Power Gaming: the result of leveling power driven design

Saelorn

Adventurer
It has been suggested that progression, or the lack of it, is the main reason why D&D was more successful than those other systems.
One aspect of character progression, which has been unfairly maligned by those who don't understand it, is that new characters should start at level one. When characters progress visibly through play, and death means losing all of that progress, players will become even more invested in their own characters. Player investment in their characters is one of the most important aspects of an RPG, so this is generally beneficial to the game as a whole.

Ever since 3E or so, there has been a type of player which is obsessed with power and optimization, such that they don't care if they die because they relish the opportunity of bringing in a new character that is freshly-optimized for their current level. They don't care about the character, as much as they care about what that character can do mechanically. Requiring new characters to come in at level one is usually sufficient incentive to prevent them from meaningless sacrifices in the name of power.
 

Paul Farquhar

Adventurer
I'm pretty sure that kind of player has been there all along: look at all the kits in 2nd edition!

As the saying goes, for those of you who like this kind of thing, this is the kind of thing you like.

I don't have any of that kind of player in either of my games, so I don't see it as a problem.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
I'm pretty sure that kind of player has been there all along: look at all the kits in 2nd edition!
Possibly, but I'm not sure they would have gotten much out of it, except a new chance to roll the dice. As broken as some of the kits may have been, there's not much that a level 1 bladesinger could do to compare against a level 10 fighter with loads of magical gear.

Third edition presented a major shift because of its expected-wealth-by-level guidelines, and the opportunity to make new choices at every level. Players had a lot more control over their advancement, where previously it was all up to the DM and random chance.
 

Hussar

Legend
I read this twice thinking "... well its just black and white on my screen no different then yours" ...then I went oh, he means my overly wordy and complicated writing style to try to make my point clearer but that just makes it a wall of words no one wants to read kind of "color"... If I am correct and that is the case just know that I have a problem ... my father AND mother have the same problem and even being aware of it I find making it short and concise is EXTREMELY difficult for me. So thank you for managing to read it enough to understand... and I am sorry you had to read it all and pick out what I meant... Also feel sorry for my fellow players because I write the way I talk, lol. Fortunately do to nerviness and trying to find my forward I don't tend to be as bad GMing.

... Might have done it again. lol
Nope.

On my screen, it's black on black. Or, very dark grey on black anyway. In any case, you've somehow added color to your first post that on my screen anyway, makes it unreadable unless I highlight all the text.
 

ClaytonCross

Kinder reader Inflection wanted
Nope.

On my screen, it's black on black. Or, very dark grey on black anyway. In any case, you've somehow added color to your first post that on my screen anyway, makes it unreadable unless I highlight all the text.
Ok then. I have not idea. All I see is black on white. CapnZapp said their is something to the code there. I reposted it through "Paste with Plan Text" button but I am not sure if that fixed it. It might have only effected text and not the background but I switched to code view and see the veranda and not the back ground color code so it "should" be fixed. If you get a minute, check and let me know.
 

ClaytonCross

Kinder reader Inflection wanted
Possibly, but I'm not sure they would have gotten much out of it, except a new chance to roll the dice. As broken as some of the kits may have been, there's not much that a level 1 bladesinger could do to compare against a level 10 fighter with loads of magical gear.

Third edition presented a major shift because of its expected-wealth-by-level guidelines, and the opportunity to make new choices at every level. Players had a lot more control over their advancement, where previously it was all up to the DM and random chance.
I see your point and I don't see an issue with it but I would say unless they swallowed the fighter whole or something the group would likely hand the fighters magic gear to his replacement as much as they can. On top of that with the exponential XP design, your level 1 traveling with a level 10 party pulling the same XP will be level 8 after the first mission ... if they don't get caught in a dead loop.

I would also, say that we use story point leveling and XP hybrid, so we track XP and once we have a enough to level we have to get to safe haven and rest before we can actually level. We also all level at the same xp rate to make it easy on our GM. So we could not do that per our GM. I do understand power gamers not investing for this reason but at the same time every session I play a character I invest more into them and after 10 levels losing a character sucks no matter what. "to me" I can see it both ways. I am just not sure it matters as long as the table is having fun.
 

Hussar

Legend
Ok then. I have not idea. All I see is black on white. CapnZapp said their is something to the code there. I reposted it through "Paste with Plan Text" button but I am not sure if that fixed it. It might have only effected text and not the background but I switched to code view and see the veranda and not the back ground color code so it "should" be fixed. If you get a minute, check and let me know.
Yup, that did it. Cheers.
 

Paul Farquhar

Adventurer
Fun is the bottom line. Some people are always going to find their fun by building the highest DPS character possible. And that's fine, let them enjoy themselves!

The danger comes from people who see it as a problem, and try to change the system to "fix" it.
 

pming

Explorer
Hiya!
[MENTION=6880599]ClaytonCross[/MENTION], I'm going to have to say...no? I've played a LOT of RPG's over the years. Most of the longer ones tend to be Fantasy, followed by Gamma World (3rd Edition; I would have said 'Apocalyptic', but honestly, the only real Apocalyptic we play consistently...at least up until about a year ago...was 3rd edition Gamma World), then Super-Heroes. Everything else falls after that. Of the Fantasy, a LOT of it has been either 1e/Hackmaster, BECMI/DarkDungeons (https://darkdungeonsblog.wordpress.com/), Powers & Perils (www.powersandperils.com), or Dominion Rules (www.dominionrules.org).

Anyway, I've been trying to think back to almost 40 years of DM'ing some form of "D&D" and I think I can honestly say, only my first 5 to 10 years of DM'ing was 'stuff' a common motivator. After about a decade I sort of hit my stride/style for DM'ing and I think I've remained fairly consistent over the decades...with only a slight mellowing on the whole 'detailed rules' side of it all (old age and all that I guess! ;) ).

Talking specifically about the last 15 to 20 years, I can tell you that my Players main "goal" and driving force behind their PC's is "Try not to die!". I'm what is termed, nowadays at least, a "Killer DM". My players also call me 'stingy on the side of treasure'. I attest affirmative to both those things. The highest level PC anyone has had in my 5e campaign(s) was: 7th level Goliath Barbarian, 5th level Tiefling Bard, 4th level Human Thief, 4th level Human Druid. After that, it's a handful of 3rds, about twice that in 2nd, and twice that again in 1st level characters. This is over about 4 years I guess? Whenever the Starter Set came out.

My point is...no, IME. If you present a game where other things simply ARE more important (survival; and that usually goes hand in hand with cautious play, development of NPC ties, and story-goals a Player develops based not on 'stuff to acquire'), then "getting tougher" is a nice sideline bonus. In my campaigns saving a town, country or entire world is simply not dependant on "level" or "power". My campaign (and DM'ing style) is most definitely an "outlier" of the modern RPG expectation of play. I get that. It's cool with me and my group.

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

devincutler

Villager
I’m not entirely certain what levels have to do with this, besides the OP having bad experience with D&D (or with a particular DM) that he hasn’t had with points-based-advancement systems. As others note, the “problem” he’s describing would only be exacerbated there.

That’s because this isn’t about power-gaming as traditionally understood. The question at hand seems to be about characters over-specializing in particular skill sets and the DM then adjusting tactics so as specifically deny those characters the benefit for which they’ve spent resources. If a player spends skill and feat slots on being the best scout, it’s simply fair in terms of PC-DM social contract that the DM allow that character to scout things that another character wouldn’t (rather than create roadblocks that make those abilities ineffectual).

There’s a place in gaming for specialists (just as, per the comments on Legolas, there’s a place in fiction for specialists — but remember that he was adventuring alongside the generalist Aragorn), but that doesn’t make each one a “power-gamer” (just as the optimizer conceit that all characters need to be specialists is likewise incorrect). But the premise here — at least as presented — strikes me less to be about that specialization (the OP speaks well of points-based systems where such min-maxing is far more potent) than how a DM can manipulate the campaign to make irrelevant a character’s resource allocations (and how, in a level-based game, where there are fewer but larger allocation points, that has more visible effect).
And, at least with bounded accuracy, it is somewhat mitigated in 5e. I ran a 3e party where the druid did nothing but specialize in Spot and Listen, to the extent that he would routinely walk around (with spells up helping him with a +50 to both skills. It was impossible to stealth the party when he was in it. I didn't bother to try to counter it. I simply acknowledged that he invested a lot of resources into that specialization and rewarded him accordingly.
 

ClaytonCross

Kinder reader Inflection wanted
Hiya!

[MENTION=6880599]ClaytonCross[/MENTION], I'm going to have to say...no? I've played a LOT of RPG's over the years. Most of the longer ones tend to be Fantasy, followed by Gamma World (3rd Edition; I would have said 'Apocalyptic', but honestly, the only real Apocalyptic we play consistently...at least up until about a year ago...was 3rd edition Gamma World), then Super-Heroes. Everything else falls after that. Of the Fantasy, a LOT of it has been either 1e/Hackmaster, BECMI/DarkDungeons (https://darkdungeonsblog.wordpress.com/), Powers & Perils (www.powersandperils.com), or Dominion Rules (www.dominionrules.org).

Anyway, I've been trying to think back to almost 40 years of DM'ing some form of "D&D" and I think I can honestly say, only my first 5 to 10 years of DM'ing was 'stuff' a common motivator. After about a decade I sort of hit my stride/style for DM'ing and I think I've remained fairly consistent over the decades...with only a slight mellowing on the whole 'detailed rules' side of it all (old age and all that I guess! ;) ).

Talking specifically about the last 15 to 20 years, I can tell you that my Players main "goal" and driving force behind their PC's is "Try not to die!". I'm what is termed, nowadays at least, a "Killer DM". My players also call me 'stingy on the side of treasure'. I attest affirmative to both those things. The highest level PC anyone has had in my 5e campaign(s) was: 7th level Goliath Barbarian, 5th level Tiefling Bard, 4th level Human Thief, 4th level Human Druid. After that, it's a handful of 3rds, about twice that in 2nd, and twice that again in 1st level characters. This is over about 4 years I guess? Whenever the Starter Set came out.

My point is...no, IME. If you present a game where other things simply ARE more important (survival; and that usually goes hand in hand with cautious play, development of NPC ties, and story-goals a Player develops based not on 'stuff to acquire'), then "getting tougher" is a nice sideline bonus. In my campaigns saving a town, country or entire world is simply not dependant on "level" or "power". My campaign (and DM'ing style) is most definitely an "outlier" of the modern RPG expectation of play. I get that. It's cool with me and my group.

^_^

Paul L. Ming
Ok, but by your own addition and description its your GM style not the design of the game that makes your campaigns so. If your not rewarding gear and killing your players off before they gain more than 1/3 of the levels then they become aware of this and are adapting to YOU. The design of the game is 20 level and the DMG is FULL of magic items and even describes the gold, number, of magic items suggested by design. So while I agree that you can play D&D (or really any RPG) in a way to discourage this, that is not the design template the game is built to encourage. You even mentioned that you are an outlier, which is to say your not playing the way the game promotes by design. That in no way makes your way wrong, in fact I would say if you and your party are having fun, your doing it right. I would even like to play starting at level 20 and degrading to level 1 in a survival game where you drop a level a day and try and last 20 days to escape... D&D is awesome in its flexibility to do that. Their is however no rule set for that, it would be homebrew and GM choices.

So I am in no way questioning the fun factor of your method, but I do dispute that D&D is designed with a power gaining incentivized game that promotes power gaming HOWEVER it is flexible enough to accommodate other styles including yours.
 

ClaytonCross

Kinder reader Inflection wanted
I’m not entirely certain what levels have to do with this, besides the OP having bad experience with D&D (or with a particular DM) that he hasn’t had with points-based-advancement systems. As others note, the “problem” he’s describing would only be exacerbated there.

That’s because this isn’t about power-gaming as traditionally understood. The question at hand seems to be about characters over-specializing in particular skill sets and the DM then adjusting tactics so as specifically deny those characters the benefit for which they’ve spent resources. If a player spends skill and feat slots on being the best scout, it’s simply fair in terms of PC-DM social contract that the DM allow that character to scout things that another character wouldn’t (rather than create roadblocks that make those abilities ineffectual).

There’s a place in gaming for specialists (just as, per the comments on Legolas, there’s a place in fiction for specialists — but remember that he was adventuring alongside the generalist Aragorn), but that doesn’t make each one a “power-gamer” (just as the optimizer conceit that all characters need to be specialists is likewise incorrect). But the premise here — at least as presented — strikes me less to be about that specialization (the OP speaks well of points-based systems where such min-maxing is far more potent) than how a DM can manipulate the campaign to make irrelevant a character’s resource allocations (and how, in a level-based game, where there are fewer but larger allocation points, that has more visible effect).
I think your misunderstanding me. I am not actually having a bad experience in the example I used. Your seeing a conflict of player specialization and GM story telling as if it inherently made the game "not fun" however... It was fun. I did up front dislike the changes but I have come to understand they are natural results of people playing what they like and different styles merging. As iserith motioned a few post before you, in a way the GM recognizes the scouts skills by not bothering with ambushes under the premise the scout always sees them. In a way, he is just saying the scout is so good at this point that any attempt to ambush just becomes "you see enemies a head" without the roles. The "conflict" is simply a matter of perspective, that when both parties recognize the others fun it can work out fine.

The point of my post is that often Power game is a GM perspective issue. If the GM believes the players are making harder for him build balanced encounters...my suggestion is to stop trying to balance encounters. Make them set at a hard difficulty or an easy difficulty base on what you want and if it ends up being too hard, players will need to learn to run some times and if its is too easy then players end up feeling like epic heroes. I the GM and players have fun... there is no problem, and if only the GM is annoyed because he expected an encounter to be hard and it was easy... perhaps realigning expectation and just seeing what happens would allow the GM to have fun as opposed to blaming the players for making balancing harder, when its actually the GM that has made the target so small.

Your last paragraph is simply a matter of players having different styles and different extremes of power gaming which does not impact the other as long as the GM doesn't try to walk the perfect line. If its power gaming on a small scale or a major one then its still power gaming by design.
 

pming

Explorer
Hiya!

Ok, but by your own addition and description its your GM style not the design of the game that makes your campaigns so.
Correct. My point was that I don't see "D&D" as "power level designed". Because of my experience and how the game naturally developed as I was starting my "career" as a RPG'er and DM in particular. I can see how people could see the whole XP, GP and "increasing powers/bonuses" as fitting into that 'power level' mindset of the threads title. I, well, "we" I guess, didn't really see or notice it. So from my mind...no. The "design of" a role-playing game can favour one particular "style" than another (obviously...it's one thing that makes playing different games so dang fun!...variety! :) ). I'm saying that, from my perspective and experience, "D&D" doesn't quite fit into this box as we play it with different goals/expectations of play.

If your not rewarding gear and killing your players off before they gain more than 1/3 of the levels then they become aware of this and are adapting to YOU. The design of the game is 20 level and the DMG is FULL of magic items and even describes the gold, number, of magic items suggested by design.
I've never killed a Player. That would be illegal. I've killed hundreds of Player Characters though. ;)

All joking aside, just because a game provides rules/advancement for something (e.g., "up to level 20" in D&D5e), does not and should not be taken as an assumption that PC's will ever get there. Same with everything else that fills in a characters advancement up to whatever level. I think this is something that you may be imagining as "expectations of play". Then again, I started D&D when it was "A PC advances upwards in level, from 1 onward". No "level cap", to use a MMO term. The goal isn't to 'get to level X'. It has never been that.


So while I agree that you can play D&D (or really any RPG) in a way to discourage this, that is not the design template the game is built to encourage. You even mentioned that you are an outlier, which is to say your not playing the way the game promotes by design.
As I said just above...I disagree that the game design is "built to encourage" advancement as a primary goal of playing the game. If that's what you are saying. If you aren't, then it doesn't matter if it's level 20, level 50 or level 100; advancement is a byproduct of playing the game. I don't think the game promotes by design the expectation of a "goal" of the game is to get your PC to level 20. I'm just not seeing it.

That in no way makes your way wrong, in fact I would say if you and your party are having fun, your doing it right. I would even like to play starting at level 20 and degrading to level 1 in a survival game where you drop a level a day and try and last 20 days to escape... D&D is awesome in its flexibility to do that. Their is however no rule set for that, it would be homebrew and GM choices.

So I am in no way questioning the fun factor of your method, but I do dispute that D&D is designed with a power gaining incentivized game that promotes power gaming HOWEVER it is flexible enough to accommodate other styles including yours.
Different experiences when learning RPG's I guess. I started reading in '79 and had my first game with my dad as DM (the D&D boxed set was, technically, his) in early '80 (like, January iirc; actually, hmmm...it may have been '80 and '81). Maybe it was the time? Perhaps it was my 10-year old brain's reading of the rules. Who knows? One thing is for certain...and this we both agree on, I'm sure...: One of the absolute best things about RPG's is that you can have two completely different DM's running different games with VERY different styles...yet both are still "playing the same game". Pretty amazing if you ask me! :)

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

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