Why allow themes?

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My DM generally views most new content as "power creep".  

What is the rationale for allowing themes?  I have to admit, it does seem like power creep with no offsetting disadvantage.  I dont have the published books - just insider.  I would like to convince my DM to let us use themes (so our power can creep forward)

thanks! 
If you're just doing it to get more power, and your DM is opposed to power creep, there is no argument. In such a situation there is no rationale for allowing it.

Themes were designed to reinforce your background by giving you some minor powers related to your old job or birthplace.
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They are kinda of a why or how for a character.  Background is commonly where you came from, Themes are a way of customising a character.  For example, some people might think of the Alchemist Theme as befitting a wizard, but I honestly would love to see a fighter or barbarian take it and run with it.  It lets a bit more quirk into the system by allowing for interesting combinations you might not see, or tried and true combinations, such as a rogue who used to be a gutersnipe.  They're a bit like a background, kinda like an alternate profession (the primary one being your class).

Pretty spiffy, but there is a slight power increase, of that bothers then it's probably best to leave it alone. Otherwise, dive in!
"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." --Bill Cosby (1937- ) Vanador: OK. You ripped a gateway to Hell, killed half the town, and raised the dead as feral zombies. We're going to kill you. But it can go two ways. We want you to run as fast as you possibly can toward the south of the town to draw the Zombies to you, and right before they catch you, I'll put an arrow through your head to end it instantly. If you don't agree to do this, we'll tie you this building and let the Zombies rip you apart slowly. Dimitry: God I love being Neutral. 4th edition is dead, long live 4th edition. Salla: opinionated, but commonly right.
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quote author=56832398 post=519321747]Considering DnD is a game wouldn't all styles be gamist?[/quote]
Themes started out with Dark Sun, which, in 2e, had more powerful characters to reflect that the DS character had adapted to a harsher environment.  In 4e, they introduced themes to make DS character different.

When they expanded themes to regular DnD, you are correct in noting that there is no drawback.  If one person in the party has a theme, everyone should, or it's not fair.  A DM concerned with balance should not give a theme to a new PC if no one else is using them.

Is a "themed" PC more powerful than a regular one?  Yes.  Is that bad?  Not necessarily, if it's fair.

Well themes are power creep that is a fact.  However they are a fun and interesting form of power creep, themes are great at representing your characters focus and expertise and adds more complexity to who your character is.  Also while a lot of people see background and theme as covering the same thing I personally disagree.  For me theme is something that shaped your character but is also still an active part of what they are.  As opposed to background which is something that you were but really aren't any more.  So slave is a background (assuming you aren't still one) whereas escaped slave is a theme.

For instance I recently wanted to play a wizard in a campaign I had coming up, when I was making the character I quickly decided that I wanted him to be a tougher military type then a focused academic type.  The first thing I chose outside his race and class was his background, he used to be in the military so he got the background.  I decided that after quitting the military he became more a mercenary type so that was the natural fit for his theme.

It adds a lot of flavor and makes customizing your characters even more fun. For example, here are the characters in the campaign I'm DM'ing at the moment:

 - Half-Elf Hybrid Blackguard|Warlock with Ordained Priest (still feels close to the church of Pelor that he grew up with, even though has since then become a Blackguard)
 - Githzerai Ranger with Alchemist (the character is interested in the Elemental Chaos and plans to go there at some point to try to find his clan - his experiments with alchemy leads him closer to an understanding of elemental forces and how they influence the material world)
 -  Kalashtar Bard with Seer (he gets visions from time to time and is actually the descendant of a "mad prophet" who lived a long time ago)
 - Tiefling Warlock with Devil's Pawn (quite literally; he gets his powers from a pact with Mephistoles himself)
 - Revenant Vampire with Student of Evard (family has ties to the Shadowfell and worships the Raven Queen)

Backgrounds weren't really enough for some of these characters - the Seer and the Alchemist, for example.
i love themes. there were some fun ones that came out this month and even if people in character op are tearing them apart, they offer some amazing rp options.
Themes are a little bit power-creepy, but they aren't too bad, and they are one of the best additions to 4e in recent years.
The best thing to tell your DM is that they encourage role playing and story development. Every DM I know would kill to get their players more involved in the story. When players make mechanical choices based on character backstory or the campaign world, they are more invested in the story and more likely to make those elements important in how they play.

I've seen a huge difference in how my players RP their characters since themes came out. It's focussed their RP into evolving their backstories in exciting ways. Themes are the best thing to happen in 4e since they overhauled the monster stat blocks.
I agree that themes represent some level of power creep, but in a well-formed theme, that little extra power is key because it gives the player an active, visibile way to demonstrate some aspect of the character. The benefits of a standard background are often invisible at the table-- a bonus to Skill checks gets lumped in with all the other numbers, and knowing a language doesn't matter as often as I'd like. But a theme power actually provides an action that the character can play out almost every encounter. It's a little bit of "show, don't tell." 
Because they add a huge new source of character development and roleplaying and plot hooks and awesomeness, and very little power creep.  Especially the Dark Sun themes.
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My DM generally views most new content as "power creep". 



In the case of themes, I think he has a point.


What is the rationale for allowing themes?  




They offer an additional dimension of character customization, and can actually encourage roleplay by giveing some mechanical crunch to a character's background.  A lot of compaigns never get beyond heroic tier, which means you don't get the chance to differentiate yourself with paragon paths or epic destinies-themes give you something similar to that at first level.
My DM generally views most new content as "power creep". 



In the case of themes, I think he has a point.


A point, yes, but a minor one.

It is unequivocally true that themes are power creep.  They add power, and that power didn't exist in any form before they were published.

However, it's important to look at the degree, not just the presence or not.  And the degree of power creep is very small.  It certainly doesn't change encounter design requirements.
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1. They are fun.  Good power creepy fun.

2. They are flavorful and can make PCs feel more unique, especially at low levels.

3. They make low level combat more interesting since players have more options besides spamming at wills.

4. They (along with backgrounds) are sort of a refund on feat taxes, assuming you think there are feat taxes or don't get those feats for free.
If you've got the sort of DM who thinks you should have to justify adding options (as opposed to one who feels he should have to justify disallowing options,) it's going to be hard to make a case for themes as a whole.  You might have more luck arguing for specific themes, and sticking to the ones that don't do much for you in combat.


. . . that is, if you wanted one of the ones that doesn't help much in combat.  If your DM wants to minimize power creep, there are about half a dozen themes he'd be right to disallow.     
"When Friday comes, we'll all call rats fish." D&D Outsider
The best thing to tell your DM is that they encourage role playing and story development. Every DM I know would kill to get their players more involved in the story. When players make mechanical choices based on character backstory or the campaign world, they are more invested in the story and more likely to make those elements important in how they play.

I've seen a huge difference in how my players RP their characters since themes came out. It's focussed their RP into evolving their backstories in exciting ways. Themes are the best thing to happen in 4e since they overhauled the monster stat blocks.


This is the opposite of my experience--every psionic character ends up having a Noble Background, even when it doesn't make sense or is boring, because Noble Adept is just that much mechanically better than most other themes for Power Point users. And Pack Outcast, in particular, results in lots and lots of werewolves at RPGA events that allow themes.
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If you've got the sort of DM who thinks you should have to justify adding options



Some just see it as cluttter, why, why this encessant need to please?
If you've got the sort of DM who thinks you should have to justify adding options



Some just see it as clutter, why, why this incessant need to please?



. . . Are you advocating not pleasing the players?
"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." --Bill Cosby (1937- ) Vanador: OK. You ripped a gateway to Hell, killed half the town, and raised the dead as feral zombies. We're going to kill you. But it can go two ways. We want you to run as fast as you possibly can toward the south of the town to draw the Zombies to you, and right before they catch you, I'll put an arrow through your head to end it instantly. If you don't agree to do this, we'll tie you this building and let the Zombies rip you apart slowly. Dimitry: God I love being Neutral. 4th edition is dead, long live 4th edition. Salla: opinionated, but commonly right.
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58419928 wrote:
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If you can't understand how someone yelling at another person would make them fight harder and longer, then you need to look at the forums a bit closer.
quote author=56832398 post=519321747]Considering DnD is a game wouldn't all styles be gamist?[/quote]
If you've got the sort of DM who thinks you should have to justify adding options



Some just see it as cluttter, why, why this encessant need to please?



Because the DM isn't the only person at the table whose opinion matters any more. If you have six people at the table, five want to try themes and think it will add to the experience, and one thinks it is just clutter, something needs to bend somewhere.

1. They are fun.  Good power creepy fun.

2. They are flavorful and can make PCs feel more unique, especially at low levels.

3. They make low level combat more interesting since players have more options besides spamming at wills.

4. They (along with backgrounds) are sort of a refund on feat taxes, assuming you think there are feat taxes or don't get those feats for free.



This sums it up. It is power creep, so the most important thing is that everyone is on the same level here. You should not give a theme to one person and not another. That's lame. You should have everyone pick one, and if none fit then refluff one. Other than that, they are a way to help give some unique feeling to the otherwise extremely bland heroic tier. 
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Good summary!  Thanks for all the discussions.  I'll add a theme now without mechanics and then try to get the group to introduce them all at once.

I do think my DM feels that the rules are getting too cluttered.  I dont think he enjoys keeping up on the options available to the PCs ;) 
And there are a couple of themes like Sohei that are borderline overpowered.  I could easily see a DM banning some of them, but most are fine and won't disrupt game balance significantly.
Some of the themes that do add fairly significant power creep are pack outcast, guardian, fey beast tamer, sohei, iron wolf warrior, and noble adept. Are any of them game breaking? No, I don't believe so and the other themes are all significantly underpowered in comparison.

I have seen a significant increase in the amount of roleplay happening at the table since the introduction of themes. Yes, some people pick them for the power increase however most do it for the extra RP that gets added. Even the power gamers tend to do more RP with them than without them. Overall I think it would be better for your DM to allow themes and just ban the use of a few specific ones or alter them slightly so they don't become unbalancing.
If you've got the sort of DM who thinks you should have to justify adding options



Some just see it as clutter, why, why this incessant need to please?



. . . Are you advocating not pleasing the players?



It's responses like this that really annoy me. I can't stand it when "options" are introduced and player's think you are supposed to please them at all times and allow every "option" that comes out. This type of attitude makes "options" a word that virtually doesn't exist.

Themes are purely optional and must be approved by the DM. I think people are having a bit of trouble with that word "optional" because they seem to believe that it only exists for the player's.
Any new option - even a single new power - is either lame, or power creep. Lame if it's uninteresting and underpowered in itself and has no interactions to speak of with anything else, power creep if it's a prime choice in itself or has significant interactions with other stuff.

(It's possible for something to be lame and power creep simultaneously, if its significant interactions are with a sufficiently narrow and dull body of existing material.)

Themes are no exception. 

That said, they CAN be used to further complete a character concept.

For example...
I decided to build a character based on Rapunzel. The Disney "Tangled" version. It didn't take me long to figure out that a Cunning Bard would be almost perfect: extremely charming, pretty good voice powers, some nice ranged powers that could easily be refluffed as using hair (which is officially 14 squares long on her 18th birthday). Problem is that in the movie, she has what looks like an encounter power to pop up behind someone and knock them unconscious with a single blow from her cast-iron frying pan. There's nothing in the Bard powers, at least up to level 6 which is where the campaign started, to account for that.

A one-hit melee weapon Unconscious on a non-minion is rather much, particularly for a character who really shouldn't be in melee in the first place. How about some comparable, but less extreme, condition... nope, no Bard powers. Bards can multiclass a lot, let's look at ALL low-level encounter powers that, say, Daze... hey, here's Surprise Strike, an attack modifier for a Basic Attack or at-will weapon attack with Combat Advantage, and it's an EONT Daze. That fits the usage, and is a reasonable downgrade of the effect. It's a theme power (and the free level-1 feature) from the Outlaw theme.

Outlaw theme name and fluff fits: Rapunzel's first companion who got her out of the tower was a rogue on the run from the King's Guards for stealing a crown. They traveled together - ran from various pursuers together - for a while. (In the movie, she being a Disney Princess, obviously they end up getting married; I can fix that.) She'd naturally have learned some tricks from him.

So, do the other features of the Outlaw theme fit the story? Well, yes. Level 2 utility Burst of Speed, does exactly what the name says for one turn; really helpful for running from the king's guards or the other thugs or both. Level 6 utility Out of Sight, shift one and then move your speed plus some help hiding, for when you're running from the much greater threat of the guard-captain's horse (hey, it's a Disney movie); the rogue plausibly used it once or twice before he found Rapunzel. Level 10 utility Improve Ambush - meh, they never got that high-powered in the movie, neither an obviously good fit nor obviously bad, and of course I can ignore it.

Mechanically, decent but definitely not overpowered for the character.

Thematically, wonderful.

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If you've got the sort of DM who thinks you should have to justify adding options



Some just see it as clutter, why, why this incessant need to please?



. . . Are you advocating not pleasing the players?



It's responses like this that really annoy me. I can't stand it when "options" are introduced and player's think you are supposed to please them at all times and allow every "option" that comes out. This type of attitude makes "options" a word that virtually doesn't exist.

Themes are purely optional and must be approved by the DM. I think people are having a bit of trouble with that word "optional" because they seem to believe that it only exists for the player's.



Reading into that a lot.

My question is not a question of "why not let players have everything", but more, "why would you (in this case Steely_Dan) be adverse to new options being added to the game, be they for players or DMs?".

It's not a question of allowing all options to please players, it's a question of not pleasing players by not making new options such as themes, and even further not at least considering those options without dismissing them.

Also, it is the job of the DM to please the player.  Different players like different things: some like hand holding, others like brutal difficulty, etc.  Provided that a player's enjoyment doesn't come at the cost of actively taking away from the game as a whole (players insistent that everyone else is their slave, taking 10 minutes to in-character "role-play" an argument about X, insistence on ganking party members for treasure "because you are evil", etc), then yes, players should be pleased.  That doesn't mean they should be bowed to as gods, but unhappy players make for a mighty short game.
If, for an example, you have a DM that prefers to play "old school" devastating, them-vs-the-DM style of play, but gets a full complement of players that hate that method of DMing, that DM should step outside their zone to create a game those players like, or let the players know that the only game at the table is the kind they don't like.  One should not expect players who dislike a certain DM's playstyle to just "become enlightened" and "play the DM's way".
"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." --Bill Cosby (1937- ) Vanador: OK. You ripped a gateway to Hell, killed half the town, and raised the dead as feral zombies. We're going to kill you. But it can go two ways. We want you to run as fast as you possibly can toward the south of the town to draw the Zombies to you, and right before they catch you, I'll put an arrow through your head to end it instantly. If you don't agree to do this, we'll tie you this building and let the Zombies rip you apart slowly. Dimitry: God I love being Neutral. 4th edition is dead, long live 4th edition. Salla: opinionated, but commonly right.
fun quotes
58419928 wrote:
You have to do the work first, and show you can do the work, before someone is going to pay you for it.
69216168 wrote:
If you can't understand how someone yelling at another person would make them fight harder and longer, then you need to look at the forums a bit closer.
quote author=56832398 post=519321747]Considering DnD is a game wouldn't all styles be gamist?[/quote]
I hate it when DMs think smugly they have power, and that giving players options = 'pandering to them'.  I hate DMs who think they have the right to cut the fun of peoples like this.

DMs saying no? okay. But there is a way to do it, not by autocratic Gygaxian decrets. 
Do Themes encourage roleplay? I don't know. One of the games I'm in uses them, but I couldn't tell you what anybody's was save for the Fighter's, who picked the really good Bodyguard Theme. None of the other ones have really been useful, and have never been brought up in roleplay.

If I was DMing, I'm not sure if I'd be okay with Themes or not. The game certainly seems complicated enough without one more power card in your deck, and it's not like 4e is so hard that you need the extra edge. Well, we'll give it time to see if these things grow on me or not. I think Themes would have been better utilized as a place to insert some non-combat abilities into the game, but that ship has sailed.
4e D&D is not a "Tabletop MMO." It is not Massively Multiplayer, and is usually not played Online. Come up with better descriptions of your complaints, cuz this one means jack ****.
I hate it when DMs think smugly they have power, and that giving players options = 'pandering to them'.  I hate DMs who think they have the right to cut the fun of peoples like this.

DMs saying no? okay. But there is a way to do it, not by autocratic Gygaxian decrets. 



That's funny...as a DM, I hate it when players think that they have a right to whatever ridiculous or overpowered options they want, and that DMs who say no are somehow draconian, overbearing dictators.

A DM's job is to tell a story, with the players in the spotlight, and to be a fair judge of rules to make sure everyone at the table is having fun.  If that means restricting some options, then so be it.  As long as it's done fairly.  For example, the group I am trying to get together includes some peopel new to D&D.  For the sake of simplicity and ease of gameplay/rules understanding, I am not going to allow themes, as it is just one more set of things for players to keep track of.
Do Themes encourage roleplay? I don't know. One of the games I'm in uses them, but I couldn't tell you what anybody's was save for the Fighter's, who picked the really good Bodyguard Theme. None of the other ones have really been useful, and have never been brought up in roleplay.

If I was DMing, I'm not sure if I'd be okay with Themes or not. The game certainly seems complicated enough without one more power card in your deck, and it's not like 4e is so hard that you need the extra edge. Well, we'll give it time to see if these things grow on me or not. I think Themes would have been better utilized as a place to insert some non-combat abilities into the game, but that ship has sailed.

The DM needs to work with the players to use the RP part of themes in a more visible way during the adventures. Obviously, you don't need themes to be a sidhe lord, an outlaw or a scholar, but the mechanics offer the players a reward for picking it and in some cases makes the concept possible in the first place*. At the same time it will give the DM some ready made plot-hooks for future adventures, but the DM will need to use those. All the players can do is remind him of them ;)

* For example, without the pack outcast theme playing a werewolf character would require multi-classing as a druid, which does prohibit a lot of builds.
IMHO the best use of themes is to provide a tiny bit of flavor that would otherwise not be readily available to a class and race. As in my example, previous post in this thread, where I used it to better emulate a movie character. Or for making a werewolf who isn't a Druid (there is no good reason why every werewolf in the world would be a Druid, or even have sufficient wisdom to multiclass Druid). Or a bodyguard who isn't a defender.

If anything, there could reasonably be restrictions on themes to *prevent* redundancy (such as using the Bodyguard theme to turn a Fighter into a defender). I don't favor such restrictions; but I would prefer them over, say, race restrictions that are mechanically applied in all settings even though they probably won't make sense in most settings.
"The world does not work the way you have been taught it does. We are not real as such; we exist within The Story. Unfortunately for you, you have inherited a condition from your mother known as Primary Protagonist Syndrome, which means The Story is interested in you. It will find you, and if you are not ready for the narrative strands it will throw at you..." - from Footloose
A better question would be "Why not allow themes?"

"I just don't like them" is (to me) never a good enough answer for this kind of question. There's a lot of things I don't like as both a DM and a player. Deva, Shardminds, Twin Strike spamming rangers, etc. But I wouldn't just say "No" to those things.

The same applies to themes, backgrounds, and other optional elements.

I might ask "Tell me why you want to [Play a kobold / Have this theme / other]." And then discuss it with the player. If a player decides he really wants to play a Kobold then I will make sure to tell him that until paragon he won't be safe in any town because he's a monster (I believe that people in DnDland are justifiably racist towards monstrous PCs until they've earned some good will) or at the very least will get treated like poo.

If a player tells me a good story with lots of juicy plot hooks and background then sure, Logar the Kobold Ranger with that one theme is in. He's just going to have to deal with the consequences of his decisions.
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A better question would be "Why not allow themes?"




I agree that it's a better question, but it was answered in the original post.  The DM wants to curtail power creep.  It's a valid argument against half a dozen themes.
"When Friday comes, we'll all call rats fish." D&D Outsider
A better question would be "Why not allow themes?"

"I just don't like them" is (to me) never a good enough answer for this kind of question. There's a lot of things I don't like as both a DM and a player. Deva, Shardminds, Twin Strike spamming rangers, etc. But I wouldn't just say "No" to those things.

The same applies to themes, backgrounds, and other optional elements.

I might ask "Tell me why you want to [Play a kobold / Have this theme / other]." And then discuss it with the player. If a player decides he really wants to play a Kobold then I will make sure to tell him that until paragon he won't be safe in any town because he's a monster (I believe that people in DnDland are justifiably racist towards monstrous PCs until they've earned some good will) or at the very least will get treated like poo.

If a player tells me a good story with lots of juicy plot hooks and background then sure, Logar the Kobold Ranger with that one theme is in. He's just going to have to deal with the consequences of his decisions.



Exactly this.  Just because you as the DM doesn't really care for something shouldn't mean that no one else can play it.  This has actually because a real sore spot with me recently in our group in regards to the Pixie.  A couple of our group hate the pixie and thus feel that they can decree that the pixie is banned from all games no matter who the DM is, no matter what.  Just because they don't like the race even though the same two guys also don't like gnomes, and one of them doesn't like shardminds but they never went so far as to be dictators and say those two races were banned from all games period.

But anyway!  I definitely feel a DM shouldn't just ban stuff because of personal preferences.  I mean sure there are times where a particular race or something might not work.  Maybe you're playing a game where there are no gods, and thus no one can play divine classes.  That's cool, that's the setting of your game and the players know that.  But to play just say a general D&D game and then ban a race, or theme, etc just because you don't like it to me is irritating.

You may not like it, but that doesn't mean every shares that belief and someone else may like the (fill in blank).  So as was pointed out above, that's when a discussion between the DM and player needs to take place.

Honestly in regards to themes, I haven't used any yet.  There are a couple I find fun, like the werewolf-ish one in Neverwinter, and the Fey Beast Tamer and all(I'm a sucker for companion characters and such), but I haven't had a good opportunity to use one yet and no one else in my group has either really.  But I do see their uses, and definitely they can add some more depth to a character's backstory.     

My DM generally views most new content as "power creep".  

He's generally right.

What is the rationale for allowing themes?

Your character gets more stuff.  

Seriously, though, the rationale is obviously to give players more options in customizing and differentiating their characters.  Take Heroes of the Feywild, for instance, at an Encounters table recently, everyone was either a Fey Beast Tamer or an Unseelie Agent.  That's for an instance of it not exactly being good at differentiating characters, because players will gravitate towards the 'best' themes for the campaign.

 I have to admit, it does seem like power creep with no offsetting disadvantage.

Yup.

  I dont have the published books - just insider.  I would like to convince my DM to let us use themes (so our power can creep forward)
thanks! 

Your best bet would be to suggest some variation on themes that wouldn't involve power creep.  Themes allow you to swap out powers, for instance, which is much less power-creepie.  If your DM let you spend a Feat to get a Theme, for instance, that'd balance the little bonuses and perks it gives you.  The Theme's power could be swapped for your racial power, and you'd have a more balanced, no power creep, version of Themes your DM might go for.



5e really needs something like Wrecan's SARN-FU to support "Theatre of the Mind."

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> Take Heroes of the Feywild, for instance, at an Encounters table recently,
> everyone was either a Fey Beat Tamer or an Unseelie Agent.

AFAIK, the current Encounters season is restricted to HoFL, HoFK, and HotF. As such, this may be misleading: there are only four themes in the book and thus that's the entirety of the 'legal' themes for the season. Given that the other two (Sidhe Lord and Turathan) are both nichey AND race-restricted (blah), it'd be likely to happen even if FBT and UA were anemic, power-wise.
Actually, the original Dragon Magazine themes are specifically allowed this season (Mercenary, Outlaw, Guttersnipe, Noble, Chevalier, Guardian, etc).

Yep, theme choices are printed right on the Encounters character sheet, and there are a lot more than 4.

5e really needs something like Wrecan's SARN-FU to support "Theatre of the Mind."

"You want The Tooth?  You can't handle The Tooth!"  - Dahlver-Nar.

"If magic is unrestrained in the campaign, D&D quickly degenerates into a weird wizard show where players get bored quickly"  - E. Gary Gygax

 

 

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Yep, theme choices are printed right on the Encounters character sheet, and there are a lot more than 4.




Except for the fact that no one informed the digital team, so none of the options beyond Heroes of the Feywild are available if one makes their character using the Beyond the Crystal Cave campaign option. You have no idea how glad I am that we learned to use the Home Campaign button for all things D&D a long time ago.

We do have two Fey Beast Tamers at my current table, mostly because one of our players tends to have character envy. Rather than coming up with his own cool schtick, he gloms on to someone else's cool schtick and wants that for his own character.

Do Themes encourage roleplay? I don't know. One of the games I'm in uses them, but I couldn't tell you what anybody's was save for the Fighter's, who picked the really good Bodyguard Theme. None of the other ones have really been useful, and have never been brought up in roleplay.

If I was DMing, I'm not sure if I'd be okay with Themes or not. The game certainly seems complicated enough without one more power card in your deck, and it's not like 4e is so hard that you need the extra edge. Well, we'll give it time to see if these things grow on me or not. I think Themes would have been better utilized as a place to insert some non-combat abilities into the game, but that ship has sailed.



Themes are only allowed if the DM says it's alright so if the DM is going to allow themes then he should get up with the player's and help them add that roleplaying part into the campaign.

That's why "themes" are still categorized as "optional" in the CB.
A 1st level character with a theme is moderatly more poweful than a 1st level character without one, so in that sense they may be power creep.  My speculation is that at 11th level the difference is very slight, even less at 21st.

I think themes work best when they are setting specific, such as in Dark Sun, and are connected to backgrounds, setting factions and groups, etc.  I find them to be a nice way to tie an RP element to a mechanical character element.  On the other hand, some of the more generic ones that have come out in the magazines since then do just feel like themese for themes sake for me.

I do like the idea of the mechanic, just generic themes tend to be lackluster.  I think they are an excellent vehicle for homebrew game design to fit your own setting.