies with every new splatbook.

Theory 2: A lot of Dungeon Masters do not write their own adventures or campaign settings. They instead rely on published material, and that published material might not have been written with power creep in mind. This puts the DM in a position of having to rewrite or adjust these published adventures to fit their players' characters, which defeats the purpose of buying published materials in the first place.

But for my part? I voted "Meh, whatever." I don't have a problem with it. I write my own adventures and I write my own campaign setting, and I give my players all sorts of special powers and boosts at 1st and 2nd level. (First-level characters get to start with their choice of a feat or a magic item from Table F, for example.) And as far as balance goes, I can always add more monsters to an encounter or extra poison to a boobytrap. I can always add or remove gems and magic items from treasure hoards. And I can always give those ogres some full plate and a shield. (shrug) No matter how many toys and tools and abilities the characters get, I will always have far more.

Also, most people talk about power creep in the context of combat, and combat is only about 1/3 of the game at my table. I haven't seen any complaints about social challenges or exploration being ruined/unbalanced by power creep. I feel like the more combat-heavy your game is, the more of an issue power creep will be.
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You do know that removing the expensive material component and/or exp requirements from spells is a form of power creep, right?

Also, is stat rolling that isn't 3d6 in order a form of power creep?


It's worth noting that increased character power in newer materials can arise by multiple mechanisms. It's not always clear which are being refered to as "power creep", but these are different enough that lumping them together may not always be condusive to productive discussion. Consider the following possibilities:
  • The designers create content aimed at a constant power level. Based on normal variation, some new content ends up being superior to existing content.
  • The designers make a deliberate one time addition to all characters that directly increases power levels, more or less independent of other choices (ex. level 1 feats).
  • Designers create content intended to be balanced with the strongest existing content. Some ends up being a bit stronger. The designers create the next wave of content with the intent of being balanced against the new strongest options...
  • Designers target a shifting baseline as above, with a focus on upgrading existing options rather than creating new ones.
Whether any of these is desirable, undesirable or a necessary evil is up for debate, but the reasoning that applies to one pathway won't always apply to others, and a single person can reasonably come to different conclusions in different instances.


Power creep for a cooperative game like D&D is obviously different from power creep in competitive games like Magic the Gathering (where, incidentally, WotC also has a bad track record with power creep in the recent years...), but I still think it should be avoided. This for a simple reason: I like simulationist or narrativist games, where the main aim is either having an immersive experience where the players feel like a specific character and get to enjoy the consequences of playing that specific theme (careful abjuror, hopeful cleric of light, etc.), or the aim is seeing how the story develops at the table starting from the narrative premises. In other words, I'd like my players to choose a specific class or race in our game of make believe because they like the flavour, either because it's the kind of persona they want to immerse themselves into, or because they like the narrative potential of these choices. This isn't to say I never play with gamists who like the challenge aspect, but I'll freely admit that I always find it difficult to cater to their tastes.

What power creep does (when it doesn't also retroactively make older choices better, which was my choice in the poll) is that it makes some choices better on gamist grounds, which could lead to the players choosing their characters for reasons that don't gel with the experience I'm trying to curate at my table. Perhaps you'd like to play the Cleric of a Light deity, but why do that when Twilight Cleric is stronger to the point of trivialising some encounters? Perhaps you wanted to play a Draconic Sorcerer, but why choose that when Clockwork Soul expands your spell selection so that you're no longer limited to 2-3 tricks like the older archetypes? The problem isn't necessarily that power creep adds new things to the game - the game would get stale if we only had the selection from 2015 - but when new choices supersede old ones and the old ones had nice fluff that is then missed out on, it annoys me. This is why I either try to bring powercrept options down to the earlier options (what I did for Twilight and Peace Clerics), or bring the older selection on par with the new content so that those can still be chosen (which I did by giving all old Sorcerer archetypes origin spells and making Tasha's optional class features automatic instead of optional for all classes).
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Heretic of The Seventh Circle
It is hard to answer, because what I prefer is what is happening in 5e, where there is no power creep, but the weakest options are being boosted a little, and some of the more needless balance concerns are being relaxed when found to be extraneous, like withsome of the additional spells, and mechanical pain points are reconfigured a bit.

I guess I want the general power range to remain the same?

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