Sometimes, your DM gives you great power and loads of cool stuff. Occasionally you are dropped a sliver of roleplaying magic. The other night, my DM dropped a silver feather.
A new friend of mine, a great D&D player, fast becoming a close friend is now DMing a game. He started off in contrast to our “main” DM (who is taking a little time off for starting a full time college course), in warning us he was throttling back the default curve of the game. We were to create standard D&D 5e character, but our level advancement would be reduced from level 6 upwards. No automatic HP increases, and he hinted at “possibly class abilities could kick in”. Hmm. Interesting. I have long held that the sweet spot of the game is somewhere between 3rd and 10 level, and it starts going off the rails when players have flight and instant anywhere travel.
That said, capping normal level progress at 6 has implications for character design. You don’t (or I don’t) blithely build a cool multiclass combo (for example) that won’t come into its own until levels 4/6. That means you would spend the rest of the camnpaign with a sub-optimal character. Now don’t get me wrong, I will follow the path of role fitting vs min-maxxing, but I would prefer to have my cake and eat it - an optimal character that also fits the role memorably.
For this game I built a dwarf Paladin. I was considering going to 2nd level and then multiclassing as a Bard - mostly for the spell slots, and using the bard to get the extra attack eventually. This is clearly an optimisation and a compromise, since I like playing skill-monkeys, but I also like the derring-do and heroic stature of the Paladin.
However, things are not heading down that path - because, the DM dropped a feather. In his world, there were no undead. No demons, or fiends. Thing of the past. Stuff of legend. Old wives tale and all that. Until we started encountering them, and failing sanity checks! My character had been given a “quest” to travel to a city of a living saint to petition for a raise dead for some important local character. After encountering some undead and some kind of (minor) fiend, we decided to accelerate our trip to see this saint. Aided by a recent acquaintance Gordon, a high level Druid, we were transported to our destination in short order. We came into the presence of the saint - a Deva, and told her of our concerns. We laid our evidence before her. She reacted in a display of anger and might which awed and stunned her court (bar most of the PCs), and left the chamber, trailing a single silver feather.
Snorri (my Paladin) reacted in awe and humility, but quickly gathered his wits and led the party to follow her into her chanbers, where she proceded to give the party a mission.
Now back to the “character build” discussion: I am a 2nd level Paladin at this point, and we know we are about to go to 3rd level. I was (as mentioned) considering switrching to bard - for the spell slots and the skills. But the DM dropped a feather.
Clutching the feather, Snorri goes down on one knee.
I, Snorri Ironforge, do offer up my life, my strength and my faith in devotion to the ideals and sainthood of Your Holiness, that I may be a weapon in your arsenal in the war against evil. I pledge that as long as it remains in my power I will follow your orders and fulfil your wishes in the destruction of evil and the protection of the people. I will walk in the path of righteousness and be a beacon of justice. I will lead others in this path, and force the enemies of good to submit, or smite them with wrath and destruction. I will not permit evil to flourish ere I wield the power of my devotion, nor shall my hand be stayed as I seek to root out the vile manifestations of it's corruption, so long as I live. By this token of Your Sacred Soul, and on the Graves of my Ancestors do I, Snorri Ironforge make my pledge.
Yup. Oath of devotion Paladin all the way.