Monday, June 04, 2012

Why low level, high lethality?

So my little piece on Tuesday about 5e was more widely read and talked about than most of my blog posts.  Some folks took great exception to my suggestion that 1st level characters in the current draft of D&D Next were too tough.  In some of the less regulated corners of the gaming forums it reached the level of name-calling.  If you were to go by certain commenters on and grognards.txt, I'm some sort of tiny-dicked sadist of a DM who takes out his virginal sexual frustration on his players.  This is all fine and good, as calling people names has a long, proud tradition on the internet.  It's a freedom we all enjoy.  For example: those guys are all douchebags.

However, those douchebags did make it clear that I should have made some sort of attempt to articulate why I like running games for incompetent, fragile PCs.  There are two main reasons:

1) I'm a lazy bastard of a DM.  Prepping an adventure is super-easy when the characters are low HP, low resource buffoons.  Three orcs with indigestion is a perfectly feasible encounter.  Enemy spellcasters only have a handful of spells you need to think about.  You don't need to use monsters with a lot of special abilities.  I don't think I'm the only DM who wants to do the minimal amount of prep needed and not a helluva lot more, and a low-level game helps that a lot.

2) Players love getting away with murder.  Not necessarily literal murder (but that totally works), I mean that one of the greatest feelings you can get out an RPG is that you just did something naughty and got away scott free.  The less competent and more likely your PC is to die, the greater the celebration when you make it out of the dungeon alive.  Sure, you can achieve this feeling at any level with a properly lethal array of opposition, but nothing testifies to your ability to cheat death than escaping ANY adventure alive when your max hit points is lower than the number of fingers on your right hand.  Maybe you were clever, maybe you were lucky or maybe you just played as cowardly as possible.  Whatever method you used, you spat in the Reaper's face just by going into the danger zone with your schmuck PC.