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: 34 26.2%
  • Meh, whatever

    Votes: 23 17.7%
  • I'd rather they stick to a base power level, but its still playable

    Votes: 36 27.7%
  • Sweet Mary, mother of God, why? (or why are there apples and cinnamon in my oatmeal?)

    Votes: 23 17.7%
  • Other, I'll explain.

    Votes: 11 8.5%

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
That's the new paradigm though, the one that got tons of praise and cheers when 5e launched. Publish very few books, and make most books interesting to all possible buyers, be they players, DMs, collectors, whatever. Eliminate market segmentation as much as possible: (nearly) every product must be for everyone! And of course never publish more than two or three option books a year, preferably less. Making few products designed to be everything to everyone is the way to go.

But of course because 5e was and is successful, these choices are all unequivocally positive and are the only reasons 5e has succeeded.

Man, I gotta say, while I was snippy with you earlier (and for that I apologize), it's really gratifying to see other people calling out how much 5e fell down in this regard. It's been incredibly frustrating seeing both the official books do so little, and then simultaneously seeing a dominant player culture of responding to requests for help with "you're the DM! Figure it out yourself!" As though that were even remotely helpful to someone looking for advice on how to do that.
I never praised it, for my part. I never liked 5e's publishing philosophy.

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I think attempts to constrain power creep harshly have more negative impacts on games than accepting power creep, or best of all, accepting it and bringing older stuff up to spec.

This applies across a wide variety of games, not just D&D. As such "meh".
Now, if only 5E had kept its promise from the playtest that it was going to be a modular ruleset that can reasonably emulate any kind of game you could run with the previous editions, we could perhaps have the variation we needed. It seems like the new design direction is instead solidifying the kind of game that can be run with 5E, which is closer to this theatretical experience where every encounter adds something to the story and allows different players to show off their unique characters. It's a style of play I definitely like in my games at least to a certain extent, but I also like having other elements, and these other elements being left out in favour of this neo-trad/OC style feels like a missed opportunity.
I mean, we knew the modularity was dead from the later bits of the playtest. They'd obviously given up and gone full "apology edition". What was released was essentially a game that leaned pretty hard in a specific direction.

But that wasn't how people played it. As you can see from Critical Role and so on. People don't play 5E the way it was designed to be played, and because the influence of the modular concept stayed with 5E until fairly late in the design process, 5E actually played pretty okay when not being played "as intended".

What 5E is doing now is a course-correction in the way it was an apology edition earlier on. Having realized the majority of players are new, and aren't really looking for a 6-8 encounters/day dungeon crawl experience with a rather trad D&D setting and but rather something more lively and varied WotC are once again aiming at the largest possible body of players. The reason the other elements are being "left out" is is solely that they're incompatible with neo-trad. It's notable that WotC don't seem to be going after a lot of cruft or clumsy design that isn't incompatible with that (though perhaps I will change my tune when we see DND2024 in its full glory).


I thought there was a whole Guide to the art of DMing? Several dozen pre-written adventures to assist people who aren’t practiced at writing their own. About a billion blogs giving advice on every topic conceivable. Live filmed examples of gaming sessions, most of which are far more like a typical gaming session than the production values of Critical Role. Not to mention forums like this one, Reddit etc that can provide an answer to pretty much every question going… and in most cases, more than one answer.

What support do you think is lacking?
Books. You know, like every previous edition?


I thought there was a whole Guide to the art of DMing? Several dozen pre-written adventures to assist people who aren’t practiced at writing their own. About a billion blogs giving advice on every topic conceivable. Live filmed examples of gaming sessions, most of which are far more like a typical gaming session than the production values of Critical Role. Not to mention forums like this one, Reddit etc that can provide an answer to pretty much every question going… and in most cases, more than one answer.

What support do you think is lacking?
While these resources are quite helpful, let's not pretend they reach even a small fraction of the 5E player base. We are a minority of a minority (that is, people who care about the games enough to discuss heavy theory on pretend elves), and most people who play D&D are not only not active here, they probably don't even know these exist. Actual DM-facing content from WotC, due to it being official material, could reach a much wider audience and allow a lot more DMing guidance to hesitant people. The way things currently are, you don't have access to the material you mentioned unless you're already really invested in the game, or an invested person suggests these resources to you.


Follower of the Way
Sorry I don’t know what you mean?
Well, given I also weighed in on this:

I find the 5e DMG to be poorly constructed for the purpose of actually helping people who don't know how to run the game learn to do so. It is instead written for people who already know more or less how D&D works and who just want alternative options (that they can then, in most cases, ignore...but that's a separate issue).

Like, to give an example of something spread across both the PHB and the DMG, the way the game handles deities and races (and to a lesser extent classes). Instead of presenting these things as tools for campaign construction, traditionalism is put on a pedestal and brief lip service (at best) is given to the ways these things could be used to do creative work. E.g., it makes prescriptive statements about what things exist in fantasy worlds, rather than discussing the ways that each DM can set a tone and a theme by curating lists with intent. E.g., "A setting that evokes ancient Greek and Roman myth can be reinforced by careful selection of races. Perhaps there are no elves or tieflings or dwarves, but dragonborn (based on myths like Erichthonius, the Spartoi, and the drakaina), thri-kreen (Myrmidons, the ant-warriors), satyrs, and minotaurs are common. Likewise, there might be no Wizards nor Paladins, but Storm Sorcerers are common because of Zeus, and Warlocks who make pacts with the Chthonic gods are known (and somewhat feared). Clerics might worship a specific deity which grants one of two domains, e.g. Athena grants War or Knowledge, Zeus Storm or Light, Demeter Life or Nature, and Hermes Trickery or Life. Bards might be focused much more on philosophy and oratory than on history and music." Similarly, giving advice for how to be effective with things like "build the setting around what the players choose" or "organically expand the setting as you go, deciding limits through play rather than in advance."

As for your example of Critical Role, those things can be as much a problem as they are a boon. It's the "out of my league" problem: in being really good at what he does and making it a very professional production, Mr. Mercer may actually increase the reluctance to try. That's because no DM is going to be as good as Mercer is on their first try (and likely not their fiftieth try, if we go by individual sessions!) I know I dealt with feelings of that nature which made me reluctant to DM. It was, in fact, a friend having a HORRIBLE ROTTEN GARBAGE experience with a DM that let a player walk all over him that inspired me to run my game. Because I knew that no matter how bad I might be, no matter how many mistakes I might make, I could not possibly be worse than that.


Follower of the Way
Wizards don't have many more subclasses because their core class takes up so much of the design space they don't have much room left. They naturally expand with splats because they always get excess to the bulk of the spells so there's that.
It is also worth noting that some of the new subclasses are in fact quite powerful, even for Wizard. Chronurgy and Bladesinging are pretty clearly better than Divination and Abjuration, for example.


Not your screen monkey (he/him) 🇺🇦🇵🇸🏳️‍⚧️
If the whole point of exploration is to have some logistical difficulty by asking questions such as "how much food can we take? How far can we travel given the amount of food we have + whatever we can muster from the land we're going through?" or having risks such as getting lost, then these options ruin exploration. Outlander's feature makes foraging an automatic success, and Ranger's feature makes following a path or finding a destination a non-challenge (since once again, you don't get lost). I don't mean to say that these are essential parts of the game, you can have a perfectly fine D&D game that's more about set piece battles and the time spent travelling is just LotR-style montages of characters going through wilderness, but Ranger and Outlander both imply in their fantasy that they cater to people who like exploration. If you wanted to play a Ranger because you wanted to be the cool guy who succeeds at the exploration challenge, 5E will let you down because you will simply nullify the challenge.
That's a big IF at the start of this paragraph. Logistical difficulties can certainly be an element of exploration, but they really don't cover the whole point. Far more important, if you ask me, is encountering interesting things on the way. A ranger's natural explorer ability can make things easier, but they also give the DM a way to give the ranger player choices that highlight them and their class feature rather than just kind of elide over it. And if the ranger (or outlander) caters to players who like exploration, it would suck for a DM to not lean into it a bit so that player has a chance to shine with it. And while you kind of dismiss the LotR-style montages, delving into the trip from Bree to Rivendell provides examples of how you can do some of these things. Aragorn takes the hobbits along alternate routes to avoid perceived threats (particularly the threat of being spotted on the open road). A DM who leans in can give the ranger choices - for example: "take the long way around or face this encounter that your superior exploratory skills have spotted?" or "a natural landmark you've heard of is only about a day's travel out of your way and is rumored to be worth the visit - you want to go check it out?"

There's a lot you can do with it. But whenever these debates come up, it just highlights to me that not enough people focus on how the game can change with the choices the players make if the DM is willing to work with them, particularly for relatively basic mundane abilities like finding food, water, and not getting lost.

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