What Was I Thinking?!

Around post #20 in this thread, I was asked in regards to The Genius Guide to Horrifically Overpowered Feats , “What did you *intend* for people to do with this? Why should anyone buy it? ”

Those are entirely fair questions, and I guess I’m far enough away from the release date that I can talk about this project in less hyperbolic terms.

This project didn’t start life as Horrifically Overpowered feats. It started life as ideas and concepts cut from other projects, that I held on to as “too good to waste, too powerful to use.” For a long time I thought I might write a book on game design that used some of these as example cases, even though that’s not the kind of writing that excites the most (talking about game design is fun, writing about it is dreary). A few times I mentioned having such material, and more than one friend commented “You should just do a book of Overpowered Feats, and release them as-is.”

One of the reasons I went ahead and did that was that while these ideas are (for the most part) not appropriate for a typical campaign, that doesn’t mean they aren’t appropriate for any campaign.

One of the things I suspect a lot of players just don’t understand is how subjective rules balance is in an RPG. It depends on things like number of players, number of characters, GM play style, player play style, campaign assumptions, and so on. For example, if a GM runs a campaign centered around fighting human renegades in the woods, the ranger abilities favored enemy and favored terrain can become much more powerful, because the ranger can make choices that come up in play much more often. Similar if in that same campaign most foes are chaotic neutral anarchists, determined to tear down society for the good of its citizens, a paladin’s smite evil becomes much less powerful, because it rarely comes into play. While the powers remain objectively balanced in a game with a balance of foe types and terrains, it’s easy to set up a campaign that is perfectly reasonable on its own, that changes the balance of their effectiveness.

Nor are campaign locations or foe types the only thing that can have an effect. A GM who likes to throw PCs against a single foe of their CR or slightly higher as the most typical encounter degrades the value of area effect abilities. One who loves to hit PCs with 7 or 8 less dangerous encounters in a day increases the effectiveness of abilities with no daily limit. Players who spend a chunk of their money ensuring everyone has at least a few healing potions to use in emergencies have a different need for a healing-based character than a group who only spend money on ways to increase their character’s core abilities. Groups who outlaw Leadership and item creation feats make magic items with very narrow uses less valuable than those that apply in a wide range of situations. Something as simply as how a group determines ability scores can change the value of abilities that depend on those values, or affect them in others.

One of the joys of designing RPGs is that there are so few hard limits, but that’s also one of its great challenges. When I designed the dragonrider class, I knew some groups would disallow it as “overpowered” based just on the fact it allows a 1st level character to fly, and they prefer adventures where a pit or river is a major obstacle. I’ve had smart and experienced players tell me that if a class, feat, or spell allows a character to do anything characters couldn’t do before it was introduced, it’s overpowered. (Whereas I tend to thing if it doesn’t do that, it’s actually pointless.)

Some groups feel fighters are completely overshadowed by 7th level by spellcasters, while other feel fighters make the game unfun because they can take and crank out so much damage over and over and over. In truth, I suspect both groups are right for their own campaigns.

So, there are a lot of things in The Genius Guide to Horrifically Overpowered Feats that I think groups and GMs might find useful for their specific games, even though they’d be terribly disruptive in other games. But I can’t tell you under exactly what circumstances a group should consider using them. I touched on some possibilities (epic games, low-player-count games, games designed to make the PCs the toughest things in existence), but it’s up to each GM and group to take what they find useful.

I’ve never been sure how to make that point clear in a title. Since so much of what we sell is PDF only, I like making our titles very, very descriptive. If you buy The Genius Guide to Fire Magic, you should expect we’ll be focusing on the ways to heat things up and burn them down. That’s also why I tend to do shorter PDFs – so each covers one narrow topic, allowing players interested in that one thing to buy the book for it, and not worry about also getting lots of optional rules they have no interest in.

So instead, I just went with a title (and release date) that made it clear these feats were not for common use. And I tried to make sure I wrote in a tongue-in-cheek style, to entertain through amusement those patrons who would have no interest in trying to use the feats in any situation.

So if a slew of options that only might be of any use to you, and may require a lot of tweaking to match your campaign’s style appeals to you, buy this book. If it doesn’t, and the humor seems not to your liking, don’t buy it. We’ll catch you on the next one.

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About okcstephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the publisher and lead genius of Rogue Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps.

Posted on April 3, 2012, in Pathfinder Development and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. As a DM, I’m going to file this book under, “Things to keep secret from and use against my party.”

    • That’s a perfectly reasonable use! If I find the players are tearing through villains I thought would challenge them (especially if it’s to a degree the players are getting bored), and I need the players to face the same kind of foes for adventure/theme reasons, I might well create “elite” monsters by throwing in a Horrifically Overpowered feat or two.

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