Today’s post is a bit of a rant. See, as often happens during the time between a new D&D edition being announced and its arrival, speculation and wild hopes pop up on game forums everywhere. (Even in forums the pros are unlikely to ever read.) I’m sympathetic to some of it, but the way that some gamers perceive the game is frankly baffling to me.
Take ENworld’s current discussion about “going back” to having no expected wealth for 5e D&D. I guess a lot of DMs have had bad experiences with players who compare their PC’s gear with 3e’s wealth-by-level guidelines or 4e’s explicit guidelines for +X items. Inevitably, some of these DMs blame the guidelines for telling players that their PCs need magical items.
Well of course PCs need magical items; specifically +X items. It’s been that way since day 1. In early editions, many high level monsters completely ignore attacks from weapons under a certain bonus. And thac0 increases with monster HD, so fighters need magical armor to stay in the arms race. The only difference between expected wealth in TSR D&D and expected wealth in WotC D&D is that nobody pointed out the expectation in print before 3e. And nobody bothered to explain the +X item treadmill in print until 4e. But it’s always been there.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m totally sympathetic to the cries of “Down with +X items and expected wealth!” And it’s completely possible to do, for any DM worth his salt. Namely, these things have to be done together in order to work well. But unfortunately that isn’t likely to happen in my lifetime, if ever — D&D is just too married to +X items.