In the left corner, Arnold K., Never Defang the Darkness:
In the right corner, 1d30, Your Game Evolves Get Used to It:
(Magic can be read as shorthand for any extraordinary capability.)
I am largely cheering for Arnold in this fight, however it seems like the bigger problem with darkvision races is that they get the ability from the beginning, making it part of the character build, charop process potentially. (“Okay guys we need a cleric for healing and an elf to see in the dark.”)
Which is to say, finding out through play that your party is less inconvenienced by drowning is perhaps a different sort of experience than getting rid of that hazard through character build choices. Unlimited abilities or items that do not expire are harder to handle from a challenge crafting perspective, but there is also something unique and valuable to a campaign when PCs are able to exert their autonomy with fewer constraints as time progresses and the story of the party unfolds.
In this light, see also Zak on campaign evolution:
In reponse, I’d probably say that I *like* an evolving game. I like players gathering new tools and new ways to solve old problems. But I don’t think it should be baked into the game. Darkvision and flight shouldn’t be easy things to get. If they are, then it becomes a solvable char op problem.
I say, if they want darkvision, let them seek it out. Let them replace one of their eyes with a ghoul’s eye so they can see in the dark. Let them get those boots of crazy jump. But don’t make it something automatic, and think very hard before you give them full immunity, or give the ability to the whole group. A game where everyone can see in the dark and fly at level 1 is very different (even though those advantages would probably by minimal in a level 14 game).
Do not simply give up that good night,
PCs should quake and hide at loss of day;
Rage, rage against the casting of the Light. 8^D
On a more serious note, Mr. K, this strikes me as a more nuanced vision than what you outlined in your original post. I think allowing magical ways to bypass various threats and obstacles, but giving them drawbacks or making them rewards to quest after, is a good compromise. It’s certainly a more player-friendly and more “gameable” stance than simply deleting swaths of tools from the standard toolbox.
For me – and I am in the “you have died alone in the dark from lack of provisions” category- the point about wizard spells that overcome obstacles is that they are themselves limited resources. I would also point out that most of the resource replenishment spells are clerical – continual light, detect traps, create food & water are all clerical spells. Obviously when the cleric class was added to the game these problems were significant enough that the players thought it would be really cool to have a PC that could eliminate these resource sinks. Yet, I don’t feel like the debate I’ve seen over Arnold’s post is about cleric spells (which I have my own feelings about – especially the one’s used in downtime like continual light – I just don’t think my deities would be happy channeling divine blessings of power so people can make flashlights), but as you say it’s about ‘character-build’ vs. ’emergent gameplay’.
I am all for parties who want their wizard to seek out and memorize knock instead of web, or even have their cleric memorize create food and drink rather than a heal spell. This is the character growing over time and the GM has control over it. Character abilities that are automatic (except possibly those earned through extraordinary play) and bypass common hazards without some resource management are part of a different kind of game then I want to play and that the rules I use support. I think they come from a desire to “get to the good stuff” without worrying about minutia, but the more I play the more I realize that older editions of D&D have a lot of actuarial minutia, and if managed in a non-gygaxian (i.e. non-spreadsheet) manner these elements themselves become key to making the game about exploration rather than fighting – and really old editions of D&D don’t have the most engrossing fighting mechanic either (deadly, unforgiving and random yes … but not a good core of a tactical game – see Dragonlance for examples).
What I guess my ultimate point here is – decide what kind of game you want, make sure the rules fit. Maybe Pathfinder is about heroic battles and jump cutting through endless treks to fabled lands, but OD&D isn’t really – it’s rules better support a slog through the mythic underworld.