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Yahzi
2009-09-20, 12:44 PM
Problem: build a medieval, feudal world that works by RAW while changing as few rules as possible.

Change #1: XP is tangible.
XP is the most valuable resource in the world. It cannot be produced solely by fighting monsters, because this transfers power from the establishment to wandering adventurers. This is the exact opposite of feudal aristocracy, which is all about maintaining power in the establishment.

By making people the source of XP, feudal states become meaningful. The source of the Kingís power is in the number of peasants he can draw XP from. People rule over society for the same reasons they always have: money = power. In this case it is personal power instead of armies (as if our President used the defense budget to buy an Iron Man suit for himself) but thatís because itís a heroic world.

Change #2: Make the level curve exponential
The DMG states that 1 XP is worth 5 gold. At this rate, a 20th level wizard is equal in value to a large castle. This is ridiculous. To maintain medievalism, we need magic to be rare, but not so rare the PCs become overwhelmingly powerful.

If each peasant is worth 1 XP in tax per year, then there will be a 9th level person for every 15,000 or so ordinary persons. This means that magic is rare (Raise Dead is never going to be cast on peasants, but is available in large cities for a price) but not unique (Cure Disease is available to peasants in good/wealthy/organized/large societies).

Change #3: Explain why Tippyverses donít form anyway
Even given the restrictions above, it is still possible to construct a non-medieval society (though somewhat more difficult). To balance this I posit three solutions.

The first is an opposing force. A horrendous race of monsters (say, Mind-Flayers) routinely hunts down and kills anyone who makes it to 17th level (after all, a 17th level character is worth a lot of XP!). Thus high-level characters must go into hiding and work from the background, through lesser agents.

The second is DM power: ban everything except the core books, and make the few spell changes necessary to preserve sanity (some kind of fix to Polymorph/Gate etc.). You can selectively add back in splat books, after careful review (for example, Green Star Adept tosses out immortality as a trivial side-benefit. It is impossible to run a realistic game-world when immortality is considered less valuable than an additional spell slot).

Finally, ignore rules that say silly things like Genies can cast wishes without XP costs. Everything from spells to creating new monsters requires XP. This explains why everyone hunts humans/orcs/goblins: because the monsters need XP to spawn. XP becomes the interplaner currency. Utopia becomes unobtainable because too many monsters are busy trying to make their own version of Utopia; and when one race/community starts to get too far ahead, the rest cooperate in pulling it down (which describes a very long period of European politics).


I develop these ideas further in my World of Prime, but I would be very interested in what you all think of just this snapshot.

Dixieboy
2009-09-20, 12:54 PM
I don't see why a guy who can alter the fundamental building stones of the universe is worth less than a castle.

Jade_Tarem
2009-09-20, 01:19 PM
I think you're going to end up with something completely unlike DnD.

It's a worthy goal, I suppose. Adding more versimilitude and internal consistency to a setting is usually a good thing, but I think you're ultimately doomed to failure.


Change #1: XP is tangible.
XP is the most valuable resource in the world. It cannot be produced solely by fighting monsters, because this transfers power from the establishment to wandering adventurers. This is the exact opposite of feudal aristocracy, which is all about maintaining power in the establishment.

By making people the source of XP, feudal states become meaningful. The source of the Kingís power is in the number of peasants he can draw XP from. People rule over society for the same reasons they always have: money = power. In this case it is personal power instead of armies (as if our President used the defense budget to buy an Iron Man suit for himself) but thatís because itís a heroic world.

And you've just eliminated armies. You haven't removed the fundamental problem of xp vs. numbers. Now, instead of adventurers being able to wipe out the militaries of small nations, the NPC kings can do it. Speaking of which, no one but the aristocracy would ever go to war, which is more Idealized Ancient Greece than Medieval Western Europe.

You haven't stopped the free food deal either, since magic items that create food and water can still be manufactured.


Change #2: Make the level curve exponential
The DMG states that 1 XP is worth 5 gold. At this rate, a 20th level wizard is equal in value to a large castle. This is ridiculous. To maintain medievalism, we need magic to be rare, but not so rare the PCs become overwhelmingly powerful.

If each peasant is worth 1 XP in tax per year, then there will be a 9th level person for every 15,000 or so ordinary persons. This means that magic is rare (Raise Dead is never going to be cast on peasants, but is available in large cities for a price) but not unique (Cure Disease is available to peasants in good/wealthy/organized/large societies).

I kept saying this before 4e came out, and then gave up when I realized that no one was listening. The general trend in DnD is to make magic increasingly, not decreasingly, common.

But that doesn't need to deter you. The problem is where the PCs come in. Will they be dragooned into being service providers at third level? That doesn't sound like a very fun campaign...

And as Dixieboy pointed out, how is a man who can wipe out several castles a day not equal in value to a large castle?


Change #3: Explain why Tippyverses donít form anyway
Even given the restrictions above, it is still possible to construct a non-medieval society (though somewhat more difficult). To balance this I posit three solutions.

The first is an opposing force. A horrendous race of monsters (say, Mind-Flayers) routinely hunts down and kills anyone who makes it to 17th level (after all, a 17th level character is worth a lot of XP!). Thus high-level characters must go into hiding and work from the background, through lesser agents.

And they'll be working to kill the mind flayers, right? Since XP is the single most valuable thing in the world, offing the nigh-epic character killers has to be seen as the absolute most worthwhile goal anyone at that level can pursue, and actually succeeding a few times will put that person out of reach of even your horrendous baddies.


The second is DM power: ban everything except the core books, and make the few spell changes necessary to preserve sanity (some kind of fix to Polymorph/Gate etc.). You can selectively add back in splat books, after careful review (for example, Green Star Adept tosses out immortality as a trivial side-benefit. It is impossible to run a realistic game-world when immortality is considered less valuable than an additional spell slot).

You're going to have to make a lot of changes. Just using core, a 17th level wizard should be able to dodge mind flayers with ease, even without chain gating, polymorph cheese, etc. You're basically talking about eliminating all spells above sixth level. And eliminating the players, because trust me: while I can easily handle being restricted to books X, Y, and Z, it's a rare player who wants to build a character while constantly having to double-check all the old rules, spells, feats, and prestige classes to see which ones got nerfed. So what you've really done is made casters an extremely unappealing choice, rather than one balanced against the other classes. Your players' options are to play as one of the mechanically uninteresting non casters (core only, now), or as one of the mechanically frustrating casters. I wouldn't expect too many takers.

Unrelated tangent:
The Green Star Adept's immortality isn't trivial, btw, it's pretty much the whole reason to take the class. And you don't ditch just one spell slot for it either. Basically, you sacrifice your ability to compete with full casters at your level for the possiblity of immortality, and then you die anyway because a straight-wizard at your level kills you and you can't stop him, because you don't have the casting power you need.

Ok, so that's pure powergamer reasoning, but look at it this way - this wizard is swapping firepower for durability, but to do so, he has to find an extremely rare substance that might not even exist in large enough quantities to grant him immortality! So he runs the risk of getting the worst of both worlds - falling behind is wizardly peers and being just as mortal.


Finally, ignore rules that say silly things like Genies can cast wishes without XP costs.

Because nothing is sillier than a genie granting wishes.


Everything from spells to creating new monsters requires XP. This explains why everyone hunts humans/orcs/goblins: because the monsters need XP to spawn. XP becomes the interplaner currency. Utopia becomes unobtainable because too many monsters are busy trying to make their own version of Utopia; and when one race/community starts to get too far ahead, the rest cooperate in pulling it down (which describes a very long period of European politics).

This has some merit, although how you'll describe it in in-game terms I don't know. That said, eventually someone is going to rise to the top, beyond anyone's ability to kill him, and then what's to stop him from building his utopia over the objections of everyone else? Teaming up won't do it - a 21st level caster can pretty much do whatever he wants with regards to everyone else.


I develop these ideas further in my World of Prime, but I would be very interested in what you all think of just this snapshot.

I'd like to know what stops your race (the one that can easily off 17th level characters) from taking over the world. Furthermore, how do the PCs (you remember them, the PCs?) have an adventure where they get killed or conscripted for being to powerful, while at the same time everything they do makes them more powerful? It's a catch 22 for the players, no matter how much the rest of the world may or may not make sense.

Mewtarthio
2009-09-20, 01:35 PM
I'd like to know what stops your race (the one that can easily off 17th level characters) from taking over the world.

Why would they be interested in doing so? They're alien cosmic horrors. They show up occasionally to harvest the most powerful mortals. Ruling the world would just be more trouble than it's worth.

I imagine them as customers in a farmer's market. They browse through humanity every so often, devour the most tasty-looking souls, and leave. They don't concern themselves with the politics of farmers.


The second is DM power: ban everything except the core books, and make the few spell changes necessary to preserve sanity (some kind of fix to Polymorph/Gate etc.). You can selectively add back in splat books, after careful review (for example, Green Star Adept tosses out immortality as a trivial side-benefit. It is impossible to run a realistic game-world when immortality is considered less valuable than an additional spell slot).

The thing is, one of Tippy's primary claims was that the Tippyverse would invariably come into existence using nothing but core. The magnificent mansions within portable holes within rope tricks, the infinite food-spawning traps, the teleportation circle networks... all tricks from the PHB and DMG.

Yahzi
2009-09-20, 02:08 PM
And you've just eliminated armies.
Not entirely. Even high-level adventurers want mooks around them. You need some redshirts to open doors, after all. And since D&D combat is all about initiative, you want some shock troops to expose the enemy high-ranks so you can strike them before they see you.

Thus battles become low-ranks fighting each other, until one side starts to lose and their high-ranks have to step in to save them. Then the high-ranks get to fighting.

This does describe Ancient Greece more than Feudal France, but D&D is unabashedly Iron Age (as Frank & K point out). More to the point, the medieval world itself preferred Iron Age heroism to the actuality of their own world. So what we are trying to simulate is not Dark Age Europe, but rather Dark Age Europe Mythos.


You haven't stopped the free food deal either, since magic items that create food and water can still be manufactured.
The expense is extremely high, huge piles of XP not dedicated to killing tends to attract monsters, and why bother? You need the peasants anyway. And they need something to do.

We can feed cows indoors, but we don't. We still free-range them. Because it's cheaper. Economics drives everything. :smallbiggrin:


Will they be dragooned into being service providers at third level? That doesn't sound like a very fun campaign...
On the contrary - pointing out PC's social obligations is the cure to many, many campaign blues. The DM can always find time/reason for adventures, but reminding the players that they should spend some or most of their off-screen time helping their community can only help.


And as Dixieboy pointed out, how is a man who can wipe out several castles a day not equal in value to a large castle?
Ahem. Clearly I failed to make my point. :smallredface:

I meant to say that a 20th level wizard is worth vastly more than a pile of stone, no matter how artfully arranged.


actually succeeding a few times will put that person out of reach of even your horrendous baddies
Not really, since the horrendous baddies are going to have >17th level characters themselves. And even then, the point is that whole societies can't be beyond the reach of the monsters, even if some individuals can.

This creates a fantastic plot device: the uber-powerful wizard who must work through the low-level PCs to fight against the uber-powerful monsters who secretly threaten all of civilization.


Just using core, a 17th level wizard should be able to dodge mind flayers with ease, even without chain gating, polymorph cheese, etc.
Not when the mind-flayers have 17th level casters, too. And why wound't they?


You're basically talking about eliminating all spells above sixth level.
This is a problem for any campaign, really, so whatever solution you impose for your campaign will work with my changes. There arent that many spells that are world-breaking. There are many that are game-breaking, as in allowing wizards to win any encounter, but we don't actually care about that for world purposes. So you have a nigh-undefeatable wizard. The world is littered with the broken remains of nigh-undefeatable BBEGs. :smallbiggrin:


Because nothing is sillier than a genie granting wishes.
No, no, they can still grant them - it's just not free. The Genie has to pay the cost. So for every "free" wish you get, you know that a few hundred nameless peasants will eventually have to die.


That said, eventually someone is going to rise to the top, beyond anyone's ability to kill him, and then what's to stop him from building his utopia over the objections of everyone else? Teaming up won't do it - a 21st level caster can pretty much do whatever he wants with regards to everyone else.
First, I don't have Epic levels. They're just stupid. Epic rules are like the laws of physics in a black hole - rules for a place where, by definition, the rules don't apply.

Second, it takes the life-blood of about 2 billion ordinary people to become 20th level. That makes it pretty rare.

Third, a sufficient supply of 17th level casters can destroy/negate a single 20th level caster. If this is not the case, then the game is just broken and you might as well play Exalted.

Fourth, if your players get to level 20, then you are perfectly entitled to state that they win. Their ascension ushers in a golden Utopia that changes the entire multi-verse. What better way to end a campaign?


I'd like to know what stops your race (the one that can easily off 17th level characters) from taking over the world.
The answer is: they already have. From their perspective your entire kingdom is just free-range cattle. They don't run day-to-day affairs because it's too much trouble, but once your society gets large and advanced and leveled enough where it is thinking about someday becoming a threat, they wipe it out. Leaving behind a few survivors. Who start all over again...


Furthermore, how do the PCs (you remember them, the PCs?) have an adventure where they get killed or conscripted for being to powerful, while at the same time everything they do makes them more powerful? It's a catch 22 for the players, no matter how much the rest of the world may or may not make sense.
It's the perfect catch-22 for players. The idea that you could achieve 20th level and have no social responsibilities or enemies is just ludicrous. Players should become more wary, life should become more dangerous, as their power increases. They should become responsible for the fates of nations. They should be motivated by cross-planar politic and the threat of genocide, not just the desire to line their pockets with shiny.


Thanks for the comments! :smallsmile:



The thing is, one of Tippy's primary claims was that the Tippyverse would invariably come into existence using nothing but core.
I don't know how successfully my scheme handles non-core, because I don't own all those books.

However, the only thing I really object to is the "magic food trap." I don't see that in my 3.0 DMG, so by definition it doesn't exist. :smallbiggrin:

Riffington
2009-09-20, 02:11 PM
This problem has already been solved, and it's called E6.

When you get much above 6th level, you start getting into problems with a medieval-type world. Game balance issues start becoming real, and characters stop being threatened at all by guards. It can still hold together for a little while, but that's where the problems start.

The problems begin in earnest when you get teleport and unlimited food. It breaks the medieval world. Castles turn into mere safehouses: they no longer command the countryside or stop armies from penetrating the kingdom. The ramifications of that are huge. Now, you can certainly fix this problem with exponential XP, but I don't think your enemy race will do it for you.

As a side note, the whole "dungeon" thing doesn't really work with a RAW-like system. You get so much XP and gold from destroying them that unless your party is the strongest good group in the world, they should really have to pay a large admission/entrance fee to get into the dungeons. For those to work as a plot element, you need to abandon realism, abandon dungeons, or have most rewards be given outside the dungeons rather than as treasure drops.

Yahzi
2009-09-20, 02:17 PM
This problem has already been solved, and it's called E6.
E6 isn't exactly D&D.

However, you are correct in that most DMs solve the problem by simply running lower-level campaigns, where neither the PCs nor the NPCs are in the teens.


You need to abandon realism, abandon dungeons, or have most rewards be given outside the dungeons
Entirely true. If dungeoneering is the source of power, then why aren't the NPCs dungeoneering? Hence my "XP comes from peasants." Dungeons are still good ways for individuals to gain power, but they don't explain (or replace) states.

Jade_Tarem
2009-09-20, 02:28 PM
@ Yahzi:

Ok... I guess that makes sense, but it doesn't jive with your stated goal of emulating Dark Age Mythos/Society. Last time I checked, Richard the Lionheart died of gangrene, not Mind Flayer assault.

Maybe I'm too locked on the Mind Flayer thing, but in typical DnD stuff, whenever the Mind Flayers take over everything, free will vanishes. That's kinda what makes them scary. So they're not so much like cowboys with cattle as Robotic overlords with mind control devices. But I suppose it doesn't have to be mind flayers. Maybe it's dragons or something.

The real problem comes from the player element. You've got quite the attitude of defeatism here. The players can't achieve anything worthwhile, nor can anyone change this campaign world in any meaningful way. The second any kind of development starts to take place - BAM! Epic mind flayers. (Yes, a mind flayer with 17 class levels is at epic ECL).

Also, seriously, you plan to make a game out of having the adventurers spend less and less time adventuring? How is that not going to be self defeating? :smallconfused:

Yahzi
2009-09-20, 03:04 PM
You've got quite the attitude of defeatism here.
In most D&D campaigns the players don't actually have any obstacles. 20th level is just sitting there, waiting for anyone with the drive and gumption to go get it. The reason the NPCs aren't 20th level is because they're stupid and lazy - all of them!

And once the players get to high levels, they are unstoppable gods who face no opposition. Indeed, Demons and Devils are merely 1/4 of their resources - hardly a struggle for survival. Typically they lounge around in taverns until they feel like murdering some sentient being for its treasure, and once they do, there are no repercussions.

My scheme is quite different, I agree. As the players become more powerful, the stakes become higher and higher - not lower. As they gain power, they have to gain subtlety - they can't just throw their power around willy-nilly. Bragging about your abilities as a 3rd level is one thing; merely disclosing you are in fact 15th level is entirely different.


The players can't achieve anything worthwhile, nor can anyone change this campaign world in any meaningful way.
Yes, they can - it's just actually difficult instead of "Oh, wow, we never thought of that even though we're all 30+ INT NPCs."


Also, seriously, you plan to make a game out of having the adventurers spend less and less time adventuring?
Not less adventuring - just different kinds. 12th level characters should not be rooting around in abandoned graveyards looking for shiny. That's the definition of irresponsibility. And pointlessness.

They should be out saving the world - foiling the plans of the BBEG, melding petty kingdoms into great states that can challenge the monsters, going after artifacts that can turn back the tide of evil, etc.

Riffington
2009-09-20, 03:08 PM
Also, seriously, you plan to make a game out of having the adventurers spend less and less time adventuring? How is that not going to be self defeating? :smallconfused:

Less game-time is different than less Earth-time. You can play a very fun campaign where you have an adventure once a year, and spend the rest of your time farming or ruling your respective empires or whatever. You just don't let the farming eat the whole session. That said, the "downtime" stuff can actually be really fun - particularly if you happen to be kings or wizards or the Grey Mouser. Less so if you happen to be a monk.

Also, see Ars Magica.

Mewtarthio
2009-09-20, 03:08 PM
Maybe I'm too locked on the Mind Flayer thing, but in typical DnD stuff, whenever the Mind Flayers take over everything, free will vanishes. That's kinda what makes them scary. So they're not so much like cowboys with cattle as Robotic overlords with mind control devices. But I suppose it doesn't have to be mind flayers. Maybe it's dragons or something.

The real problem comes from the player element. You've got quite the attitude of defeatism here. The players can't achieve anything worthwhile, nor can anyone change this campaign world in any meaningful way. The second any kind of development starts to take place - BAM! Epic mind flayers. (Yes, a mind flayer with 17 class levels is at epic ECL).

I don't know about defeatism. Mass Effect did the whole "cosmic horrors kill everyone when they get too advanced" thing while being far from cynical (if you play Paragon, that is).


Also, seriously, you plan to make a game out of having the adventurers spend less and less time adventuring? How is that not going to be self defeating? :smallconfused:

I think the idea was that adventurers get power through adventuring, while nobles get power through the feudal system.

Jade_Tarem
2009-09-21, 06:18 PM
In most D&D campaigns the players don't actually have any obstacles. 20th level is just sitting there, waiting for anyone with the drive and gumption to go get it. The reason the NPCs aren't 20th level is because they're stupid and lazy - all of them!

Or maybe because adventuring is really freaking dangerous for a level 1 commoner. Not to mention deceptively expensive. (http://goblins.keenspot.com/d/20060909.html) :smalltongue:


And once the players get to high levels, they are unstoppable gods who face no opposition. Indeed, Demons and Devils are merely 1/4 of their resources - hardly a struggle for survival. Typically they lounge around in taverns until they feel like murdering some sentient being for its treasure, and once they do, there are no repercussions.

This might be an artifact of how you run your games, but if your players aren't challenged properly that's largely your fault as DM.


My scheme is quite different, I agree. As the players become more powerful, the stakes become higher and higher - not lower. As they gain power, they have to gain subtlety - they can't just throw their power around willy-nilly. Bragging about your abilities as a 3rd level is one thing; merely disclosing you are in fact 15th level is entirely different.

Again, that's interesting, but you've once again strayed far from Feudal Europe. And from DnD.


Yes, they can - it's just actually difficult instead of "Oh, wow, we never thought of that even though we're all 30+ INT NPCs."

Ok, let me rephrase.

You have a god-force in your games - Mind Flayers was the specific example given - that kills anyone and everyone who makes it to 17th level. Mind Flayers, or any other god-force worthy of the name, are intelligent. Very intelligent. Smarter than your players, as a matter of fact.

Keeping this in mind, how can any measure of subtlety or any number of cat's-paws save your characters from the Mind Flayers? They have kept track of rising stars in the world, and are already aware of 17th level status by the time it's achieved. In other words, there's no need for your players to "slip up" or "brag" or "toss their power around willy-nilly" and disclose their level to anyone - the Mindflayers already know, and they're coming for them. And no, your characters can't hide from the ECL 28 Mind Flayer strike force.

Apathy is something of a cop-out answer to this question. Int 30+ creatures do not sit around and wait until growing threats become truly dangerous to quash them. Chances are that most people actually get stomped at level 15 or so. That means that your players will probably want to go underground around level 9 to properly lose the scrutiny of the Cosmic Horrors - which, while making for a very different game (something that Yahziworld does do well) flies in the face of your emphasis on social responsibility. And of making this remotely like anything from Earth's history. Unless we've abandoned that goal and are just trying to make an interesting campaign setting, which I recommend.


Not less adventuring - just different kinds. 12th level characters should not be rooting around in abandoned graveyards looking for shiny. That's the definition of irresponsibility. And pointlessness.

I would again point out that this is the DM's problem as a DM. It would still be very easy to make a pointless game in Yahziworld.


They should be out saving the world - foiling the plans of the BBEG, melding petty kingdoms into great states that can challenge the monsters, going after artifacts that can turn back the tide of evil, etc.

Except... how? We once again run into Int 30+ syndrome. The Mind Flayers eat civilizations that become too powerful - and you've already stated that everyone else will be helping them to boot! Plus, they've already tracked down all the artifacts that could challenge them. That's what Mind Flayers do - they're very proactive like that.

I know it may seem like I keep trying to tear Yahziworld down, but I'd like to point out here that I think this is a good idea, really. It is different, and attempts to sort through the myriad fundamental flaws with worldbuilding in 3.5. I can buy into social responsiblity eating up a lot of PC time. I like the idea of making xp a tangible resource. I'm just not sold on the cosmic horrors bit.

Lapak
2009-09-21, 06:46 PM
If you're trying to prevent the Tippyverse of endless magical traps and etc., the easiest way I see is to make one further adjustment to your world: XP is not just tangible, it's limited.

There is only X (a very large X, but finite nonetheless) XP in the world. It is not only the fuel for magical items, spells, and so on: it is the soul-stuff of every sentient living thing in the universe. The more XP that accumulates in any one soul, the fewer total creatures can be alive. Upon death, XP passes back into circulation and new living beings can be born.

This gives us two big controls on the world: it provides for the constant warfare/points of light business D&D expects on the one hand, because the humans and humanoids both cannot beyond their existing populations without 'making room' - one side getting the upper hand could be fatal. The high birth rate assumed for most evil humanoids is part of their evolutionary strategy to lock up as much of this resource as possible, and the implacable hatred of the slow-reproducing races like dwarves and elves have for them is influenced by this.

It also provides a very real reason to have many, many, MANY fewer magical items in the world - every magical item takes some of the soul-stuff of the universe out of circulation and locks it into a nonliving thing. Every permanent magical item and every permanent spell should have a significant XP cost in this universe, and that should be something that a wizard takes more seriously than 'I'll just adventure next year and earn that back.'

EDIT: Amusingly, societies that did advance their technology with magic despite this would see the same kind of reproductive slowdown that modern technological societies seem to tend towards, for different reasons.

Yahzi
2009-09-21, 10:12 PM
Or maybe because adventuring is really freaking dangerous for a level 1 commoner.
But it's not. That CR 1 dungeon is only gonna wound you 1/4 before you run away. :smallbiggrin:


Again, that's interesting, but you've once again strayed far from Feudal Europe. And from DnD.
I don't see that. Feudal Europe faced its occasional uber-threats - the Mongols, the Black Death, the Saracens, and various heresies. Presumably the heroes of the age were expected to focus on those rather than adding a another castle to their collection.


You have a god-force in your games - Mind Flayers was the specific example given - that kills anyone and everyone who makes it to 17th level.
The world is a big place. There are gods fighting against the Mind Flayers. Plus, the Mind Flayers fight each other - should any one tribe or individual get too strong, the others start fearing it.

I think it's possible to posit a killer-force that isn't inescapable. Again, it really just holds down whole societies from going Tippy, not individuals. Presumably mind-blanked wizards can hide from them. And rogues. Priests can get protection from their gods. Dunno how you get to be 17th level fighter, except that the Mind-Flayers don't care because they know you're still not a threat. :smallbiggrin:


Chances are that most people actually get stomped at level 15 or so.
Because of the exponential leveling curve I use, there is actually a lot of room between 15 and 17.

Also, many of the communities in the world don't know about the Mind-Flayers. My players only found out when they were 8th level or so.

If you posit it takes hundreds of years for a society to grow to the point where it can produce 17th levels (which, using my tax base rules, would require 3 million people), then you can have whole kingdoms come and go before the Mind Flayers show up to smash everything.

It's like being a minor English King after the Romans left. You know something dramatic happened to the greatest empire in the world, but you don't know what, and you're sure your personal theological purity will protect you.


and you've already stated that everyone else will be helping them to boot!
No, no, the Elves are against them. So why don't my Elves have a Tippy world? Well, they pretty much do... :D But they're on their own plane, so I can still have a medieval adventure world.

Dwarves, too.


I like the idea of making xp a tangible resource. I'm just not sold on the cosmic horrors bit.
You can easily scale the cosmic horrors up or down, as needed to meet the burden of blocking Tippyverse. The real key is making XP a resource the players can manage, since D&D is all about managing resources.


this is a good idea, really. It is different,
Thanks! A little critical review can only improve a good idea, so I do appreciate your comments.


XP is not just tangible, it's limited.
It's limited to what you can get out of your peasants. :smallbiggrin:

Zincorium
2009-09-22, 04:14 AM
But it's not. That CR 1 dungeon is only gonna wound you 1/4 before you run away. :smallbiggrin:

Orcs have a nasty habit of doing enough damage to send a 1st level character into the negatives with one hit. Your friends ran away. You didn't.


I don't see that. Feudal Europe faced its occasional uber-threats - the Mongols, the Black Death, the Saracens, and various heresies. Presumably the heroes of the age were expected to focus on those rather than adding a another castle to their collection.

You know what the most powerful warriors did when faced with the black plague and the mongols? They died. Later, someone else replaced them.

Basically, 'roll new characters'.



The world is a big place. There are gods fighting against the Mind Flayers. Plus, the Mind Flayers fight each other - should any one tribe or individual get too strong, the others start fearing it.

I think it's possible to posit a killer-force that isn't inescapable. Again, it really just holds down whole societies from going Tippy, not individuals. Presumably mind-blanked wizards can hide from them. And rogues. Priests can get protection from their gods. Dunno how you get to be 17th level fighter, except that the Mind-Flayers don't care because they know you're still not a threat. :smallbiggrin:

So, tippy-style wizards are just fine. Wow. This just confirms how pointless the mind flayers are. Living in a MMM and astral projecting just became even more important, wizards (who get most of the things that would protect them) are even more powerful and paranoid than ever.


Because of the exponential leveling curve I use, there is actually a lot of room between 15 and 17.

Also, many of the communities in the world don't know about the Mind-Flayers. My players only found out when they were 8th level or so.

Very seriously, then, how is this going to be anything other than mind flayers attack, everyone dies? If you've made a name for yourself, it's too late to just go and hide.


You can easily scale the cosmic horrors up or down, as needed to meet the burden of blocking Tippyverse. The real key is making XP a resource the players can manage, since D&D is all about managing resources.

The merit of blocking the tippy verse is all well and good, but my point overall is that the cosmic horrors method is so frought with problems that the cure is worse than the disease. Which in most cases is asymptomatic.

Here's a suggestion:

Characters above a certain level (17 seems to be your preference) don't live in the normal world anymore- they go play across the planes. The gods arrange to that it is very easy to leave, but once you abandon home, you can't come back. You're contaminated with strange, non-medieval ideas, you're dangerous, and it just messes it up for everyone else.

Sometimes it's not even optional, and entire civilizations pull an Atlantis and vanish from the face of the world, in addition to heroes doing so.

It's a positive to the players rather than a negative, in addition to opening up a new, different game the same characters can play a role in, just with a different DM.

bosssmiley
2009-09-22, 01:37 PM
Problem: build a medieval, feudal world that works by RAW while changing as few rules as possible.

Easily done. It was called Birthright. Power came from rulership. Magic was rare and precious. Armies mattered because they could occupy and plunder sources of character power.

Under 3E RAW?

Remove chunks of the system wholesale (magic healing traps, metamagic, wish farming via planar binding, polycheese, scry-and-die, etc.) so that magic works roughly as per traditional B/X D&D (http://www.goblinoidgames.com/labyrinthlord.html).
Remove the ability of casters to break the world by effecting permanent change. All cast magic has a finite duration. Anything with a duration of "Perm" is changed to "CL weeks" or something...
Creating permanent magic items has an unmitigatable character cost. Probably something like a character level (you imbue your own life force into your creation or some such). You still level as an n level character, but play as an n-x character.
Spells above ~6th level have a permanent cost. Bringing back the dead, stopping time, wishing, and such should have cost enough to make players stop and think.
Change the levelling mechanic from linear to diminishing returns, as per Berin Kinsman's level dependent levelling mechanic (pdf link here (http://unclebear.com/?file_id=19))

Plenty of excisions; very few changes. Hopefully a very different game.


E6 isn't exactly D&D.

In many respects E6 models traditional (TSR-era) D&D better than does 3E. In some ways its' focus on using player skill, cunning and ingenuity to defeat powerful enemies, rather than kewl powaz, is more truly representative of D&D as conceived by the originators than anything that came out of WOTC.

I dropped pixels on this and related problems of 3E months ago (http://vaultsofnagoh.blogspot.com/2009/03/20th-level-ho-hum.html).


Entirely true. If dungeoneering is the source of power, then why aren't the NPCs dungeoneering? Hence my "XP comes from peasants." Dungeons are still good ways for individuals to gain power, but they don't explain (or replace) states.

Why do you think old D&D had NPC parties on the wandering monster tables? NPCs are out there dungeoneering too. Just because modern D&D avoids the mirror match, doesn't mean that Gygaxian Naturalism didn't answer this question decades ago. :smallwink:

-----

@v: Why do you think all the good lewt is in tombs? Permanent magic items persist after the death of the creator, and, being as they are effectively free power!, become either the stuff of legend (if lost) or bones of contention (if rediscovered).

They could also act as anchors to the material world for the soul of the creator, given that part of the creator's essence is still vested in the item. Hence visions of ancient kings, possession by infernal warlord, liches, and various other flavours of sealed evils in a can.

Dixieboy
2009-09-22, 01:44 PM
@Bossmiley:
What happens if the creator of a magic item dies?

Jade_Tarem
2009-09-22, 03:03 PM
@bosssmiley

Do I understand correctly that under this system, a wizard that creates twenty magic items would level as an epic level character but be effectively level 1? For, say, a few potions, a few low level wands, and a few 6th level spells? That seems more than a bit extreme...

I don't think anyone would even play a caster under conditions where doing anything reduces your level. Heck, a 15th level rogue would be able to kill any wizard, anywhere - or at least fight well enough to reduce a level 20 wizard to level ten or twelve - and those levels can never, ever be recovered, since he has to gain enough experience to advance from level 20 to level 21, and he can't gain xp from CR 12 challenges, since he still gains xp as a level 20.

This doesn't even begin to address the RP rip you're going to cause. "Yeah, so yesterday I had the ability to alter reality to my whim and open planar rifts. Then I made a bunch of CLW potions and now I can't cast fireball anymore - nor will I ever be able to again."

In short, no thank you. I'd much rather play shock-trooper fighter, or an exotically mounted paladin, or a vanilla assasin, or, y'know, a class that doesn't have to kill itself to fight effectively. It's no exaggeration to say that most players would rather reroll than make a magic item or cast a level 9 spell under this system - making it really no better than stand-alone 3.5. Why is it a good idea to make a system where making 3 magic items ensures that you will never, ever be able to keep up with the rest of your party again, and making 5 magic items guarantees that you'll die in the next fight?

Random832
2009-09-22, 03:16 PM
He did say "permanent magical items" - that arguably excludes wands, potions, and scrolls. I think he was thinking along the lines of +5 swords.

Really you run into the next problem - that the rules for magic item creation don't draw a strong distinction between "permanent" and not. It's just a pricing detail.

Permanent costs the same (-ish) as 100 charges for game balance reasons - you're not going to use 100 charges of something during the time you're at a level where it's useful. Trying to shoehorn "it's really really valuable because it lasts forever, even though it's not going to benefit the players forever" into the system creates problems. Why shouldn't players be then able to make a non-permanent item with 100 or 1000 uses?

Think for a minute why would anyone ever make a permanent item under your system? If they need one to last their whole lifetime, just make one with ten thousand charges, or one that lasts 99 years and a day. It'll cost a ton of gold, a ton of XP, and maybe several months worth of spell slots, but won't be _forever_ and therefore won't require your irrevocable LA.

----

How about a suggestion: Eliminate use-or-lose spells per day. When you level, you get a certain number of spells that you can cast, and once you cast them they're gone, but they don't replenish day-to-day - so there's no incentive to burn your spell slots to make magic items / potions / etc, since each one you use today is one less you might need to fight monsters next week.

This system may work better with spell points than spells-per-day.

Lapak
2009-09-22, 03:25 PM
Think for a minute why would anyone ever make a permanent item under your system? If they need one to last their whole lifetime, just make one with ten thousand charges, or one that lasts 99 years and a day. It'll cost a ton of gold, a ton of XP, and maybe several months worth of spell slots, but won't be _forever_ and therefore won't require your irrevocable LA.That's why I like my idea of a finite pool of XP in the world. That encourages individuals to get all magic-happy but strongly discourages civilizations from doing so. In fact, someone who gets too crazy with the item-making might actually draw down some wrath from the surrounding communities for doing so. Since the XP stays locked up until the item is destroyed or expended, a 10,000 charge or a 99-years one is just about as bad as a permanent one from the perspective of 'everyone but the owner.'

Random832
2009-09-22, 03:36 PM
One hidden problem is that by making magic have a higher/unmitigable cost, you're creating pressure towards industrialization. Given a taste of what magic can do, why wouldn't a kingdom try as hard as they can to make the same effects without magic?

IOW, who needs iron golems when you can have iron gundams?

bosssmiley
2009-09-22, 05:13 PM
@bosssmiley

Do I understand correctly that under this system, a wizard that creates twenty magic items would level as an epic level character but be effectively level 1? For, say, a few potions, a few low level wands, and a few 6th level spells? That seems more than a bit extreme...

Yeah. Well spotted on the edge case. My intent was that permanent magic items be all those which are not expended by use. You know, the big-hitter stuff you buy first with WBL.

So a magic sword, or cube of force, or boots of flight, or crystal ball, Ioun stones, or any other "You have this, and with it you can do GIANT FROG" items would count as permanent. Use/day items (eternal wands, rods of blah, etc.) and cheatery items of xx,000 charges are, for the purposes of the campaign, permanent items.

By contrast potions of foo, scrolls of bar, runestones of skub and what not would be non-permanent. They don't drain a level; they're just time- and gold-sinks. In essence non-permanent items are just one-shot spell effect bound into an item. This shouldn't create balance problems so long as a simple "# of effects maximum at any one time" house rule is in effect. For reference, I like "#=lvl".

For charged items like wands and staves you might want to treat them as multi-use temporary items and revert to the old "50 charges max, no recharge" rule. Or, if you prefer, you could just say that they count as permanent items until all their charges are expended by use, at which point the invested character level is restored to the creator. (And you wonder why wizards keep their staves with them at all times...)

Caveat: the 'perm 'til expended' option raises the heads of the 'crafting expendable items to fit the opposition, then firing them off at the end of the adventure' hydra.

So characters can still get lucky charms from the gypsies, potions from the temple, scrolls scribed at the guild, and what not. But if they want permanent character-enhancing magic mojo they either have to pour something of themselves into it (hence wizards being loath to craft for others), or, in time-honoured D&D tradition, they have to adventure to find stuff created and lost by previous generations.

Yes, this kills the 3/4E XP/magic sparkles economy stone dead. But, on the other hand: hey look! Magic is rare and covetable, and we have adventure hooks out the wazoo!

"Old D&D: wiser than it looked." :smallwink:

@v: The only way to get a quasi-realistic feudal gameworld with RAW D&D3 is to mechanically disadvantage the gamebreaker classes (aka full casters) to the point they can no longer break the game with the 'power multiplier' exploits we all know and loathe. If you want Prometheus bound, then you have to actually bind Prometheus.


...you are literally asking the caster to sell his soul.

Yep, and some will pay that price. The story of a magus selling his soul for power, wealth and status is not without precedent. :smallconfused:

Jade_Tarem
2009-09-22, 09:07 PM
Yeah. Well spotted on the edge case. My intent was that permanent magic items be all those which are not expended by use. You know, the big-hitter stuff you buy first with WBL.

So a magic sword, or cube of force, or boots of flight, or crystal ball, Ioun stones, or any other "You have this, and with it you can do GIANT FROG" items would count as permanent. Use/day items (eternal wands, rods of blah, etc.) and cheatery items of xx,000 charges are, for the purposes of the campaign, permanent items.

By contrast potions of foo, scrolls of bar, runestones of skub and what not would be non-permanent. They don't drain a level; they're just time- and gold-sinks. In essence non-permanent items are just one-shot spell effect bound into an item. This shouldn't create balance problems so long as a simple "# of effects maximum at any one time" house rule is in effect. For reference, I like "#=lvl".

For charged items like wands and staves you might want to treat them as multi-use temporary items and revert to the old "50 charges max, no recharge" rule. Or, if you prefer, you could just say that they count as permanent items until all their charges are expended by use, at which point the invested character level is restored to the creator. (And you wonder why wizards keep their staves with them at all times...)

Caveat: the 'perm 'til expended' option raises the heads of the 'crafting expendable items to fit the opposition, then firing them off at the end of the adventure' hydra.

So characters can still get lucky charms from the gypsies, potions from the temple, scrolls scribed at the guild, and what not. But if they want permanent character-enhancing magic mojo they either have to pour something of themselves into it (hence wizards being loath to craft for others), or, in time-honoured D&D tradition, they have to adventure to find stuff created and lost by previous generations.

Yes, this kills the 3/4E XP/magic sparkles economy stone dead. But, on the other hand: hey look! Magic is rare and covetable, and we have adventure hooks out the wazoo!

"Old D&D: wiser than it looked." :smallwink:

This makes slightly more sense, but it doesn't fix everything. For one thing, these rules actually hurt your non-casters more than your casters, skewing game balance even further - remember that non-casters are more gear based, so making magic items rarer hurts them more than the wizards, clerics, druids, etc...

On top of that, no one should realistically want to create a magic item in this game, in or out of character. OOC, it's a bad mechanical decision. IC, you're trading AT LEAST 5% of your life force/experience - an internalized power - and making it into an externalized power that can be separated from you - or one that you can't even use! And this is permanent! Gold doesn't even begin to cover that kind of expense - you are literally asking the caster to sell his soul.

On top of that, I'm still curious about the kind of cost that level 6+ spells would have, because if you attach an xp cost to all of them, I can tell you from experience that your players will never go for it. Why play a class that constantly sabotoges its own ability to survive and advance?

Yahzi
2009-09-23, 09:50 PM
So, tippy-style wizards are just fine.
Tippy-style wizards are not only unavoidable, they are an intended part of the game. Nigh-epic Wizards are supposed to live in floating castles with magic servants and incredible powers. The players are supposed to look up to these mentors for guidance and support, and perform quests for them. Quests that for some reason they can't do themselves. And yet, despite these awesome wizards, everyone else lives like a pig-farmer.

What my mind-flayers do is explain why this is so. They don't create the situation; the situation was already created by virtually every book/module printed. Most home-brew game settings are already like this, to a greater or lesser extent.

Having Tippy wizards is fine, as long as it doesn't lead to Tippyverse. Tippy's contribution was not to point out that high-level wizards are unkillablle (we already knew that) but to point out that they are world-shattering. Mind-flayers who eat them as soon as they leave their magic mind-blanked demiplanes explains why the PCs have to do all those dumb quests - because the Mighty Wizard doesn't dare. It explains why most people live like pig-farmers while some live like modern-day billionaires.


Very seriously, then, how is this going to be anything other than mind flayers attack, everyone dies? If you've made a name for yourself, it's too late to just go and hide.
The PCs should have thought of that before they became powerful.

Hey, if you didn't want to die, you should have rolled better. :smallbiggrin:

Seriously... why wouldn't the players assume that their responsibilities/risks increase as their power does?


Characters above a certain level (17 seems to be your preference) don't live in the normal world anymore- they go play across the planes.
The problem I have with that solution is that it is rail-roading; and worse, in the wrong direction. After spending 16 levels convincing my players to take their social responsibilities seriously, I'm going to force them to wander off to some other plane? Just torch their entire history, all their relationships with NPCs, their enemies, competitors, and associates?

I don't see that as positive; rather, I see it as destructive of everything the player has accomplished. I think the character's history is far more significant than the character's sheet.



That's why I like my idea of a finite pool of XP in the world.
My XP is effectively limited (people are slow to grow). The problem with imposing an actual limit is that either you impose a limit so high it never matters, or you impose a limit so low that eventually the players corner the market...



Under 3E RAW?
Those are all good suggestions. However, I think they are, as a set, somewhat more involved than my "make XP tangible and make the level curve exponential" solution. :smallsmile:

Yahzi
2009-09-23, 09:55 PM
(Responding to bossmiley's links)


The solution I came up with was to just throw XP out the window entirely and award levels based on time served.
While I sympathize with his position, I think my solution is the exact opposite. Rather than make levels a product of "time served," they are a direct result of player creativity and success, since even financial gain can be turned into levels.

The problem I am trying to solve is players sitting around waiting for the DM to give them their 3 adventures so they can go up a level. I want the players to come up with their own adventures, at a risk/reward ratio that makes them happy.



The "math is hard" aspects of ruling a fantasy kingdom, running a thieves guild, proselytising the heathen, or becoming a magus of power and renown were to be ditched in favour of adventurer (a wandering sword- or spell-slinger) becoming a permanent career in itself. I feel the game suffered greatly for this.
QFTW! I couldn't agree more.

Jade_Tarem
2009-09-23, 11:55 PM
@v: The only way to get a quasi-realistic feudal gameworld with RAW D&D3 is to mechanically disadvantage the gamebreaker classes (aka full casters) to the point they can no longer break the game with the 'power multiplier' exploits we all know and loathe. If you want Prometheus bound, then you have to actually bind Prometheus.


Jade_Tarem tampered with this quote: On soul selling...

Yep, and some will pay that price. The story of a magus selling his soul for power, wealth and status is not without precedent. :smallconfused:

Binding Prometheus is one thing, but we've just established that XP is worth killing for. When it's that important, playing a class that's constantly ditching XP is now the least appealing game option. Automatically. This doesn't restore game balance, it flips it the other way while making everyone weaker. I don't know how many players are going to go for that. If I want to be punished for aquiring cool stuff, I'll play GURPS, with its wacky "points must be spent to account for advantages picked up in game" mechanic.

While you may be able to come up with an awesome story about the NPCs selling souls and whatnot, you're never going to convince the players to do it. You have effectively eliminated crafting from the game - even the crafting that isn't so bad, since most players probably aren't going to keep the difference in mind.

Why not just add costs to item creation and spells that don't permanently cripple the caster responsible? Things like additional material components, time constraints, that kind of thing. If it requires a special item, such as a time crystal or something, to cast time stop, then making time crystals expensive enough or hard enough to come by will limit abuse of the spell. Time stop is a fantastic spell to use in combat - but not so good if you burn 5,000 gp worth of material component to do it. This will likely result in players thinking very hard before using their spells, and saving them for important in-game events. Thus, magic of that caliber feels more epic while actually becoming less broken.

Item creation can be handled better as well, I think. While I normally try not to trot out things from Salvatore books, there was a particularly good way to handle it in one of the Drizzt things. It's stated that Mastercraftsmen, among the dwarves, might at one point in their lives be empowered to create an item of such power and quality that legends could be written about it. They don't know what it will be ahead of time, and the design is nigh-divinely inspired. Expanding that to cover non-dwarves too could do good things in the balance department.

Realistically, most of these things hover at about a +6 overall enchantment. They can make one of these - and not every dwarf gets to do it, just a few select mastercraftsmen. Most of those masters spend quite a bit of time accumulating quality tools, materials, and magical scrolls in order to make sure that they'll have what they need to implement their design if or when it hits them - which allows for both great RP/adventure hooks, and limits the ability of players to crank out cheesey items. Who's going to blow their awesome item on a wand of cure moderate wounds that can be used three times a day? The rest of the time, they're mostly moderated to +1 and +2 gear, and rechargable wands and whatnot are extremely difficult to make - probably anything that can be cheesed out should be banned.

Better still, say that they can trade the Craft X feat afterwards - indeed, most craftsmen who pull the superitem thing off don't touch a forge afterwards, knowing they'll never top their achievement. This allows for the player not to feel cheated after he's done his thing, as he's no longer sitting there with a nerfed feat.

So in short, I think you can do this without hacking off great big gobs of XP from wizards and the like, which frankly is only going to tick your players off.

Lapak
2009-09-24, 09:04 AM
My XP is effectively limited (people are slow to grow). The problem with imposing an actual limit is that either you impose a limit so high it never matters, or you impose a limit so low that eventually the players corner the market...That's the idea, actually. You set the limit so high that it's only really noticeable on a societal scale. Joe the Heroic Fighter doesn't have a noticeable effect on the world around him, and even Jim The Superheroic Level 20 Wizard is only having a notable affect on the world around him if you really look; a few tens of thousands of beings' worth of spiritual essence is locked up in his supercharged soul. Maybe a couple hundred more in the items and trinkets he has crafted for himself and his buddies.

But any society that starts investing heavily in the Tippyverse-style magic will get hit by the costs. Every Create Food Trap may only cost a handful of XP, but if you're feeding an entire civilization with them you're making a LOT of them. Every teleportation ring gate, every magically-powered light, every magical healing device; each one reduces the potential population. Such a civilization would flower briefly, be a utopia that they tell stories about for centuries, and then collapse and die as its birth rate plummeted to zero and leave behind a wasteland where no new sentient beings are born. A land filled with ancient, abandoned ruins, with a potential trove of treasure (what hadn't been destroyed by magic-hating societies that recognized the danger or stolen by someone else.)

It would also allow for Shangri-La style Tippy societies where the citizens lived in bounty, but there are incredibly strict controls on both reproduction and the creation of anything new - an indolent, decadent hidden land where no one dared to DO anything lest the perfect civilization fall apart.

(At this point I don't expect you to use this idea, but I'm liking it more and more for my own use.)

Fishy
2009-09-24, 10:13 AM
Here's an idea: Everyone's an Artificer.

There are no wizards, there is no magic, there is no one in the universe who can Time Stop 4/day. Instead, there are scrolls of Time Stop.

Instead, every single human/elf/dwarf/goblin/orc in existence can, once per day/moon/year/century, invest a bit of their soul/life-essence/mojo into creating a magic item- Let's say a scroll of a cantrip. (For style points, make it in the form of a prism and call it a Rupee.) They're not stable- if they stay in storage too long, they'll deteriorate into pretty glass.

If you want any more powerful magic, you need to get a ton of these things together, harvest their essence, and use them to create a more powerful version, ala the Artificer's Retain Essence ability.

The guy who's throwing around Fireballs is a guy who's convinced his serfs/peons/guildmates/congregation/mind-slaves to fork over their magic, and we circumvent the whole 'taxing the peasants for gold, and then setting the gold on fire to somehow make ink' thing.

Johel
2009-09-24, 12:17 PM
The tramp of PC-headed armies marching across the land in time to Anvil of Crom was replaced by the stirring chords of a certain John Williams anthem as players lived out Nietzschean power fantasies. And lo! the grognards wept for what was lost.

An unintended consequence of this superheroicisation ("Hey look ma, new coinage!") was the entire field of theoretical optimisation number-worshipping power wank. All sense of a scale of PC power in relation to ordinary human beings was lost. Rules lawyers darkened the face of the land like a plague of neckbearded, cheeto-stained locusts, 20th level became the new 'name' level, Pun-Pun arose from the Abyss, cattle died in the fields, grieving mothers wept, and the crocus did not bloom.


Just want to say that this guy sums up pretty much what I dislike about D&D discussions on forums : it's mostly about 15th level and above.
Your average 1st-to-6th level characters are overlooked, tons of books with nothing but rules are brought forward, background is ignored for optimisation...and all use of the rules for fluff-related creativity is defeated by "Batman would soooo much love to burn it".

Jade_Tarem
2009-09-24, 02:59 PM
Just want to say that this guy sums up pretty much what I dislike about D&D discussions on forums : it's mostly about 15th level and above.
Your average 1st-to-6th level characters are overlooked, tons of books with nothing but rules are brought forward, background is ignored for optimisation...and all use of the rules for fluff-related creativity is defeated by "Batman would soooo much love to burn it".

Have you considered starting a thread about 1st-to-6th level characters using rules for fluff-related creativity?

That said, I've seen optimization/thought excercises for all kinds of level caps, and discussions about fluff and how to improve it. There have been excellent worldbuilding threads, and a number of other things. In fact, my personal experience has been that it's 15th level and up that gets overlooked, since no one ever plays that high!

I suppose I could quote the trite old saying, "You can't roleplay when you're dead," but that really sets the wrong tone for the point I'm trying to make.

The reason numbers are dealt with more than fluff is because numbers can be compared quickly and accurately to other numbers. Fluff is all relative, which leads to arguments that very quickly go nowhere. Also remember that fluff doesn't exist in a vacuum - your backstory and personality are tied to hard numbers that are used in game. And for many, the mechanical challenge is part of the fun.

The snippet from the guy you've quoted reeks of the smug arrogance that only comes from someone who's hoping his cutesy, smart-aleck presentation will disguise the gaping holes in his argument. I don't think I've met a player in real life or online who spends all his or her time playing at level 20, stomping about without a care in the world. And while the changes he's discussing may have brought about the very real problem of the "number-worshipping power wank," but I somehow doubt that socially inept, nerdy number-tyrants were invented by whatever edition he's complaining about.

Just for giggles, start a thread and ask, seriously, who here on the forums thinks that it would be a good idea to play as Pun-Pun in a real DnD game. If you think that the board is full of number-worshipping power wankers, you might be surprised by the answer - that while most of the posters (here, anyway) will take you up on a numbers challenge, they'll all agree that it's the character that's important, and not the numbers behind it.