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Game balance
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Author:  mr baron [ Sat Jan 08, 2011 10:30 am ]
Post subject:  Game balance

There were some interesting comments made in another thread about game balance, so I thought I would start a dedicated post on the subject.

I read a lot of blogs and I am running/playing in several Pathfinder games at the moment. The discussion on character balance comes up quite a bit, and I think it does run through the mind of games as they sit down to play the game. One of the things that 4th ed set out to do was create game balance. I think they did succeed, but the result is that the characters feel the same. I think there needs to be some attempt at balance, but the character classes should still feel different. One of the guys I game with is a big fan of organized play in that the rules that govern organized play attempt to maintain a balance. To me, organized play can feel a bit flat, in that everyone can get the same treasure, and everything is strictly governed. On the opposite side is the camp that loves options and splat books, but this can lead to some very unbalanced character combinations.

I will bring up the point that was made with OD&D. The first level wizard is a bit of a wimp with one spell, but at high levels he can sweep the floor with everyone. So what we have is a character class that goes from one extreme to another, and I definitely think that needs to be smoothed out a bit, as I really believe that was the result inexperienced game design, as the RPG hobby was still in the developing stage.

To sum up my comments, I think that game design definitely needs to address the question of character balance in terms of playability and fun that happens around the table, and yet provide characters and options that are different than other characters. I think there can be a middle ground on this one, and I hope that we will see this in DCC RPG.

Author:  mntnjeff [ Sat Jan 08, 2011 9:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Game balance

But can't this balance you speak of be adjudicated and kept mainly by the DM / GM? Why shouldn't the "rules" be kept as a framework and the DM / GM be the enforcer when it comes to things like "balance". In fact, I've never actually understood this balance thing very well from the get go.

No matter how much thought you put towards balance in your rules, you're going to find people that will find "loop holes" and will attempt to break them. It's just the nature of some people. Sort of like those who write malicious software....You can build all the security into your system that you like, but in the end it's common sense that filters out 99% of the bad stuff.

So I say, build for playability, coolness and fun. Worry about "balance" at the table.

Author:  UHF [ Wed Jan 12, 2011 11:12 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Game balance

I beg to differ. I do think its important to address balance up front.

By saying that you want the DM to adjudicate this, you're make a horrifically huge leap of faith on many levels. In many cases you are talking about socially inept teenagers here.

Does the DM even realize why his game is starting suck? Does he know why his players just had a screaming geek hissy fit? Does he even know why the other players have quit his game? Does he have the skills necessary to negotiate a resolution? (WAS THIS A FUN EXERCISE?)

Next thing you know, they are playing a different game, 'cause this one sucks. (Bad for Goodman's sales.)

To be clear 4e isn't balanced. But its not terribly unbalanced, and there's no hissy fits at the table. (What's balanced about 4e is that there is more emphasis on all the players participating all the time with combat and skill challenges.)

So balance is important. If I want to play a game that involves AD&D style imbalance (Wizards Rule, Fighters Drool), I'll play C&C.

But as a 4e fan, I truly miss the magical feel of magic from older editions. I'd like to see a more balanced version.

Author:  finarvyn [ Wed Jan 12, 2011 1:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Game balance

Do not confuse "high powered" or "low powered" gaming with "balanced" or "unbalanced."

There are a couple of ways to think about game balance:
1) Balance where all characters are "equal" to one another.
2) Balance where a single character advances at a linear rate.

For #1, I think that making all characters "equal" is a nice design feature but not mandatory. Keep in mind that "equal" might mean that one character is really good at firing off spells and another good at picking locks (very situational) but does not have to mean that all characters can do everything. One thing I personally dislike about skill systems is that they tend to allow every character to be skilled at everything instead of having a specialist do each important task.

For #2, I think that the traditional magic-user isn't balanced becasue they start off so weak and grow so strong. If I wanted to balance the MU I would start them off stronger and not make them so awesome at the end. (Actually, I do this already by starting characters off at 3rd level and having them retire at 8th or so.)

Bottom line is that a game does NOT need balance in order to be a good one, but an unbalanced game requires better players. Poor players in an unbalanced game tend to min/max things too much.

Just my two coppers.

Author:  UHF [ Wed Jan 12, 2011 1:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Game balance

I'm more concerned about even regular 'ol AD&D. By fifth level I (my wizard that is) was pretty much using my party for meat shields while I killed monsters.

In talking with others (who have had more serious issues with 3.x), this is what has them glued to 4e. They are clinging for dear life, and afeared.

By balanced, I mean that I don't want one optimizer in the whole party to throw the entire game out of whack. Some wizard spells do that, and excessively focus abuse of rules do that.

Traditional roles and lopsidedness in that fashion don't bother me.

Author:  GnomeBoy [ Wed Jan 12, 2011 3:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Game balance

UHF wrote:
I'm more concerned about even regular 'ol AD&D. By fifth level I (my wizard that is) was pretty much using my party for meat shields while I killed monsters.

...throw the entire game out of whack. Some wizard spells do that, and excessively focus abuse of rules do that....

If you were using other player characters as meat shields on a regular basis, there may have been pacing problems... That sort of thing might happen once in a while, but it should also happen that a wizard is pretty much out of spells and has to rely on the meat shields to keep him alive, while he cowers. I'm sorry -- I meant 'fighters' there. Spells can pack quite a punch, but swords don't vanish from your hand after you swing them. (Okay, sometimes they do. But maybe that's just me.)

Within a session of play, one character may trounce all others. But if it happens that one character is consistently in another league when compared to his fellows, there are probably DM issues, particularly not creating enough variety in the situations the characters find themselves in, or allowing too much rest time and therefore spell-recovery time. Mis-reading of spells can also make things lopsided. We recently had an issue where blade barrier, with it's radius of 5 feet per two levels was thought to be an area effect filled with blades -- not an area surrounded by blades that careful re-reading revealed...

Meanwhile, we do agree that fear is good. :twisted:

Author:  mythfish [ Wed Jan 12, 2011 6:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Game balance

GnomeBoy wrote:
But if it happens that one character is consistently in another league when compared to his fellows, there are probably DM issues, particularly not creating enough variety in the situations the characters find themselves in, or allowing too much rest time and therefore spell-recovery time.

This. This is exactly what I was going to say. If the characters have some tactic that works all the time every time, that's the DM's fault, not the game's. The DM has to figure out how to put the character in situations where the tactic won't work as effectively.

Author:  JRR [ Fri Jan 14, 2011 5:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Game balance

In AD&D, it was insanely hard for a magic user to even get a spell off if one played by by the rules. An mu could not move and could not even use his dex bonus while casting a spell, if he did, the spell was lost for the day. Spells had casting times, so the mu generally went last, unless he was casting a simple spell with a short casting time like magic missile (1 segment). This gave the monsters plenty of time to hit the mage, throw dirt in his eyes, etc. Almost anything could disrupt a spell. Casting unmolested from a hilltop is one thing, casting in a typical dungeon environment is quite another. A goblin with a rock can ruin a meteor storm.

Author:  finarvyn [ Sat Jan 15, 2011 6:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Game balance

JRR wrote:
In AD&D, it was insanely hard for a magic user to even get a spell off if one played by by the rules. An mu could not move and could not even use his dex bonus while casting a spell, if he did, the spell was lost for the day. Spells had casting times, so the mu generally went last, unless he was casting a simple spell with a short casting time like magic missile (1 segment). This gave the monsters plenty of time to hit the mage, throw dirt in his eyes, etc. Almost anything could disrupt a spell. Casting unmolested from a hilltop is one thing, casting in a typical dungeon environment is quite another. A goblin with a rock can ruin a meteor storm.
I'll confess that I play OD&D and haven't really played a by-the-book AD&D game in years, so I don't tend to have those rules problems. Heck, I'd even forgotten about half of those restrictions.

Personally, I prefer a "fast and loose" game.

Author:  JRR [ Sat Jan 15, 2011 8:12 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Game balance

As do I, the above restrictions are pretty simple, really. If you wanna cast, you have no dex bonus and you can't move. Tossing those rules make the magic user MUCH more powerful. Nothing wrong with that if that's how you wanna play, but a lot of people change the rules and THEN complain that the magic user was too powerful.

Author:  Hamakto [ Sat Jan 15, 2011 3:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Game balance

JRR wrote:
As do I, the above restrictions are pretty simple, really. If you wanna cast, you have no dex bonus and you can't move. Tossing those rules make the magic user MUCH more powerful. Nothing wrong with that if that's how you wanna play, but a lot of people change the rules and THEN complain that the magic user was too powerful.


I agree with you here. The AD&D magic users were... yes... powerful. But no where near as powerful as the 3e counterparts.

As soon as they streamlined combat to make everything a simple action, magic users/cleric became much more powerful as their spells rarely get disrupted.

Author:  geordie racer [ Sun Jan 16, 2011 1:21 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Game balance

Quote:
The first level wizard is a bit of a wimp with one spell, but at high levels he can sweep the floor with everyone.


I respectfully disagree with 'wimp' - the dart-throwing, oil bombing OD&D wizard has the power to command many humanoids (Charm Person - on the leader of 30-300 Orcs!) as well as the overpowered-first-choice-at-1st-level: Sleep spell. BUT the OD&D MU did rely more on player knowledge and cunning compared to later editions where in my experience, some players felt that the only options were those on the character sheet.

From what I have read of the DCC magic system I like how the MUs have potentially greater power than old style MUs but there is a a greater price to pay for that power, at least more uncertainty about the outcome. That is the kind of balance mechanism I prefer.

I also like how DCC is differentiating the MUs from the fighters - as I hate the 'one character does all' mindset - I don't need a balanced character, but prefer a balanced party.

Author:  finarvyn [ Sun Jan 16, 2011 5:09 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Game balance

Keep in mind that power is relative, however. The MU in AD&D gets really awesome at high levels, but isn't a system-breaker in the level 5-8 range even with those limitations dropped. Since I have players retire characters somewhere around level 8 they never get to the point where the MU rules the universe. :)

Except that the MU is almost always my wife. She rules the universe, but she'd do so at any level. :P

Author:  DCCfan [ Sun Jan 16, 2011 11:35 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Game balance

Wait a minute I thought my wife ruled the universe. :lol:

Author:  JRR [ Sun Jan 16, 2011 12:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Game balance

I still maintain that the 1E mu wasn't all that even at high levels. If he managed to get a spell off, which wasn't a given, he could on;y do it a limited amount of times per day. A 20th level mu could cast TWO 9th level spells. In the best circumstances, the party will have a 6 for initiative and the bad guys a 1. The mu attempts to cast meteor swarm or Bigby's grasping hand, or gate, or just about any 9th level spell. Most 9th level spells have a casting time of 9 segments, so that gives our mu an initiative of 6-9=-3. So, he'll act on segment 3 of the following round. That gives the bad guys an entire round and half the next to interrupt the spell. And unlike 3e, all they have to do is jostle him a bit. A well prepared mu will have protections up, protection from normal missiles, stoneskin, etc, but these aren't always enough, and he can't always be prepared. Meanwhile, his partner the fighter has taken 4 attacks. More with two weapon fighting and that's not even adding weapon specialization to the mix. Spellcasters can be powerful, but only in the right circumstances. And they have their paltry 10d4 hit points to fall back on. An average of 55 at 20th level with a 16 con! And the highest character level I ever saw was around 15th level in a 10 year plus campaign.

Author:  finarvyn [ Sun Jan 16, 2011 2:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Game balance

DCCfan wrote:
Wait a minute I thought my wife ruled the universe. :lol:
Perhaps they rule by committee. She won't say exactly....

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