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 Post subject: Re: Reward of increasing PC capability: Pointless?
PostPosted: Thu Jul 30, 2009 6:07 am 
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Daeruin wrote:
On one side, you have the skilled character who could slaughter dozens of zombies with ease, but who never gets the chance. He never gets to show off his skill, because the GM is always throwing more powerful foes at him. On the other side, you have a similarly skilled character who is constantly slaying zombies because the GM doesn't have enough imagination to come up with anything better. Which character is truly powerful?

I can’t answer your question straight, as I think we are having a misunderstanding.

Do you remember that in my openeing post, I have not used the example of a more powerful foe for a supposedly more powerful PC but that of more numerous foes? All that matters for measuring how challenging it is to achieve an end is the level of opposition, not the identity of opposition – that’s a matter of imaginative or unimaginative refereeing. If a “powerful” PC has an encounter with a single lich or with a horde of zombies is not the measure of the PC’s effectiveness – in D&D-terms, the measure is what percentage of his hit points he loses in the encounter and what percentage of his spells, potions and magical items he uses up in it.

Staying with liches and the horde of zombies and D&D, I honestly have no idea anymore if it is possible to endanger a high-level PC equally with both, but I know that it in TRoS it is equally possible to threaten a PC with one powerful or several run-of-the-mill opponents. So as long as the PCs are having similarly hard times in overcoming their opposition, neither is more powerful, or effective.

Daeruin wrote:
Regardless of whether a single well-developed character gets a chance to truly show off his abilities in a single game session, you have plenty of comparisons to illustrate his prowess.

I think that the logical flaw is in the perception that power is not a tool to achieve an end but rather an end in itself. If one thinks along the latter lines, slaughtering liches instead of zombies would indeed be a measure of increased power/effectiveness. But this really is deceptive. Looking at the PC as an element of a story, the real measure of effectiveness cannot be in whom he overcomes but only in how you easily he achieves his goals. The peasant whose ambitions are foiled by the village reeve and the knight whose ambitions are foiled by the baron – two people thwarted by powerful opposition. Sure, the knight can unwind by bullying his peasants, but that doesn’t get him one hair’s breadth closer to achieving his end. He seems more powerful than the peasant, but he isn’t any more effective in achieving his goals. Where it matters, his power fails him and he is no better of than the peasant.

Daeruin wrote:
Of course I realize some of these examples are out-of-game considerations and have more to do with the social experience with other players.

I have already acknowledged the validity of these out-of-game considerations and happily do so gain. But I do now realize that it would probably be better to speak of “effectiveness” and not “power” when talking about in-game concerns of the character. Effectiveness implies that we are not talking about theoretical capability but about capablity with an impact.

But anyhow, I feel that we are beginning to argue in circles. I understand how and why you feel that the actual increase in mechanical PC power is measurable by comparison with both his past and with other characters, I just don’t think that this matters – all that matters to measure his power is how easily he achieves his ends. I consider the fact that he is now achieving more than he would have been able to previously as chimerical and totally irrelevant in the context of the game.

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