The Red Box Blog

Ramblings about D&D.

The Dichotomy of Rising Powers

There is nothing quite like playing Basic and 4E games in close proximity to each other to highlight a bizarre trend that has been progressing through the edition changes for decades.

On the surface it appears that new first level characters have gotten more and more powerful through the editions. Hit points have risen, spells have become more plentiful and more powerful, stealth has gone from a long shot to a legitimate tactic, and fighters have gained more and more pluses.

One writer once mused that AD&D characters started as ordinary guys who dream of being Batman, while 4E characters start as Batman with dreams of being Superman. Yet for all the things that player characters have gained over the years, in one very important way they are less powerful than ever – their enemies.

It is often said that the true mark of a great hero is a great villain. If that is so then which game produces greater heroes the one which beginning heroes might actually win a fight against an ogre, minotaur, or medusa or the game where beginning heroes quiver at the sight of orcs? Even the lowly kobold, who were little more than mosquitoes to the heroes of old, can now rise up and challenge the new heroes.

This isn’t really a complaint, just an observation that new and old editions alike seemed to fail at what they were designed to do. The older editions made first level characters out to be barely above normal humans, yet is some ways they were very heroic. The newer editions, particularly 4E, make first level characters seem like action heroes, yet is some ways they are very ordinary.

Have an opinion about this article? I love comments. Please feel welcome to leave your thoughts.


November 14, 2010 - Posted by | Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | , ,


  1. You misspelled dichotomy.

    Comment by Anonymous | November 14, 2010 | Reply

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