Power Creep

Sorry about this bit of a lag, but between the sun being out and the holiday we just had, posting to the blog seemed a little… yeah… Anyway I hope that folks who celebrate it had a great 4th of July Holiday and those that don’t I hope you had a great weekend.

So what is the title of this post all about? For those that don’t know it is something that is found eventually in every game system that publishes more than one book or set or deck of cards or whatever. I have yet to find a game of any kind with more than one… whatever… that has avoided the issue of power creep.

Power creep is not a band or that guy hiding in the bushes looking in your window, that is a regular creep and a voyeur. Power creep is the escalation of power in a game. This can be seen in most games by looking at the monsters, creatures, characters, magic items, powers, whatever… in the very first published aspect of the game and then looking at the items that come after. If you look in MTG cards you see it in, well everything. If you look at an RPG like Rifts by Palladium you can see it in the way that a character made for the Rifts Japan book would out fight, out skill and out power almost every character type in the original rules. If you look at RPG’s like Champions by Hero Games or GURPS by Steve Jackson you see the power creep in the new editions. Original Champions you started a character at 250 points, in later editions and supplements it got as high as 600. In board games like Talisman the character cards with the most power are in the latest version of the game and in the latest supplement.

Why does power creep exist? Well lords and ladies that is because of us. The purchasing public at large. Marketing tells all these companies that make games that we want more, bigger, better, cooler, more powerful, all the time. That is the only way we will buy new stuff is if it is better than that which has come before. Additionally the designers are always looking for new and better ways to play the game. For a rare few this means stream lining and making the rules simpler, for most it means adding new features, raising power levels and making the places we all started the game from obsolete and so under powered that playing them later in the games life is really no fun… unless you are a min maxer of great skill (but that is a post for later)

The bigger question is, is power creep a bad thing?

My personal answer to that is yes and no. Yes it is a bad thing because it skews game balance and makes it hard for someone to have a favorite that can survive the life of the game (not the game session or round mind you but the life of the game itself). On the plus side it means that all the crazy over powered messed up ideas that players come up with (Godzilla with a suit of Iron Man’s Extremis power armor… heh) is not out of reach of the people who want to have fun dreaming up all the strange and wonderful things they have in mind and putting them (however poorly they fit) into whatever game they want. That’s right, dream big and play bigger because the game company will soon come out with something that makes your idea look weak and whimpy (unless that means taking something like ohhhh say Cthulhu, giving it a Green Lantern ring and then letting it take levels as a Monk from D&D 3.5 while using Elric’s Stormbringer as a dagger. I mean really was that trip really needed?).

In some ways the easiest way to look at it is to say it is the inflationary rate of your favorite game. As long as it is being published it will happen. If you feel its a bad thing then only buy the original set/book/cards/whatever and never fret about it again. But if you are ready to mod rules, min max characters and stretch your imagination its not always going to be a bad thing… Mayfair games DC Heroes… yeah that one… wow, changing the scale ratings from geometric doubling in the first edition to I still don’t know what in the second… yeah the score on Superman went from a 52 to a 26 but in dropping to 26 the value of weight he could lift doubled… been trying to figure that @#$# out since the 80’s.

So yeah, its weird, its pervasive, and its something you will have to get used to if you play any game long enough. Good or bad its all up to you. But sure as all get out if you can call out specific moments of it you can impress the hell out of your other game geek friends 🙂

Now gimme the dice I gotta figure out if logarithmic scaling by square factors will work for this game engine.


  1. #1 by dantherpgman on July 8, 2015 - 3:38 am

    Something we’ve been talking about since we started playing Magic in the 90’s ; ) I think that was the first really dramatic example of power creep I was aware of, but of course it’s been around longer than that.

    I think Pathfinder is one of the few examples of a game upping the interest level and making the game more fun and interesting without upping the dial to 11 (I’m talking about from 3.5 to Pathfinder, not necessarily any supplements for Pathfinder itself). They added new and cool abilities for each class, and yeah the power level was upped some, but not anything crazy.


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