Sunday, December 7, 2014

D&D 5e Addresses Pathfinder's Strange "Core Assumption"

The following is a previously unpublished commentary from several years ago on aspects of game design and the design principles inherited by the designers that carry on with the 3e tradition.

A reinforcement of individualism rather than group play based on the false idea that players have to have the same advantages built into their characters as other (opposing?) players in a game with no winners or losers. Why build fairness into a game where fairness has no advantage?

Instead this creates a disadvantage requiring a way to customize the character in order for them to not be essentially similar to one another. The current myth is that the traditional class system of older editions with its advantages (strengths) and disadvantages (weaknesses) between classes creates cookie cutter characters. I hold to the idea that in some way your character is how you play it - thus a roleplaying game – not a stat driven character game. In truth this balancing approach leads to the need for specific customization and larger than life heroics to differentiate one class from one another.

Superpowers (AKA Feats) and Imagination Discouragement.

3e and its descendants like Pathfinder assume balance and discourages the creation of magical items and spells that replicate the abilities of other classes. At the same time the feats grant those same abilities to the other classes.

Here the DM is discouraged from creating "unbalanced items" and pruning his imagination in order to preserve balance and the status of the games super powers

Seriously there is no reason why you wouldn't be able to wear ten magical rings, WTF.

In the Post TSR era the fantasy roleplaying game has become a game that uses the rules to make it a players game and bully the DM into creating his campaign to conform to the rules rather than the dictates of the imagination.


How things have changed in the world of RPGs since then. It's great to see that the creative team behind the new D&D has shifted the balance of power back into the GMs court. There is no need for bizarre game mechanic based magic item limits because you can't simply go purchase magic, you need to find it/earn it. Character customization is achieved through a choice of class and background. Class features are prominent again because skills are limited to proficiency that ranges from +2 to +6 (in addition to bonuses provided by class features) and feats are optional, limited and designed to represent expert training over time and not manifest as an almost superhuman ability beyond the abilities of the most highly trained human being. Once again level 1 characters are not heroes, they're adventurers and their status as a hero can and should be determined by their adventures and how successful and heroic they perform.