Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I miss power creep

One of the most common criticisms leveled at D&D 3.5 was power creep. Every new splatbook upped the ante with more powergaming options. I had my own misgivings about power creep at the time, but now I think what I disliked was not power creep, but the related problem of rules bloat. I have come to this conclusion as a result of my experience with Pathfinder. The good folks at Paizo have made controlling both power creep and rules bloat a top design priority. As a result, their release schedule for rulebooks has been far more modest than that of WotC. Since the Pathfinder Core Rulebook was published in August 2009, Paizo has only released the Gamemastery Guide, the Advanced Player's Guide the Pathfinder Bestiary, the Pathfinder Bestiary 2 and now, Ultimate Magic. Now, I appreciate the wisdom of releasing only about three rulebooks per year, but I wish the books that did come out had more awesomeness in them. The Advanced Player's Guide, for example, introduced six new base classes. I have played one, the Alchemist, while my co-blogger, Obiri has test-driven the Witch (ok, that sounded dirty) and the Summoner. I did like the Alchemist and Obiri's Summoner has proven pretty effective, but the Witch did not impress me much and the other classes, the Cavalier, the Oracle and the Inquisitor are so lame, no one has even bothered to give them an audition. Furthermore, despite a mountain of new feats, spells and alternative class features, I have found very little in the book that appeals to me unless I'm actually playing one of the new classes.

Well, now we have Ultimate Magic. I will leave it to Obiri to review UM, but I will make a few observations. It introduces one new base class, the Magus, which mirrors the Eldritch Knight prestige class (and even uses the same iconic art). I like the concept of a fighter/mage and so I may try the Magus at some point, but most of the rest of the book follows the same recipe as the APG, an occasional morsel of meat floating in a thin, bland broth. The problem is power creep, or more precisely, the lack of power creep. It's a delicate balance to produce new options for character generation that are just as cool as the old stuff, but not more powerful. It is a balance that neither WotC nor Paizo seems able to manage. WotC chose to throw caution to the wind and just kept ramping it up. However, they were able to keep most of the core classes relevent by giving them lots of new hotness in parallel with the new classes they introduced. Paizo has chosen the opposite approach, introducing less new stuff, most of which is less appealing than what was already released in the core rules. I'm sure many will disagree with me, but I'm starting to look back fondly on the WotC way of doing things.

Let the flaming begin!

-Rognar-

8 comments:

Derobane-bane said...

I am very satisfied with Paizo's approach to dealing with power creep. Giving a feat every 2 levels instead of 3, higher hit points to most classes and a greatly improved general list of feats has already given Pathfinder a defacto power creep base that did't exist in 3.5. If Pathfinder followed the D&D model, the game would not only be broken (like 3.5 ended up) but utterly unmanagable.

That being said...

I wish that Paizo would give better options and feats to classes such as the rogue. I accept the fact that good D&D does not equate to equality. If I wanted equality, I would just play 4.0. Still, it would be great to see rogues benefit from some Pathfinder power creep that would make them a bit more combat competative at higher levels. For example, a stackable feat that gives an additional 1d6 sneak attack damage or a special rogue feat that allows a rogue to use dex for fort or will saves (dextrous mentality?)would be a start. The assassin class could also use some power creep, as could most core prestige classes.

If Pathfinder was careful about it, I believe they could introduce some targeted power creep that would not compromise their steady-handed approach that I have come to enjoy.

Rognar said...

Increasing the number of feats doesn't really constitute power creep since that is the baseline state. The real question is do the splatbooks increase the power level and clearly the answer is no. As I see it, there are five top-notch classes; wizard, sorcerer, paladin, ranger, barbarian, and a couple decent ones. Then you have the rest, monk, rogue, cleric, bard, etc. They range from suck to blow and they just never seem to get any better despite getting dozens of archetypes and alternate class features and new feats. Just more and more weak sauce.

Derobane-bane said...

Perhaps lack of power creep keeps Pathfinder in business. Maybe its a part of their business model for being able to create splat books for an extended period of time...

Rognar said...

It's possible. I'm sure I'm in the minority on this and satisfying the majority of your customers is the way to go in business. Having said that, I am increasingly inclined to just buy pdfs of their future releases. Paying $40 for a hardcover with only 5-10 pages of stuff I will actually use is an expense I'm finding it increasingly hard to justify.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

And me without my flamethrower!

Power creep is something that appears in many of the card games as well.

MY son was lamenting that all of his yugioh and pokemon cards are now underpowered compared to the new cards.

Power creep is good from a corporate ppoint of view, ...

Obiri said...

stupid blogger just ate my very long post. Grrrr.

Tadedge said...

I completely disagree. I'm so glad that Piazo pays attention to game balance. Wizards just keeps coming out with new books every month just to suck more $$. With Piazo you can buy a limited number of books and enjoy your playing experience. It is much friendlier on the wallet and an easier time commitment then haveing to sort through three new books each month. The balanced approach and limited publishing is a major reason why our group has switched to Pathfinder and why we are likely to stay playing Pathfinder.

Rognar said...

Just to be clear, the limited number of releases is not the issue, it's the content. Put simply, Ultimate Magic is just boring