Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Big jumps

My DnD group just levelled up to level 2.  My character gained 67% more HP, 100% more healing, and about 80% increased damage.  Funny thing is that while I got a lot better, my increase in power over level 1 wasn't even close to the power increase our druid got.  My healing, for example, went from 5 to 10, but hers went from 17 to ~84.  She also has a shapeshift form that increases her damage by 300%, just for fun.  She went from a weak melee attacker with healing spells to being by far the toughest character we have and she dishes out far more damage than anyone else.  I know that druids with this ability are supremely broken at level 2 and it smooths out from there on out, but at this point it is kind of absurd.

This feels like way too much of an increase to me.  Specifically the trouble is that the GM absolutely must control who the party fights ruthlessly if the game is to work.  If a level 1 party goes off the beaten path and runs into a level 2 encounter they will likely get mulched.  A level 1 encounter for a level 2 party is going to be a cakewalk.  The difference in power is just so enormous that if you set up encounters to be challenging you absolutely cannot allow groups to run into the wrong encounter.

That to me feels like a real design flaw.  I get that level 1 is supposed to be a training level, and it isn't supposed to last very long.  It isn't meant to be a place you hang around.  Still, I wish that you didn't have to control them so hard, and after they level up once or twice, throw out all the encounters that worked for level 1 because they aren't worth running at higher levels.

A big part of this problem in my particular group is the issue of transforming into stuff.  I have consistently found that things that polymorph people are an endless source of fun and an equally endless source of balance problems.  It is a great time to turn into a bear and maul people but it always seems to turn out that the monster manual contains a bear, or dire wolf, or stone giant, etc. that has stats that are a huge problem.  Somebody inevitably finds something that breaks the system, as our druid did, and then the rest of the group stands around wondering why they are even along.

I have a similar issue in my other campaign where I am a level 7 wizard with polymorph.  What can I turn into?  This is an important question.  If I can be a beast with a ranged attack that is extremely powerful.  If I can pick that beast that happens to have way more AC or damage than is appropriate then I can do ridiculous things that are wildly unfair.

Naked Man has ruled that I can't turn into something I haven't seen.  But which beasts have I seen?  His first response was that I can turn into what I have seen during the campaign, but that list is nearly empty.  It has only been a couple months from level 1 to level 7!  Plus I am playing an elf that is hundreds of years old and has wandered the world as a smuggler for most of that duration, prior to becoming an adventurer.  Wouldn't I have seen all kinds of crazy stuff?  And if so, I need a list telling me every single thing I could turn into, because otherwise we have to have an argument each time I go to use the spell.

The system DnD uses for this is just begging for abuse.  The monster manual providing character power is a problem, and they should have avoided it.  In the case of a druid they could have done something like giving the druid bonuses to physical stats based on the type of animal they turn into - more strength from a bear, more dexterity from a ferret, etc, but keep their base stats.  Or they could have supplied stat blocks for various forms separate from animals in the monster manual.  But the current thing is a total mess.

People like turning into animals and polymorphing stuff.  I get that.  I just think that if you are going to let people do that you should find some reasonable way to control it so it doesn't go off the rails, and DnD has failed at that.  Again.  Because they always do.  (Except in 4th edition.  Props for that.  Slops for going back to this foolishness again for 5th edition.)

People also like power increases.  But do we really need to increase power quite so much in a single level?  I feel like there has to be a way to tone it down some to avoid this thing where once you level up all the previous challenges just fade away into irrelevance.


  1. Thematically , don't you need to have large jumps between levels if you want that:
    1) Level 1 characters are fairly normal people
    2) A few level 5 characters can effective fight dragons

  2. I think the only way to make sense of level 1 in story terms is that the party is necessarily anomolous. Almost all level 1 characters have the sense to stay safely at home. Of those who are foolhardy enough to venture out into a dungeon, with very rare exceptions, they encounter a higher-level adversary and are quickly killed. This (the campaign) is the story of one of those very rare exceptions. The GM could make you play a thousand campaigns where your party meet a higher-level adversary and are trounced and have to roll new characters for every one where they are lucky enough to meet lower-level adversaries, defeat them, and level up. Instead, they skip the 999 campaigns that consist of a quick TPK, and you play only the one-in-a-thousand lucky one that meets only low-level adversaries.

    An even bigger question is why a bunch of level-one characters would go off into the dungeon alone; why wouldn't they go in the company of higher-level characters, which would be much safer? I don't see any reason for this other than "because they know the GM will tailor the strength of their adversaries to the strength of the party".

    1. There are a thousand stories about characters who join higher level groups as henchman, but they aren't the hero of those stories so it doesn't make for a fun D&D game. This is the 1 in a million group that somehow survives as a group of 1st level characters. Fortunately the multiverse is infinite so we can still play lots of D&D!