Increasing disparity between monster and player initiative

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This thread is inspired by those that have noticed the difference between monster defenses and PC attack bonuses. There is a similar pattern with respect to initiative. As the PCs grow in level, the difference between an appropriate level monster's initiative bonus and an average PC's initiative bonus increases pretty drammatically. The basis of my thesis is this pulled-out-of-my-rear chart. The columns I focus on are the second and third ones from the right. Ignore the fact that I left a cell selected when I took the screenshot.

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/4M1Bt.jpg)


Level: the level of the character or monster.


Monster Init: average initiative of a monster of that level. I must confess that I grabbed these numbers by simply looking at the initiatives of a lot of post-MM3 monsters in the compendium, so there could be sampling issues. Also, while lower level monsters have a plus or minus two variation, higher level monsters have a lot more range in their variation. Despite all this, these numbers are in line with the ones that I've seen here


Primary Init: this is the initiative bonus of a character whose primary ability score yields an initiative bonus. For example, a Thief or a Deva with Battle Intuition and Wisdom as his or her principal ability score. This assumes that the ability starts at 18, is raised at every opportunity, and that the epic destiny also raises it by two. No other bonuses (such as feat or item bonuses) have been added into this score.
Delta: the difference between the two colums to the left.
Delta for L+2: the difference between the initiative of a monster of level +2 and the Primary Init score of the same level. I added this info because it seems that this is often a normal encounter.


Normal Init: this is the initiative bonus of a character who, at creation, has a 12 in the ability that yields an initiative bonus. There is considerable variation here, and while it could be a point or two higher, it could also be a point or two lower. This only increased at levels 11 and 21, and therfore the bonus increases at level 21.
Delta: the difference between Monster Init and Normal Init.
Delta for L+2: the difference between Monster Init two levels above the Normal Init.


Feat+Item: the bonus to initiative granted by taking Improved Initiative (+4 feat bonus) at level 4, retraining it to Superior Initiative (+8 feat bonus) at level 22, and donning a tier-appropriate Casque of Tactics (+1/2/3 item bonus) at levels 6, 16, and 26.

The conclusion I draw from the numbers above is that a character who does not invest in his or her initiative will, at higher levels, almost always lose initiative.  While I can agree that such a character should be penalized to some extent, a ten or twelve point difference, on average, is too much. And forcing a character to invest a feat or a head-slot item to remedy this seems, to me, coercive. In other words, if I don't have an ability score that contributes to the initiative as a primary attribute, I am forced to spend a feat and a head slot item to remain competitive. 

This is not as big a problem as the attack vs defense disparity. But it's a real enough issue to players who want to build mechanically-sound characters. For example, almost every character optimizer takes the feats and has an item bonus to initiative or has some gambit to optimize initiative. 

The solution is to allow characters to add their highest bonus to initiative instead of dex, and apply a penalty to it if it is not dex. This should allow it to scale properly throughout a character's career. What do folks think about this?

I run a regular epic tier campaign and I can assure that in reality this is not a problem at all. The PC's are so incredibly super powered compared to monsters that it can be very difficult for DM's to challenge them at all. A slight edge in initiative for the monsters is good because it's one way to increase challenge without messing with the mechanics too much. Giving the PC's any increase in power at epic tier is just not necessary and only makes the DM's job harder.
 
The reality in practice proves to be quite the opposite, as the party tends to benefit from group-improving initiative impacts like that often granted by a Taclord. In my current campaign (Paragon level) the PCs all get +7 to initiaitve over and above their own level-based benefits.

The only way I (the DM) end up "getting to go first" is to manage a surprise round every now and then.
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
Style75 nailed it.

Winning initiative is very often the only way a critter on Team Monster is guaranteed a turn at all in epic tier.

INSIDE SCOOP, GAMERS: In the new version of D&D, it will no longer be "Edition Wars." It will be "Edition Lair Assault." - dungeonbastard

Taclords do grant a huge bonus, but not every part has one, and there aren't many other ways to keep up with initiative. 

Also, the fact that PCs overwhelm monsters at epic level seems only mildly relevant. If that's the case, the DM needs to put more monsters on the board. Or more elite or solo monsters.

Finally, these are almost exactly the points that were made when the expertise "corrections" came out. Yet most people use them at this point.
My party is level 15, i have to throw 1.25 standard per PC to make it a challenge, and i have to use more recent monster stat or buff monsters to that level of challenge too.  with creatures MM3, Monster Vault & Threats of Nethir Vale can challenge them on a 8 standard budget vs 6 PC at this level...thought to be fair...my party are players that know the game alot, they don't min/max, but they do make pretty powerful characters and most important overall...they do ALOT of teamwork and party synergy, wish is where the true power of PCs on 4e came from.
Finally, these are almost exactly the points that were made when the expertise "corrections" came out. Yet most people use them at this point.

Of course people use them. They're there. Leaving free bonuses on the table is not the norm (for Boards-active players, anyway).

However, although there were plenty of people who chimed in when the Boards mathematicians noted the to-hit disparities, very few found the disparity to be evident at the table until they were told about it.
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
The conclusion I draw from the numbers above is that a character who does not invest in his or her initiative will, at higher levels, almost always lose initiative.

fwiw: In every one of my paragon and epic campaigns, the PCs always had ridiculously higher initiative than their opponents. It was only in heroic games that the monsters had much chance to go first.

I would love to read of builds that, without taclords, feat bonuses or item bonuses, dominate initiative at paragon levels.

EDIT: I'm focusing on builds whose primary ability does not contribute to initiative. 
We've got a high Dex Ranger in our paragon tier party (level 16) and between their Dex (+6), their level (+8), Improved Initiative (+4), a theme (+2), some helm I forget the name of (+2 item bonus) and danger sense (which allows you to roll twice for initative and use the better result) gave them a +22 (roll twice) to initiative. They ALWAYS went first (they lowest I ever saw them get was a 34, higher than most of our foes could get even with a natural 20 on their initiative die).

The rest of our party is pretty much in the +11-13 range with a lazylord (emphasis on the lazy... its his thing) at +7 (+8 level, -1 Dex modifier) who makes a point of actually delaying if he should actually somehow beat someone else's initiative.
I would love to read the way in which builds that, without taclords, feat bonuses or item bonuses, dominate initiative at paragon levels.

Why? I mean, what about the non-dominant build excites you?

And why do you stack the deck so fully against it? Grabbing a feat bonus or item bonus or power bonus is easy if you want it. And if you don't want it, no problem. Not everyone wants to go first. Not everyone has to go first. And without a taclord, it is unlikely that the entire party will go first.

But in any given party, there will be builds that simply *want* to go first (especially rogues desiring that first shot opportunity). And in terms of gaining an initiative advantage, it merely requires wanting it to easily find ways to achieve it.

Then there are the characters who have no incentive to go first -- the ones who want to see how the enemy lines up and respond with reactionary tactics.
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
Chris24601, it seems clear to me that a dex-primary character will dominate initiative. Further, one that has invested so much in initiative should always (or almost always) go first. I'm focusing on characters whose primary attribute does not contribute to initiative. My point is that such characters are forced to invest in initiative feats and items just to remain in the same same league as team monster.

I would love to read the way in which builds that, without taclords, feat bonuses or item bonuses, dominate initiative at paragon levels.

Why? I mean, what about the non-dominant build excites you?

And why do you stack the deck so fully against it?

My point is that that, with the exception of a taclord-assisted party, characters who are not initiative-primary-ability are forced to invest in a feat and items just to remain competitive. Otherwise, by paragon, team monster has accumulated a 3 to 8 point lead over PCs who don't make such investments. 

Then there are the characters who have no incentive to go first -- the ones who want to see how the enemy lines up and respond with reactionary tactics.

I agree that there are such characters. Chris24601's lazylord fits the niche perfectly. It just seems odd that the system defaults to such characters unless you have a primary ability that contributes to initiative or a taclord on your team. 
I'm focusing on characters whose primary attribute does not contribute to initiative. My point is that such characters are forced to invest in initiative feats and items just to remain in the same same league as team monster.

They aren't "forced" to do anything. Initiative is not a game breaker in 4e. Its effect is minimal. Going first is not a necessity -- it is, at best, a luxury.

Unless you are a rogue, going first is never a necessity. For rogues, it is a desired luxury with an actual advantage, which is facilitated by the rogue being a dex-dependent class by default. And for those few non-rogue builds in which going first is also a desired luxury (simply because of player preferences, not game/system needs), there are many ways of achieving parity with equal level monsters, and a few ways of achieving mastery. But each of those ways are choices, none of them forced.

Essentially, your thread is identifying a math truth (default, unboosted PC initiative bonuses lag behind monster bonuses) and misrepresenting it as a problem.
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
Essentially, your thread is identifying a math truth (default, unboosted PC initiative bonuses lag behind monster bonuses) and misrepresenting it as a problem.

That's a somewhat reasonable disagreement, I guess.

It doesn't seem odd that not only do unboosted PC initiative bonuses start out behind those of monsters, but that this lag increases throughout their careers? If there were a design goal that unboosted PCs should lose initiative, why would the margin by which they tend to lose increase?
Chris24601, it seems clear to me that a dex-primary character will dominate initiative. Further, one that has invested so much in initiative should always (or almost always) go first. I'm focusing on characters whose primary attribute does not contribute to initiative. My point is that such characters are forced to invest in initiative feats and items just to remain in the same same league as team monster.

I would love to read the way in which builds that, without taclords, feat bonuses or item bonuses, dominate initiative at paragon levels.

Why? I mean, what about the non-dominant build excites you?

And why do you stack the deck so fully against it?

My point is that that, with the exception of a taclord-assisted party, characters who are not initiative-primary-ability are forced to invest in a feat and items just to remain competitive. Otherwise, by paragon, team monster has accumulated a 3 to 8 point lead over PCs who don't make such investments. 

Then there are the characters who have no incentive to go first -- the ones who want to see how the enemy lines up and respond with reactionary tactics.

I agree that there are such characters. Chris24601's lazylord fits the niche perfectly. It just seems odd that the system defaults to such characters unless you have a primary ability that contributes to initiative or a taclord on your team. 

1st of all getting the initiative in 4e just isn't that massively critical. There are characters that it benefits, but it is otherwise rarely worth the effort. If you aren't at least DEX secondary you're just going to want to not worry about it. If you STILL insist you need to have a high initiative THEN you can still take the feat, get one of several different items, and/or pick one of several powers that will let you reroll or give you a bonus.

Basically the truth is you just don't need to compete with the monsters in every single number to be effective. Pick your battles. Every character will have its good and bad points.
That is not dead which may eternal lie
Essentially, your thread is identifying a math truth (default, unboosted PC initiative bonuses lag behind monster bonuses) and misrepresenting it as a problem.

That's a somewhat reasonable disagreement, I guess.

It doesn't seem odd that not only do unboosted PC initiative bonuses start out behind those of monsters, but that this lag increases throughout their careers? If there were a design goal that unboosted PCs should lose initiative, why would the margin by which they tend to lose increase?

Its simple, 4e is built on a model of characters slowly falling behind by default and then having the option to spend resources to keep up or pull slightly ahead. This makes more interesting characters who not only have weaknesses, but who's weaknesses and strengths change relative to the monsters over 30 levels. If no numbers ever did this, if every progression was simply automatic, then what would distinguish characters? Why would anyone bother in leveling up?
That is not dead which may eternal lie
1st of all getting the initiative in 4e just isn't that massively critical. There are characters that it benefits, but it is otherwise rarely worth the effort. If you aren't at least DEX secondary you're just going to want to not worry about it. If you STILL insist you need to have a high initiative THEN you can still take the feat, get one of several different items, and/or pick one of several powers that will let you reroll or give you a bonus.

I agree that it's not as dramatic as the attack vs defense issue. But I disagree that players shouldn't worry about it. How would players feel if the DM announced that team monster was going to get an extra round of actions at the beginning of every fight? They would consider it unfair. But, in practice, this is the case for most upper level games. There will be one or two characters that this will not be a problem for (those who have a primary ability score tied to initiative), and taclords can even out these odds. 

Further, far from having a "high" initiative for most PCs, picking an item, theme, background or feat to improve initiative simply makes them competitive with team monster. When this logic is applied to attacks and defenses, the term "feat tax" is thrown around. However you may feel about the term, the underlying criticism is reasonable. And it applies to initiative as well.

It doesn't seem odd that not only do unboosted PC initiative bonuses start out behind those of monsters, but that this lag increases throughout their careers? If there were a design goal that unboosted PCs should lose initiative, why would the margin by which they tend to lose increase?

Its simple, 4e is built on a model of characters slowly falling behind by default and then having the option to spend resources to keep up or pull slightly ahead. This makes more interesting characters who not only have weaknesses, but who's weaknesses and strengths change relative to the monsters over 30 levels. If no numbers ever did this, if every progression was simply automatic, then what would distinguish characters? Why would anyone bother in leveling up?

First, the 4e style is that almost everything scales in a more-or-less linear manner with level: enhancement bonuses, skills, defenses, and so on. There is an issue with those NADS that are not tied to primary attributes, but that is fixed with an epic feat that many (but not all) DMs give out for free. Otherwise, 4e combat has been engineered to retain the same margins at high level as it had at low level, at least in the abstract. And although you can make much about practice being very different, anecdotal evidence varies so much from table to table that it's not really helpful, is it?

Second, if the difference between team monster did not increase so drammaticaly, I might agree. I can see the reason why low-dex characters should have less of an initiative bonus than high-dex characters. And I would understand if this margin increased by one or two points over a character's career. But when a three or four point margin widens to an eight or ninve point margin (or more), I raise an eyebrow.
How would players feel if the DM announced that team monster was going to get an extra round of actions at the beginning of every fight? They would consider it unfair. But, in practice, this is the case for most upper level games.

And now your argument is introducing half-truths into the mix. The only creatures that get an extra set of actions in a round are Solos. Solos with high initiative get to go first and last in a round. But after the first pass through, there is no longer a first and last. There is simply before and after.

Again, a non-problem.

If, in a thread, you find nobody agreeing with your premises, it is unlikely that you will find folks agreeing with your conclusions.
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
I would love to read of builds that, without taclords, feat bonuses or item bonuses, dominate initiative at paragon levels.

Why? PC's are expected to have some sort of item bonus and/or feat bonus at later levels. Avoiding those is kinda like avoiding using magic weapons.
1st of all getting the initiative in 4e just isn't that massively critical. There are characters that it benefits, but it is otherwise rarely worth the effort. If you aren't at least DEX secondary you're just going to want to not worry about it. If you STILL insist you need to have a high initiative THEN you can still take the feat, get one of several different items, and/or pick one of several powers that will let you reroll or give you a bonus.

I agree that it's not as dramatic as the attack vs defense issue. But I disagree that players shouldn't worry about it. How would players feel if the DM announced that team monster was going to get an extra round of actions at the beginning of every fight? They would consider it unfair. But, in practice, this is the case for most upper level games. There will be one or two characters that this will not be a problem for (those who have a primary ability score tied to initiative), and taclords can even out these odds. 

Further, far from having a "high" initiative for most PCs, picking an item, theme, background or feat to improve initiative simply makes them competitive with team monster. When this logic is applied to attacks and defenses, the term "feat tax" is thrown around. However you may feel about the term, the underlying criticism is reasonable. And it applies to initiative as well.

It doesn't seem odd that not only do unboosted PC initiative bonuses start out behind those of monsters, but that this lag increases throughout their careers? If there were a design goal that unboosted PCs should lose initiative, why would the margin by which they tend to lose increase?

Its simple, 4e is built on a model of characters slowly falling behind by default and then having the option to spend resources to keep up or pull slightly ahead. This makes more interesting characters who not only have weaknesses, but who's weaknesses and strengths change relative to the monsters over 30 levels. If no numbers ever did this, if every progression was simply automatic, then what would distinguish characters? Why would anyone bother in leveling up?

First, the 4e style is that almost everything scales in a more-or-less linear manner with level: enhancement bonuses, skills, defenses, and so on. There is an issue with those NADS that are not tied to primary attributes, but that is fixed with an epic feat that many (but not all) DMs give out for free. Otherwise, 4e combat has been engineered to retain the same margins at high level as it had at low level, at least in the abstract. And although you can make much about practice being very different, anecdotal evidence varies so much from table to table that it's not really helpful, is it?

Second, if the difference between team monster did not increase so drammaticaly, I might agree. I can see the reason why low-dex characters should have less of an initiative bonus than high-dex characters. And I would understand if this margin increased by one or two points over a character's career. But when a three or four point margin widens to an eight or ninve point margin (or more), I raise an eyebrow.

Well, the common definition of 'feat tax' around here is something that every character must take or would be completely insane not to take, like Expertise feats. Since initiative feats aren't necessary you can't call them a 'tax' IMHO.

No, the 4e style is that the core mechanics cause PCs to fall behind in every way. They fall behind in initiative, they fall behind in attack bonus, and in defenses. The game then provides the player with various ways to catch up. Attack bonus has items and a couple feats, defenses have armor and various feats, initiative has various feats. It always works the same way. In NO case can PCs get much ahead of a monster of the same level. It isn't even possible for a PC to keep up numerically on all defenses, even if you take Epic Defenses.

So, no my analysis of 4e is that it is built around the players deciding where the weak points of their PCs will be and then building up strong points via feats, power selection, and items which give them an edge, and using their teamwork to cover the weaknesses (though in truth epic PCs often obviate their defensive weaknesses with offensive strengths large enough to make the weaknesses almost immaterial).

As for a margin being a certain size, well, so what? If it is only a 5 point margin on a d20 that still represents a substantial chance that the lower value will still win a check.
That is not dead which may eternal lie


Finally, these are almost exactly the points that were made when the expertise "corrections" came out. Yet most people use them at this point.



It's funny you mention expertise. My campaign recently agreed to ban them all outright. No expertise, no master at arms. This is after 2 years of everyone getting them as a free bonus feat. We also banned improved defenses.

Guess what? The game plays better. Yes, we are actually enjoying it more. The reason is that I'm able to throw some lower level monsters at them and they actually live past the 2nd round. The PC's in epic tier have soooooo many ways to boost attacks and defenses that the boosts from expertise and and improved defenses are in reality not needed. Prior to the change I couldn't threaten them at all unless the monsters were level+5. Now I can use level+2.

You really have to run an epic tier campaign and try it out. It's working out great and I'm never going back.
Its simple, 4e is built on a model of characters slowly falling behind by default and then having the option to spend resources to keep up or pull slightly ahead. This makes more interesting characters who not only have weaknesses, but who's weaknesses and strengths change relative to the monsters over 30 levels. If no numbers ever did this, if every progression was simply automatic, then what would distinguish characters? Why would anyone bother in leveling up?



This is why I believe the original math of the game was the correct math. All this talk of "feat taxes" and "math fixes" is based on the assumption that the monsters and PC's advance all stats in lockstep from levels 1 to 30. The truth is that the PC's effective power levels develop many times faster than that of the monsters to the point where in epic tier the DM is hard pressed to have any monsters still standing after the 3rd round. By giving the monsters a slight edge in things like attacks, defenses and initiative, it takes some of the burden off DM's in trying to come up with challenging encounters.

The feat taxes are a solution to a problem that doesn't really exist.
This is why I believe the original math of the game was the correct math.

Agreed. WotC said that the Expertise feat was created to correct a 'math mistake', but it only exacerbated the problem of PC's being too powerful. WotC then had to redesign the monsters to be more powerful.

I suspect the real reason for the power escalation though was to sell books.

I'll go ahead and chime in with others here that initiative is not an issue.

Every character can get a solid initiative if they really want it, through one way or another.  Some characters will dominate the initiative field, some will merely make it likely that they go first.  Compare, for instance, a wizard in one of my games and my ranger I play.  They are both level 9.  They each have the same number of feats dedicated to initiative (1) and they are each at a relatively high marker for initiative.  The ranger is at +17 and the Wizard is at +11.  That doesn't mean they need to be neutralized or brought down to the level of the other player's initiative.  It just means that they will get to go first (which is no big deal) and adds an extra level of complexity to the game.

Basically you made an anthill into a mountain and a lot of people are telling you there is no ore to be found in that dirt. 
Currently working on making a Dex based defender. Check it out here
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Need a few pre-generated characters for a one-shot you are running? Want to get a baseline for what an effective build for a class you aren't familiar with? Check out the Pregen thread here If ever you are interested what it sounds like to be at my table check out my blog and podcast here Also, I've recently done an episode on "Refluffing". You can check that out here
How would players feel if the DM announced that team monster was going to get an extra round of actions at the beginning of every fight? They would consider it unfair. But, in practice, this is the case for most upper level games.

And now your argument is introducing half-truths into the mix. The only creatures that get an extra set of actions in a round are Solos. Solos with high initiative get to go first and last in a round. But after the first pass through, there is no longer a first and last. There is simply before and after.

I don't mean that folks who win initiative have an extra turn every round. I mean they get to go first, and that's a clear advantage. If I go first and we regularly sample the number of turns we've taken, the results will either show that I've taken one turn more than you, or we've taken the same number of turns. In half the cases I'll be one turn ahead of you. That's the extra round of actions I'm talking about.

Going first is an advantage, clearly. And going last more and more often is an increasingly serious disadvantage. This disadvantage can be patched with items or character-building investments, but (a) this investment (including slot-filling items) displaces other investments and (b) for most PCs, it doesn't grant so much of an advantage as it does patch a disadvantage. That's the similarity with other "feat taxes" I'm highlighting.
except for its not a feat tax.  Not every character is going to have to have the same set of initiative boosters to meet a benchmark where they can be useful.  Feat Taxes are things that are mathematical fixes to the hit/defense portion of the game or they are intermediate feats that allow you to take feats that are significantly more useful but they themselves aren't very good.  Initiative feats aren't required, don't fix any inherent math issues and aren't the first step to a more important feat chain.  So, they aren't taxes.
Currently working on making a Dex based defender. Check it out here
Show
Need a few pre-generated characters for a one-shot you are running? Want to get a baseline for what an effective build for a class you aren't familiar with? Check out the Pregen thread here If ever you are interested what it sounds like to be at my table check out my blog and podcast here Also, I've recently done an episode on "Refluffing". You can check that out here
Its simple, 4e is built on a model of characters slowly falling behind by default and then having the option to spend resources to keep up or pull slightly ahead. This makes more interesting characters who not only have weaknesses, but who's weaknesses and strengths change relative to the monsters over 30 levels. If no numbers ever did this, if every progression was simply automatic, then what would distinguish characters? Why would anyone bother in leveling up?



This is why I believe the original math of the game was the correct math. All this talk of "feat taxes" and "math fixes" is based on the assumption that the monsters and PC's advance all stats in lockstep from levels 1 to 30. The truth is that the PC's effective power levels develop many times faster than that of the monsters to the point where in epic tier the DM is hard pressed to have any monsters still standing after the 3rd round. By giving the monsters a slight edge in things like attacks, defenses and initiative, it takes some of the burden off DM's in trying to come up with challenging encounters.

The feat taxes are a solution to a problem that doesn't really exist.

Yeah, I agree. Never saw any need for the tax feats. It was that point when PHB2 came out with Weapon Expertise in it that I started wondering if the people at WotC actually understood what they were doing with 4e. It has just gone downhill from there...
That is not dead which may eternal lie