On the Efficacy of a Sword

I've already spoke on how you are role-playing incorrectly, here's how the mechanics support the idea of role-play being how you would explore the dungeon.

You know what has exactly the same chance to hit as a fifth level fighter (needing 16,000 experience)?

A first level wizard with a +3 sword.

What's important is the play of the game. The differences between most characters between levels 1-9 are minimal. A few extra hit points for some. But there is a good chance, for most classes that when you level nothing may change.

But does it matter?

Not in the least. You determine your status as a winner by surviving and surveying the pile of gold you've accumulated. You enjoy the play of making decisions and attempting to survive.

I'll let you in on a secret - the 'talents' and 'skills' I let my players have is illusionary. The design space that they are designed to fill, would not need to be filled if they didn't take the 'talent' or 'skill'.

There are little changes between each level, because the characters are not what keep you alive. It's you as a player that keeps your character alive.


  1. Uh, I don't think so. A first-level MU should have a -5 weapon non-proficiency penalty. Assuming average (and not sub-apr) STR, the wizard would have a have a -2 hit. This isn't even taking into account a different attack matrix.

    That said, I get your major point; it's the player's "mad skillz" that count, not the character's ability.

  2. @Anthony: I would say that it depends on what game you're playing, doesn't it, what sort of penalty a wizard gets?

  3. Well, first level wizard with a +3 sword implies AD&D. Now B/X or Oe, maybe not.

  4. It does make one question the truly apocalyptic amounts of cruft in later editions of D&D, doesn't it? I was flicking through the Player's Handbook for 3.5, trying to work out if it was worth my while to try and run, and so many of the feats are just tiny mechanical bonuses that unlock other mechanical bonuses that are themselves gatekeepers for something halfway decent and interesting. That's not design space; that's padding.

  5. A quarterstaff +3 then - the point was that THACO in LL doesn't increase for any second level character, and a single random magic item gives the equivalent of five levels.

  6. The little fiddly tiny bonuses for character abilities and magic items in 4E drove me nuts. It got to where I wished we didn't have to level up or gain new magic items because it was NOT worth the bookkeeping to add them to my character sheet and remember to use them in (grueling, overly long) combats!


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