How many times have you heard people say that, in D&D 3.5, it doesn’t pay to multi-class with a spellcaster because it would inhibit your ability to get 9th level spells? How about telling you not to take a particular feat because it will be useless after 15th level? …or that you should take several sub-par feats because, at high level, they will be really good or allow you to qualify for an awesome prestige class or something? This sort of thinking downplays the importance of play at low level while emphasizing the importance of high-level play. It isn’t just limited to game mechanics, but it is probably clearest there: the game mechanical choices you make at low levels are unimportant except insofar as they maximize your power later.
This sort of talk isn’t limited to 3.5 (look at the AD&D monk)… much less D&D… or even tabletop roleplaying games. I see it on forums talking about Fallout 3 (my current obsession).
It isn’t something I really understand. If I’m playing a game, I want to enjoy it at all levels. If my enjoyment of the game is correlated with my character’s power (which is far from certain – and a whole ‘nother post), then I want it to be spread out across all levels… not just concentrated at the endgame.
I suppose this might be analogous to planning for retirement. I know people who made themselves miserable out of college or law school, working incredibly hard and being generally miserable so that they could ensure their retirement fund. I can, in hindsight, see the appeal of this when it comes to one’s career, but I don’t think the analogy holds up when we’re talking about a game. I really don’t think that they were having fun at the time.
I do think, however, that there may be an important lesson that can be gleaned from such manners of thinking. I’m not sure what it is, though. Any thoughts?