Ah, Monte, I love you. Every time I start to relax and think maybe you’ve figured it out this time around, you say stupid crap like this and the underinformed buzz about Next ramps up again. As a cheap marketing tool, it might work. As a way to have a honest, adult conversation about game design, not so much.
I think that players who appreciate the different levels of play want them to be different. (The people who say that the game breaks down at such-and-such a level are self-defining themselves as people who don’t care for that style of high-level play, which is fine, of course!)
If you bother to look at the comments on your thread – and pretty much every recent conversation on this topic – you would see that people aren’t complaining about the thematic changes of high-level play. Amazingly enough, your player base is smart enough to get that an epic story feels different and it’s insulting to suggest that they don’t. Here are the most common complaints:
- Epic combats take too long because the characters and monsters have accumulated too many powers.
- Epic combats are unbalanced because having the correct power or ability can completely trivialize the encounter, while lacking that specific power or ability can make the encounter unwinnable (or, at least, grindy and unfun).
- It’s not enjoyable when certain classes get to have all the fun.
- It’s not enjoyable when the mechanics shift and a long-standing character loses its viability.
Every single one of those complaints is mechanical, not thematic. You seem bound and determined to define epic play as “the place where broken casters win”, rather than as a grand and expansive style of play. If you really want to “unite the editions”, you have to find a permanent fix for linear fighter, quadratic wizard.
And because this is what came to mind when I read Monte’s pompous post, you get to suffer too:
An Open Plea to WotC
Can we please, please, stop with the notion that “high-level” and “epic” are the exact same thing? Yes, a high-level game is far more likely to be epic, but that need not be the case. In the other direction, it’s very possible for a low-level game to have an epic feel. You have to separate mechanics from theme. It’s critical that all the classes be relatively balanced at all levels. Mechanical imbalance is poison at the table. It breeds resentment and frustration.
Go watch the Lord of the Rings movies. For all that the community mocks Legolas, he actually feels epic. You could also watch the first couple of fights from Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. All campiness aside, those scenes made jedi look completely badass, yet non-jedi remain important to the plot. Just remember: Everyone wants to be Han Solo. Everyone.
As a counter-example, take a look at the second and third Matrix movies. There were many problems with those movies, but at the heart of them is the simple truth that no one besides Neo matters. Everyone else is a mook, a villain or a sidekick. That’s the very epitome of shitty storytelling.