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Thread: Balance

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    Default Balance

    The concept of balance has always bugged me, from a fluffy perspective. Naturally, I can see how it's necessary from a game perspective, if you're playing in the kind of game where being powerful is important - which a lot of people are. But for a (very) heavily roleplay weighted game, does it really matter that a wizard who can break the laws of physics is a wee bit more powerful than a guy with a sword, who can't?
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    Default Re: Balance

    D&D's based on levels. The assumption is that two people with the same level have comparable power. That does not hold true.

    Anyway, you might want to google the Stormwind fallacy.
    Last edited by Ranos; 2010-07-02 at 03:06 PM.

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    Default Re: Balance

    The easiest concept of imbalance that's obvious, is this:

    Think about how the fighter could increase his damage output as he levels up.
    Then, think about how the wizard increases his damage output (say, for a simple fireball) as he levels up.

    This is dumb. Casters do nothing, and get a d6 or so more damage on most of their spells as their caster level increases.

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    Default Re: Balance

    Quote Originally Posted by Scorpina View Post
    The concept of balance has always bugged me, from a fluffy perspective. Naturally, I can see how it's necessary from a game perspective, if you're playing in the kind of game where being powerful is important - which a lot of people are. But for a (very) heavily roleplay weighted game, does it really matter that a wizard who can break the laws of physics is a wee bit more powerful than a guy with a sword, who can't?
    From the roleplay perspective, the problem is this.

    The game suggests that classes are balanced, and they aren't.

    Clerics fight better than fighters. Druids same but moreso, and monk is just a trap.

    If your concept is taken from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and the mechanics make you more like Drunken Master (before he becomes an alcoholic, when he is just a loser) your roleplay suffers.

    The Fighter EXPECTS that he can be Conan, the mechanics make him the guy who carries stuff for the all powerful wizard.

    There are lots of good games with worse balance than 3.5. It is OK to play a kinfolk in a group of werewolves, IF you know that that is what you are doing when you make your character.

    And from the game perspective, it isn't just about being powerful, it is about being useful. A fighter is weaker in combat than a wizard, but he is also totally useless outside combat. Many groups have a relaxed attitude about balance, but few players want to sit out entire scenes because they can't hurt the enemy at all, can't find traps, can't navigate obstacles, etc. Ideally, everyone at least should have moments when their character gets the spotlight.

    The higher level the game, the worse the problem. By 9-13th level, your team is less like Gandalf and Aragorn, and more like Harry Potter and his cousin Dudley.
    Last edited by Gnaeus; 2010-07-02 at 03:41 PM.

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    Default Re: Balance

    Quote Originally Posted by Scorpina View Post
    But for a (very) heavily roleplay weighted game, does it really matter that a wizard who can break the laws of physics is a wee bit more powerful than a guy with a sword, who can't?
    If you don't intend to use the rules of the game a lot, said rules being flawed is less of a problem, yes.
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    Default Re: Balance

    The thing here is, wizards don't necessarily "break laws of physics". They're not by default superpowered godlings who do what they please. There's a whole lot of ways magic users can be reduced to a level at which they don't vastly outperform those who don't use magic in every field. In D&D, it's theoretically supposed to be achieved by them being squishy and having limited spells/day as well as having to prepare them in some cases, but we all know how it works out.
    Last edited by Morty; 2010-07-02 at 03:17 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scorpina View Post
    The concept of balance has always bugged me, from a fluffy perspective. Naturally, I can see how it's necessary from a game perspective, if you're playing in the kind of game where being powerful is important - which a lot of people are. But for a (very) heavily roleplay weighted game, does it really matter that a wizard who can break the laws of physics is a wee bit more powerful than a guy with a sword, who can't?
    Depends what you mean by "(very) heavily roleplay weighted game".

    Do you mean the usual game, just with a lot more roleplaying that casual gamers will generally bother with? If so, it depends. It could matter less, or more. If your character concept is a fighter who distrusts magic items.

    Or do you mean a game with few fights. Like 1 every 3 sessions? Then yes, it matters less, but (assuming you are talking about D&D) it does raise the question why did you choose a game system where 80% of the rules are for combat.
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    Default Re: Balance

    From a roleplay perspective, the problem comes with what can be roleplayed. Take a fighter with a -1 Diplomacy modifier but extremely good roleplaying ability, and a bard with a +20 but not so good at the roleplaying. In a diplomatic situation, there are fundamentally one of two things likely to come out: the bard does excellently and the fighter poorly, as their skills reflect, in which case the fighter really might as well be playing Xbox until the diplomacy is over. If the fighter is allowed full reign of his OOC roleplaying abilities in order to get massive bonuses in-character, then the bard is being punished IC for OOC things. Now, of course, there are middle grounds in reality, but the problem comes of where exactly to put those.

    The problem is furthered in that spells can replicate everything. Wizards have the roleplaying tools that fighters could only dream of. A fighter is severely limited by their options - 2-4 skill points a level, almost nothing for social skills, no special tricks or ability for out-of-of-combat anything except a few things like wall-breaking and being the party packmule. There's the further issue that these are people whose livelihood are regularly on the line, and so they WILL make themselves the best they can be at their respective roles. Holding back because it's nice and the wizard wants the fighter a chance to shine just isn't going to happen in risky situations.

    Really, for roleplay-heavy games, I believe 3.x/4e D&D is lacking.
    Last edited by lsfreak; 2010-07-02 at 03:33 PM.
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    Default Re: Balance

    Quote Originally Posted by Scorpina View Post
    The concept of balance has always bugged me, from a fluffy perspective. Naturally, I can see how it's necessary from a game perspective, if you're playing in the kind of game where being powerful is important - which a lot of people are. But for a (very) heavily roleplay weighted game, does it really matter that a wizard who can break the laws of physics is a wee bit more powerful than a guy with a sword, who can't?
    My answer to this is that, in my personal opinion, "balance" is a matter of labels.

    If the rulebooks say (correctly) that class X is vastly more powerful than class Y, that is not unbalanced. The players and DM can agree to all play class X, or all play class Y, or someone can deliberately play class Y in a party of class X because he wants to roleplay something other than being powerful, and all of those are fine and fun. Many games do something like this, for example with Vampire characters being vastly more powerful than mortal humans in Vampire: The Masquerade.

    If the rulebooks say (correctly) that class X and class Y are of equal power, the players can readily mix and match the two classes and easily come out with a party where everyone contributes roughly equally and they have a functioning team. This is good and fun. This is what D&D claims to do.

    If the rulebooks say that class X and class Y are of equal power, but they are in fact not equal, most players will take the books at their word, try to mix and match the classes, and be very surprised, disappointed, and frustrated when the reality proves their expected equality to be false. This is bad. This is what D&D actually does.

    The first two situations above are both, in my opinion, balanced. The first has vastly unequal "classes", but this fact is well publicized and people can easily place character power levels at their intended strengths. The last one is unbalanced, and this is a problem.
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    Default Re: Balance

    Even in a roleplay perspective, the spellcasters have an edge, as they can boost their social skills with magic, or their knowledge checks and the like. Straight-up melee-ers aren't so handy with this unless they also have a lot of Cha-dependent stuff (or Int-dependent stuff). Sure, this is all speaking from a mechanical standpoint and if you go with "roleplay it, don't roll for diplomacy" and the like, it starts to depend a lot more on the player -- which sucks if the player is bad at roleplaying and wanted to play a diplomatic character. Plus if you do that then you could start to argue that the characters also have the same knowledge as the players do, which might be a very great edge if the players have figured out what they are up against.

    Plus, even while rollplaying, the wizard can describe how he casts a spell, which can be a variety of spells and thus an even greater variety of descriptions. There is only so many ways you can describe hitting the other guy with a weapon before it gets boring.
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    Default Re: Balance

    Douglas pretty much hit the nail on the head here.

    Balance doesn't demand that a rogue be exactly as capable as a wizard. All it requires from the game system is an accurate statement of how powerful the rogue is, and that the rogue is "internally balanced" -- i.e. one rogue really is comparable to the next in overall effectiveness.

    The remainder of the balancing isn't the responsibility of the game system, it's the responsibility of the players and the DM. You can either limit yourself to playing the superheroes, or you can limit yourself to playing the dirt farmers.

    You can even come up with a troupe-style setup where every player plays a hero and a superhero.

    'Surprises' are the problem, really.

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    Here's the way I see it (which, I'm told, is greatly different from the way most people see it >_>).

    DnD is a game and, like all games (or at least all roleplaying games. Let me not make such an ambitious claim), it attempts to pull the reader's imagination into its setting (or fluff) through its rules and mechanics in the same way a poem attempts to pull the reader into its meanings by its form. This means that mechanics are good as long as what they tell you matches and reinforces what the fluff is telling you, (At the same time, the fluff exists to match the mechanics, too, but we're not concerned with that right now ) because then the mechanics are helping me immerse myself in the fluff of the game and put myself in its setting, as opposed to breaking me away from them.

    This is why it's very badwrong for DnD, as a game, to have a fighter and wizard of the same level, who by the fluff are supposed to have the same amount of power, to have vastly different amounts of power. Basically, it breaks immersion. Now, honestly, you could "play DnD" in such a way that this doesn't bother you. You could re-write the fluff to match the mechanics and play a game with the fluff saying wizards are more powerful than fighters. But then you're not really playing DnD any more, though it's up to you to decide whether or not you're playing a better game.
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    Default Re: Balance

    It does matter because in the end, you are playing a game in which you are playing extremely powerful heroes. I don't have a problem with having a hero that is stronger then me, but I do have a problem playing a hero that is utterly useless when compared to the other hero. If I could "sort of keep up" with the other, as in contribute to the team by something else except being a pack mule, it would be alright.

    But if I can't do anything to pull my own weight after some time, no amount of "heavy roleplaying" in which the melee classes are by default usually heavily limited due to poor skills for such tasks, will help. If I can "jump" or "Climb" better then the wizard, that is all great until he can with a simple cast of a fly spell outdo me in that without having a single point in said skills.

    Basically, it's broken, especially later on. The best games are played up to a certain, unfortunately fairly low, level before certain classes are tossed into oblivion and caster classes are all that remain.

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    Default Re: Balance

    Quote Originally Posted by Scorpina View Post
    The concept of balance has always bugged me, from a fluffy perspective. Naturally, I can see how it's necessary from a game perspective, if you're playing in the kind of game where being powerful is important - which a lot of people are. But for a (very) heavily roleplay weighted game, does it really matter that a wizard who can break the laws of physics is a wee bit more powerful than a guy with a sword, who can't?
    Basically you have the level system reporting two things:

    (1) The equivalent power levels between two characters. (Level X = Level X)

    (2) The amount of time/energy/training it takes to improve one's craft. (Level X requires Y amount of XP.)

    (Pre-3E versions of the game tended to obfuscate these relationships by varying the amount of XP needed to gain a new level for different classes. But the relationships remained.)

    If we look at either of these things in isolation there's no problem: For example, even if wizards are, in general, more powerful than some bloke waving a sword around, we can still say "this specific wizard at level X is balanced compared to this specific fighter who we will, therefore, also label as level X".

    When the system asserts (as it does) that both things are true at the same time, then the conclusion would be that X amount of training in the wizard's craft results in a Y increase in power. And that same amount of training in the fighter's craft will also result in a Y increase in power.

    This is hypothetically problematical if you believe that it should be easier or quicker for a wizard to gain power compared to a guy waving a sword around. But it would also be problematical if you believe that it should be much harder for a wizard to gain power compared to a guy waving a sword around.

    It's important to remember that magic isn't real. So assuming that Y amount of effort will result in the same power increase for both martial and magical skills is just as arbitrary as any other assessment of their comparative difficulties.

    Another way of arguing this same thesis is that fighters should cap out: That the maximum amount of power that can be gained from martial skills should be less than that achievable through magical skills. While that certainly could be true, there's no inherent reason why it must be true. For example, look at what the Greek demi-gods achieved without the casting of spells.
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