As the PCs progress to 10th level and beyond, the traditional builds of characters will surpass the abilities of monsters of the same level. This is an imbalance noted by multiple bloggers on the issue. A good discussion of this issue can be found on Mike Shea’s website: Sly Flourish
See also his article on Critical-Hits: Scaling Woes
Mike Shea made a chart showing the discrepancy in powers on traditional builds. This is a chart he admits is conceptual and is not exact.
The key take-away from this is the system is busted in favor of the PCs. Therefore, the current restriction on magical items could remedy this issue (even if it is a shot in the dark).
Campaign Balancing 2 – the Die Hard Effect
Here is an selection from a John Wick collection of articles published in 2006. It helps explain the importance of limiting players to make the challenges more tangible.
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Nobody wants to play with a Killer GM.
But everybody wants to play with a Dirty GM.
Just to make sure you know what I’m talking about, let’s spend a moment
or two defining terms. In some circles—the ones I was educated in—that’s a
pretty important step.
A Killer GM is someone who takes glee in destroying characters. He kills
them without remorse, without compassion, without care. He does it
because he can. Gives him some sort of sick rush.
This is bad.
A Dirty GM, on the other hand, is someone who uses every dirty trick in
the book to challenge the players. Keeping them off balance with guerrilla
tactics, he increases the players’ enjoyment with off-beat and unorthodox
methods, forcing them to think on their feet, use their improvisational skills
and keep their adrenaline pumping at full speed.
This is good.
So, now that we’re all speaking the same language, let’s get down to business.
The first step to becoming a Dirty GM involves a little syndrome I call “The
Die Hard Effect.” (I’ve talked about this before in other places, so I’ll keep
it brief.) Essentially, all players want their characters to be John McClane.
You know, the guy Bruce Willis plays in the Die Hard films. They want to be
knocked down, punched out, bloody, battered and beaten.
But (and this is an important “but”, folks), every time they get knocked
down, they want to be able to get back up.
That’s right. Just like the Chumbawumba song.
Being Irish, it just comes to me naturally.
Players want to be a bloody mess at the end of the adventure, but they
still want to win. And they want to feel like they won by the skin of their
teeth. They want to think that last die roll was the luckiest one they ever
made. They want to feel that their characters’ lives were hanging in the
balance, ready to fall like a pin hanging on the edge of a precipice.
That’s what players want.
And that’s what a Dirty GM gives them.
Because he throws stuff at them that they never counted on. He uses
techniques that are so outside the mainstream that they hit the players
like a left hook to the jaw. He uses everything at his disposal to knock
them down—so they can get back up just in time to dodge the next hit.
All of this comes under the basic premise that the GM is there for the
players’ enjoyment; he’s providing them what they want. That’s the
GM’s job. When it’s all said and done, the Game Master’s fun is helping
his friends have fun. At least, that’s the way I’ve always seen it.