Due to a shift in my personal life (new job, recent move, etc.), I will not be starting my Planescape game anytime soon. I do not want to stop this blog, however, so I’ve decided to put the alignment discussion on hold until 1) I can figure out a working solution, and 2) I find a new group of players who are willing to take on this experiment. Without a solid player base, all my musings will be purely academic, and likely to change drastically when I do get the game going. Thus I’d rather spend my time working out some other details, especially since I’m excited about them as concepts.
A couple months ago I came across this post at the Stuffer Shack. I was reading up on the power creep issue of 4th Edition, and the ideas in this post really hit home for me. I’ll try to summarize my position as best I can:
When I started playing D&D, it was a year or two before 3rd Edition came out. I had just barely gotten my feet wet when the new rules changed the game. Then I learned about the Open Gaming License. Holy crap, talk about renovation. The presence of this document led to hundreds of 3rd party books for D&D, which led to a wealth of potential information for both players and DMs. Unfortunately, this also led to option paralysis and player empowerment. The former is bad because it forces a DM to spend more time adjudicating rules than writing adventures and scenarios. The latter is bad (and I want to make it clear that I think it is bad ONLY in this sense) because it generates a sense of entitlement, which leads to time-consuming arguments between players and DMs. [rant] When my time is limited, as a DM, I don’t want to waste it poring over rules in order to present a balanced game to a player who only wants to build up his self-confidence by virtually destroying imaginary creatures. [/rant]
I believe that 3rd Edition, the OGL and the hundreds of books linked to D&D, as well as other factors (Wizards of the Coast and the RPGA, internet gaming forums, etc.), contributed to the environment and attitude of 4th Edition. The Good: Players can clearly outline what they want from the game, and the rules support the effort of the DM to give them that. The Bad: There’s a general attitude among D&D players that anything that deviates too drastically from the model of 4th Edition (only the positive) just isn’t D&D, and shouldn’t be allowed. The Ugly: When a DM tries to present something drastically different from this model.
I want to use D&D for a number of reasons: 1) it’s familiar; 2) I like the tactical aspect of the rules; 3) it has a wide player base; 4) I can use a lot of published material without making too many changes, which lets me prepare more in less time. But I don’t want to keep with certain paradigms: the power creep is the first of several I’d to revise. I believe the issue lies in the above concept (player entitlement) and in the rulebooks themselves, in the given framework where a character receives (miraculously so, at times) so many magical items every few levels.
To combat this issue, I intend to adopt the approach laid out above (and here): what I call the Heroic Character. In short, a player defines his/her character concept in terms of where the character receives his powers. Then we eliminate magic items… on paper, that is. The character continues to receive “items” as he levels; or rather, he receives the bonuses those items would normally provide. But the character has no actual magical items. If he has any at all, they are so special and particular to that character, that they won’t work for anyone else; or they were placed by the DM as a plot device, and are subject to removal whenever appropriate to the story. The point is, whatever I, as the DM, do with magic items in the game, it has no impact on the players’ ability to be awesome with their characters.
Seriously, though, read the article: the original author does a better job than I ever could.
In conclusion, I’m adding the following character concept, because I feel it should be included in the original list, and it’s one that I’ve played with in previous games:
The Pact–The character sells his soul for power. While the other concepts involve an outside source seeking to make a hero, or random circumstances culminating in the creation of a legend, this concept assumes that the character seeks out a being of power, or a suitable replacement, to make a bargain with. The character goes into this compact with the full knowledge that he will be giving up something of his own for something greater. This concept usually evokes the image of the warlock or evil sorcerer, but it could easily be applied to a noble warrior or rogue who wants to use his power for the greater good, even if it means giving up his soul (and thus any chance at the afterlife). The item/power selection for this concept is varied, as there is no underlying theme: the character could just as easily be subtle and manipulative as he could be flashy and extravagent.