I’ve been wrestling with my D&D 3.5 experience. The last campaign ended around level 15 and I didn’t like it. I kept thinking a big part of the problem were the rules, and I started looking for alternatives such as M20 and Labyrinth Lord. But just now I started reading James Edward Raggi IV’s The ‘reality’ AD&D seeks to create through role playing... post, which was very interesting, and led me to another of his posts, Is this how D&D is supposed to be played? – and from there I followed a link to a thread on rpg.net called So what caused the “rest after each fight” thing?
And now I’m no longer sure.
Perhaps that is what happened. My players enjoyed a tough fight at the beginning of the game, so I gave them tough fights. They started optimizing. And thus was I drawn to the Dark Side of powergaming as a DM. Perhaps I caused the very development I’m lamenting now.
If that’s so, I will have to be careful. Changing systems will not automatically solve the problem.
I think switching to Labyrinth Lord for my one on one game with Claudia opened my eyes. She loves her characters. I knew from previous experience that the game was lethal and told her that she ought to avoid combat if possible. And so she did. We played very short sessions before going to bed and the like. The first session was spent talking to an NPC and running from a pack of rats. The second session was spent scaring away kobolds, intimidating rats and talking to another NPC. Outsmarting monsters, indeed!
This might also account for the fond memories my players have of a particular diplomatic mission around level five in our last campaign. It was all about outsmarting the opposition and uncovering a spy.
I’ll have to think about that.