While in video games, playing with more difficult parameters, the selections are named

  • easy (the game is easier to play than normal)
  • normal
  • difficult (the game is more difficult than normal)

but with rpgs, especially D&D, they are reversed

  • low powered/ classic
  • challenging/ standard
  • Tougher/ Heroic
  • High-powered/ Epic

When, the actually difficulty is the opposite, meaning, playing with "Tougher" stats, makes the game easier (unless of course your DM is using non-standard methods to determine challenges)

I wonder if the methods were re-named,

if players would be less apt to whine about chosen die roll methods. In the end, the 3.5 system only has one formalized method for determining challenges (CR/EL).

Note: I rolled back my edit, since the neutered version didn't achieve anything [after 24 hours, it was not re-opened, even though it addressed all the complaints]. I also added a link to the definition of munchkin, since it certainly appears to be the most succinct word that captures the aspects associated with amassing numbers.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I see absolutely no way that this question could be answered beyond pure speculation, and I see absolutely no merit to knowing the answer even if it could be ascertained. Applying "munchkin" as a term for the highest ability scores seems disingenuous and unnecessarily antagonistic to certain playstyles, as well. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 9 '15 at 20:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a simple misunderstanding of what the words are referring to. There are two things that they could be labelling: the game's difficulty level, or the PCs' power level. In RPGs, power level has always been what "low-powered" or "epic" or whatever refer to. Videogame traditions don't enter into it. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 10 '15 at 0:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ That would make sense if there were rules for CR/EL that took into account "power". As they don't, the effect is as described; "High Powered" translates into much easier encounters. \$\endgroup\$ – Wyrmwood Jan 10 '15 at 0:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you want advice on "how one goes about achieving these undocumented levels of play," in addition to an analysis of why they're described as they are, you'd probably get better results from including that request in your question rather than commenting on each answer which failed to infer your unstated request. (You may also want to elaborate on the specific question you're asking in the body; as it stands only the title itself gives a clear indication of what you want querents to speak about and--based on your comments--it doesn't seem to match your actual expectations of answers.) \$\endgroup\$ – BESW May 23 '15 at 5:39

Generally speaking, when using these different generation techniques the idea is that in the Heroic and Epic ones the threats you're facing will be in fact on the whole more powerful than ones you'd see at the lower levels. Their abilities are scarier, their stats are higher, and they represent threats on a larger scale than many of the foes of lower levels of the game.

What you seem to be keying off of though is that the PCs who use these different generation methods are also more powerful and therefor it can seem that the actual difficulty as you go up doesn't follow the sort of path for starting choices that you'd see in a video game. This however is because difficulty is not actually tied to how the players start, it's tied to what the DM decides to throw at you. Even with equal or lower level threats and/or powerful PCs the difficulty can vary widely (see Tucker's Kobolds) With difficulty safely out of the picture, the only real difference between these different styles is what kind of game the players and DM want to have, and what kind of threats they want to face.

You'll notice in your second example that Classic, Standard, Heroic, and Epic are not terms to indicate difficulty. They're descriptors of the PCs. Classic emulates an old school style while Heroic and Epic describe the kinds of characters and adventures the players are expected to have from the start, making them the kinds of figures that are subject of legend and song.

As for renaming them it isn't hugely important, however generally speaking the scheme you have there reads to me more like someone saying that playing Heroic or Epic is "wussing out" in some way, thus discouraging such choices (especially with the loaded term Munchkin in the Epic slot). I suspect such a classification would probably increase complaint/argument as it seems to paint a valid play style as wrong. A far better choice is for those who are playing to have a talk about what kind of game they'd like to have and then picking the generation method that best fits the table consensus.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Generally speaking, when using these different generation techniques the idea is that in the Heroic and Epic ones the threats you're facing will be in fact on the whole more powerful than ones you'd see at the lower levels." This can't be emphasized enough. I don't know how experienced of a player you are, OP, but a level 1 character will always have an easier time fighting a zombie than even a level 5 character will have fighting, say, a basilisk; if the player rolls low enough, he might be effectively dead for a while unless his party has a very specific spell that cures petrification. \$\endgroup\$ – Lucas Leblanc Jan 9 '15 at 22:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for stating what was already in the original post. -1 for not explaining how one goes about achieving these undocumented levels of play. \$\endgroup\$ – Wyrmwood Jan 10 '15 at 20:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you mean in how to make the Heroic/Epic have more Heroic/Epic threats? The reason you're not seeing much talk about any official rules on it is because that comes down to what the DM wants to throw at the party. When using generation methods that favor the players the DM is able to throw challenges that are "above" what they should be able to handle at a given level. You're probably not going to see much on official tweaks to looking at CR because CR is already a fairly loose guideline (see rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/19709/…). \$\endgroup\$ – Lunin Jan 12 '15 at 23:49

Because ability score method names don't really imply game difficulty.

Using alternate ability score generation methods tweaks one dial: approximately how powerful player characters are relative to a fictional "normal" person (within a certain bounding box).

Certainly, if you take a low powered/classic character and drop them into a campaign of high powered / epic characters that low powered character will have more difficulty.

But that's not typically how these methods are used. Typically the entire party has the same power level. And at that point, there many dials that can be tweaked to adjust the difficulty of the campaign. Encounter urgency, relative CR of typical encounters, emphasis (or de-emphasis) on strategy, opponent selection and tuning to current PC capabilities, level of book-keeping and simulation, and so on.

In other words, it is very easy to make a low powered campaign that is "easier" than a high-powered one.

The ability score generation names tell you exactly what they're about: How different is the player character from a fictional "normal" person? Are they average Joes who have caught a few lucky breaks? Or are they basically Hercules? Each style tells different stories, which will appeal to different audiences.

Whatever floats your boat

That said, if you want to describe them in terms of difficulty levels to your players, go for it! Whatever helps your current group feel comfortable at the table.

A formal focus-test could be used to determine which naming convention was more effective among the general population. Although I suspect it would differ quite a lot from table-to-table.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for stating what was already in the original post. -1 for not explaining how one goes about achieving these undocumented levels of play. How is it "very easy" when there are no formal rules to accomplish this? \$\endgroup\$ – Wyrmwood Jan 10 '15 at 20:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @wyrmwood Could you clarify? Your question appeared to be asking about why the ability score generation methods were named the way they were. If you would like to know how to modulate difficulty in an Rpg, I'd recommend posting a new question outlining your goals. \$\endgroup\$ – AceCalhoon Jan 11 '15 at 4:50

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