Captain Patch’s third and final rant is now up on Hooked Gamers. This time, its about role-playing, although he rather dances around it a bit.

After discussing the differences between Dave (“character is everything”) Arneson, and Gary (“frag and grab”) Gygax – which led to their parting ways – Patch gets down to his core point, which is that characters are too powerful.

In the real world, people’s abilities do not improve infinitely. So they shouldn’t in RPGs, either. Development ought to be minimal, and the emphasis on story, hence role-playing would come to the fore.

Well, I’m somewhat in agreement here, though not completely. One reason most of us – if not all – play these games is to watch our characters grow in ability. But yes, that can go too far. A 20th-level character, even in 2nd ed., is practically on a level with the gods.

How do you set up a challenge for such a group? It isn’t easy; simply throwing ever more powerful opponents into the mix doesn’t make for a satisfactory experience. There comes a time when even power isn’t enjoyable any longer.

So in that respect, he has a point. And we can see, even with 3rd ed., that the rules are now focused heavily on player power. More abilities, more feats, more Neat Items, more monsters to bash, more rapid advancement in levels. At least 1st ed., for all its problems, made advancement slow.

On the other hand, restricting character growth just wouldn’t be much fun. Not unless it was done the right way. One system that was built on that idea was Bushido.

As I wrote way back in When Story Matters In RPG, Bushido had only six levels of advancement, and they weren’t easy to come by. It was much more important to develop skills and stats, and magic items were rare.

Of course, one needs an excellent DM for something like this, as well as players who are willing to forego “playing for power” and have “playing for story” instead.

I doubt there are many of those around. We’ve seen how AD&D became D&D, with the emphasis more strongly centered on how powerful the characters could become, long before 20th level.

Between the rules set and the computer games based on them, plus most other RPGs (when they show up), the average player expects as a matter of course that his character will just continue to become ever more advanced. And have plenty of loot to grab, too.

Y’know, I do like having a strong character, especially in computer RPGs. Of course, there it’s a necessity. Because, as we’ve discussed so many times before, these games don’t have much in the way of story or true personal involvement. So “loot and level” takes their place.

And, sad to say, I don’t see that changing much any time soon, if at all. This seems to be what the majority want, online or off, so that’s what we’re stuck with. These days, munchkins rule.

Inflation in RPGS III on Hooked Gamers