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    Question In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    NOTE TO FORUM ORGANIZERS: I put this in the general Roleplaying Games forum due to it affecting all editions of D&D.

    Greetings, all!

    5E has been officially commercially released. As of this writing the Dungeon Master's Guide is not yet available to the public. Having played or/and read D&D in some incarnation since 1E, I'm curious where the PCs' power levels are in relation to one another, edition-wise. (Please exclude looping tricks, since infinite power ends campaigns.) This is not meant to be a critique on which edition is 'best' or 'most fun' or 'most preferred' to any specific person or group.

    I ask this because, having read the 5E Player's Handbook, my reaction was, "I'll probably play it, but what I read repeatedly activated my gag reflex." Why? Having come from a background and a personal belief system similar to Tippy's post here (that is, in short, magic/psionics/metaphysical abilities are and should generally be better than mundane ones), seeing the new Concentration rules (which generally meant a caster can concentrate/'keep active' one non-instantaneous spell at a time) made me immediately react. As someone who prefers to play Baldur's Gate II as a solo Sorceress due to the tremendous fun it is to wield magic in that game (and in D&D 3.x and sometimes Pathfinder in general), the Concentration rules make sense from a balance point of view, but my view of casters (especially Wizards) is living embodiments of magic.

    As a side note, D&D is traditionally about being a powerful fighting character/force tasked with nullifying/destroying (and being appropriately rewarded for) targets deemed too dangerous for ordinary folk to handle. As levels rise and campaigns progress, magic becomes more and more prolific - among PCs, NPCs, enemies, rewards, and locations. Magic is an inevitable part of a typical D&D campaign due to how D&D magic works. (That is, D&D centers around the having, using, controlling, and negating of magic, usually with magic.)

    In short, my answer to my proposed question: D&D 3.0 because the haste spell let people cast two standard action spells per round (or otherwise have an extra standard action per turn) from character level 5. Harm followed by a little bit of damage was a Clerical two-hit-kill.
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    And I do agree that the right answer to the magic/mundane problem is to make everyone badass.
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    wink Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    Needs more elaboration. I'm pretty sure either 3.0 or 3.5 is the answer, but it matters:
    * At what level?
    * Average character, optimized but playable, or maximum theoretical power?

    If we're talking about an "average character", then the answer is all over the place. I'd say 4E probably has the highest "floor" - most characters are going to be fairly competent. On the other hand, some classes from 3E are going to be more powerful even right out of the box. And this is where pre-3E has a chance - a lot of spells were individually stronger there, and a Magic User with the right stuff could probably trounce a non-optimized 3E one.

    Optimized but playable, I'm going to say 3.0 (because Haste and things like it), up to the point where Shapechange becomes available, then 3.5 after that. Although even then I'd say the 3.5 char is likely to have less weak points.

    Maximum theoretical power is 3.5, not even a little question. Wish is capable of more, Astral Seed and Ice Assassin exist, enough said.
    Last edited by icefractal; 2014-10-21 at 05:30 PM.

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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    3e characters are the strongest on high levels - you can build an ubercharger powerful enough to shatter a moon in a single strike, and full casters are broken pretty much without any optimization.

    4e characters are the strongest on low levels - you're sturdy enough not to die from an ogre's fart, and all characters start with some pretty damn cool and powerful tricks, especially if you go nova.

    Sidenote: I really don't agree with your approach to magic, and am happy that magic got nerfed in 5e - because getting the short end of the stick just because you're playing a mundane character is no fun. All characters at the same level should be more or less equal in power; a high level fighter shouldn't be just some chump who can fite gud, but a mythical hero, capable of amazing feats of strength and skill like shattering a mountain with a single blow or killing an enemy army commander from miles away with a single arrow to the eye - and not because of magic, but because he's just that good.

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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tengu_temp View Post
    Sidenote: I really don't agree with your approach to magic, and am happy that magic got nerfed in 5e - because getting the short end of the stick just because you're playing a mundane character is no fun. All characters at the same level should be more or less equal in power; a high level fighter shouldn't be just some chump who can fite gud, but a mythical hero, capable of amazing feats of strength and skill like shattering a mountain with a single blow or killing an enemy army commander from miles away with a single arrow to the eye - and not because of magic, but because he's just that good.
    But the answer to that isn't dragging the magic users down so everyone's boring--it's boosting the mundanes up so everyone's cool. I think Tome of Battle did an excellent job there.
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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    Quote Originally Posted by Flame of Anor View Post
    But the answer to that isn't dragging the magic users down so everyone's boring--it's boosting the mundanes up so everyone's cool. I think Tome of Battle did an excellent job there.
    5e spellcasters aren't boring, they're just less broken than they were in 3e - and they're still the most powerful classes, because mundane characters follow the general 3e "if you're normal, you're stuck doing boring ordinary things" paradigm, rather than how Tome of Battle or 4e handled it.

    And yeah, Tome of Battle is the best thing that ever came out of 3e, and one of the few things I like about that game. ToB characters still aren't as powerful as tier 1 spellcasters, but they at least can compete, and they're really cool and flavorful and get options rather than just auto-attacking or doing the one trick they were built for every round.
    Last edited by Tengu_temp; 2014-10-21 at 05:36 PM.

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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    Re: Magic

    My opinion is that I want to be able to do what I consider cool stuff. And that means not just in combat, it means making a lasting effect on things, world-changing at the high end, and having tools that are both flexible enough to be inventive with and have a solid mechanical backing before DM-fiat gets involved.

    I don't give a **** what class I need to be playing in order to do that cool stuff. Or rather, I do have a preference, I'd prefer to be able to play a wide variety of concepts that all can accomplish that, and I'd prefer that there were no hidden traps in char-gen. I think it would be ****ing awesome if you could play a martial character that did all of the things.

    But all of that preference is secondary to being able to do the cool stuff in the first place. If it was a choice between "Game A has all the stuff you want but you have to be a Clown and accomplish things via the secret power of thrown pies" and "Game B has a huge bounty of classes for every concept, all equally viable (but none of them gets the stuff you want)", then hand me my giant shoes and face paint, I'm going with Game A.
    Last edited by icefractal; 2014-10-21 at 05:48 PM.

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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    In order to answer your question, I'm going to try to stick to RAW as much as I can. I have only played 3e, 4e, and 5e, so I can't speak for the others. But here's what I think:

    3e assumes a level cap of 20, unless you use the optional Epic rules (for which you need the Unearthed Arcana splatbook or the online SRD, plus DM approval). Epic rules can bring the level cap up to 30. The numbers used by characters (BAB, saves, skills, etc.) all depend on what class you take and what level you are, with most values ranging from "equal to your level" to "equal to your level/3." The most powerful characters are full spellcasters who have the ability to prepare spells ahead of time (assuming you have time to prepare, which you can't always assume). The wizard has the best spells, but is squishy. The cleric and druid are more rounded, but they can have all of their powers taken away from them by an outside force with no way of resisting it (it's funny nobody ever brings that part up).

    4e assumes a level cap of 30 right out of the gate. Numbers used all scale at the same rate, that being "equal to your level/2." All characters are equally powerful at all levels, and even mundanes can learn to use magic if they take the Ritual Caster feat. And people say 4e is the bad edition? Of note is the fact that the Core rules for epic levels assume that the party will be touring the Planes and conversing with gods on a semi-regular basis, and one of the Core options for epic levels allows a PC to ascend into full-blown godhood by level 30.

    5e assumes a level cap of 20. Epic level rules don't yet exist, but they might once the DMG or some splatbook comes out. Too soon to say on that one. Numbers used all scale at the same rate, that being "equal to your level/4." Spellcasters can still do things that mundanes can't, but mundanes remain relevant at all levels of play. And people say 5e isn't worth a switch?

    So I think my answer has to be that 4e has the most powerful PCs, simply because of the Core epic rules and the assumptions made about epic-level play in that edition. I don't mind it; I kinda liked 4e and a few of the changes it made. Shame I never really got to play it as much as I would have liked.

    And I'll just add that I don't agree with the idea that "magic classes should auto-win, because Magic." D&D is a game meant to be played by multiple people, multiple different ways. Someone who wants to play as Conan the Barbarian should not be punished for that decision.
    Last edited by Madfellow; 2014-10-22 at 08:42 AM.
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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    Quote Originally Posted by Endarire View Post
    In short, my answer to my proposed question: D&D 3.0 because the haste spell let people cast two standard action spells per round (or otherwise have an extra standard action per turn) from character level 5. Harm followed by a little bit of damage was a Clerical two-hit-kill.
    Ah yes, the good old 3rd ed Harm. I have fond memories of my PC cleric and cohort taking down the Neverwinter Nights red dragon in a single round with that one.

    I haven't played every edition extensively, and 4th ed not at all (although I've read the rules). I'm inclined to say 3.0 though mainly on the basis you cite: some spells were just broken, and that had a knock-on effect.
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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    For the real top-end game the most powerful are those from the gold box Immortals set D&D (the culmination of Basic/Expert/Companion/Master).

    Personally I think they were slightly more powerful than those from the Wrath of the Immortals re-write (they were certainly a lot more complex).

    It's also the only rules version which actually had rules for winning the game (by becoming a "Great Old One").

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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    If power = doing cool stuff then DnD 3.5. Many cool spells, splats, and rules subsystems (TOB and warlock included) never existed in other versions, and the Epic rules of 3.0 got an update for this.

    If power = how big an NPC medieval fantasy army you can personally kill, again it goes to DnD 3.5. It also is not the edition that the strongest fantasy warrior ever is barely as strong as a totally mundane RL weightlifter and the most powerful planar lords aren't as physically strong as elephants. Bleh.





    In short, DnD 3.5 had the most fun character creation overall - but also the most problems, numbers-wise. IMHO though, I'd take those problems in order to avoid a crappy base design that either robs away customization and options, or prevents characters from organically growing and eventually becoming legendary in scope - not just numbers.


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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    Two assumptions:

    1. Apples to Apples as closely as possible (so no basic, expert, immortal)

    2. Character strength versus campaign strength rather than PC in one set of rules vs PC in another set of rules.

    1st Edition AD&D

    A properly equipped 8th level fighter could solo an ancient red dragon just to kill an afternoon. Monsters were pretty static outside of HD advancement and DM fiat. In 2nd they toned down magic and wealth to address this. In 3rd and up they provided DMs the rules to advance monsters with PC options which pretty well balances things.

    I still miss my uncapped damage from 1st edition too.
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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tarlek Flamehai View Post
    Two assumptions:

    1. Apples to Apples as closely as possible (so no basic, expert, immortal)

    2. Character strength versus campaign strength rather than PC in one set of rules vs PC in another set of rules.

    1st Edition AD&D

    A properly equipped 8th level fighter could solo an ancient red dragon just to kill an afternoon. Monsters were pretty static outside of HD advancement and DM fiat. In 2nd they toned down magic and wealth to address this. In 3rd and up they provided DMs the rules to advance monsters with PC options which pretty well balances things.

    I still miss my uncapped damage from 1st edition too.
    I agree; the 1st edition character is clearly the winner here, when you compare how the pcs fare against monsters of the same names in the Monster Manual. The 1st edition 9th level party can pretty much take on anything in the books. As you all know, the 3rd edition 9th level party still needs to run from challenge rating 14+ encounters. Whether you look at dragons, giants, beholders, demons, devils, golems, etc. the 1st edition party is able to defeat them at a far lower level than other editions.
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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    Holy-Moly ken-do-nim, I LUV your sig!
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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    Quote Originally Posted by ken-do-nim View Post
    I agree; the 1st edition character is clearly the winner here, when you compare how the pcs fare against monsters of the same names in the Monster Manual. The 1st edition 9th level party can pretty much take on anything in the books. As you all know, the 3rd edition 9th level party still needs to run from challenge rating 14+ encounters. Whether you look at dragons, giants, beholders, demons, devils, golems, etc. the 1st edition party is able to defeat them at a far lower level than other editions.
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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    Quote Originally Posted by Endarire View Post
    but my view of casters (especially Wizards) is living embodiments of magic.
    Your view is wrong. Wizards are far from "living embodiments of magic". They're simply nerds with books... that happen to contain hacks to the universe. But the wizard's power is external, not internal. Saying a wizard's a 'living embodiment of magic' is like saying a construction worker is a bulldozer-crane-backhoe engineer (As in a bulldozer that can turn into a crane or backhoe that is also an engineer)

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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sartharina View Post
    Your view is wrong. Wizards are far from "living embodiments of magic". They're simply nerds with books... that happen to contain hacks to the universe. But the wizard's power is external, not internal. Saying a wizard's a 'living embodiment of magic' is like saying a construction worker is a bulldozer-crane-backhoe engineer (As in a bulldozer that can turn into a crane or backhoe that is also an engineer)
    I'd argue that the living embodiment of magic is the Sorcerer, and only parts of them (such as their blood).

    'Cause, you know, power from within and all that jazz.

    And I do agree that the right answer to the magic/mundane problem is to make everyone badass.

    Anyway, two cents:

    4e makes PCs more dangerous early on but it also made monsters more dangerous early on. So it's hard to compare. Still, Epic Destinies often feature you becoming one with nature/a god/a magical entity/a legendary badass.

    1E... You could solo dragons if you felt like it at level 9. So that was something.

    3e/3.5 had a level one God.

    2e... Didn't play it, so I can't comment.

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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    Quote Originally Posted by GPuzzle View Post
    And I do agree that the right answer to the magic/mundane problem is to make everyone badass.
    Very much agreed.
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    And I do agree that the right answer to the magic/mundane problem is to make everyone badass.
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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    Quote Originally Posted by Endarire View Post
    Very much agreed.
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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    I think that they should be in the same level. It's the Mountain Cleave Rule. You can have your Wizard bend reality, I have no problem with that. Just allow my Fighter to cut mountains in half with my sword.
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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    Imagine you and some friends are going to a steakhouse.

    The waiter comes and brings you the menu, and you all look over them, and you're all hungry and looking forward to having a good time at this restaurant.

    Your waiter comes back and takes your orders. Your one friend orders a skirt steak, another friend gets a rib eye, and you order a lobster. After you help yourself to some complimentary bread, the waiter comes back with your food. The skirt steak smells delicious and comes in a delightful sauce. The rib eye just smells exquisitely seasoned and you can tell it'd be delicious before even seeing it. Your lobster, however, looks undercooked. It also looks like somebody dropped it, stepped on it, and then put it back on the plate for you. Clearly, you got the short end of the stick.

    So you call the waiter over, and ask "Why is this lobster so terrible? It's obviously of a lesser quality than the steaks my friends ordered, and it's like your chef didn't even try to make it edible, much less good."

    And the waiter responds, "This is a steakhouse. It's expected that you order a steak. Our restaurant is designed to make good steak, and we *intended* that the steak is the best part of this restaurant."

    Now if I was in your position, I would ask, "Why would you offer lobster in the place?"
    It always amazes me how often people on forums would rather accuse you of misreading their posts with malice than re-explain their ideas with clarity.

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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vitruviansquid View Post
    Now if I was in your position, I would ask, "Why would you offer lobster in the place?"
    Oh absolutely.

    However, consider the case where the only other restaurant in town serves all kinds of meat, equally good ... but none of them are close to as good as the steaks at the steakhouse. If I want the best food, I'm going to go to the steakhouse, despite their stupid policy regarding lobster.

    So I guess what I'm saying is that 3E D&D is the worst D&D, except for all the other versions of D&D.
    (IMO, obviously)
    Last edited by icefractal; 2014-10-27 at 01:10 PM.

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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    Putting aside my strong (ly negative) feelings about the views on magic put forward in the OP - and ignoring the 'how to balance magic and fighting' argument that reared its ugly head briefly - here's my opinion (covering only what I know, so no 5E):

    3.0 > 3.5 > 1E > 2E > 4E

    I'm basing this on the power level attained by an average party, ignoring the highly theoretical builds that float about this forum like the bones of the Roswell alien, oft spoken of but rarely seen in action. I'm also trying not to take into account that most First Edition DMs live solely for playing with the PCs like a cat on a mouse, which has an obvious effect on their level of real power.

    3.0: PC power is at its all-time high. Monsters are mostly terribly weak for their CR, and many grossly overpowered spells still exist in their purest form.
    3.5: Like 3.0, but with an effort made at balance.
    1E: First Edition is hard to categorize, because of the very non-linear curve it followed. But generally I think characters tended to be less powerful, although that might be down to the different gaming culture associated with 1E. Very high level characters - while phenomenally rare in real life - were also phenomenally overpowered.
    2E: Is to 1E as 3.5 is to 3.0, basically.
    4E: Fourth Edition seems designed to prevent characters attaining 3E heights of power by the most blunt method possible. Everyone has a very equal and unvarying dose of power for a given level, and it's difficult to create characters who are legitimately strong. The system's focus on 'tactical' combat also encourages DMs to make the PCs feel weak.
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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    Nobody was ever more powerful than a 17th (or more) level Magic-User in original D&D who had a DM who was overly indulgent on adjudicating Wishes, because there were no limits given.

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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    Nobody was ever more powerful than a 17th (or more) level Magic-User in original D&D who had a DM who was overly indulgent on adjudicating Wishes, because there were no limits given.
    Is that any different in other editions though? 3E and 5E still have the "anything" category, it's just noted as "unsafe" - which all Wishes in OD&D were.

    Some of the responses bring up a point I hadn't thought about - powerful compared to what? For example, an OD&D character is probably less powerful compared to, say, Orc Soldiers than a 3E character. But (for a typical character), they're more powerful compared to powerful creatures like dragons and demons; I think even some gods were beatable in the teens.

    Also, there's the factor of the DM - are we assuming an actively assisting DM, or a neutral one? The reason I've been saying that 3.5 is the most powerful at the high end of optimization is that you can have an arbitrarily large army of arbitrarily powerful minions purely by the rules - all the DM has to do is not ban it. But if we're assuming an actively permissive DM, you might be able to do that in other editions as well.
    Last edited by icefractal; 2014-10-28 at 05:54 PM.

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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    Quote Originally Posted by icefractal View Post
    The reason I've been saying that 3.5 is the most powerful at the high end of optimization is that you can have an arbitrarily large army of arbitrarily powerful minions purely by the rules - all the DM has to do is not ban it. But if we're assuming an actively permissive DM, you might be able to do that in other editions as well.
    It wasn't spelled out in the older editions, but the title of a 10th level fighter was officially 'Lord', and it was very much assumed he'd have a keep at his disposal and soldiers to go with it (many DMs would run something to let him acquire such). I don't recall offhand there being any table of how many minions a given level fighter was supposed to have, but that doesn't mean it didn't exist.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    Nobody was ever more powerful than a 17th (or more) level Magic-User in original D&D who had a DM who was overly indulgent on adjudicating Wishes, because there were no limits given.
    If you've got a Monty Hall DM, you'll be overpowered no matter what your edition is. Back in our first ever campaign world, I had a thief whose items literally included a Cloak of Being the Weather (no limitations) and a Lightning Crystal that added 10d6 to every hit. There was more, but those were the worst.

    As far as Wish is concerned, I've never met a DM who didn't screw a character at the first sign of an overpowered Wish. It's virtually impossible to come up with one that doesn't have wriggle room. So while the theoretical power is high, the practical power isn't there.
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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    Quote Originally Posted by GPuzzle View Post
    I think that they should be in the same level. It's the Mountain Cleave Rule. You can have your Wizard bend reality, I have no problem with that. Just allow my Fighter to cut mountains in half with my sword.
    And see, I wouldn't find that entertaining. It doesn't make sense; a six foot sword can't cut a mile thick mountain, no matter how much force is behind it. Even if you hit like a nuke you will just topple the mountain, not cut it, unless you have some sort of magical mountain cutting sword which projects mile long cutting lasers, in which case this is just wizardry under a different name. I also don't see the point, what tactical advantage does cutting a mountain give you?

    Now, this doesn't mean I like weak fighters, just ones I can wrap my head around. I can visualize plunging my great sword to the hilt in the Tarrasque's jugular and killing it instantly. This is a pretty badass feat, and a lot more useful than cutting a mountain, but it is still one I can see a badass normal undertaking.

    Now, if you want to play a demigod of strength like Hercules, a guy with an artifact sword that can perform miracles, or a wuxia / shonen hero who can tap into their key to perform supernatural feats of might I would have no problem allowing you in the game or letting you chop mountains in half. But I don't like the assertion that it is the only way to play and my swordsman character can't compete with you in the game without developing supernatural powers.

    Thor and Superman are stronger than just about anything actually playable in D&D, but comic writers have been teaming them up successfully with Batman and Captain America for over 50 years now, and I think such a broad game as D&D should be able to replicate that dynamic.
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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    And see, I wouldn't find that entertaining. It doesn't make sense; a six foot sword can't cut a mile thick mountain, no matter how much force is behind it. Even if you hit like a nuke you will just topple the mountain, not cut it, unless you have some sort of magical mountain cutting sword which projects mile long cutting lasers, in which case this is just wizardry under a different name. I also don't see the point, what tactical advantage does cutting a mountain give you?

    Now, this doesn't mean I like weak fighters, just ones I can wrap my head around. I can visualize plunging my great sword to the hilt in the Tarrasque's jugular and killing it instantly. This is a pretty badass feat, and a lot more useful than cutting a mountain, but it is still one I can see a badass normal undertaking.

    Now, if you want to play a demigod of strength like Hercules, a guy with an artifact sword that can perform miracles, or a wuxia / shonen hero who can tap into their key to perform supernatural feats of might I would have no problem allowing you in the game or letting you chop mountains in half. But I don't like the assertion that it is the only way to play and my swordsman character can't compete with you in the game without developing supernatural powers.

    Thor and Superman are stronger than just about anything actually playable in D&D, but comic writers have been teaming them up successfully with Batman and Captain America for over 50 years now, and I think such a broad game as D&D should be able to replicate that dynamic.
    That was an example. What I mean is - power level keeps the same. The Wizard can wipe out an entire army with a single attack? The Fighter one-shots a Tarrasque. The Wizard can stun a bunch of orcs? The Fighter locks them down with his sheer skill. Yes, it sounds like the Fighter's too strong or the Wizard's too weak, but I really like having characters that coexist together by concentrating on different affairs. The Fighter withstands Achilles' level damage and still manages to hit quite a few, screwing with them just enough that the Wizard can lock them down with spells such as Mass Sleep.

    That's the whole problem of 3e and 3.5 Wizards. It's not that they're powerful. A powerful 4e Invoker can dominate every monster in a 9-feet-radius. That's an absurd amount of mind control at the same time. But a 3e Wizard can make nearly everyone useless.

    They don't have to be too strong or too weak or at the same power level, even. Just let them cover different territory, and they'll do it well.
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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    Quote Originally Posted by Flame of Anor View Post
    But the answer to that isn't dragging the magic users down so everyone's boring--it's boosting the mundanes up so everyone's cool. I think Tome of Battle did an excellent job there.
    It can go either way, and I think an edition respec is the time to do it. Consider, for example, 4e, which did a bit of both... Wizards got somewhat depowered, fighters got somewhat brought up. Moving the utility spells to a separate, gold-controlled, ability that others could theoretically access depowered wizards further... not only did they have to pay for utility spells they could once stick in empty slots, but others could learn and use them, too, lowering their relative power.

    The trick is not to make everyone boring... it's to give wizards interesting and unique things to do, while giving fighters interesting and unique things to do... or at least making fighters good enough at fighting to make it worthwhile to be one, instead of, say, a cleric. Since I tend to flog for Hackmaster, I'll add that's what new Hackmaster does... a fighter can put enough into specialization to pound their way through combat, while a mage tends to be an opportunist, using a few spells for great effect.

    To the OP, I'd say that 3.x tended to be highest power at the upper levels, while 4e tended to be highest power edition at the lowest levels (bearing in mind I have no real experience with 5e aside from early betas). A high level 3.x full caster can easily reshape the world, and can really do it from mid-levels (per the Tippyverse); it's only plot armor that keeps settings somewhat designed for earlier editions on an even keel. A low-level 4e character, however, has significant longevity compared to a low-level character of any previous edition... they can take several hits, and frequently dish out a fair amount of damage. Their curve is a lot lower, though, and doesn't include some of the same spikes that you see in a 3.x power curve.
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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal
    Thor and Superman are stronger than just about anything actually playable in D&D, but comic writers have been teaming them up successfully with Batman and Captain America for over 50 years now, and I think such a broad game as D&D should be able to replicate that dynamic.
    Not sure how much Batman represents "mundane", given he's basically an Artificer, but re: comics in general.

    (Most) superhero comics run off a very "rule of plot" basis - they're not trying to simulate anything, they're going to have whatever is good for the story happen. Which means that if the more powerful characters need to 'forget' they have certain abilities, that happens. And that if an outclassed character is supposed to win, there will be a weak point that they can attack for massive damage.

    There are superhero RPGs that work that way - narrative power is the important part, the character's super-abilities are flavor. D&D is not one of those RPGs - things are generally expected to work as established, not as convenient for the narrative. And using the abilities you have as best you can is expected. So if you want the characters to be equal in accomplishments, they need to be basically equal in capabilities.


    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall
    It can go either way, and I think an edition respec is the time to do it. Consider, for example, 4e, which did a bit of both... Wizards got somewhat depowered, fighters got somewhat brought up. Moving the utility spells to a separate, gold-controlled, ability that others could theoretically access depowered wizards further... not only did they have to pay for utility spells they could once stick in empty slots, but others could learn and use them, too, lowering their relative power.
    4E (IMO) had the right design but the wrong balance point. Putting people on the same power framework - good idea. Could have used some variety, but they did start moving toward that in later books (psionic augmentation mechanic, for example). Making strategic scale magic into a class-independent thing - great solution.

    However, the point they chose was just too conservative. Minions didn't break the action economy - but weren't much good, either. Monsters had much cooler things they could inflict than PCs ever got. Things were damped down to the point where there was a big outcry about a character on the verge of godhood being able to teleport instead of walk (at the same speed). And rituals ... that is the biggest lost opportunity, IMO. By making rituals available to everyone, they were free to make them amazing and powerful without unbalancing the classes. And instead ... they chopped them way down. Small effects, high costs, lots of limitations - most rituals were kind of pathetic, with a few standing out for just being decent. Maybe the problem was that the feat was still optional, so you had to balance ritual-using vs non-ritual-using - bad idea.

    In my ideal design, a character would have two things:
    1) Class - provides tactical-scale power.
    2) Scheme - provides strategic-scale power. Rituals (probably more than one type), Leadership, Connections, and Destiny are the examples I can think of at the moment. Not bound to class, and everyone gets one, no exceptions.

    Which means that we only need to balance schemes with each-other. We don't need to balance them against "can't do anything but fight", because that character would be an NPC.
    Last edited by icefractal; 2014-10-29 at 01:49 PM.

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    Default Re: In which D&D edition were player characters (PCs) individually most powerful?

    Quote Originally Posted by icefractal View Post
    Not sure how much Batman represents "mundane", given he's basically an Artificer, but re: comics in general.

    (Most) superhero comics run off a very "rule of plot" basis - they're not trying to simulate anything, they're going to have whatever is good for the story happen. Which means that if the more powerful characters need to 'forget' they have certain abilities, that happens. And that if an outclassed character is supposed to win, there will be a weak point that they can attack for massive damage.

    There are superhero RPGs that work that way - narrative power is the important part, the character's super-abilities are flavor. D&D is not one of those RPGs - things are generally expected to work as established, not as convenient for the narrative. And using the abilities you have as best you can is expected. So if you want the characters to be equal in accomplishments, they need to be basically equal in capabilities.
    .
    Are you sure about that? How do HP work then? Why can a high level character reliable survive dragon breath or falling off a cliff or dozens of ordinary wounds if there is no element of luck or plot armor?

    I have never seen any D&D fluff in a rule book or a novel that suggest fighters have some sort of regeneration or skin of adamant or magical protection field that would represent that.
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